St. Snark Elsewhere

Another Sarah, another blog, another righteous sword of cover snark brought down upon the tackiest novels in existence.

My fave? “To restore the honor of Rome and of his own family, Severus Varus left the decadent life of Rome… his only hope was to join the barbarians.”

If that were an erotica novel, he’d need Burma Sauce for those barbarians, is all I’m sayin’.

[Thanks to Linda for the link.]


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  1. 1
    Erastes says:

    Or glue?  If the barbarians needed joining…

    yes yes, it’s an old one…

  2. 2
    SonomaLass says:

    I like the description for The Purple Quest—hey, if you can get thrusting spears and an exciting climax into the blurb, it should sell lots of extra copies!

    But doesn’t it just figure that one of the first comments is

    Is it just me, or do romance novels have the worst covers EVER?

    Sigh.  Genre-bashing again rears its ugly (and inaccurate) head.

  3. 3
    GrowlyCub says:

    Yeah, that’s the first thing I thought too, when I saw that comment.

    I mean, romance?  Really?  When the descriptions are all about rape and pillage?

    What a moron!

  4. 4
    Eva Lynn says:

    Erastes: I laughed, particularly because my favourite version of that joke was in a Roman-themed episode of the Goon Show… :D

    SonomaLass: Well, to be honest… I think romance novels do get more than their fair share of terrible covers, and I don’t think saying so is genre-bashing—maybe genre-of-cover bashing.  (I particularly hate the be-mulleted clinch cover, personally.)  That said, most of those in the post are clearly not romance—or at least the intended readership at the time would probably have been deeply offended if you implied it was similar in any way. ;)

    Confession: I actually really like a lot of the pulp-era covers, despite the just plain wrongness of a lot of them.  They lose me when they start getting into the sort of… well, the “Purple Quest” style and later, but the older ones…

  5. 5
    joanne says:

    Lady Godiva and Master Tom is the best!
    “Could Nothing Stop This Woman?”

    God, I hope not.

  6. 6
    clessiesgirl says:

    “With the clash of swords and the thrust of spears, The Purple Quest builds to an exciting climax”

    Certainly brought me to one just thinking about it!

    thats61 – hmmm.  No, that’s just me lol

  7. 7
    L.C. McCabe says:


    I knew those covers would be right up your alley. I’m glad to see you spreadin’ the lurrrrve.


  8. 8
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Oh, these are wonderful.  I adore trashy pulp covers from the mid-to-late 20th century.  (For the most part, the content never quite lives up to the cover art, though, more’s the pity.)

    spamword:  action85
    Oh yeah.  They were getting lots of action back in ‘85.

  9. 9
    Sarah says:

    Thanks for spreading the word about the tackiness!  I’ve got to say that the content of Lady Godiva and Master Tom is as trashy as you’d guess from the cover.  (The other novels in the group, not so much.) Tom and “Goldine” have a naughty little fling, and the b/w illustrations in the novel itself are omg hilarious.

  10. 10
    Leslie H says:

    EEK! Okay, my Mom had most of those novels and the Frank G Slaughter ones were her faves. I had the same problem with a book on totally tacky knit and crochet. I had worn most of the object de scorn.

    You left out “The Man From O.R.G.Y.” and “Messalina” and all of the Taylor Caldwell books.

  11. 11
    Lizzy says:

    “Ground control to Master Tom. Ground control to Master Tom. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on,” Lady Godiva said.

  12. 12
    karmelrio says:

    Eva Lynn said:

    Well, to be honest… I think romance novels do get more than their fair share of terrible covers, and I don’t think saying so is genre-bashing—maybe genre-of-cover bashing.

    Agreed.  I think we have to suck it up and own this one, folks.

  13. 13
    Lizzie (greeneyed fem) says:

    The Curse of Jezebel‘s cover description is just head-scratching: “The surging novel of the Biblical queen of evil . . .”

    How does a novel surge, exactly?

  14. 14
    L.C. McCabe says:


    What? You never heard of Amazon’s Eeevil Book Surge?

  15. 15
    DS says:

    I’ve seen most of these.  And I have some equally horrible ones.  The Viking was made into a movie I remember watching on our black and white television.  My brother and I lived for the scene where some guy’s hand was cut off.

  16. 16
    GrowlyCub says:

    Agreed.  I think we have to suck it up and own this one, folks.

    I disagree.  None of the books in that post were romance novels, they were all either written by men or geared towards male (rape) fantasies.

    Romance covers can have awful covers, but the point that I was trying to make was that the commenter was bashing romance by associated the bad covers as belonging to romance novels, when they clearly didn’t.

  17. 17
    Eva Lynn says:

    I disagree.  None of the books in that post were romance novels, they were all either written by men or geared towards male (rape) fantasies.

    According to Amazon’s categorization, “Tisa” is a Historical Romance, and Helga Moray is a woman and writer of other romances as well.  “The Cardinal and the Queen” is written by a woman, one who has written romances, and the story seems to revolve around an intimate relationship. It may not quite qualify as a romance novel (maybe it doesn’t have a happy-couple ending?) but it looked like one to me.

    I still maintain that the covers shown there and the accompanying quotes could easily let someone think “The Curse of Jezebel” and maybe even “Lady Godiva and Master Tom” were romances, especially if their vision or monitor weren’t good enough to let them make out all the teensy cover text.  “Jezebel” has a clinch cover, for pete’s sake!

    “The Trojan”, “Viking”, “Lost Eagles”, and “The Purple Quest” definitely do appear to be male power fantasies, based on the covers and quotes.  However, it is simply not true that all eight in that post are of that type, that they’re all written by men, or that none of them are romance novels.

    I understand your point; I just disagree.  I don’t think the commenter was out of line, or that “romance novels have the worst covers EVER” translates necessarily to bashing romance novels as a genre, or even necessarily implies that she thinks all the books shown are romances.  Even if she did, that still doesn’t translate to bashing romance unless one finds the idea that someone could conflate lust-war-and-conquest books meant for men with romances meant for women to be inherently offensive or bashing.  Actual romances (i.e. for and by women) from a similar time period weren’t exactly all void of lust, war, and “conquest” (or, for that matter, rape fantasies) either.

    And setting aside the context of her comment for a moment, I still agree with the basic content: romance novels do get more than their fair share of terrible covers.

  18. 18
    GrowlyCub says:

    I’d be deeply suspicious of Amazon categories (I have found hard SF listed under romance and vice versa and all kinds of other things that wouldn’t come within a million miles of romance categorized as such, often by market place sellers who may very well have fallen into the trap of looking at the cover and then determining since it had a clinch it had to be a romance just like you did above for Jezebel).  If you read carefully you’ll see that didn’t say they were all written by men, and I still maintain none of them are romances (centered around a relationship journey with a happy ending).

    I never disputed that romances can and often do have clinch covers, I have an issue with the automatic assumption that because it has a clinch cover it has to be a romance.

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  19. 19
    Eva Lynn says:

    Amazon is not the only place “Tisa” is listed as a romance, just the biggest-name site.  Not everywhere lists a genre for it, but the only genre listed for it at the ones that did is romance.  And I did NOT say that Jezebel had to be a romance because it had a clinch, or even that I currently or previously thought that it was one: I said it was understandable for someone to get that impression.  I mentioned Jezebel’s cover in particular because “the clinch” is the iconic romance cover image, for better or for worse.  Romance publishers have spent decades establishing that kind of image as a reliable cue, practically a promise.  Are you seriously saying you think it’s unreasonable for someone to think a book with a clinch on the cover and a blurb talking about an alluring, ambitious woman who bewitches a prince with her beauty is likely to be a romance novel?  That’s like being offended that someone might expect a bottle with a skull and crossbones on it to contain poison rather than delicious pirate juice.*

    And I did read carefully.  I never implied you had said they were all written by men.  You said the books were all EITHER written by men OR (non-exclusive or, presumably) were geared toward male (rape) fantasies, and therefore none were romances.  I was assuming you didn’t really intend to imply that no book written by a man can qualify as a romance novel, but it’s irrelevant with the selection in that post anyway.  Tisa appears to be a romance, and was written by a woman.  The Cardinal and the Queen is also written by a woman, and I haven’t run into anything in my (admittedly, not exhaustive) hunt that suggests it’s anything but a historical novel that revolves around politics and forbidden love; in fact, the one actual review I found seems to suggest the relationship journey as a pretty central aspect, and a possibly happy if nontraditional ending.  Therefore, two of the eight are apparently neither written by men, nor are they male (rape) fantasies; further, there’s a reasonable probability that one or both are romances.  I’m basing this on what I can find out about them online, mainly at various sites selling the books.  I’m not really sure on what you’re basing the assertion that they’re all pillage-porn.  You don’t have to trust that the evidence I found is correct—I’m sharing it in good faith, but I grant it’s not rock solid—but if you’re going to claim that it’s incorrect, please give evidence to support that claim.  What indicates to you that not one of them could center around a relationship journey and end happily? 

    None of this has much bearing on whether romances have a bad track record with covers, of course.  Well, except maybe to those of us who hate clinches. 

    * I am by no means implying by this comparison that romance is in some way poisonous.  Or that the “Viking”-type books are delicious pirate juice, for that matter.

  20. 20
    Jennifer says:

    Oh lordy, speaking of bad…and “How would THAT work?”. Found mentioned on Bookslut…

    A Mermaid’s Kiss. Angel + mermaid. Yes, someone did it.

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