Team Chest vs. Team Back

When I wrote last week about all the male backs adorning covers lately, I had no idea so many of you loved the view of a man as he leaves with no shirt on. And then I got to thinking- what about all the chests? Forget their heads. No one has something so gauche as a cranium on the cover of a romance novel lately. (I love to picture all the heads getting together as a decapitated cover model support group). But chests and backs? There are LOTS of them.

So I got curious: which do you prefer? Backs or chests? There are many fine, and I do mean fine, examples.

Behold, a few examples of Team Chest:

Book Cover

Book Cover

Book Cover

And batting for Team Back, we have:

Book Cover

Book Cover

Book Cover

Now, which floats your boat? Either? Both? Neither at all? I admit, the last cover gives me the happy-shivers because of the arms, not the back. Which is your favorite male-chesty cover? Post a link or an image, and tell me: which is your preference?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Kim in Hawaii says:

    Sarah, I assume you will “inspect” the male models at RT to see their best view – front or back!

  2. 2
    Beth says:

    I’d just like to point out that Mr Darkness Unknown is going to cut his hand if he holds his sword like that….

  3. 3
    Ben P says:

    SB Sarah: You need another poll for hairy vs. hairless chests (or fronts sides).

    I am all for the whole hairless back thing. And my own personal preference runst to smooth chests on any day. But the whole romance novel cover obsession with hairless metrosexual mantitty is a pretty narrow approach to the aesthetics of the manly torso.

    Honestly, it’s like an icecream shop that only offers vanilla…

    Depending on the degree of natural furriness, all that epilated, depilated, waxed flesh is primarily a testament to raw willpower, perseverance and a super-human pain threshold.

  4. 4
    Cat Marsters says:

    I’m a big fan of muscular male torsos. Front, back, side. So long as there’s less hair than a gorilla I’m happy.

    Is it cheating to post one of my own covers? I don’t care: I spent hours staring at my inbox when this baby arrived in it. Even if he is gauche enough to display his cranium (I dunno, epublishers eh?).

  5. 5
    Sandy says:

    I have a hard time not snickering every time I see the Atlantis Unleashed cover.  Waaaay too Freudian. ;) 
    None of the covers on my books have nearly naked men, but I’m still pleased with them.  The guys are all hunks, and the models “fit” the heroes.  My vote on back vs. chest is “indifferent.”  A nice looking guy is handsome from all angles.

  6. 6

    I was ready to come down firmly [with massage oil] on the side of chests [mainly for their proximity to abs and hips] until the Darkness Unknown cover. Dag! I love when a man’s back muscles do that hot pinchy-thing between their shoulderblades. God bless you, male models. Now come over and do some shirtless weeding for me, please.

  7. 7
    Ros says:

    Hair is a big issue here.  I am not a fan of the waxed chest but neither do I like a complete gorilla.  So, although I can appreciate the value of a nice chest, there are just too many potential pitfalls for me.

    Now, on backs, I like them all – hairy, hairless, tattooed…  So I vote back.  Especially when you can imagine yourself stroking a finger down the spine…

    I totally take your point about arms though.  I would be drooling over a cover that had a good forearm display.

  8. 8
    Nadia says:

    Nakey men on covers can be a bit much and overdone, but as eye candy, I like ‘em all.  Hot bod is hot bod.  But looking at all these covers lately, I now realize I do have a slight preference for the back shot.  That Cole cover, oh yes please.  Her “Pleasure of a Dark Prince” cover was smokin’ also (so much better than the covers of the beginning of the IAD series, that’s for sure).

    I do like a clothed front view as a change of pace from the mantitty.  Think Lora Leigh’s “Maverick”, “Dangerous Games”, and the upcoming “Renegade.”  And Brockmann’s upcoming “Infamous.” Good chest in a tight tee is mighty nice, and puts the emphasis on the sexy arms.

  9. 9
    Erin says:

    I prefer lean, muscly arms, like Jared Padalecki:

  10. 10
    Tamara Hogan says:

    I’m with Ros all the way – I’m not a big fan of the waxed chest, but too much chest hair can make the guy look like a throwback.  A nice muscular back, all the way! 

    But allow me to raise a pet peeve.  I personally would like to see more realistic-looking tattoos on both cover guys and gals.  Real tattoos fade into the skin a bit over time, and I think too many cover tatts look like rub-on temps or Photoshop afterthoughts.  YMMV.

  11. 11
    Chris says:

    I was considering getting this one just for the cover:

    Charlotte Featherstone’s Sinful. I think it’s the back/breeches combo.

  12. 12
    joannef says:

    I’m in the back camp.  The whole waxed look is too narcissistic for me, but I agree that there’s a fine line between hot & manly and neanderthal.  No matter whether they show the front or back view, gotta have great arms and shoulders.

    Love this guy!  His chest is a bit overdone, but that little flash of back and bootay is totally droolworthy.

  13. 13
    joannef says:

    Oops!  I forgot to mention his very best feature.  Check out those arms!  Definitely works for me.  Ay caramba!

  14. 14
    DS says:

    Just a comment on the covers shown in general—I don’t think the images would have been totally out of place on a Sword and Sorcery novel from the 80’s whose target audience would probably have been young males. 

    The headless thing is also interesting.  Considering how many mistakes can occur when a head is photoshopped—which seemed to happen quite a bit for a while, it might have been safer just to leave them off.  I’m in favor of faces though.

  15. 15

    I, too, was surprised to find that I have a slight preference toward backs.  Not that I’ll pass up a nice looking chest.  In pictoral presentations, I think I prefer the hairless look since getting the hair to look right seems to be pretty difficult. Often it looks like the guy has some dirt or something funky going on when there is some hair action.

    @Tamara, I hear you on the tattoos. They often look too fresh or crisp or something.  They just don’t look quite real on many covers.

  16. 16
    Nara Malone says:

    I’m a fan of chest and muscle. I wish I could keep this guy on my desktop at work. I think heads get cropped because they can reuse the shot in different covers, but I was happy to get a hero with a face.


  17. 17
    Cat Marsters says:

    I think heads get cropped because they can reuse the shot in different covers, but I was happy to get a hero with a face.

    That, plus it’s damn near impossible to get a cover model who looks exactly like your hero—whether you’re the author or the reader!

  18. 18
    teshara says:

    Bare, smooth chests remind me of my first kiss. It was at the river. He had windswept red hair and giant blue eyes… and he was 13. LOL!

    I choose backs because artists either show completely bare chests or a double-plush shag carpet tacked to the poor guy.

    Really, hair is not so scary. Most of the time it doesn’t look as if it’s about to eat Manhattan…

  19. 19

    Straight guy here, so while I can manage some detached aesthetic appreciation for men, they never give me that little twist in my heart.(definitely back though) My own pet peeve is the too slick, I’ll take some freckles and a crooked smile over airbrushed pornstar globes any day.

  20. 20
    JamiSings says:

    Yuck to both. Like I said before, I do not like men built like that. They gross me out. I like my men built more like Barry Manilow. Seriously. That’s the kind of physical build that turns me on.

    It’s the eyes of a man that gets me every time. That look of wisdom and intelligence, with a touch of boyish mischief some men have. The right look and my knees become jelly.

  21. 21
    Mrs. Hanson says:

    Do Alexis Morgan’s and Kresley Cole’s covers feature the same model?  Maybe my eyes deceive me though.

  22. 22
    Caroline says:

    You see, I may be at a minority here when I say I prefer my male cover models to have their shirt on, but open to reveal that tantalizing teasy taste of mantitty. Give us some imagination to use of what he will look like as he shrugs it off, revealing the meal, or what gift you will receive once you unwrap the package! (oh hee hee…)

    Its even better when the shirt is all rumply, with the collar akimbo, sleeves rolled up… with that, you have a salivating romance reader on your hands over here. *rowr*

    There is nothing sexier than a man with a come-hither look on his face, walking towards you with a shirt half undone and awesome thigh-hugging jeans… yes, jeans help too….

    *fans self*

  23. 23
    Natasha R says:

    Me likey backs! Some chests are good too. But more often than not the pictures with chests look like they need to be wearing a bra….

  24. 24
    Kelly S says:

    I voted for both and agree that the nice muscular arms are pleasant too.  I will say if forced to choose, I’d have gone with backs.  The problem for me with the front can be the belly button.  In the 2 Atlantis books with front shots up above, I don’t care for the belly buttons on the models.  With Atlantis Unleashed it is the primary part I notice.  Then I look around and see the rest of him which looks awesome. Then I read the comment that makes me realize the sword is at such a “Freudian” angle that I too snicker. ;)

  25. 25
    SB Sarah says:

    Alyssa Day hosted a contest here for the penis sword cover because, well, how could you NOT with a penis sword cover!

  26. 26
    quichepup says:

    I almost voted for chests because of cover#1. It was nice to see a cover model who wasn’t caucasian for once. One of my gripes is most of the heroes (and heroines) of most novels are nearly always white. I’m not hating on anybody but a little diversity couldn’t hurt. There’s people of all colors and cultures out there and I see interracial couples and families in real life. Just like to see a little of it reflected in books.

  27. 27
    Jennifer says:

    I voted for backs all the way, but I have to ask:

    @Nara Malone, is he naked with a whisk?

  28. 28

    I’m with Caroline further up the thread: actually, I prefer a guy with the shirt on. ;) I’m a bit of an old-school classicist that way—give me oh, say, Indiana Jones in a rumpled khaki shirt, sleeves rolled up, collar open a few buttons to bare the throat to the sun… yum. <3

  29. 29
    Katherine says:


    What? Did I miss something?

  30. 30
    Cris says:

    I’m with the ladies who don’t really care for the overly waxed chest look, so I tend to prefer backs.  I also prefer the bodies of men (#3 & 5) who are grown men, not 21 year old gym kids with perfect everything.

    Oddly, I also don’t mind the headlessness of the covers, just because I like projecting what I think the hero looks like instead of taking someone else’s word for it.  When I saw Karen Moning’s photo of the actor that inspired Jericho Barron’s, I was like “What?!?  No way, that’s not what he looks like!”  Ha!

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