Covers of Confusion: Are You Happy to See Me or is That a Puppy in Your Pants?

There are more books being published each day than I thought possible, and even more covers that make me confused.

Here are a few that have scrambled my brains recently. I keep staring at them, hoping they'll unfold and reveal the secrets of the universe. 


Book One Fine Fireman - the fireman has a puppy in his pants. A badly photoshopped puppy.

There is nothing that says “Hot Firefighter Romance” like a badly Photoshopped puppy, right?

The more I stare at this, the less sense it makes. Where's his thumb? What is the puppy sitting on, a stocking? Half a heart-shaped pillow? A fabric model of a liver?

Why does whatever the puppy is sitting on cast a weird drop shadow on the fireman's abs?

Is the puppy ACTUALLY IN HIS PANTS? Or is he shapeshifting INTO a puppy?  

Are those his pants? If so, why are they so much wider than he is? Or is he fighting fires in a wide, full-length, flame retardant skirt? 


Poor Photoshopped puppy.  He looks as confused as I am. 

Then there's this one: 

Book A close up of a firefighter's abs and upper groin against a really ugly flat red background


This one was brought to my attention by Jane from DearAuthor. I can't imagine why. There's such depth. Such detail in the background. So much to observe and ponder with this image. It's almost meditative, the number of questions of humankind's struggle that are invoked by this cover.

Such as, “How much did that manscaping hurt?” And, “Shouldn't there be peen shadow by now? Or at least a hint of peen?” 

(I hope Febreze hops right on “Hint of Peen” and “Peen Shadow” as scents for disguising bathroom odors.)


I tweeted this one, but I didn't want you to miss this mullet because MULLET.


Book A guy with a truly excellent mullet embracing a woman in front of a wood clapboard building


Aw, yeah. You know all the other mullets are bowing down to that one. They have to surrender their mullet cards and agree that his is the one true mullet. There's probably a Tumblr collection of gif sets just for that mullet.

And as I asked on Twitter, if that's the “sweeter version,” what does the savory version look like? 

Mmm. Sweet Savory Mullet. That should totally be a snack food.



Book Hers to Command - two dudes on either side of the cover, with a woman transposed sideways over the dude on the left so it looks like she's growing out of his shoulder.

This cover was sent to me by Catherine. I figure, if a woman is growing out of your shoulder, you probably should do what she says.  

Catherine's commentary, however, was even better: 

The man on the left seems to have a woman growing out of his neck.  Or possibly just a disembodied female head.  My husband thinks that actually you can see both of her shoulders, but firstly, I don't think anyone's shoulders are that close together, and secondly, one of them appears to have a nipple.  As well as being very phallic.  Because every heroine needs a phallic nipple-enhanced shoulder…

(Actually, this is erotica, and I think paranormal, too, so maybe phallic nipple-enhanced shoulders really are de-rigeur and what the illustrator was aiming for.)

Also, I'm not too sure what is going on in the background, but in the right frame of mind – and yes, I  am running a bit of a fever right now – it looks like a robed and horned ghost is holding a top hat in one hand and thinking about the moon.

You know, I think more covers need ghosts in top hats thinking about the moon. It can only improve things. When do we get “Firefighter puppies thinking about the moon?” I'd so read that. 

A bonus, because I keep smiling every time I see this cover. It makes me silly happy: 

Book The Return of Brody McBride

“Hi. My name's Brody. My biceps don't fit in my truck.”  

No kidding, dude. They're like a second set of side curtain airbags.  

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    That last one is Colin Wayne. He’s in the US Army :)

  2. 2
    Lydia says:

    The neck wattle on the lady in Hers to Command is just so unflattering, or maybe that’s hair?

    I mean, neck wattle happens, but why not Photoshop THAT bit out?

  3. 3

    Note to self: New pirate romance cover must feature captain with a puppy in his pants. This is definitely a two avians/one projectile concept.

  4. 4
    Lostshadows says:

    My first thought on the red patch on the puppy pants cover was, “Is he bleeding out or is the puppy?” Neither option really screams “romance” to me, but maybe its just a case of YKINMK.

  5. 5
    Tam B. says:

    The second fireman cover – his underwear matches the background. I just keep seeing it as background – there’s nothing there. He’s the invisible man from the sculpted, eerily flat waist down! And the curled strap(?) it keeps being either a finger or a tail. 

    That almost sounds like a plausible alien romance hero.

  6. 6
    Dora says:

    The best/worst cover I have ever seen (and I wish I could find it or remember what it was called) was something I ran across while browsing the Kindle store a few years back. It had your usual dewy windswept heroine in a white dress standing on a cliff overlooking a stormy sea… and IN the sea and completely dominating the rest of the cover was just this ENORMOUS MUSCULAR HEADLESS MALE TORSO. I know I was MEANT to look at it as just this mish-mash of dreamy symbolism or whatever, but because of the placement and the body language of the heroine (which made her look menaced), it seriously looked like just this enormous faceless body rising out of the waves like some horrifying Cthulhu sub-servant and was just unintentionally hilarious.

    That might be the one thing I hate most. When romance covers just resort to bodies without faces. I don’t find it sexy. I find it boring and unoriginal and it tells me nothing except you’re using flesh as the defining characteristic of your book, because that’s what you choose to market it as. Same with the ones that just show the leather-clad torso (or crotch/ass) of the heroine.

  7. 7
    SB Sarah says:

    Headless is among my least favorite cover trends, too. I can understand the “why” of it, since it allows the reader to decide for herself what the characters look like, but dear Lord. Does everyone have to be decapitated?

  8. 8
    Kate Johnson says:

    Okay. The man on the second cover. Or should I say ‘men’? Because that’s two bodies cut in half and stuck together, right? The top half turned 45 degrees clockwise? Manscaping, belt braces…turn…crotch, legs. It’s like someone stuck the wrong bits together. If anyone’s desperately seeking him, it’s probably so they can do some really complicated surgery.

  9. 9
    Monique says:

    Thanks Taylor, it’s nice to know he’s a real person (and so gorgeous!).

    Thanks you B&*ches for a most fun post (again ! yay!).

    Whew ! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who is sick and tired of the Headless Wonders. Or whatever body parts are missing.

    It’s obvious not everyone has loads of money to get gorgeous, fabulous, etc. covers, but when in doubt, why not keep it simple !

    Keep up the good work ! I love this site !

  10. 10
    EC Spurlock says:

    I think those two guys decapitated the woman in Hers To Command because her cheeks look all sunken and her eyes are all wonky and she looks like she’s decomposing. That must be HER ghost with the top hat. Either that or that’s the rest of her body being beamed up as a warning by Don Vito Corlealien.

  11. 11
    Ruth says:

    Honestly, a fire hydrant would be less confusing than those first two covers.  And I agree with the whole headless wonder thing.  Just creepy, and so clearly cheap, since the same photo can be used on multiple covers.

    Good to know that Mr Gorgeous in the last cover is actually, like, a real person.

  12. 12
    Charlotte Russell says:

    Ok, fireman #2—what on earth is going on with the left side of that picture? It looks like his forearm and his lower abs have melded together. He really does need that complicated surgery @Kate Johnson mentioned.

  13. 13
    cleo says:

    The first cover never, ever fails to make me laugh.  In fact, sometimes I will just look at it to cheer myself up. 

    There’s a Jill Shalvis firefighter book that also has a crazy cover – I got it on sale and again, looking at it on my Nook just makes me laugh.  I don’t even need to read it.  Not only is the firefighter headless, but his pants are on fire –

  14. 14
    Mzcue says:

    I’m feeling contrary. For me it’s not the headless men on the covers. I’ve seen a couple of fully headed guys on covers that were so wrong for the part that I backed away slowly. I don’t mind having to dream in the face and features of my choice. In fact, since most of the books I read are digital, the covers don’t play the same role as in hard copy. With a hard copy book, you’re always picking it up and putting it down, so the cover gets a lot more play in the reading experience.

    It’s the waxy hairless-ness that turns me off. Greek statues and store mannequins have their places, but not in my reader-fantasy life. I don’t need Robin Williams hairy, unless that’s part of the character, but not baby-butt naked. Maybe it’s just me?

  15. 15
    Jazzlet says:

    I agree with Charlotte, I am very worried about why fireman #2’s left arm is welded to his side. Is there some major reconstructive surgery thing going on? And WHAT is being reconstructed?

  16. 16
    CarrieS says:

    I would have sworn at first that it was “The Return of Broody McBride”.  I would read that.

  17. 17
    Jill-Marie says:

    I’ll go along with Mzcue and agree that headless doesn’t bother me. And I’d go further and say that I am not a fan of the ridiculously overbuff guys. Built is good; Peterbilt is not. At least to me. Barebutt nekkid Peterbilt? Really not appealing.

  18. 18
    SB Sarah says:

    I would totally read a story about Broody McBride.

    And yes, @Mzcue – I am with you on the waxed and shiny. Chest hair is sexy!

  19. 19
    Antonia says:

    What strikes me is that the covers for Bernard’s books aren’t self-published covers done on the cheap. They were produced by a traditional publisher – Avon.

  20. 20
    R says:

    I love the blogs about covers. I recently came across one that made me go huh? Its Original Release is March 1997 but it was Reprinted in October 2012. “My Steadfast Heart” by Jo Goodman Hopefully I’m allowed to do this Here’s the link for the page its located on look at the one with the Blue Background:  Also, you wondered what the cover for the “Savory” Version of Cowboy Heat looks like – pretty much the same as the Sweet Version they’re just standing in a different position and it appears he got a Haircut, not sure what the story is on her hair something doesn’t look right to me:

  21. 21
    cayenne says:

    @Kate Johnson, I think you’re right, and there’s 2 differently lit pics awkwardly spliced together- some random arm tacked on to the body. Anatomically, the elbow generally lines up with the navel, and even allowing for some slight belt loop-hitching elbow bend, that arm doesn’t seem proportionate to the body…unless he’s got his shoulder painfully hiked up beside his ear.

    It’s like FrankenArm. Disturbing FrankenArm.

  22. 22

    thanks for info i like it..

  23. 23
    anouk says:

    I love the tragic look on bicep dude’s face. Did he just run over a puppy on his way back to town?
    Does anyone have any blogs or feeds of covers they do actually like? Any that don’t totally make you roll your eyes and sigh?

  24. 24
    Catherine says:

    Commenting solely because I’m so excited at getting quoted in a Smart Bitches post!

    (actually, as I scrolled down and saw that cover, my first thought was, hey, that looks familiar… what’s with the ghost in the background?  Nice to know I’m consistent…)

  25. 25

    thanks for info i like itt thanks.

  26. 26

    Thanks for post. Good info.

  27. 27
    Home Designs says:

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  28. 28

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  29. 29

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  30. 30

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