Covers and Muscles: Time for Our Anatomy Lesson

Amanda, Carrie, Elyse, RedHeadedGirl and I are here to help you learn about muscles. Specifically male muscles. The degree to which low body fat ratio and muscular definition have become omnipresent on romance covers means that we can all learn together about the intricacies of the human muscular system. It's getting to the point where I think I could pass an advanced anatomy exam about upper body male muscular structure just from all the flexing cover models.

RedHeadedGirl says, “I think we found all the waxed man titty.  And man backy.”

Yes. Yes, we did. 

And I wouldn't have found some of these without Jennifer Porter from RNN, so we had to ask her to join us to discuss all the muscular wtfery.


Book Cover for Blue Lines by Toni Aleo with shirtless guy with his back to the reader, One of his shoulder muscles is bent in a way that looks like an alien is about to eat a football.


Sarah: What's going on with his left shoulder? Is there some sort of subliminal message going on in the muscle pattern? Is that an accidental peen and balls in there? 

Amanda: If hockey were played shirtless and in a pair of snug-fitting jeans, I'd probably be more apt to watch it.

Elyse: I don't know what weirds me out more about Blue Lines, his muscles or the fact that he's wearing Mom Jeans.

Redheadedgirl: Those jeans look a little mommish to me. And we're assassinating people on the hockey ice now?  I mean, that does kind of explain the glorious choke of the US men's Olympic hockey team, but….

Carrie: Brains of granite, muscles of silly putty.

Jennifer: This guy's back is captivating. I couldn't look away while I traced his muscles seeing different shapes. Can you find the penis embedded his lower back?


SA Wolfe- Freedom - a guy bent forward with incredible back muscle definition


Sarah: Jennifer Porter tweeted about this cover, specifically about the dude's back, which, yeah. Whoa. What is that in the middle? Trapezius gone swinging?

Jennifer: I can't decide if this dude has baseballs busting out of his back or if he deliberately groomed his muscles in order to make them into a heart shape for his lady love. Because nothing says “I love you” like overly-developed trapezius muscles when a man bows down to you.

Amanda: Is this a scifi novel? Because I'm just waiting for a creature to pop out of his back, a la Aliens style.

Elyse: Freedom from Scoliosis? Seriously, WTF. Has the artist never seen an actual human being before? Was his spine removed? 

Sarah: Nope, that's a photograph and those muscles are all real. I had to go ask a physical therapist which muscles they are. Answer: trapizius and rhomboid. Or, in scientific language, trapizius and rhomboid LIKE DAMN.

RedHeadedGirl: I don't even know what's going on there. Is he gonna sprout wings?


A Warlock's Dance - with extreme ab definition


Sarah: The same night I was looking at the Aleo cover, Jennifer Porter was tweeting about these covers – and she's absolutely right: this guy would TOTALLY dance with his own abs. If his abs were a landscape you'd need all wheel drive to get across. It's like the Grand Canyon of abs in there, to say nothing of the obliques. How low is that dude's body fat?

Jennifer: Stare as this warlock's muscled abs dance in delight. You will be mesmerized. But watch out. His pebbled nipples might poke your eyes out.

Amanda: Well, we're off to a great start because I totally misread “A Cursed Princes Novella” as “A Cursed Princes Nipple” and now I can't focus on anything but his nipples.

Sarah: One looks a little…sad. 

Elyse: The Warlocks Dance apparently requires an additional set of hip bones. Maybe warlocks have extra hip bones for her to hold onto during…you know…dancing.

RedHeadedGirl: Look, I'm just concerned about his shitty posture.  I can't focus on the muscles.  STAND UP STRAIGHT MY GOD.



Takingshots shirtless guy with incredible ab definition against a purple background


Sarah: Taking shots? Why, because this is the easiest quiz ever? This dude is 100% anatomy chart. Biceps brachii, tricep, deltoid, rectus abdominus, and HELLO pectoralis major. Actually, I think he has a pectoralis brigadier general.

Amanda: Are we talking body shots? Because I could probably get on board with that one.

Elyse: Taking Shots…of human growth hormone.

RedHeadedGirl: I'll take one to go.

Jennifer: This dude stops all shots with amazing pecs and six pack abs. His moobs even catch his sensitive man tears. He might play hockey too.

But before we go - @kpdacey1 found some accidental dong when Harlequin was having a spot-the-difference game… and the accidental peen was not the difference:

Book Serena Bell


Your pop quiz on muscle anatomy will be tomorrow. Make sure you study! (Kidding!) 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    E. Jamie says:

    Lol! That last one, the Blaze, yowza! Well, nice to make it clear just ‘how much’ the hero wants the heroine right of the bat. My favorite ‘anatomy specimen’ has to be the ‘Warlock’s Dance’ hero. Not too over the top with the muscle there and I usually like my ahem…bulging…to occur elsewhere (see Blaze cover) Though I do admit I wouldn’t kick the others out of bed for eating crackers. Except maybe #2 That’s just cray cray.

  2. 2
    Stella says:

    Thank you all!  I just spit coffee across my keyboard from laughing out loud.  What a way to start my Tuesday but with an anatomy lesson!  Keep it up-legs next?  How about some lower abs, please?

  3. 3
    SB Sarah says:

    Ooh, lower abs. That could take…WEEKS. There are SO MANY Ab examples! And the danger with looking at abs on covers is that after awhile, the nipples start LOOKING at you.

    No, really. They do. Don’t blink.

  4. 4
    JenniferRNN says:

    Sarah, thank you for checking with a physical therapist on those back muscles. I got the trapezius, but didn’t know about the rhomboids! Also, I feel like I’m in geometry class – although these shapes hold my interest longer.

  5. 5
    Cordy says:

    The mom jeans! I feel confused.

    I wish there were a genre of contemporary romance where maybe there is a lot of salacious sex in the story, but on the cover, people are wearing all their clothes. I would probably read a romance with a hockey player in full… hockey regalia.

  6. 6
    LaineyT says:

    #2 is truly bizarre but the more I stared at it, the more I found myself wondering…WTF happened to the rest of his lower body?!?  It’s like he’s embedded in sheer rock from the the waist/torso up cuz either my depth perception is way off but it doesn’t look like he’s bent over anything that is hiding his hips, legs etc.  Is it just me?

    @kpdacey …thanks for the Harlequin quiz.  The side penis was pretty obvious and rather terrifying but once I was finally able to look beyond that I, too, was able to spot the difference.

  7. 7
    LaineyT says:

    Oops!  “embedded from the waist/torso DOWN”

  8. 8
    Stephanie says:

    The mom jeans ARE bad but that Blaze book cover…Is he wearing biker shorts?  Because those babies are a bit tight.

  9. 9
    Cordy says:

    I think the mom jeans book is by an author I noticed on goodreads, because the top review for the book I was looking at was by her, saying “I wrote this book! FIVE STARS!”

    Which I think is just a thing that happens on Goodreads, apparently, but I have rarely felt more out of touch with The Kids Today.

  10. 10
    Kilian Metcalf says:

    I follow Jon Crispin’s blog about photography. He posted a shot of a swimmer waiting to launch, and I thought of it immediately I saw the Freedom cover. You can see that if the angle were slightly different, you’d see the same arrangements of muscles and heart shape.  I loved this photo so much, especially the contrast between the skin and the water that I bought and framed a print.

  11. 11
    LauraL says:

    That Still So Hot guy appears to be wearing cheap gym shorts. Maybe he bought himself a nice Speedo with his modeling fees.

    Mr. L and I share an Amazon account and a couple of nights ago he asked me what was up with all the abs on the books I have been purchasing lately.

    Wish I would have been quick enough to have told him they were for an Anatomy Lesson.

    Thanks for the laughs today!

  12. 12
    Isobel Carr says:

    My thing is, as always, the Polyclitus girdle (sometimes called the Apollo belt), aka that delicious cut that cups the hipbone. Mmmmmmm.

  13. 13
    Kilian Metcalf says:

    @Isobel Carr: Thank you for jogging my memory. I never can remember the Greek sculptor’s name associated with that part of the male anatomy. Another spelling is Polykleitos, and it is also called the ‘Apollo’s Belt’, ‘Adonis’ Belt’, or iliac furrow. If you look at the skeleton of a man and a woman side by side, you can see why men have them and women don’t. The underlying bones are very different, plus the woman’s pelvis is not fused, but has flexible connective tissue that will soften and stretch when she is pregnant to open the pelvis to make room for the baby to pass through during birth.

  14. 14
    Susan says:

    It took me for.ever to spot the difference because I was so distracted.  LOL.

  15. 15

    Thank you, Ladies. (Ladies! Well, that’s the word I’m sticking with for now). A lovely start to the day. But am I alone in thinking I wouldn’t particularly like to wake up beside one of those sculpted torsos? I like my men more…human. Less than perfect. And not so self-obsessed.

  16. 16

    You blinded me with science!

    Thanks for the anatomy lesson. I’m going to study those covers much more closely in the future.

  17. 17
    SB Sarah says:


    You blinded me with science!

    HA! Yes, that was the goal!

  18. 18
    redheadedgirl says:

    @Suzie:  who said anything about sleeping?

  19. 19

    You’re right, redheadedgirl—there’s a lot to be said for sending them home right after the performance ;-)

  20. 20
    Ruth says:

    I don’t care. They’re all absolutely gorgeous and I’d like one of each for Christmas, please.

    Oh and I echo the previous poster about No 2. My daughter’s shoulders look similar at a backstroke start and she’s not even 10.  It’s all about the angle, and I have to say I rather like it on a cover. Much more creative than most

  21. 21

    nice one,keep going.

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