Barbie, The Raider, The Washboard, and Me

In 2003, Mattel released Jude Deveraux, The Raider – Barbie® and Ken® Doll Giftset. I don't know why the earth didn't move and alert me to this amazing opportunity, but it is only ten years later that I have been able to see this amazing majesty for myself. 

You guys, I seriously think this doll set answers SO MANY QUESTIONS that I've had about classic romance novel poses. Let's examine each element close up, shall we? Vision impaired readers, I've done my best to describe each image, and I swear I am not making any of this up. 

First, behold the majesty of the official Mattel portrait of these two:

Official portrait of the two dolls out of the box standing on some plastic rocks. They can't stand on their own.


They don't look a thing like that in the box. It even says on the page, “Doll cannot stand alone as shown.” I'm not sure which one they mean, but I assume KenAlexander, because he's not letting go of BarbieJessica.

Lest you doubt this is currently in my possession, the box! On my counter!

Barbie and Ken posed in a box with a clear plastic front. Can't miss the action.


I was never into Barbies as a kid, but this made both my inner awkward adolescent and my external adult self absolutely giddy. IT IS CRAZY YOU GUYS.

And it has a lot to live up to, because the original cover for The Raider, it is absolute grade A crazysauce: 

The heroine is hanging off the side of the man with her pink dress in a big fan below her and her blonde hair in a big fan above her. he's wearing a mask, and the horse is like WTF you people are weird.


I can just picture that cover art meeting:

Dude: “No, her hair needs to be bigger. NO, BIGGER. No, MORE BIGGER.” 
Artist, grumbling: “I'll show you bigger…”
Dude: “PERFECT!” 

I love the horse, too. He's appalled at their lack of knowledge on basic horsemanship: “I am not carrying you weirdos on my neck. Go away.”

Seriously, what's with her hair? Is she underwater? How do you get your hair to even do that? I need to try it. It's like an Elizabethan neck ruff for hair. 

So does the Barbie collector set live up? OH HELL YES.

First: have you ever wondered how the cover model posing as the heroine can maintain these half-fainted, half-boneless positions of swoony submission? 

Get a look at her face: 

A close up of Barbie's face. her pupils are half covered by her eyelids and she looks drugged and slightly crosseyed.


The answer is, apparently, quaaludes.

She's heavy lidded, but I don't think it's passion. I think she's high as a kite. A kite on some seriously good drugs, yo. Her pupils are like dinner plates. 

Another close up of her face. Her mouth is open a bit so with the heavy lids which are colored very blue she looks so out of it


“Hey, KenAlexander. I wanna tell you….tell you…somethzzzzzzzzzzzz.” So romantic!

The other details are just as amazing. 

Close up of Ken's face with an amazing amount of eye cosmetics and a shaded something on his cheeks meant to suggest stubble or something.


I don't even know how one does that with eye makeup. Though, I don't know if he'd remember either, given that he looks like he's on the same stuff as Barbie. 

Then there's the other other makeup:

Close up of Ken's face with some sort of brown shading or schmutz on his face


I scratched at it with my fingernail. I tried wiping it with a towel. That is not schmutz or dirt. That is… I don't actually know what that is. I think it's meant to suggest stubble, only romance stubble, which is apparently as smooth as chinchilla bum fur.

In romance, stubble doesn't scratch, it soothes.

I'm telling you, the mysteries of the romance universe are hidden in this box. 

For example, you know that curling tendril of hair that so often tempts the romance hero as he looks at the heroine? How many historical romances have you read that in? Me, probably hundreds. She puts her hair up, except for one curl that rests on her neck, beckoning the hero to gaze upon her décolletage. 

How does one maintain that tempting curl with its tempting, curly perfection?


A close up of barbie's hair, in which one long curl is stitched to her armpit


By stitching it into her armpit, of course! That sucker ain't moving, either, let me assure you. 

And how do you know this is a legit romance novel Barbie set? The certificate of authenticity? Heck no.

A close up of Ken's shirt, which is open and tucked in of course



Hell to the Yes! 

Pay no attention to Barbie's opportunistic hand, there. 

So let's get a look at what's under the shirt that's undone but still tucked in because accuracy:


I'm about to peel his shirt away from his chest


HOLD UP. Is that…. is – YES it IS! 


double stick tape holding his shirt on to his chest which is ridiculous with the bumps and ridges meant to suggest abdominal muscles



So THAT is the secret of the shirt-undone-but-still-tucked-in look! Wardrobe tape! Amazing. 

And speaking of amazing, GET A LOAD OF THOSE ABS. Somewhere there are professional body builders with .02% bodyfat who don't have that level of definition. KenAlexander, he is negative body fat. 

I can't get this particular close up of my own KenAlexander without removing him from the box, so don't miss this picture of his nipples

Also: I love that I just told you not to miss a picture of someone's nipples. Oh romance novel Barbie, don't ever leave me. 

Let's keep exploring the magic, shall we? 

A close up of three fabric flowers at Barbie's waist which have very erect and suggestive stamens


What? Those flowers are not the LEAST bit suggestive. Nuh uh. 


We don't need any euphemisms that KenAlexander is well-equipped in every way. As the box description assures us,

He is wearing a sheer white cotton shirt and tight black pants accented with a black belt. Black knee high cuffed and buckled boots complete his ruggedly handsome look.

But KenAlexander, being a Ken doll and all, has no actual equipment, per se. But no worries. We have manly hand assurance, too. The size difference between KenAlexander and BarbieJessica's hands is… illuminating. 

Ken's hand is about 10 times larger than Barbie's.


Everything about this guy is big. And windswept.

Did I mention it comes with bling, this gift set? IT DOES. BLING IS INCLUDED. 

A read fabric back is screenprinted with the words Jude Deveraux The Raider


HOT DAMN. What could it be? My own personal Raider minifigure? With windswept hair and abs like cobblestones?


A blurry pic of the charm bracelet


A charm bracelet! With… charms that I'm not sure of. Like this one:

A charm bracelet charm that looks like the business end of a waistband snap


Is that a candelholder or the business end of a waistband snap? No matter, really. It's Raider Bling! 

I was nearly ready to put the box aside and go out and raid the grocery store with my bling when I noticed how amazing the back of the box is. I might have bought this JUST for the back of the box. Because it's so incredible.

First, Mattel has a very strange idea of what age “adulthood” happens: 

Text on the bottom: For the adult collector, ages 14 and up


Adult! Now 14 and over! 

Uh, ok. 

The back of the box with text about the book. PLUS a sample.


Dear LORD, is that from the book?! 

 A page from Google Books that shows the text from the back: Alex smiled in the way of a man with superior knowledge. NO LIE.



Perhaps that is the secret of KenAlexander's beard fuzz: he wears stubble like a man with superior knowledge. 

But wait, there's MORE.

The description reassures the reader that the Barbie is dressed in taffeta, chiffon and jacquard, while Ken is swashbuckling in a sheer white cottong shirt. There are also accouterments.


In case you're too lazy to turn the box over and, you know, look, or you like to have all your surprises spoiled, there's a description of what's inside: “Ken is swashbuckling in a sheer white cotton shirt paired with black pants.”


Ken is swashbuckling like a man with superior knowledge.

Aw, yeah. 

But the best part is the illustration of the dolls inside the box. I wish I could frame it.

The painted illustration on the back of the box is ridiculous in its lack of realism


WHAT THE WHAT? Her face is most likely meant to look like a Barbie doll, except it's the creepy version thereof. Egads.

And KenAlexander… oh, dear.

Ken's hair looks like a hedgehog exploded on his head


According to the official description, KenAlexander has “long brown windswept hair.” 

That's not windswept. That's “A windy hedgehog exploded on his head.” 

And I'm not sure what that facial expression is meant to convey, but I'm going with “too many beans at the Raider Barbie launch party last night.”

The greatest disappointment, though, is my discovery on the front of the box: 

Barbie Limited Edition Romance Novels Collection on the top of the box


That says, “Limited Edition, Romance NOVELS Collection.”


Romance NOVELS.


Were there more Barbie and Ken romance novel editions planned? Did they not ever make it to market? Are the obscure collectibles in Japan somewhere? WHERE ARE THE OTHER NOVELS?! 

Seriously, I would buy the hell out of them. I bought this one on eBay and it was the best ridiculous eBay purchase I've ever made. I bid on this box so hard, my eBay-addicted father in law probably flinched without knowing why.

SO WHERE ARE THE OTHERS?! Where are the other novels?! 

How can Mattel break my heart this way? Seriously, shouldn't there be more? I think so! 

What novels do you think should receive the Barbie collector's edition treatment? Anita Blake? That'd be a ten-doll collection right there. oh – Derek Craven from Dreaming of You! That would be an amazing Ken doll. He'd have to substitue badassery for the swashbuckling. 

So, which book should be done as a doll set next? Let's pester Mattel until they either run screaming or give us our way.

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  1. Robin says:

    Is it me, or does that last close-up of KenAlexander look like Jaclyn Smith with a Lone Ranger mask on? (also – chinchilla bum fur! YES!)

  2. Tam B. says:

    I’m gobsmacked by this Barbie offering.  I think I’m still processing it exists let alone as part of a collection.  (I’m going to be testing my google fu later to see if I can find it.)

    As for what need to be in the collection – I have to say the “Pull my finger Viking”.  Can you imagine?

  3. Ren says:

    Snorting over the excerpt.

    “Could you try harder, please?”

    So much for his superior knowledge.

    Maybe his SK is specialized in the realm of beauty tips. Had she not rudely interrupted him before he could explain the art of achieving fierce eyebrows and miles-long lashes (seriously, she should be embarrassed to leave the house with those stumpy little things of hers), we all might have learned something of import this day.

  4. Sarah W says:

    If I ever brought this home, my kids would have those dolls out of the box and indoctrinated into the Barbie Nudist Colony™ in their playroom before I could scream, “Collectors Edition!”

    But I’m sure nether KenAlexander or BarbieJessica would mind.  Or even notice.

  5. Paula says:

    Reading made me snort coffee. LOL Loved your description so much now I want to know what the rest of the series looks like.

  6. Caren L. Bevill says:

    Too early to snort tea through my nose but you’ve done it.  By the way, on the illustration of Ken the pirate stud and Barbie the buxom virginal wench, is that a feather sticking out of her hoo-ha or is she just happy to see us?

  7. Love this!  ( I can admit I’ve always wanted this Barbie Collection; The Raider was my first romance and introduced me to this Bitchin’ world.)  Although, I really want to see one of Julie Garwood’s Scottish romances come to life.  Can you imagine all that half-naked goodness in a kilt?  A manly figure with stereotypically RED, windswept hair.  And then think about the NIPPLES! :O

    I’m not sure my mind could handle all that Scottish-ness. ;P

  8. Lesley Robinson says:

    The KenAlexander close up looks worryingly like Kim Kardashian.

  9. funny b/c I was just cleaning out my office the other day and found my ‘edward’ doll which as a gift from a good friend after I spent a sleepless week reading the twilight series….I almost gave it away, and I just could not.

    I would like to see a line of kristen ashley’s anti-heores with tats and all (of course).

  10. Catherine says:

    O.M.G. Best alt test ever! This post alone has made paying for in-flight wi-fi worth it.

  11. I was laughing so hard I was crying.

  12. Kimber Vale says:

    I’m pretty sure that charm is a clitoris (also on quaaludes).  Wear it with pride to your next swashbuckling grocery store adventure!

    Thanks for this! Loved it so much, I feel I should contribute monetarily to whatever ridiculous price you paid for that phenomenal monstrosity.

  13. KatieF says:

    I haven’t found any other romance novel Barbies, but I found a page of all kinds of amazing Barbie and Ken pop culture sets including a Bella and Edward Breaking Dawn 2 set. There’s also X-files, Star Trek, The Munsters, and the Addams Family. Who knew?

  14. PamG says:

    Oh. My. God.  This post was so many kinds of wonderful. 

    Regarding that cover, I have only one thing to say: van de Graaff generator.  Have a link:

    I’m currently reading Shelley Laurenston’s shifter books, but I don’t know if Barbie (or Ken) is up to the challenge.  (Think of the nipplessss)  Maybe the Red Riding Hood/Big Bad Wolf rag doll my daughter had could be adapted…

    Nah….  Maybe not.

  15. Kim S. says:

    That book is in my desk RIGHT NOW. Well, it’s in my hand at the moment, but that’s only because I looked at the book title and thought “hey, I know that!” and rummaged in my desk. Victory! It is, indeed, that same purple-pink cover of deliciousness.

    I suppose I need those dolls… 😉

  16. Tin says:

    This is my favorite SBTB post for 2013.  Read and laughed with my sister—and we both read The Raider when we were younger.

    I did a google search and I did find the Ken and Barbie Raider set listed on (—but it seems to be the only one in the romance novels collection.

    Sad. =( 

    I want more!  (Would love Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series in Barbie and Ken form!)

    They did make a Phantom of the Opera set and Ken and Barbie is Arthur and Guinevere:

    (Love that the description included the words realistic “sword” <—quotations not mine ^_^)

  17. Liz says:

    That last close up of femme Ken looks eerily like Kimberlin Brown.

  18. Ella Quinn says:

    I never wanted Barbies either, but people kept giving them to me. Probably because I didn’t want them.

    This post was hilarious!! Someone really needs to explain to Mattel that most people don’t consider a 14 year-old, an adult. I tweeted.

  19. I never was interested in Barbies growing up.  This…this I would buy.  Just for the sheer WTFness of it.

  20. Niina C says:

    OMG! That is so trashy good!

  21. Sandy says:

    In the last photo with Ken; he looked very feminine.  14 isn’t adult age, but some of those kids know more than I do.  Sad, but true. 

    Hilarious post!  Thanks for sharing, Dawn.

  22. Shannon says:

    O.M.G. This is soooooo good. Laughed until I cried, then went looking for my own on eBay. Will have to sell one of my children, though. But it’s soooooo good, I’m thinking…
    Oh, and I think any of Johanna Lindsay’s has to be done, surely?

  23. KRGrille says:

    I know I’m not the only one who would cut you good if you got between me and a set of Jamie and Claire a la Outlander Barbies.

  24. *DYING* not the least because I still have an original copy of this book!!!

    “That’s not windswept. That’s ‘A windy hedgehog exploded on his head.’”

    Day. Made.

  25. Ainsley says:

    I saw a pin of these dolls on pinterest a year ago and just about died of happiness. Absolutely one of my favs by JD. Sigh. The swashbuckling swooniness of the barbie versions is hilars. And the quote on the back is great: Jessica is messing with Alex because she knows he’s the raider but he won’t admit it to her. Love, love that book and adore this post. Still pondering WTH that “snap” thing is on the charm bracelet…

  26. Penny says:

    HAHA! Thanks for the laugh. I enjoy the fact that wardrobe tape is used even by plastic Ken dolls. I thought it was only my mother, cross dressers, and my inappropriately attired general practitioner.

  27. Desiree Holt says:

    Now you know why I use Barbies to act out my love scenes! LOL! Freaked out the guys from CBS Sunday Monring but Barbie and Ken never ever changed expressions.

  28. Chris Alexander says:

    That was one of my first romance books. It’s completely seared into my memory. I love every cheesy word of it! I want those Barbie and Ken dolls so very bad!!

    They should do a Johanna Lindsay book. Oh, could you imagine a Club Shadowlands book? ROFL

  29. seraph7 says:

    I would legit pay for a ASOIAF/GoT version. Seriously, you have no idea how much I would like a Sansa Stark or Margaery Tyrell Barbie in those beautiful costumes. Just think of how bling you could make a Renly Baratheon Ken with that stag crown he had, and didn’t Jaime Lannister already kind of have that Ken look down pat before he went on that epic road trip with Brienne?

    Oh man, now I want this because of reasons 🙁 Come on, Mattel the fangirls would love it, you’d make a bloody fortune!

    Failing that, what about an Outlander version? I’d definitely get a Jamie, Lord John and Claire.

    SMH, I don’t even collect Barbies!

  30. Cat C says:

    Best. Commentary. Ever. The end.

    @Tin thank you, thank you, thank you for finding Phantom of the Opera Ken—I may never be able to look at Ken the same way but it was worth it.

    I second the request for Maiden Lane. There could be a Ghost of St. Giles costume! There’s Lazarus with his silver hair! Pirate Mickey! Isabel and Hero are fabulously-dressed women…

  31. laj says:

    OMG! Speechless…..where…..when did you get this incredible kitsch?

  32. laj says:

    So excited missed the details. Jessica and Dain from The Lord of Scoundrels would be great.

  33. Pamela Clare says:


    I feel like my entire universe expanded. I had no idea such a thing existed. How did I miss this? Was I not alive then?

    Too bad that they go to the lengths of adding silky five o’clock shadow but not man bits. I find it hard to be impressed over men without genitals no matter how big their hands are or how many hedgehogs exploded in their hair.

    That cover, too, made me laugh. I kinda wondered if they were going for the “her hair is on fire” look as a metaphor for… something.

    Great post! Thanks!

  34. Kate Johnson says:

    There ARE more: they had a whole Gone With The Wind SET OF DOLLS years ago. Several outfits, including the one she makes out of curtains. I remember seeing them in Toys R Us and lusting over them (because I was probably about 14 then, and therefore an adult). I think it was the only sort of doll I ever wanted (but since they were about seventy quid, of course I never got one).

  35. It took me a few minutes to clean the coffee off my keyboard. But it was worth it. What a great post. Thanks for a wonderful start to the day.

  36. Kate Johnson says:

    OMG, I just gogled and you can still get Rhett & Scarlett dolls! Rhett looks mental, Scarlett IS mental, oh…I forsee some spendage here…

  37. Y’know what I like best about playing with my pirate Barbie and Ken? Barbie’s the frickin’ captain, just as she ought to be. No dickless Ken is captaining my pirate ships! You can see these piratical lovelies sitting on my bookshelf at the link:;
    Thanks for sharing this. I had no idea there were romance novel Barbies out there, and now I think it’s time to re-read The Raider, classic cover and all.  For those who haven’t read it, it’s over-the-top-fun with a hidden hero ala The Scarlet Pimpernel.

  38. Heidi Rice says:

    I hated Barbie dolls as a kid… But after reading this post I’m wondering WTF was I thinking?

    FYI – I think it’s fairly obvious how cover art Dude got the heroine’s hair to do that, the horse is clearing jumping off a cliff – probably trying to escape from those bloody neck jockeys.

  39. Blythe says:

    This is goddamn comedy gold. the Raider was actually my very first romance novel. I still have it…with that cover.

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