On a recent visit to my nearest B&N, I noticed a clear division when it came to the man candy featured on the covers of the books in the new release section of romance. They were either mesomorphs (brawny) or ectomorphs, the typically “normal” male lead who is appealing not so much for his overwhelming sex appeal but for his wit, intelligence, ingenuity, etc.


When I got into the publishing business a few decades ago, romance covers were, for the most part, all about shirtless hunks and women with eye-popping cleavages. It was the era of the Fabio covers, and don’t get me wrong – some of those covers were stunning! If I’m being completely honest with myself, some of my favorite cover art comes from this era: Johanna Lindsey’s Man of My Dreams (1992), Anita Gordon’s The Valiant Heart (1991), Arnette Lamb’s Highland Rogue (1991), Judith E. French’s Lovestorm (1990)…. (All of which now have different cover art or are out-of-print, sadly.)


These covers exemplified what publishers thought female readers wanted in a romance (or at least a romance cover) but I’m happy to say that in the two decades plus since then, that narrow-minded philosophy has evolved a bit – even in the realm of paranormal romance, which has traditionally been ruled by leading men who are supernatural, super sexy, and, ahem, larger than life.




Me, I like my romances powered by male leads who are brawny and brainy. Just saying...   :smileywink:


What about you? Does how the male lead featured on the cover affect your decision to pick a book up or not? And, if so, what kind of man gets your attention the quickest: brawny or brainy?



Caprice Damani is a work-from-home mom with extensive experience in the publishing industry, as a bookseller, editor, and romance reviewer. Keep up with all of her blogs – as well as all of Barnes & Noble’s exclusive reviews, authors interviews, videos, promotions, and more – by following @BNBuzz on Twitter!

by JA_Bal on ‎09-17-2012 09:25 PM

I guess I could be a traditionalist in the sense that if the hero is supposed to be big, bad and drop dead goregous, then I want the cover to show him in all his glory.  But I have to admit that some covers are falling short of my expectations.


I can understand if the cover crops him at the jaw line.  It seems some like to let us readers to the imagining when it comes to his face.  But I'm referring to covers that don't seem to match the hero.  For instance, I love Alexandra Ivy's Guardians of Eternity series, but I don't know who picked the cover for her story Bound By Darkness.  The cover clearly shows a man with short hair, but if it were Ariyal, he would have long hair in a braid down his back and I have no idea where the scorpian tattoo is from.  OK, I know men with hair down to the butt can be hard to come by, but wigs have gotten a lot more complex and seamless these days - don't believe me? Just look at Legolas in the Lord of the Rings movies.


So basically, I feel that if you're going to put a man on the cover, he better match the man in the pages.


P.S. The most recent book of this series has a much better cover shot of a man who is what I can see as Caine so kudos to that cover designer!  She/He at least read the book.

by reader_824 ‎09-24-2012 03:18 PM - edited ‎09-24-2012 03:19 PM

I like my heroes to be masculine. Too many covers of novels with heterosexual men have men who are "too pretty/ girly model" types. UGH!  No thank you.



OOPS...need to delete this post...just saw I somehow ended up in Paranormal...not what I read.


Now to contact someone to delete this post, since there doesn't seem to be anyway for me to do so.

by havenwynters on ‎07-15-2013 08:24 PM

I like my men to actually look like men.  The cover does draw my attention, and I guess I would have to say that it does affect if I pick up the book to read the back of it.  I like muscular, but not body builder type, and a bit rugged.  I don't like men who are too girlish and can put me to shame LOL.


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