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...
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!