So many sculpted male torsos, so little time, am I right?
Are you down with bare chests and taut torsos on your romance novel covers? Not all readers are into the skin, but I’m here today to talk to the ladies who like a little flesh on their covers. The ladies who have a deep love for the male torso, especially that stretch of skin under the navel that leads down to —
Ahem. Enough said. You know who you are.
Now we’ve identified ourselves, I think we can agree we all share a deep appreciation for shirtless gentlemen. They’re part of the fantasy we’re buying into when we choose our next hot read.
But honestly, ladies — when was the last time you saw a romance novel with a less-than-perfect male specimen wrapping a novel? There’s enough beautiful testosterone floating around the romance ether I could wallpaper my bedroom with romance novel covers.
Epiphany: I should wallpaper my bedroom with romance novel covers.
The point I’m making here is we’re jaded. That’s right, I said it. We’ve gorged ourselves on perfect male flesh until nothing impresses us anymore. Six pack abs? Smiley-face navel? Artfully arranged armpit hair? Yawn. It’s like trying to choose a piece of chocolate when all your options are Godiva, except it’s with eye candy.
Too much of a good thing can lead to hours under your covers with the lights off, whimpering and biting your nails as you struggle to choose your next book boyfriend from of all the genetically-gifted gentlemen heating up your Kindle.
Yes, you do too do that. We all do.
Fortunately for us, I’ve done the research (and by “research,” I mean ogling hot romance novel covers) and I’ve come to a shocking conclusion. Brace yourselves…
Covers aren’t all about the abs or the pecs, the V or the glory trail (though I’d like to take this moment to personally thank author Sarina Bowen for the cover of Brooklynaire).
After hours of soul searching, Zen meditation and transcendental yoga, I have a pearl of wisdom or two to share on the subject of hot male torsos. Now, I’m guessing we’re all visual learners when it comes to this subject, so I’ve assembled a little line-up of contemporary romance covers for you. A parade of pecs, if you will.
When you see one of author Lauren Blakely’s covers, you know it. Ms. Blakely has cornered the market on hot torsos. See this guy on the cover of Big Rock? He’s got it all. Perfect pecs, bulging biceps, orderly but manly armpit hair, and sexy scruff. He’s photographic evidence the 8-pack isn’t just an urban myth. Even his sheets are sexy. One glance at this cover tells you just what you’re going to get from this story. A racy read with an arrogant, alpha male hero you’re going to want to punch in his perfect abs, right before you fall in love with him. This cover has done its job well. It screams, “Looking for a sensitive beta hero? A sweet, closed door romance? This is not your book.”
This Lawless gentleman has graced the cover of more than one of T.M. Frazier’s books. Once you see him, you don’t forget him. His heavily-tatted upper body and the long Mohawk tell part of his story, but this cover takes it farther with the hero’s isolation in the frame, and his tortured, prayer-like pose. Add in the subdued colors and the moody sky behind him, and you’ve got contemporary romance’s version of the Byronic hero. This stunning cover makes it absolutely clear this guy is going to dominate the story. There’s going to be angst and emotional upheaval, and it’s going to be exquisite.
It is wrong that I want to dive into that navel? He may have the most perfect belly-button I’ve ever seen, but that’s not why I chose author Alice Clayton’s Nuts. Other readers may prefer outies, after all, and I’m not here to judge my romance-loving sisters. You do you. I chose this cover because of the touch of humor here. The title is a little sly, a little tongue-in-cheek, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say any cover where the hero’s holding his nuts in his hand (sorry, I had to say it), is going to have a comical element to it. Rom com lovers, and readers who appreciate snappy dialogue and quirky characters? Navel preferences aside, this is your book.
What strikes me about author Sarina Bowen’s Us cover isn’t the pair of gorgeous, muscular chests. No, the first thing I noticed here (Oh, all right, it was the second thing, after the chests) is that this is an extreme close-up shot of an unusual pose, with one man’s arm wrapped around the other’s chest and bicep. There’s a tenderness to it, a protectiveness, and a hint of possessiveness. It’s sexy and loving at once, and the muted gray tones give it an artistic feel. When I see this cover, I’m anticipating the sort of deep, emotional story that’s going to squeeze a few tears out of me. If you like a little suffering on the way to your HEA, this cover promises you a satisfying read.
So, have we solved our cover crisis? Is this the last word on the complex issue of torsos? No, but perhaps one thing we can agree on is truly great romance novel covers hint at the type of story you’ll find inside. In the end, there’s no one book that will please every reader, and there’s no one cover that will, either.
Well, except for covers with hot men in kilts. Because some things are universal.