[Note from Frolic: We are so excited to have author Amalie Howard guest posting on the site today! Take it away Amalie!]
Romance is cake. The moister, the better. There, I said it—the only acceptable way to use this word IMHO. But you know what I mean…crafty metaphors and all.
Romance is a billion dollar industry, and the truth is, clinch covers sell. I read somewhere that you’re fifty percent more likely to buy a book if you pick it up. And that usually comes from an eye-catching romantic cover. If the jacket description matches what you felt for the cover, there’s a good chance you’re going to buy the book.
Think of it like a cupcake—if it makes your mouth water just by looking at it, you’re going to want to taste it. And if it’s delicious, you’re going to want to devour that thing in one sitting. That’s what romance is to me. Cake. Deliciously hedonistic, mouth-watering, calorie-free cake.
Give. Me. The. Cake.
So if romance is cake (stick with me here, I have a point, I promise), the clinch cover is the decadent, luscious frosting. This kind of cover sets an expectation—that what you see is what you’re going to get. An attractive hero, an engaging heroine, and most important of all, a romance that ends in a happy-ever-after or a happy-for-now.
What is a clinch cover you ask? Let me enlighten you if you haven’t already guessed.
The “clinch” is the pose in which a typically handsome, sometimes bare-chested hero holds the lovely, usually buxom heroine in his arms on the cover of a romance novel. The clinch can be sweet, steamy, and sultry, ranging from subtle to downright erotic, from fully-clothed to wearing scraps of nothing, from the almost-kiss to the full-on, orgasmic expression. But they all have one thing in common—they promise a satisfying, romantic connection between two people.
Hate them or love them, clinch covers have evolved over the years, from cringe-worthy poses by Fabio (if you don’t recognize this iconic male cover model name from the 80s and 90s, who are you?) to beautifully illustrated covers of embracing couples, including same-sex and couples of color, with bold color, powerful representation, and modernized font that set a tone: I’m not your mama’s romance novel.
Honestly, I used to be embarrassed by clinch covers. But that was when I was sixteen and felt that I needed to hide what I was reading. I associated shame with even daring to read a romance. And gasp, never in public. Always under the covers. Or hidden behind the pages of another more “acceptable” book.
My grandmother had dozens of romance novels with these explicit covers, and I was fascinated by the messages they sent. Could sixteen-year-old me—lonely, boyfriendless, and under-developed—ever dream to have a man stare at me with such devoted passion? Could I one day have a cold, fractious duke deign to be mine? You bet I could…at least for a few hours while I devoured those pages.
Though, sidebar, my husband’s English ancestry traces back to the Duke of Norfolk and Arundel Castle so I did marry a descendant of a duke (take that, disbelievers)! And also, thank you, clinch covers!
In hindsight (I just turned forty-five yesterday), those very romance novels with their gloriously scandalous covers told me one important truth—that I was deserving of love, and that I would find it one day. They made me feel like I had a chance. And that, dear reader, is what most of us want. A chance to connect with whichever partner we choose. A chance to love and be loved. To be happy in a healthy, satisfying relationship.
As a romance writer, I want to deliver the same message to my readers…that you are absolutely worthy of love. That you are worthy of respect and care and attention. That you should not associate shame with feeling desire, in wanting pleasure, in wanting to be pleased. You deserve that at a minimum. But most of all, I want women to know that they should not be afraid of having their own agency, of advocating for their wants and desires. Men have done it for millennia. It’s our turn.
There is no shame in pleasure. There is no shame in passion. And there’s no shame in wanting either of those. Whether that’s in a book with a sexy AF cover, or in real life.
Though styles and stories have evolved to suit our times, our cultures, and our broadening philosophies, the core of the romance novel will remain the same, and hopefully, so will the clinch cover and what it offers to readers: the promise and delivery of a happy ever after. So what if you dream about a prince of your own? Princes don’t always wear crowns—they come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and packages. Kind of like princesses.
Now, go get that cake. You know you want it.
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About the Author:
AMALIE HOWARD is the bestselling, award-winning author of several young adult novels critically acclaimed by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, VOYA, School Library Journal, and Booklist, including Waterfell, The Almost Girl, and Alpha Goddess, a Kid’s INDIE NEXT selection highlighting East Indian mythology. She is a national IPPY silver medalist and Children’s Moonbeam Award winner. She is also the co-author of the #1 bestsellers in regency romance and historical fiction, My Rogue, My Ruin and My Hellion, My Heart, in the Lords of Essex historical romance series. Of Indian and Middle Eastern descent, she grew up in the Caribbean but currently resides in Colorado with her husband and three children. Find her here: https://amaliehoward.com/
The Beast of Beswick by Amalie Howard, out November 26th!
Lord Nathaniel Harte, the disagreeable Duke of Beswick, spends his days smashing porcelain, antagonizing his servants, and snarling at anyone who gets too close. With a ruined face like his, it’s hard to like much about the world. Especially smart-mouthed harpies―with lips better suited to kissing than speaking―who brave his castle with indecent proposals.
But Lady Astrid Everleigh will stop at nothing to see her younger sister safe from a notorious scoundrel, even if it means offering herself up on a silver platter to the forbidding Beast of Beswick himself. And by offer, she means what no highborn lady of sound and sensible mind would ever dream of―a tender of marriage with her as his bride.