"He kissed her. Without warning, without permission. Without even deciding to do it, but simply because he couldn't have done anything else. He needed that breath she was holding. It belonged to him, and he wanted it back."
- Tessa Dare
The next time I blithely state in a Romance E-interviews newsletter that I'll post one romance Top 5 list per day for a full week, somebody kick me :) It's hard work, this imagining!
Historical romance - consider it: carriages, corsets, high society, dashing heroes, décolletage, rakehells, witty repartee, gaslight, parlour room drama, intrigue and scandal. Reputations were made and lost at the turn of a card. What you said wasn't important so much as how you said it. The good will of the ton accounted for much. Marriages were matches of standing rather than matches of affection and passion. Historical romance covers often belie the social conventions and mores of the time - they are lush, seductive, vivid in colour, passionate (for something so still), evocative and, sometimes, downright scandalous looking. It's the contradiction that probably gets my attention.
You'll find below my picks for the most scandalous looking historical fiction covers of 2010. Feel free to leave your own suggestion as a comment. Enjoy!
Provocative in pearls / Madeleine Hunter
Their marriage was arranged, but their desire was not... After two years, Grayson Bridlington, The Earl of Hawkeswell, has located his missing bride Verity Thompson. Coerced into marrying Hawkeswell by her duplicitous cousin, Verity fled London for the countryside. Now, the couple must make the most of an arranged marriage-even if it means surrendering to their shared desire.
Tosca's note: I like the contradiction - all that virginal looking white! And yet there's quite a bit of flesh on display and the eye, thanks to the pearls, are automatically drawn to the cleavage.
Ravishing in red / Madeleine Hunter
"Audrianna Kelmsleigh is unattached, independent - and armed. Her adversary is Lord Sebastian Sommerhays. What they have in common is Audrianna's father, who died in a scandalous conspiracy - a deserved death in Sebastian's eyes. Audrianna vows to clear her father's name, never expecting to fall in love with the man devoted to destroying it..." -- Publisher description.
Tosca's note: Look at the demure hand positioning, and the turned head displays the nape of her neck, making her seem quite vulnerable. And yet I associate the colour red with either danger or a stop light. . Once again the eye is drawn to the bust line. The hands say 'I'm a lady' but the dress says 'For appearances sake only.'
A secret affair / Mary Balogh
"Hannah Reid... born a commoner, she has been Duchess of Dunbarton ever since she was nineteen years old, the wife of an elderly duke to whom she has been rumoured to be consistently and flagrantly unfaithful. Now the old duke is dead and... Hannah has her freedom at last... She announces her intention to take a lover - and not just any lover, but the most dangerous and delicious man in all of upper-class England: Constantine Huxtable... Rumoured to be living the free and easy life of a sensualist in his country estate, he always chooses recent widows for his short-lived affairs. Hannah will fit the bill nicely..." -- Publisher description.
Tosca's note: Where's the back of her dress gone?! Whoa, you can see flesh. Turned head, visible nape - it's a trick. Makes her seem vulnerable but the scarlet dress says she can probably kick your butt, too, if you make an inappropriate move on her ;)
Lessons in French / Laura Kinsale
"Trevelyan and Callie are childhood sweethearts with a taste for adventure. Until the fateful day her father discovers them embracing in a carriage house and in a furious frenzy drives Trevelyan away in disgrace--. Nine long, lonely years later, Trevelyan returns. Callie is shocked to discover that he can still make her blood race and fill her life with mischief, excitement, and scandal. He would give her the world, but he can't give her the one thing she wants more than anything - himself." -- Publisher description.
Tosca's note: Soft, pastel colours - seemingly demure. But you can see her leg! Scandalous for the time. Certainly it would not have been acceptable for her to be plastered to any man. One question: how did they shave their legs back then? They're smooth! Was that possible? They never mention that in historical romance novels. Also, what kinda French? The way they're 'leaning with intent' leadeth me not to believe it's French dialogue
Too wicked to kiss / Erica Radley
After attending a party at the manor home of the reclusive Gavin Lioncroft, Evangeline Pemberton is afraid that she is possibly falling in love with a murderer.
Tosca's note: Oh, no subtlety. It's just outright raunchy looking. I only have one complaint - if the tree was meant to give the cover a gothic air I think it may have failed slightly. It looks more like some weird hairy chest problem that he needs to wax. Like, right now.