Posted by Savanna, Assistant Editor on December 13, 2018
This is always one of my favorite posts to put together—who wouldn’t want to gaze at shirtless men and glorious gowns? But this year’s list was particularly fun in that the noble art of the romance cover has been going through a much-noticed evolution, which is one that this reader much prefers to the plague of Fifty Shades-esque jackets from a few years back. If I never see a supposedly sexy inanimate object on a black background again, I’ll die happy. But the covers below? They can stay.
Cover design by Nadine Badalaty
Sometimes, all you need is a ridiculously gorgeous cover model, some truly fantastic biceps and the humble grey t-shirt, which rarely gets its due as a lust-inspiring object. (I have conducted an informal poll of my group of friends and we are all in agreement. Men, take note.)
The Wedding Date
Art direction by Rita Frangie
2018’s biggest cover trend got its start early with Guillory’s February debut, which established the key elements—a brightly colored (and thus perfectly Instagrammable) jacket, cute cartoon drawings of the leads (so as to not alienated those sadly still allergic to the joys of la clinch), and dainty little details that take on more meaning the more you read. But The Wedding Date isn’t just on this list because it was the trend-starter for the year. Its charming black, white and red design both makes it look like an old-fashioned Valentine and elegantly represents the interracial relationship contained within the pages.
And here we have an entry in “That Couple on Instagram.” God look at these two gorgeous people, canoodling photogenically in the golden hour. I want to hate them but I can’t. Especially since the costume choices on the models are so perfectly on point for Wells’ smart, charming tale of two athletic coaches who fall in love.
Counting on a Countess
Cover design by Jon Paul Ferrara
Behold, what everyone wishes they looked like whilst standing in the wind. Eva Leigh’s covers are consistently jaw dropping, but Countess’ sunset drenched glory is truly something to behold. Quite a few reviews pointed out the similarity between Leigh’s heroine Tamsyn and “Poldark” resident badass Demelza, and this cover takes all the natural, windswept beauty of that delightfully insane show and gives it a coat of the probably patented Avon gloss. It makes me stop in my tracks every time I see it.
The Duke I Tempted
Cover design by Kerry Hynds
*sigh* This cover, my friends. It’s just so, so lovely. It looks like an outtake from a particularly moody Vogue shoot. Like Peckham’s wonderful debut, it bends the established formula as much as it honors it. The heroine is wearing a sweeping dress that seems quite easy to take off, per the usual, but her pose is unaffected and natural, like you’ve caught her slightly unawares. And the greenhouse background is achingly romantic, but its dark, rich, almost-Gothic tone perfectly suggests the angst and complexity of The Duke I Tempted.
Cover design by Jon Paul
Look at this. This is pure, high-grade, old school romance fantasia and I want to throw it a parade. That rich gold and moody purple color scheme is just perfectly 80s/90s, in keeping with the luscious manes of hair on both leads. And once you’ve picked yourself back up after the initial blast of fabulousness, you notice how the heroine’s dress evokes both the Regency setting and her dramatic backstory (she lived in a harem for 17 years!).
A Duke by Default
Cover design by Nadine Badalaty
The cover that, along with its older sibling A Princess in Theory, sold at least a thousand dresses when author Alyssa Cole revealed the Etsy shop where fans could buy the vibrant printed dresses worn by the heroines of the Reluctant Royals series. But while that stunning textile may be what first catches your eye, the palpable chemistry between the main couple is what keeps drawing me back to this gorgeous jacket. And of course, the glorious silver fox of a hero. #SwordBae4Ever
Cover design by Kristine Mills
The fullest expression of the romance cover’s unabashed love of abs and jawlines. I have endless respect for this cover, because it leans all the way in to the fact that the hero of Stripped is, yes, a stripper. Like Castile’s novel, the cover refuses to make Fallon’s occupation a joke, instead presenting him as the confident, sensual entertainer he is. All those comparisons to Magic Mike were the farthest thing from wrong.
Art direction by Judy Murello, design by Colleen Reinhart
If anyone ever makes a film version of Alexa Martin’s wildly fun debut (which they should), they should straight up copy this cover for the movie poster. My favorite variation on the cartoon, hand-lettered trend, Intercepted’s cover art makes its heroine look like the platonic ideal of the modern romance heroine—dynamic, powerful and real.
Why Not Tonight
Cover design by HQN Books
Kissing in the rain is one of those things that seems extremely romantic, but is actually a great way to feel like you’re drowning on dry land. But this cover is so ridiculously lovely, it almost makes me rethink my position. The color scheme and lighting of this jacket is just astonishing, and vibrantly brings Mallery’s idyllic small town setting to life.
Honorable mention: The Henchmen of Zenda, for its pitch-perfect pulp fabulous cover, and Born to Be Wilde, for making me laugh out loud with sheer glee when I saw it.