My personal book purchases are almost always based on author. Either I buy books by favorite authors, books by intriguing people I’ve met at conferences or by authors recommended by writer friends. So titles and covers don’t play into my purchases much, but I do have some preferences and pet peeves about titles.
One thing that bugs me (and don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed many books with these titles) is the mass repetition of titles in the romance genre. Just a half-hearted search has turned up loads of books with variants of “ideal/perfect” and “bride/wife”:
- THE IDEAL BRIDE (a fun romp of a trad Regency by Nonnie St. George and a historical by Stephanie Laurens)
- A/THE PERFECT BRIDE (Samantha James, Jo Ann Ferguson, Sheila Walsh, Eileen Putnam, Jasmine Cresswell)
- AN IDEAL WIFE (Betty Neels, Mary Balogh)
- THE PERFECT WIFE (Lynsay Sands, Shari McDonald, Jane Goodger, Victoria Alexander, Mary Burton)
These titles are just so unmemorable (not that the stories are, necessarily). But maybe there’s just something so intriguing about this combination of concepts that keeps these books flying off the shelves. Ditto with all the Regencies with titles including “London Season”. Still, I worry that sameness of titles connotes sameness of stories. I’d rather see more attempts at original titles (while fully recognizing that the authors might not have had a choice in the matter).
Another pet peeve is titles that are misleading. The worst offender I can think of is a book titled CAPTAIN CUPID CALLS THE SHOTS, by Elisabeth Fairchild. Between the cute title and the rather insipid cover, no one could guess that the story involves a hero with post-war traumatic stress!
I rather like Jean Ross Ewing/Julia Ross’s titles, though I find them amusing in a way. THE SEDUCTION, THE WICKED LOVER, NIGHT OF SIN, GAMES OF PLEASURE are titillating titles with their hint of the forbidden, though the stories are more psychological than the titles might imply and the innate message (as in all good sensual romances) is the healing and cleansing power of loving sex. And the covers are so elegant and luscious!
OK, now to titles I’ve loved. Some of Mary Jo Putney’s: THE RAKE AND THE REFORMER, THE ROGUE AND THE RUNAWAY. They just evoke conflict and adventure and have a nice rhythm. “R” is a sexy letter, too, though maybe as a Risky Regency, I’m a sucker for that particular alliteration. 🙂
Loretta Chase’s Regencies had some memorable titles. VISCOUNT VAGABOND and THE DEVIL’S DELILAH. More alliteration (!) but these are also fun, as are her stories. I also like MISS WONDERFUL and MR. IMPOSSIBLE.
I’ve been fairly lucky myself in having some say in my titles. How about the rest of you Riskies? Have you had to give up a favorite title, or fight to keep it?
As readers, what sort of titles turn you off, or compel you to buy the book?
LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, a Romantic Times Top Pick!
I’ve only had one title so far — MY LADY GAMESTER — and I was delighted to be allowed to keep it. I can’t take credit for coming up with it — clever Todd did, inspired in part by the title of Barbara Metzger’s “My Lady Innkeeper” (which we had both read.)
In some of my manuscripts, I’ve struggled with titles, and never been entirely happy. My first Regency manuscript (never published) began life with the title A LIGHTNING COURTSHIP. There was lightning in it, and electricity (literally), so I liked that part, and there was also a super-quick engagement…. but somehow the title on its own never seemed really grabby. That ms for most of its life was then called THE BARON AND MISS PATTERTON, which really tells one very little (though I do feel some affection for the title.)
I don’t usually buy by title, so I suppose one can argue that authors worry too much about it… Then again, I fear a lot of readers are influenced by title (and cover art — two things authors often don’t control at all!)
I guess I often like intriguing titles…titles that perhaps sound poetic but don’t necessarily tell you anything, such as THE UNKNOWN AJAX, THESE OLD SHADES, or SWEET AND TWENTY. I also have an affection for the older style of titles which were heroines’ names — MERRIE or PERDITA (though that wasn’t the heroine, come to think of it!) or the like…
Anything cutsie turns me off. As does any title with the word “baby” in it. Not that I don’t love babies – just not in the titles of the books I read.
I also dislike ordinary and/or cutesy titles, Elena! Sadly, Regencies seem to have many of those, it’s hard to get away from them, but they are better than, say Harlequin Presents titles such as “The Sheik and the Pregnant Secretary” or “The Baddest Baby in Town”. Eeek! No wonder I don’t read many contemps. 🙂
I’m bad at coming up with titles on their own (the proposal I’m working on now has the snappy moniker “Untitled” for the time being), but have kept some of the ones I came up with on my own books. Not that they’re very good. The Rules of Love (boring–how many books have Rules in the title? But it fit the story), The Star of India, The Golden Feather, etc. I only had to change titles on my first two books, and on my latest (Lady Midnight was originally A Scarlet Lady).
I’ve always liked your titles, the ones you mentioned and others like SCANDAL IN VENICE and THE SPANISH BRIDE. So much more intriguing than the London Season or the adjective plus title ones–The Arrogant Earl, you know, that sort of thing. (I made that one up but wouldn’t be surprised if it existed.)
I love choosing titles. I usually only do so when I’m about a third through the book, and know what it’s about. I think a title should be provocative. Why did she call it that, the reader should be asking? I like a phrase that packs in a few meanings, and, as the book continues, sheds its multiple meanings upon the unraveling of the book’s substance. ALMOST A GENTLEMAN tried to ask what Gentlemanliness really is, besides packing in a bit of a dirty joke — that kind of thing.
A very uncommercial way of looking at it, I’m afraid. There was an article in Romance Reader’s Report about this last month — mostly titles are used for branding. Luckily (and also not so) my books seem to resist branding.
I’ve never had a publisher change a title on me. And NAL thinks they’re going to let me keep THE SLIGHTEST PROVOCATION for the forthcoming one — but no promises, of course.
I just finished ALMOST A GENTLEMAN today; it took a while to bubble up to the top of my TBR pile, but what a nice way to temporarily escape the family circus. Loved it on many levels, but mostly for the characters. I’m a pushover for tortured heroines and good-guy heroes!
You must tell us more about this upcoming book!
Wow, that was like a Thanksgiving present to me, Elena. So glad you liked it.
You’ll all be hearing about the new book aplenty — but first for a good meal.
Happy Thanksgiving all.
I waited for Laurie to mention it, but she hasn’t, so I will! The manuscript title of her first Regency was CAT OF MY HEART — that’s the title it had when she won the Golden Heart. Signet changed it to THE BEST LAID PLANS. Personally, I loved her first title, and thought the second title was much more pedestrian… Oh well, water under the bridge now and all that! 🙂
Aw, thanks for thinking of me, Cara! I’m always bringing up the rear in comments. yes, I felt bad about losing my first title. Cat was the heroine in my book. My editor said “It sounds Irish or something.” Well, she was right, sort of. I was inspired by the song title “Peg o’ My Heart.”
I’ve managed to keep my other titles, but I always wished I’d been able to keep Cat of My Heart.
P.S. I just finished MISS WONDERFUL, so that hints at just how towering my TBR pile is. I liked it a lot…Loretta Chase is just a terrific writer. You can see the amount of research she has put into her work, too.
I have to admit I did not know what year the story was set in until 1818 was mentioned in the book. The setback cover shows a couple in Victorian dress, although it is a beautiful cover. OTOH, I wouldn’t be surprised if the costume was deliberately portrayed not to look Regency…