I want to talk about covers. Specifically, covers for reissued traditional Regencies. I’m looking into the idea of republishing my backlist and interested to see what others have done.
Some authors have gotten new cover art much in the style of the Zebra and Signet Regency covers. Shannon Donnelly has some very nice ones; here’s an example. The concern I have with these is the possible perception among readers that these books contain no more sexual activity than kissing. I’ve had some irate reader mail about my Regencies that had sex scenes and some Amazon comments to the effect that sex does not belong in traditional Regencies (or even that sex did not occur during the Regency!) Janet and I once had a chat about how readers might not expect a bondage scene in a book with this type of cover. 🙂
There are some lovely covers using period fashion plates. Here’s one through Belgrave House and another by Candice Hern. I think they’re great but they do seem best suited to the sweet traditional Regency.
I like the use of period artwork, especially portraits. I pick books more by whether the characters seem intriguing than by the level of sexuality, so an attractive and interesting portrait will catch my eye.
I loved the first cover for Pam Rosenthal’s RITA-winning THE SLIGHTEST PROVOCATION, which featured a portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence. IMHO this cover is sexy; it also promises quality writing and a period feel. Yet the book was reissued with this much less subtle cover. The Smart Bitches and their guests discussed the merits of each; opinions were mixed but I think pretty evenly divided between the classier vs the cheesier cover. I only hope the two covers helped the book reach a wider readership!
So what do you think? Which sorts of covers do you like and why?
How important is it that a book cover reflects the level of sensuality of the book, versus other elements?
What sort of covers do you think work best for books that fall somewhere between the sweet traditional and the sexy historical?
Lady Wicked is not only a wonderful romance, it’s also a fantastic mystery. As this compelling novel goes on from hysterical scenes to dramatic ones, all while developing a captivating romance, readers may well wonder if Jacobs has created a Mr. Darcy for this generation. RT Book Reviews, four and a half starred review.
Welcome, Delle! Tell us about Lady Wicked.
Thanks, Janet and all you Riskies for inviting me! I love dropping by one of my favorite blog sites. I think the easiest way to describe LADY WICKED in with a short blurb:
Returning home to redeem his wasted life, Viscount Savoury rescues a lady in distress, only to learn she is the abandoned wife of his worst enemy. Despite the mutual enmity, need and attraction turn into friendship and trust. Then Davina discovers she must make a horrible choice: Savoury’s destruction, or hers. How can she choose?
I think we tend to forget how powerless women could be when a marriage went wrong in the Regency. Why did you choose this theme?
I love a story that’s full of drama, danger and adventure, and I love strong heroines. While for most heroines of Regencies, marriage to the love of their life is the desired outcome, that wasn’t always the way it worked out in real life. The plight of a woman caught in a disastrous marriage in the early 19th century is only rarely mentioned in romance fiction, but there are few situations in that period of time that could potentially present so much danger to a woman.
My favorite question is always, “But, what if…?” What is the supposed, ordinary, logical, even fairy-tale outcome? “But- what if that expected Happily Ever After- isn’t happy? What if something goes wrong? From that point on Davina surfaced and told me her story. She is a woman who would never see herself as strong, only as putting on a strong, willful face that keeps the predators at bay. She knows how scared and lonely she really is, but knows she can’t let her secret out. Lord Savoury, a total rascal who is down on his luck, is the last man she should ever trust. But he’s all she’s got. And he has to find the man he really is in order to be the man she needs.
Was this a hard book to sell?
Many risky stories don’t succeed, and that’s kind of sad. But a story that must reach beyond the ordinary cannot play it safe. If you take a big risk and it pays off, that’s great. But if it takes ten years of rejections, near misses and disappointments, yet it’s still the one story you just can’t give up on, that’s something else again.
Some stories are just that compelling for their authors, and LADY WICKED was that way for me. I think its biggest risk is in the hero and heroine, who are not standard fare for most successful Regency stories. Both of them are Beyond the Pale for the Ton in general, and Davina is considered an adulteress who has been cast aside by her husband, despite her innocence. Heroes can be rakes, but they really need to be successful ones, and Lord Savoury has, shall we say, not found his true self. He believes himself to have no morals, but in fact what he has are so deeply ingrained that they consistently surface in spite of himself. He is, as Davina characterizes him, a knight in tarnished armor. For bot h of them, outcasts of society, their ballroom days are over. But to me, this is what makes them so beautiful. When it comes to triumphing over adversity and growth of character, those who must struggle hardest for it are the heroes and heroines I love most.
The book has such a vivid sense of place. What locations inspired you?
Ah! An easy question! When I was looking for a walled manor of medieval age, a friend suggested Haddon Hall, so I checked it out. Other than the lack of a portcullis, it fit almost perfectly, so I began research that expanded into a total fascination with the place. I collected books, engravings and photos. I read about its history and studied its layout. Then in 2004, I made my first trip to England, with Haddon Hall as my top priority. I can’t express adequately what a thrill it was to walk over the stones of the courtyard, up the worn stone steps in the hall, seeing what I had written, feeling the ambience I was sure was there. I think it was when I saw a small leather child’s shoe that had been found on the grounds and knew it was the very one I had transformed into the one my hero found while going through ancient rubbish that I felt I had been there before. My research had indeed become real to me.
Who would you cast in the movie version?
It took me a bit to cast this one. Most of the actors I usually love to watch are either too old now or are not a good fit for my two unusual characters. But then I remembered Henry Cavill, who played Henry VII’s best friend Charles Brandon in The Tudors. I think it’s his way of showing humor, but also his ability to portray a man such as my Viscount Savoury, who discovers a depth of courage he never knew he had.
Both Natalie Portman and Penelope Cruz could play Davina well. Davina is a very strong woman, extremely independent, and has a hard edge to her public face that keeps people at bay and protects her frightened, soft inner person. She is very complex and contradictory, and I think it would take an actress of unusual skill to really capture her. It would be so easy to simply play her according to the stereotype she attempts to show to the world, and never catch her in the lies that hide her true essence.
What are you working on now?
I have too many projects! I’m doing a lot of cover art these days, and it really keeps me busy. I’m planning on indie-publishing two paranormal historicals this summer, and one Regency Historical. I’ve had such great success with the backlist I’ve published on Amazon and Smashwords, I’m going to try two original, unpublished works. The first, SIREN, is a novella length sea fantasy, told entirely from the hero’s point of view. The second, FAERIE, is a paranormal with a real kick-ass heroine in a medieval world where the beliefs and superstitions of the age are real. I’m probably going to release two more Regency historicals in the fall, one a backlist and the other an original unpublished story.
I’ve also been invited to do a novella length Regency romance based on a letter that is life-changing for one of the characters. Since I already had the perfect story half-finished, I’ll be working to meet that deadline too.
Delle will drop by to chat and answer questions; your comment or question today will enter you into the drawing for a prize of a free download of LADY WICKED.
Good morning, everyone! It’s always such a delight to be a Risky for a Day.
You might know I’ve started my own blog called “In Search of Heroes,” and I’m having alot of fun with it- the way I look at it, everything related to reading and writing romance is the search for the hero. Today reinforces my theory because today, my hero is a woman, Susanna Dalton Dalbiac, the Heroine of the Battle of Salamanca..
Susanna was born in 1787 and married James Charles Dalbiac, who had joined the 4th Light Dragoons as a cornet in 1797 and made them his lifelong career. Charles joined the Portugal campaign in April 1809, and when he fell ill of a fever, Susanna rushed to his side to nurse him,
and thereafter stayed with him.
According to William Napier, “This gentle lady has followed her husband through two whole campaigns in the Spanish Peninsula. She has been by his side in every danger- in every vicissitude she has borne her loving share. In all the thrilling movements of the past few days she has ridden close to her husband’s regiment. Again and again has he urged her to seek security but as often she has refused to leave him.”
On the night before the Battle of Salamanca, Susanna and her husband slept beneath the stars, she wrapped in his greatcoat, when a thunderstorm struck, stampeding the terrified cavalry horses. Charles snatched up his wife to safety atop some artillery pieces, and he climbed up after her, but there were many of the dragoons who were trampled, Thirty horses were still missing the next morning.
Despite such an inauspicious start to the day, Wellington found the advantage he needed in the audacious mistake of his counterpart, Marmont, who thought he was seizing an opportunity to outflank the British-Portuguese Army. But he didn’t know Wellington had judiciously hidden Pakenham’s 3rd Division behind the hill, at an angle to the main force, the very place where Marmont’s troops hurried to attack and turn the British flank. As the French over-extended themselves to trap their foe, Pakenham lunged, cutting off a good part of the French forces. Then
Le Marchant’s Heavy Cavalry came at the enemy in a wild and brutal assault that left the French in ruins and their commander, Thomieres, dead..
The 4th Light Dragoons were a part of Le Marchant’s assault, and Susanna rode after them. As described by Major Elliott, “The cannon shot of the enemy flew past her, the French shells burst all around. Leaden bullets pierced her riding habit in many places.. . The cavalry trumpets rang
out an order, the horses broke into a rapid trot, she drew aside her horse, for she knew that a desperate charge was at that moment to be delivered.”
As the cavalry rode into their own cloud of dust, Susanna spotted a color guard with an arm wound gushing blood, and she bandaged it and gave him wine from her flask. From then on, she raced about from one wounded man to another offering aid, and when her wine was gone, she
bent to a stream to refill her flask, bullets flying all around her and splashing water in her face.
It was many hours later, hunting through the thousands of dead, dying and wounded, not knowing if he lived or had died, before she finally caught up with her husband again, and they embraced on the battlefield. “As the regiment was dismissed from its ranks, all its remaining men gathered around the brave lady with demonstrations of deepest admiration and respect.”
Susanna stayed with her husband until they returned to England, and never returned to the campaign again. In 1814, she gave birth to her daughter, Susanna Stephania Dalbiac, who later married the Scottish Duke of Roxburgh. Many years later, Charles spoke of his wife, “Of this
incomparable wife I will only add that a mind of the most refined cast, and with the frame of body alas too delicate she was, when in the field, a stranger to personal fear.”
In looking for pictures of Susanna, I could find nothing at all. Then I came upon a family genealogy site which showed a picture of her husband James Charles Dalbiac, in his later years, still in uniform, and one of her daughter. But there’s something wrong with that photo. Most of you can probably spot it quickly. The young woman in the photo- probably a photo of a painting- is wearing a dress of the very late 18th or very early 19th Century, when the elder Susanna would have been a young woman. The younger Susanna was not born when this style was in
fashion. So I think the similarity of names fooled someone, and likely the younger Susanna’s husband was better known.
There’s another reason I believe this photo is of Susanna Dalton Dalbiac. When I look at her as a young woman, and at Charles as an older man, there’s just something in their faces. These two were married to each other, don’t you agree?
SINS OF THE HEART
ADVENTURE as rich as gold * LOVE as delicious as chocolate