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With the cover of Bartered Bride (to the left) for the Fanfare imprint, Franco returns to a fully idealized romantic setting. This time he has used a balcony to position the lovers and garbed them beautifully. This is a far more neutral color scheme than Franco’s usual color palette choices, but is very effective nonetheless. I would like to see the characters in a bit more of a closeup view but I know that the publishers like these idealized settings. The image would lose a percentage of that setting if the characters were enlarged. Many readers have already told me how much they like this cover. Notice the subtle use of flowers again. It is a very soft, delicate balance to all of that stone and the pink color goes well with the grays and purples of the image. The pink helps pull your eye to the purple dress and the hero’s purple sleeves.

Franco uses another mood-evoking, object-oriented cover for Escapade (on the right), published by Warner. This cover uses blue-purple and yellow, two colors which are complements (opposites on the color wheel). Because of the high contrast between complementary colors, they are easy for the eye to fix upon. Here we have a beautiful textile, a brocade, taking up the entire background in the cover while placing the author’s name and the gas lantern in the foreground as the only other imagery. If the cloth were not there, this image could be very dull. It is the texture and design of the textile which give richness and completeness to the image.

Strathmere’s Bride is a cover for Harlequin and very different from Franco’s usual covers using people. These Harlequin covers all have a certain look and feel to them which it must want every cover artist to emulate. Within those confines though, it is a clever cover. The image should turn in your hand, once it is on the book, so you can follow the stone wall to the couple.

The colors are very soft and pleasing, pastels mostly, rather than Franco’s more usual, vibrant look. This is a color palette which Harlequin Historicals seems to favor when I look at the other books with that imprint on my bookshelves.

For Zebra, Franco produced the cover to the right, Beneath a Blood Red Moon, with various reds dominating the color scheme. The black and white work very well with reds and that combination is recognized as a classic in color design. While many readers don’t like women in a subordinate position to the male on their covers, this one didn’t bother me. The hero does not look domineering and arrogant, which is often the case in such covers. This one seems to be set in a cemetary, which is a very unusual setting in a romance novel, but the title has already evoked a sense of death along with hot passion. The cover is almost operatic in mood.

Now we come full circle with Franco’s romance covers. I first discovered Franco at Borders on the “new” table with Elizabeth Thornton’s You Only Love Twice, as shown in my March column, published by Bantam. One look at that cover and I had to have it – this was long before I had begun to write this column.

I found Franco there again, with another Thornton book, while writing this column. I’d read an iffy review of the novel, and thus wasn’t keen on buying it. However, as I stood there, looking at Strangers at Dawn, I couldn’t help my hand creeping out and opening the cut out front to the stepback and, of course, loving all of the scenes it evoked, including the scene in the courtroom which appealed to my lawyer side. Somehow I found myself at the register not long after, book in hand, buying it. I didn’t even bother giving myself the usual sales pitch about how good the book really must be. I felt I was fated to own that book. I’m reading it now and enjoying it, so Franco didn’t mislead me!


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