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Dara Joy’s High Energy from 1996 was reissued in 1998 by Leisure with its own cover, having previously shared a cover with a Jayne Ann Krentz novel. Joy’s covers are generally a good time and this one was no exception. The hunky physics professor hero is on both the front and back covers with a lot of toweling! There is a towel hanging in front of him which maybe he’s using to dry his hair. And there is a towel around him, almost like jockey shorts.

Sandi Morris, our technical wizard, owns a copy of the original book. I felt totally ripped off by my purchase of the reissue when I saw I did not get a stepback like Sandi got it in the original version. This stepback certainly gives us a lot more of the hero and is one sexy image! I’ve seen other books do this on the reissue and I think it is a big mistake. They are cheating the reader either out of cheapness or out of their desire to gravitate towards the bland. I don’t appreciate its being done for either excuse. I only found out about my copy’s missing this stepback while writing this column and I must say it has left a very bad impression of Leisure publishing with me. Unfortunately, there is no credit for the artist/illustrator.

The /wp-content/uploads/oldsiteimages lead you into this zany, sexy romance where ditzy Zanita Masterson takes the wrong class, physics instead of psychics, from Professor Tyberius Augustus Evans. I found it completely believable that this super brain hero would be attracted to a local reporter more interested in the paranormal than hard science. They are even the ideal couple to end up at a retreat given by a spiritual guru Zanita is covering as a journalist. Tyberius has no trouble seeing through him as a complete fraud. This is a total romp from beginning to end, without a serious moment to give you pause. It doesn’t stay with you long as a story but it’s fun while it lasts.

A Singular Case

Innocence by Suzanne Forster is an odd book. From its back blurb, I actually expected it to be hotter than it was. When I’m promised a hot book and don’t really get it, I’m pretty perturbed by the time I finish it. The cover itself sometimes worked for me – at other times it didn’t. The scenario sounds terrific. Mary Frances is expelled from the convent because she experiences desire and wants carnal intimacy. She joins an escort service her sister used to work for (really high class prostitution) and her first date is a virtual encounter with super rich entrepreneur Webb Calderon, whose ultimate sexual fantasy has always been a virginal nun. From this virtual, cyber encounter we move to an actual encounter. If this novel had stayed with this premise only, I would have been hooked from start to finish. However, on top of this tantalizing premise, there is the murder of Mary Frances’s sister with Webb as a suspect, a cartel of bad guys after Webb and others, plus another romance which never gets off the ground between a priest and Mary Frances’s friend. I couldn’t believe these add-ons were ruining the novel which I thought I had bought.

Book designer Casey Hampton went all out for Berkley publishing on Innocence’s cover. The part that doesn’t work for me is the stepback of the too slick looking blonde hero with beard stubble yet a hairless chest. I think the fact that it is a photograph is the chief problem. If he had been used as a model instead for a painting or drawing, I think it would have been all right.

However, Hampton then uses this same model with a woman in another pose. This other pose is too small on the book’s spine for me to tell whether it is a photograph or a painting. His hair is a completely different shade of blonde from the blonde in his photograph which makes me lean towards a painting. The pose itself is a lot more erotic than the stepback one as well. Then, in a very creative move, Hampton puts that same twosome’s image on the front cover but makes it raised and all in silver as if it were a black and white image up on the silver screen. Hampton places this on a deep blue background, setting it off beautifully.

I think between the erotic sounding back blurb and the combined /wp-content/uploads/oldsiteimages on every side of the cover, everyone, including me, thought they were getting a very hot romance book, almost borderline erotica. Instead, I discovered a tour de force of packaging and marketing! Is it women’s fiction, contemporary romance, or romantic suspense? I don’t think this novel knows what it is even though it has the words contemporary romance on its spine. Perhaps if Forster had better defined to herself exactly what grouping she was going after, she could have controlled her story better.

In fairness to Forster, I was much happier with another, genuinely hotter novel of hers, Come Midnight. Unfortunately, my copy of that book only has a flower on its front cover. Actually, if Innocence’s cover package had been used with novel, that would have made a dynamite package.

Sandi is one up on me again. Her earlier issue of this book has a stepback of a man and a woman, just their heads, in a passionate embrace. I’ve been waiting to see a cover where the view gets into extreme close-up on the faces instead of giving us the whole bodies. This one does so and is very evocative of the novel’s steamy contents. I’m not real happy about Berkley’s cheating me out of my stepback on this novel.

Nick is a successful Latino art photographer in Los Angeles, originally from the barrio, who is implicated in the murder of one of his models. He is forced by the prosecution to submit himself for evaluation to psychologist Leigh. She uses forensic art tests to discover how much violence is in a patient. During her testing process with Nick, the chemistry between them ignites. First she loses her professional distance with him, and then they become intimately involved. Among other complications, the prosecutor is her fiance. Although there is a murder in this book, it serves more as a backdrop for this romance and didn’t interfere with the romance.

The stepback fits this story perfectly but the flower was apparently put on the front cover as decoration. It does not fit into the story in any way I can remember.

Conclusion

Well, this certainly was an interesting exploration for me. For years I had been reading books which I thought were mainstream fiction which I now discover are called women’s fiction. Then, I tried a whole new subgenre for me, the contemporary romance. Once I discovered I liked those, I then decided to go for broke and also tried multicultural contemporary romance. Another hit. As for all of their covers, I can’t tell you where they are going. There is a trend for innocuous covers, which I don’t like, but, if you hunt around, there are still artists, illustrators and designers who are creating exciting covers. I have never been one for bland /wp-content/uploads/oldsiteimages or bland novels so I hope the innocuous trend is a short-lived one.

I have not been overwhelmed with nominations in the contemporary category for our 1999 Cover Ballot. I think this is a reflection of the blandness of many of the covers on both contemporary romances and women’s fiction. There is still time left to nominate 1999 covers for our Cover Ballot in all categories. Perhaps one or more of the books coming out in these last few months of the year will be exciting enough for you to consider nominating it.

— Carol Irvin

with technical assistance from Sandi Morris

 

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