While I have enjoyed some of Susan Wiggs’ contemporaries, I vastly prefer her historicals, especially the wonderful Lord of the Night , which I believe will be coming out in re-release soon, though the author’s website does not give a date. When I saw that she had historicals coming out this summer, I was initially very excited even though the titles of the new books sounded dreadful. Then I dug a bit deeper and figured out that Harlequin is actually reprinting Wiggs’ Tudor Rose trilogy, but is changing the titles. Let the confusion begin!

Let me get one thing straight first, though. I have no problem with reprints in general. I actually like them because they allow readers to enjoy books that they may have missed the first time around. If it weren’t for reprints, I wouldn’t have discovered much of anything written before the mid-90s. However, when a book is reprinted with a new title, it drives me crazy. If I hadn’t been a fan of Wiggs and hadn’t read the Tudor Rose trilogy the first time around, I never would have guessed these were reprints unless I suddenly decided to become one of those folks who checks out the copyright page before buying a book.

And then there are the books themselves. From what I’ve seen, the cover art looks gorgeous. However, the new titles aren’t nearly so attractive. The original books were titled Circle in the Water, Vows Made in Wine, and Dancing on Air. Evocative titles, and exactly the sort of thing that would make me pick up the book and flip over to the back cover blurb out of anticipation. However, the new titles – At the King’s Command, The Maiden’s Hand and At the Queen’s Summons – lack a certain something. Even worse, it almost sounds like they’ve been dumbed down for their new audience.

Over the past year, I’ve noticed a gradual change in the titling of historicals over at Harlequin. Some still sound fairly normal, but we’re seeing more titles like Working Man, Society Bride, The Rake’s Unconventional Mistress or Bedded by the Warrior. Rather than fire the imagination, these sorts of titles just lay it all out there, Harlequin Presents-style. Instead of being intrigued by a title, I find myself sometimes buying my Harlequins in spite of their titles, and this has changed my buying habits. I still buy my favorite authors, but it’s harder for me to make myself try a new author when I have to mentally move past the repugnant book title.

More importantly, I find these new titles vaguely insulting. It is as if the publisher thinks that we romance buying sheep are far too dimwitted to actually have imaginations – and who wants to do business with someone who consistently underestimates their intelligence? Perhaps leaving nothing to the imagination works with some, but I suspect that many of us aren’t wired that way. The wonderful readers I meet online are certainly bright and imaginative and the folks I meet in the stacks at Borders are the same. Many readers I see are looking for: 1)books by authors they know or 2) something new that sounds interesting and isn’t too cringeworthy. For myself, the titles that pull me in are evocative, imaginative, perhaps even a little poetic. When the publisher’s title lays it all out there in blunt, prosaic style, then there is very little in the title to fire the reader’s imagination. Since imagination is one of the reasons many of us read historicals, this is quite a shame and it’s a trend that I hope Harlequin changes.

-Lynn Spencer

ETA – I have been told via email that the re-release of Lord of the Night is now available!