More Title Madness

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!

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18 Responses to More Title Madness

  1. Diana says:

    Who knew the Tudors were early adapters of balloon breast implants!

  2. Lynn Spencer says:

    LOL! Corsets – the original push-up bra.

  3. Beth W says:

    I recently discovered Tracy Grant, and was excited to see there was what I thought was another book about Charles and Melanie called Secrets of a Lady. I was so disappointed when I found out it was just a reprint of Daughter of the Game.

  4. LeeAnn says:

    I don’t even bother with Harlequin anymore because the titles are so absurd. The first one I read (over 40 years ago) was Heatherleigh by Essie Summers and I fell in love with them. And then there’s a former Silhouette author (who is now very well known), who’s earlier titles are all being reprinted with “added scenes” and different titles. The original books were tight and well written…. those “added scenes” just enticed you to buy… once I figured out the added scenes did nothing for the plot, I quit buying. Somebody oughta tell’em….Oh. Wait! Guess nobody pays attention to what is said here…

  5. Katie Mack says:

    The titles are the main reason I can’t bring myself to pick up a Harlequin Presents book. I just don’t have the ability to push past the cringe factor these titles produce. It sucks to see they’re bringing bad titles to other books now — especially books that had great titles the first time around.

  6. Lynn Spencer says:

    Yeah – the titles on HPs get me, too. I still buy some in spite of their titles, though, because there are some authors I like. I also get older HPs at the used bookstore – the titles aren’t nearly as tacky.

  7. AAR Sandy says:

    Harlequin knows exactly what they are doing in their HP titles. Marketing-wise, there’s no flaw. You want a book featuring an arrogant sheik’s virgin bride go for The Arrogant Sheik’s Virgin Bride. It’s not about the titles — it’s about zeroing in on women’s fantasies when they want a quick escape. I’ve found the Harlequin Historicals line pretty much universally disappointing for me, though. They seem either too serious or too light for my taste. I’ve given up on it.

    The bait and switch thing, however, seriously bugs me. I have fallen for this in online purchases more than once.

  8. willaful says:

    “You want a book featuring an arrogant sheik’s virgin bride go for The Arrogant Sheik’s Virgin Bride.”

    But it doesn’t always work! I read a lot of Presents and I have come across any number of advertised virgins. tycoons, mistresses and brides who were no such things. The titles aren’t only terrible, they’re not even accurate.

    Thanks for the heads up in this blog – I completely agree about the titles, and I expect a fair number of people will also be really peeved when they discover they’ve bought “new” books they’ve already read. :-\

  9. Estella says:

    I only buy the HP’s by my favorite authors—even then I cringe at some of the titles.

  10. AAR Sandy says:

    That’s not good, willaful, if editorial is not delivering on marketing’s promise If you break the “contract” with the reader, readers will stop believing you. And that’s a problem.

  11. Nana says:

    I remember the interview where the Avon ladies (har) said that “duke” was a surefire bestseller: it seems like they’re rewriting these titles to try to hit the buzz for “king” and “queen,” as well as of course maybe to tie into HBO’s The Tudors.

    Carla Kelly posted here that her recent DIK’s were retitled by Harlequin: “Marrying the Captain” was originally “Worthy,” and “The Surgeon’s Lady” was “Do No Harm.” Ms Kelly’s titles were MUCH better, in my opinion – fit the story better, and didn’t assume I was too stupid to figure out that in the book with a captain, the heroine might marry him (SPOILER!!!) :) I think that they’re really sucking the poetry out of book titling with this generic, keyword driven approach.

  12. Keira says:

    Now that you pointed it out, I totally see it. The new titles are very much like the Presents line. The cover art is phenomenal though, I’ve been really enjoying the covers.

  13. Tracy Grant says:

    “I recently discovered Tracy Grant, and was excited to see there was what I thought was another book about Charles and Melanie called Secrets of a Lady. I was so disappointed when I found out it was just a reprint of Daughter of the Game.”

    Beth, I just wanted to say I’m so sorry about this. Believe me, if it were up to me, there would be new Charles and Mélanie books out there. But so far, no one’s been willing to publish them, whereas Avon did decide to do the reprint (which was good, as it got new readers) and marketing wanted a new title. If you bought Secrets thinking it was a new book, email me ( I’d be happy to send you one of my older books or an autographed copy of Secrets or something to make it up to you.


  14. Lynn Spencer says:

    >>>I think that they’re really sucking the poetry out of book titling with this generic, keyword driven approach.

    YES!!! That’s exactly it, and don’t you think it takes some of the fun and wonder away?

    @Keira I completely agree about the covers. Harlequin has had some very nice cover art lately. Carla Kelly’s latest and the new Terri Brisbin both come to mind. And I loved the Elizabeth Lane one from last January.

  15. Trish says:

    Lord of the Night is already out. I saw it in Target.

  16. I’m another one who dislikes the trend toward generic, keyword-driven book titles. We’ve been discussing this on historical fiction blogs and forums as well (it’s not just Harlequin, and not just the romance field this is happening with). Royalty is hot. There are more than a couple books out called The King’s Daughter, Royal Blood/Blood Royal, etc. It’s a shame because the novels that bear these titles are very different, but the titling makes them seem interchangeable. For the Susan Wiggs reissues, I much prefer the earlier titles.

  17. Janet W says:

    And altho I know the author has little to no control, isn’t it verging on gross and misleading to republish same book/different title (cover). Thank the goddess for Nora Roberts who has the clout to label NEW Nora very clearly indeed.

    As for Harlequin, they should drown those Sheiks, Virgins, Secretaries and Mistresses … I’m fond of the online reviews of a gifted writer but sometimes the titles just make me cringe: I end up not reading the review.

  18. Quality read, I just passed this onto a fellow worker who was doing a small research on that. And he actually purchased me lunch because I got it for him.

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