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The Romance Covers

Franco sent us many of his cover flats, so in those instances we've included the spine image as well as the front cover. The front cover and the book's spine are both of critical importance because it is one of these two views that readers generally first see. As consumers usually see the spine first, it should hint at what's on the front cover.

Sandi and I often have different taste in art and colors, but this time we both fell in love with Franco's The Rose and The Warrior (below on the left), published by Bantam.

Bantam hires Franco for many such detailed and complex cover paintings. I don't usually like shirtless heroes, but this one works for me because he fits in with the rest of the images depicted. Franco shows several scenes from the book integrated into this one painting: the battle scene in the lower foreground; the hero, front and center, dominating the image; the hero and heroine in the right background, in full costume; and the setting, with a castle, in the left background. Bold, vibrant color, dramatic use of light and shadow, perfect detailing, and great-looking models with fine expressions made this book jump off the shelf for us. One also knows a lot about this novel just by looking at the art. Because of the plaid and the castle, one knows the hero is a Scot. Because of the battle scene and sword, one knows a war or battle is occuring. And, from the costumes, castle, and window behind the hero and heroine, one knows the setting is medieval. When the cover can show the story so very visually, the artist has truly succeeded in doing his job.

Bantam also publishes the Fanfare imprint, and Daring the Devil (above to the right) was part of that line. The cover is jumping out at me in bookstores right now. Again we have that same bold use of color and good-looking models. However, instead of vignettes, Franco zooms in with a dramatic treatment of the leads, front and center, beautifully set off by a background of ships, buildings and the setting sun. We know we are on the docks and in the past by both costumes and the type of ship. Notice the contrasting use of purple and scarlet together - they pull the eye to the cover. What's more, neither is the heroine falling out of her dress nor is the hero shirtless, both of which would have cheapened the imagery. Certainly it is a clinch shot but it is one with class. This cover also reminds me of Elaine Duillo's cover art. She is the romance cover artist whose work Franco most admires.

Then, for a complete change of pace, there is Another Chance to Dream, published by Berkley. In the medieval era, there was a strong emphasis on textiles and metal work. Thus, Franco's putting the warrior's fiber banner on a metal rod is a unique way to show this era. Winding the roses around the rod is romantic and a fanciful remembrance of when ladies granted boons to their knights at a tourney. I'm so used to seeing flowers just plopped onto a cover, that this was a marvelous change. I particularly like this banner's being set against the white background. Notice that the banner casts a shadow too, just as it would in the real world. The tapestry strip running up the right side of the cover pulls the image together by echoing the color scheme of the rose-entwined rod. It's simple and complex at the same time. I like this use of a textile better than seeing the textile as the entire background of a cover flat, its most frequent use in romance covers.

The cover on the left is one of a series produced by Bantam Fanfare called Meet Me At Midnight. We are only showing you one of the series, A Kiss at Midnight. The background treatment is simpler with a giant sundial style clock keying us into a more ancient era with just the hint of a locale behind it. The hero and heroine are front and center but only the top half of their bodies are fully depicted; The rest of their bodies are veiled in color, With Franco's recognizable use of bold, bright color - this time a saturation in gold tones - he makes the title stand on its own, but ties it as well to the rest of the series. Each book in the series has a different style clock in the background. The leads are in the foreground in a romantic clinch with costumes appropriate to their era. The series' title runs in a banner along the top of each book too while the specific book's title is on the lower front.

I have often wondered why romance covers don't use art work inspired by the French Impressionists. People who work at the art museum in my city report that the impressionists bring in tremendous crowds that are filled with women. Franco uses that style for this landscape, which reminds me of Claude Monet's work, for the contemporary romance Island of Dreams, published by Warners. Impressionism isn't supposed to look realistic. It is supposed to look better than reality, and this certainly does. Impressionism is also renowned for the quality of light it captures, which is why many of these painters painted outdoors. It's almost as if you are looking at the world through a soft focus filter. The Impressionists certainly painted people too. I love Renoir's women, for one.

Personally, I would also like to see the Impressionist style used by a cover artist on a turn of the century romance, but depicting the hero, heroine or both. Impressionism is the first art style I fell in love with when I began going to art museums. It's very accessible (viewer-friendly) imagery, although, when it came out in the last century, it was considered outrageous to depart that much from realism. It's great Franco is showing this very romantic painting style to romance readers.


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