Friday, January 9, 2009

The Way We Were (...or wanted to be)

Apprentice Writer somehow became involved in sharing thoughts with Harlequin about books they occasionally send to her. (So far, two American-set 'Love Inspired' Historicals). As a result, she recently received a '2009 Harlequin Vintage Cover' Calendar, celebrating the company's sixty years of 'pure reading pleasure' (according to the back blurb).

The covers? Seriously Wow.

Apparently, in the days when these books cost 35 cents, the kind of titles calculated to attract buyer attention included things like:

"Virgin with Butterflies" (Are experienced women with butterflies any different?)

"Pardon My Body" (Did it sneeze?)

"Idaho" (Take that, Texas!)

"The Manatee" (Obviously a better choice than 'The Platypus')

"You're Lonely When You're Dead" (It's better to be dead together?)

Taglines include:

"She lived like a wicked little animal"

"The private affairs of not-too-private secretaries"

"A fast, salty realistic yarn pulsing with action"

In contrast to many current romance books, all of the illustrations show a woman. Eight include one or more men. There is a lot of leg and plunging decolletage involved, and the kind of figures that used to be called 'buxom'. Four covers depict guns, held by men and women alike. A rampaging bear, a gigantic green hand about to pluck an amorous couple, train tracks and five male heads with wings instead of ears round things out.

Also interesting are the author names: 9 of 12 are either masculine or neutral (e.g. initials). Did female authors adopt male pen names for these early Harlequins? Or did men actually write them? Was Harlequin trying to go after both the male and female segments of the reading public?

Altogether - a very fun and entertaining look into the past. You've come a long way, Cover Babe.

No comments: