Take this one, Venetia by Georgette Heyer, a classic (so I’m told) of the romance genre.
Georgette Heyer is, in my opinion, a pretty darn good writer, a penner of thrillers, romances, and historical novels, a total of nearly 60 novels in a career that lasted more than 50 years. She is considered the founder of Regency romances of which this book, Venetia, is an example.
I tripped across Heyer’s work years ago while sorting books for the 5 Colleges Book Sale here in the Upper Valley. One of the woman I was working with at that moment in time recommended the thriller, entitled Penhallow, that I held in my hands. It was pretty good. Heyer’s got more wit than Agatha Christie and her writing is smoother.
That’s why, in spite of this cover, Venetia was on my shelf. Now that I’ve finished it, I can honestly say I’ll stick with Heyer’s thrillers.
The plot of Venetia is predictable—bad boy meets good girl, romance ensues. Heyer’s wit does much to rescue it from the depths of the completely hackneyed but still…
This version of Venetia is a reprint put out by Harlequin, the Canadian purveyor of more romance novels than any other publisher on earth. To my mind, they invented this cover style—blonde woman, dark-haired man, soft focus. The fact that the couple are not in a clinch and her bodice is all in one piece is part of a code that says “here lies chaste romance.”
Without words, this cover conveys the book’s level of overt sexuality through its placement of the two figures, the fact that she’s looking down demurely at a flower, and the choice of golden yellow instead of a blazing hot red for the backdrop.
Take a look at what you have on your own bookshelves. What cover codes speak to you?