Fueled by Pacific Northwest coffee and inspired by multiple viewings of every British costume drama she can get her hands on, Christy Carlyle writes sensual historical romance set in the Victorian era. She loves heroes who struggle against all odds and heroines who are ahead of their time. A former teacher with a degree in history, she finds there's nothing better than being able to combine her love of the past with a die-hard belief in happy endings.
The Birth of a Great Cover by Christy Carlyle
A few years ago I started my own cover design business, creating graphics and book covers for self-published authors. That experience taught me the enormous power of a great cover. With an appealing cover, a publisher can catch a reader’s eye, intriguing them enough to stop and read a blurb. What author doesn’t dream of a cover that will draw a reader enough for them to give a book a chance?
That’s every cover designer’s goal. But there’s another concern that’s equally important. A book cover makes a promise to readers. The image must give them a sense of what the story will be about. The time period, characters, and story tone are all key in cover art.
I am so lucky to be writing for Avon. The Avon Books art department produces some of the most beautiful covers in romance (no, I don’t claim a stitch of objectivity). Maybe you’re wondering how those gorgeous covers are born. I’ll admit a lot of the process is out of my hands, but I do know how it all begins. My fabulous editor sends me an email and asks for details about the story, my characters, and any ideas I have about my cover.
I’m a visual person, so every story prompts me to heap images on my computer. I find actors and actresses who inspire me, gorgeous English country houses that stand in for my settings, and images of Victorian fashion that provide ideas about what my heroine is wearing in a given scene. When sending cover suggestions to my editor, I shuffle through those images and find a few that give her a clear sense of my characters. Most of all, she (and the cover designer) needs details about body type, hair color, eye color, and style of dress.
I admit it. The first time I was asked to contribute ideas, I sent too much. Now I leave a lot more to the discretion of the talented artists at Avon, but there are often a few elements I feel I must have. For my Rules for a Rogue cover, I had a particular blue color in mind. I sent examples and, wow, did the designer deliver. Below you can see a few of the other details that really make this cover special. It’s my first non-couple clinch cover, but I love it. Ophelia, my heroine, is a strong young woman—one might even say she’s stubborn—and Avon’s cover announces that loud and clear.
What aspects do you think make for a great cover? What makes a cover catch your eye?
Kit Ruthven's Rules (for Rogues)#1 Love freely but guard your heart, no matter how tempting the invader.#2 Embrace temptation, indulge your sensual impulses, and never apologize.#3 Scorn rules and do as you please. You are a rogue, after all.Rules never brought anything but misery to Christopher “Kit” Ruthven. After rebelling against his controlling father and leaving the family’s etiquette empire behind, Kit has been breaking every one imaginable for the past four years. He’s enjoyed London’s sensual pleasures, but he’s failed to achieve the success he craves as London’s premier playwright. When his father dies, Kit returns to the countryside and is forced back into the life he never wanted. Worse, he must face Ophelia Marsden, the woman he left behind years before.After losing her father, Ophelia has learned to rely on herself. To maintain the family home and support her younger sister, she tutors young girls in deportment and decorum. But her pupils would be scandalized if they knew she was also the author of a guidebook encouraging ladies to embrace their independence.As Kit rediscovers the life, and the woman, he left behind, Ophelia must choose between the practicalities she never truly believed in, or the love she’s never been able to extinguish.
Pushing his sizable booted foot forward, he wedged it between the door and its frame. “I don’t think we can count this as a visit until you invite me in.”
For a moment Kit doubted Ophelia would relent. Her eyes filled with blue thunder clouds, and her lush lips seamed together, quivering at the edges. Even when she scowled at him, he wanted to kiss her. Pressing his mouth to hers had been his first instinct the minute she opened the door.
Standing on her doorstep all evening seemed extreme, but now he stood close enough to trace the starburst indigo pattern in her eyes and see heat blooming in her cheeks. He wouldn’t turn away. He’d waited too long for this moment. Just a glimpse of her and he already felt lighter.
“Come in, then. But only for a moment,” she grumbled, issuing the chilliest invitation he’d had from a woman in years.
Every step he approached, Ophelia retreated, as if determined to put as much distance between them as possible.
Maybe he only felt lighter because his chest constricted the longer he looked at her, and her reticence tightened the vice. The pinching ache behind his ribs vied with the thrill of being near her, hearing her voice, reacquainting himself with the buzz of pleasure she’d always sparked in him.
This close, he couldn’t help but note how she’d changed. The girl who’d let her rebellious curls hang in corkscrews down her back and wore wildflowers in the buttonholes of her gowns had been replaced with a woman who looked every inch an eager-to-chastise governess. Her drab dress imprisoned her figure behind a row of tiny, sentry-like buttons from belly to her chin. The coarse-looking fabric made Kit’s skin itch.
Whatever caused her to hide her passionate nature away behind a guise of propriety, it didn’t work. She still smelled like jasmine, though now the appealing scent was tinged with a bit of starch. Her red hair still glowed like a fiery halo in the afternoon light. Despite her changed appearance, Kit glimpsed the girl he’d once known as well as he knew himself. The young woman he’d missed every day for years.
“You’re staring,” she accused, clearly displeased with the fact. Lifting an arm stiffly, she gestured toward the room he recalled as the family’s parlor for entertaining guests. “This way. I’ll ask Mrs. Rafferty to make us some tea.”
“Don’t bother Mrs. Rafferty.” He recalled the Marsdens’ housekeeper fondly, but he wanted Phee to himself. “I’ve had my fill of tea today, thank you.”
“As you wish.” Pivoting with the precision of a soldier, she marched into the parlor.
Kit loathed her cool politeness, but he didn’t mind studying the tight knot of curls and the pale flesh at the back of her neck. Mercy, she held herself ramrod straight. He dropped his gaze lower, and a patch of soot on the swell of her backside caught his eye. His hand twitched as he fought the urge to touch her curves and wipe the spot away.
“You have a mark on your dress.”
“Where?” She stopped abruptly, and he nearly bumped into her. She turned.
He stepped back. “Just there.” He reached to grip her waist and turn her.
She skidded away from him as if he’d set her gown on fire. “I can manage on my own.”
“I have no doubts on that score.”
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