One of the reasons I read is to escape. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And my favorite genre is any type of popular fiction with a strong healthy relationship. I used to say I loved only romance, but then I discovered thrillers with strong relationships who scoffed at being called romances. But so what? I like a healthy relationship no matter what the genre. The partners must be even: tempered, willed, smart, economic. I’m not the fan of very rich against very poor plots, or one with power and one not so much. That’s the beauty of fiction and the vast amount available; you can find what you want without looking too hard.
But I also learn a great deal in my reading. Over the years, I learned how to be a manager in business, how to sell myself, how to deal with husbands and children and most of all to travel to places I never dreamed existed. But one thing I never indulged was the fanaticism of worshiping cover models. I really missed the boat on it. Objectification makes me very uncomfortable so for years I stayed away from any discussion of favorite cover model. I have no clue about the men or women who grace the pages and screens of books. It’s not important to me. So much so it’s an auto hide for me to block people on social media sites if they really love the—to me—odd habit of posting pictures in their status or blogs. I don’t condemn I’d just rather not see them—clothed or otherwise.
When I read, I see my own visuals, just the way I want them, I don’t depend on the cover to dictate the features of any of the characters or the locale. So whether or not a cover matches the interior characters is really not too important. Sometimes the author puts a great deal of description into her characters but on the whole it’s usually just enough to allow me as a reader to build up the world in my head. It’s not to say I don’t like a beautiful cover with bright colors, and I’m not opposed to enjoying artistic renderings. And I’ve never been happy with just a flower on a cover. But the almost totally naked man or woman, face or no face, on a cover isn’t something I collect.
So imagine my consternation when I received a request from Harlequin to spread the news about an upcoming episode of The Bachelor (Monday nights, ABC). The publisher is partnering with the production to offer a three-cover deal to one of the female contestants to model with the bachelor to grace the covers of Harlequin novels.
Hmm. First, in all honesty, I’ll admit I don’t watch the show. The concept isn’t one to appeal to me. It seems to be a rich, or so it appears, eligible bachelor who is looking for a wife. There is nothing wrong with the show’s concept. It’s capitalizing on a very basic human desire, love.
But as a competitive sport?
And the bevy of woman who want to obtain the position of wife by putting themselves in a televised contest complete with rumors of hair pulling, fighting, on screen sexual bouts and other salacious activity casts doubts on whether they really want love or if it’s the reality celebrity they really want. The first impression of people willing to be televised in the opposite of their finest hours for something that’s usually private—no character I read about goes parading in front of a few million viewers while ‘courting’—is disturbing. It’s great that a genre I am proud to read is gaining more attention thanks to the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, but this Harlequin partnership with The Bachelor comes off more like a subtle slam against my choice of reading.
Even though I gravitate toward the gritty, dark thrillers, I still hold a special place in my heart for Harlequin Romance novels and it rubs me the wrong way when readers of the genre are made into spectacle. I don’t think Harlequin’s intention was to insult long-time readers of their books, but they were definitely taking advantage of the outdated stereotype of bodice rippers many readers don’t want to be associated with.
Monday’s episode of The Bachelor was popular and included four different settings found in Harlequin’s popular lines: cowboy, glamour, historical and fantasy. From the photos it appears they covered all their bases so it will be interesting to see which ones will be the three covers. Harlequin promises the covers will be out within the next year, and since they already wrapped on this season the winning poses should grace book covers soon. Even though I was a bit uncomfortable with the competition, I did feel a secret glee watching the couples primp and pose in their costumes. It was even interesting to see some of them confess to reading the books themselves. That definitely made up for my earlier reservations that Harlequin would exploit their carefully cultivated readers for television.
If anything, maybe the books will get a little more attention now that millions of viewers know that Harlequin Romance isn’t just the same publisher they remember sneaking from their grandmother’s bedrooms.
What do you think? Was the Harlequin partnership with The Bachelor a good idea? How did you feel seeing the women reenact iconic book cover poses? Will it add to your enjoyment of a book knowing that you saw the mastery behind creating different types of covers? Or was this something you’d rather not know? I’m interested in reading your opinions.
Sara Reyes is the founder and partner at FreshFiction.com a popular fiction web site for today's reader with new titles, contests, over 50,000 genre fiction author profiles with backlists, and permanently archived reviews, plus all the industry buzz. Fresh Fiction has a biweekly segment (Buy the Book) on WFAA Channel 8 Good Morning Texas to talk about new books not to miss. Believing face-to-face interaction is as important as virtual communities, Fresh Fiction sponsors an annual readers conference, monthly literary events, and book clubs. It's an adventure worth taking. Follow Sara at @FreshFiction on Twitter or Facebook.com/FreshFiction.