I get on reading kicks where all I want is one particular type of romance. It's almost like chasing an ice cream flavor, or recipes for all the soups made with barley, except that I get tired of a food type much faster than I get tired of a romance subgenre.

Read Smart Bitches, Trashy Books on late-night romance.

Right now I'm craving contemporary romance, and the funnier and sharper, the better. I'm amused at how much the cover art is influencing my shopping—even though I tell myself that I should absolutely know better than to judge a book by its cover. But because I want sharp characters, wit and a modern setting, if the cover is all soft-edged watercolors or fuzzy photographs with a shallow depth of field, I have to make myself read the cover copy to make sure I'm not missing something that I'd love. My brain is equating the soft focus of the cover to mean softly drawn characters, nothing harsh, no fierce characterizations. And really, that's such a bizarre and somewhat unfair method of predicting the plot of a book, I'm not sure what to tell my brain at this point.

This isn't the first time my brain and I have disagreed about cover images and my potential interest in a book. One thing that confuses me easily is the use of photographs, particularly color photographs, on a historical romance cover. Many cover images now are artistically enhanced versions of photographs. In other words, there's a photo, and it's put through the Photoshop-inator™ (there's not really a Photoshop-inator; I made that up. There's a hardworking person in the art department with Photoshop though!) and comes out looking like an illustration, a watercolor or even an oil portrait.

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When I see historical romance with photographs on the cover, photos that aren't altered to look not-so-much-like-a-photo, I'm confused. Color photos likely didn't exist during those time periods, so the incongruousness of a full-color photographic depiction of what is ostensibly the characters throws me for a small loop because it's not possible. Usually, I tell my confused brain to get over it and look at the cover copy. 

One recent trend that I love in historical covers, though, is the opulence. There are rich fabrics, dresses, backdrops and furnishings on more covers than I've seen in awhile, and it’s beautiful to look at. These elements almost look textured, like the richness of the picture translates to the paper itself.

One of my recent favorites is Jillian Hunter's The Duchess Diaries. I can't take my eyes off it. The fabric, the colors, the pose of the heroine with one leg crossed—I love this cover! I can't stop looking at it.

More covers are now focusing on the heroine’s fabric and clothing, and sometimes the hero’s too, capturing the details of pattern to convey an image of wealth and splendor. I find this terribly attractive and am curious about books whose covers feature colorful, textured clothing. It's a little embarrassing that, despite knowing how the cover and the book could have nothing to do with one another, I'm still so influenced and affected by cover art. 

What covers have you loved lately? Is there a book jacket that totally captivated you? Which one?

Sarah Wendell is the co-creator, editor and mastermind of the popular romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.