AvalonRomancing the King by Jocelyn Saint James (Feb.)Designer: Catherine CasalinoSubliminal message: A book that’s fun, bright and lively.Target audience: Anyone between the ages of 15 and 95 looking for a good family-friendly romance.Plot summary: Lindsey Barrett is enjoying a busy life as an emergency room physician when Jason Kincaid, an accident-prone Elvis Presley impersonator, comes in and her heart starts singingan unexpected tune. Can she look past the costume to find the real Jason?Takeaway: “Like our books,” says editor Faith Black, “this cover is nontraditional and designed to appeal to male as well as female readers.”Avon
Confessions of a Little Black Gown by Elizabeth Boyle (Apr.)
Illustrator: Jon Paul; art director: Thomas Egner.
Subliminal message: “There’s nothing subliminal about this cover,” says v-p and editorial director Carrie Feron. “The appeal is immediate and visceral. It’s like that perfect little black dress that you just have to buy, right here, right now.”
Target audience: The traditional historical romance audience.
Plot summary: When Thalia Langley spies a dark and handsome stranger in the shadows of her brother-in-law’s study, she knows in an instant she’s found the dangerous, rakish sort of man she’s always dreamt of. But Tally suspects there is more to this man than meets the eye, and she has the perfect weapon to help tempt the truth from him: a little black gown she’s found in a trunk.
Takeaway: Elegance! Who wouldn’t want to have this dress and the life that goes with it—if only for a few hours?
Bantam Dell
Veil of Midnight by Lara Adrian (Dec.)
Designer: Jae Song
Subliminal message: A big, juicy page-turner from an author breaking out to a wider audience.
Target audience: Romance readers, with crossover appeal/potential for fantasy, horror and suspense fans.
Plot summary: “It’s a gritty, sexy paranormal romance,” says senior editor Shauna Summers, “that pairs a kick-ass female bodyguard with a combat-loving vampire warrior in a quest to stop an elusive assassin who’s been taking out high-ranking members of the Breed, an ancient race of vampires.”
Takeaway: “A sexy vampire romance,” says Summers. “We slightly revamped (no pun intended) her look with this book, her first as an official New York Times bestseller—her name bigger and at the top, 'big book’ type and design, as well as full bleed art. The change is somewhat subtle, but we think it really delivers our message that this author is a star on the rise.”
Burning Wild by Christine Feehan (Apr.)
Artist: Daniel O’Leary; designer: George Long
Subliminal message: Pick me up, and I’ll entertain you.
Target audience: Paranormal romance fans and general fiction readers.
Plot summary: The return of the Leopard People from 2004’s Wild Rain. “The challenge was tying the two books together,” says executive editor Cindy Hwang. “Wild Rain was set in the rainforests of southeast Asia, and Burning Wild has a contemporary Texas setting.”
Takeaway: “Contemporary, sexy, edgy, paranormal—we want to hit a lot of different buttons,” says Hwang.
Bethany House
A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist (May)
Designer: Jennifer Parker
Subliminal message: The images of a wedding dress and axe provide conflict, which combined with the confident posture of the model (who is actually Deeanne’s daughter, Tennessee) will correctly convey to the reader that this bride is full of spunk and not going to be easily won over.
Target audience: Perfect for avid lovers of inspirational fiction, particularly Christian women, whether they be 25 or 55.
Plot summary: In 1866, Anna Iveysails to Seattle with the “Mercer Brides” to become a cook—but the lumberjack awaiting her needs a wife to save his land. Can he persuade her in time?
Takeaway: “A big smile and a good laugh,” says v-p of marketing Steve Oates. “It’s hard to miss (or resist) the humor of this historical novel.”
Bold Strokes Books
Calling the Dead by Ali Vali (Nov.)
Designer: Sheri Halal
Subliminal message: Ritualistic, satanic influences in a darkly atmospheric setting.
Target audience: Fans of romantic suspense/thrillers as well as gay and lesbian readers.
Plot summary: Six months after Hurricane Katrina, a brutalized body turns up behind one of New Orleans’s most famous restaurants. The more Det. Sept Savoie works through the clues, the more they point to the restaurant owner, Keegan Blanchard. While Sept struggles to prevent her attraction to Keegan from clouding her professional judgment, she begins to suspect the grisly deaths may be linked to her own past.
Takeaway: A contemporary romance that will appeal to readers looking for “gritty” thrillers filled with danger.
Immortals: The Reckoning by Jennifer Ashley, Joy Nash and Robin T. Popp (Feb.)
Artist: Franco Accornero
Subliminal message: I’m a hot, sexy paranormal romance. Buy me. Buy me now!
Target audience: Paranormal romance readers—the wolf and fire elements suggest magic, action and shape-shifting, playing directly to that readership.
Plot summary: A werewolf named Logan, a half-Sidhe princess named Leanna and a witch named Jenna must battle the darkness to find true love in this continuation of the Immortals series.
Takeaway: “The covers have played a large role in the success of the Immortals series,” reports v-p and editorial director Alicia Condon. “Together, the four covers from the series form a pentagram—a unique design tactic that has both promoted the series and provided incentive to buy all the books in the series.”
The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig (Feb.)
Artist: Monica Benalcazar
Subliminal message: The heroine, while innocent and beautiful, also has a secret.
Target audience: Readers of historical fiction—fans of Philippa Gregory’s The Other BoleynGirl and Amanda Forman’s The Duchess.
Plot summary: The duke of Dovedale returns to England after 12 years in India determined to uncover a murderer’s identity. Caught in a dangerous game with deadly flower-named spies, he finds the innocent and proper Lady Charlotte Lansdowne the perfect ally as he tries to infiltrate the secret Hellfire Club.
Takeaway: Romance and intrigue fill the pages of this novel, which will take readers on a grand adventure.
Forever/Grand Central
To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt (May)
Designer: Alan Ayers
Subliminal message: An important author who deserves not just one but two pieces of art.
Target audience: Historical romance readers.
Plot summary: Sir Alistair Munroe returns from the French and Indian Wars knighted for his service to the crown, but horribly maimed. Helen Fizwilliam has spent 10 years as a mistress to the duke of Lister, a man without kindness. She finally leaves the duke, taking their two young children and fleeing to Scotland and the home of Sir Alistair—a man she’s never met—to become his housekeeper. These two wounded souls find love in each others arms, but the bliss of their relationship isn’t to last.
Takeaway: Using a classically beautiful woman in a gorgeous gown telegraphs the idea that this is historical romance.
Montana Creeds: Logan by Linda Lael Miller (Feb.)
Art director: Michael Alberstat
Subliminal message: Love and family is everything.
Target audience: Readers who enjoy a little Western flavor to their romance.
Plot summary: Descendants of the legendary McKettricks, the Creed brothers are renowned in Stillwater Springs, Mont., for raising hell, until each of them leaves smalltown life behind to make his own way in the world. The beginning of a trilogy.
Takeaway: The title, Montana Creeds: Logan, implies there are more stories about other cowboys to come.
Hodder & Stoughton
Will You Be There? by Guillaume Musso (Nov.)
Designer: Clare Deasy
Subliminal message: Warm and romantic with elements of magic and mystery.
Target audience:“This time-traveling romance will be adored by anyone who loves Nicholas Sparks or Mitch Albom,” says Brooke O’Donnell, director of the distributor, Trafalgar Square Publishing.
Plot summary: If you could go back in time, what would you do differently? For Eliott, an esteemed 60-year-old surgeon with a daughter he adores, there is no question. The only thing missing in his life is Ilena—a woman who died 30 years ago. But then he’s given an opportunity to revisit his past: to go back to 1970s San Francisco and find the passionate young doctor who has yet to lose the love of his life.
Takeaway: A very commercial, easy read with a satisfying love story that will make you cry.
Ecstasy: The Shadowdwellers by Jacquelyn Frank (Jan.)
Designer: Janice Rossi Schaus
Subliminal message: “March me up to the cash register and purchase me immediately,” says editorial director Kate Duffy.
Target audience: Fans of sexy and sophisticated paranormal romance.
Plot summary: After a terrifying car crash, Ashla Townsend wakes up to find that the bustling New York she knew is now eerie and desolate. Just when she’s convinced she’s alone, Ashla is confronted by Trace, a dark warrior who draws her deeper into a world she never knew existed.
Takeaway: This is the first in Frank’s new Shadowdwellers series.
Kiss of a Demon King by Kresley Cole (Feb.)
Designer: Lisa Litwack
Subliminal message: Women can indulge in a secret fantasy of having their own sex slave—and doing with him as they please.
Target audience: Readers of romance and fantasy fiction.
Plot summary: The story of Rydstrom, fallen king of the Rage Demons, who is trapped by an enchantress for her wanton purposes. Then he turns the tables and claims Sabine the Sorceress of Illusions as his captive.
Takeaway: Escape with this sexy captive.
Holiday Seduction, two novellas by Jaci Burton and Lauren Dane (Nov.)
Artist: Anne Cain
Subliminal message: Have a happy and sexy holiday.
Target audience: Romance readers who enjoy sensual holiday-themed stories.
Plot summary: In Burton’s Unwrapped, Amy Parker’s kind of fantasies wouldn’t cut it in the straitlaced law firm where she’s a partner. Justin Garrett might be brilliant, gorgeous and sexy, but he’s firmly implanted in the look-but-don’t-touch realm, until a corporate acquisition in Hawaii over Christmas.
Takeaway: “Holiday Seduction is both sensual and holiday-themed,” says marketing director Lisa Amrine. “Even without the title, readers will be able to see the level of sensuality in this book, and as we all know, sex sells.”
Danger in a Red Dress by Christina Dodd (Feb.)
Designer: Eileen Carey
Subliminal message: A feeling of danger, possibly a threat behind that gate, but nothing the heroine can’t handle.
Target audience: “Anyone who likes hot, sexy suspense with strong female characters,” says NAL publisher Kara Welsh.
Plot summary: Down on her luck and desperate for work, beautiful Hannah Grey finds herself in a mansion on the wild Maine coast, caring for a lonely, elderly woman. On her deathbed, the woman entrusts Hannah with a dangerous secret. Now Hannah’s on the run, pursued by killers, and desperately needs the one man who can keep her alive.
Takeaway: This is a woman who knows what she wants. And, if she doesn’t get it, she’s going to kick ass, and look great doing it.
St. Martin’s Press
Maverick by Lora Leigh (Mar.)
Designer: Danielle Fiorella
Subliminal message: This guy doesn’t play by the rules. And purple is a color that marketing director Anne Marie Tallberg (former romance buyer for Walden) calls “Power Purple”—a can’t-miss color for romance consumers.
Target Audience: Readers who want action, suspense, a high level of sensuality and an “Alpha Male” hero.
Plot summary: The only way for Elite Ops agent Micah Sloane to uncover an assassin (and banish the ghosts of his own dark past) is for Risa Clay to pose as Micah’s lover and draw the killer into the open. It’s a risky plan—especially with a man as powerfully seductive as Micah. But as their charade becomes reality, Risa realizes the greatest danger may lie in losing her heart forever.
Takeaway: “This is a book about one hot and dangerous hero,” says v-p and associate publisher Jennifer Enderlin. “Someone you wouldn’t want to mess with—or maybe you do.”
Tor Books
New Blood by Gail Dayton (Mar.)
Artist: Cliff Nielsen; designer: Seth Lerner
Subliminal message: “By using cogs, wheels and machinery in the background,” says romance editor Heather Osborn, “we hope to impart a 'steampunk’ feel to the cover—even to those readers who don’t know exactly what steampunk is.”
Target audience: Fans of paranormal romance, heroine-driven urban fantasy, and steampunk—the fantasy subgenre in which the story takes place in a world (usually Victorian or Victorian-like) where steam power is still high technology.
Plot summary: Amanusa is a reluctant blood sorceress, bound by magic to her disturbingly attractive servant, Jax. When her magic goes awry, she must flee through a Europe ravaged by magic-eating machines. In the process, she may learn to trust—and love—again.
Takeaway: This is a story about a Victorian-era heroine dealing with unusual (and bloody) events.
The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee (Jan.)
Designer: Jasmine Lee
Subliminal message: The novel connects to the history of the Chinese in Hong Kong during WWII and concerns a love affair, perhaps with the young man whose photograph she holds.
Target audience: Readers who enjoyed Atonement, The English Patient or the novels of W. Somerset Maugham.
Plot summary: Hong Kong 1941. Trudy Liang, a beautiful, Eurasian society belle falls headlong into a passionate relationship with Will Truesdale, a newly arrived Englishman. Their love affair is soon threatened by the invasion of the Japanese. Will is sent to an internment camp and Trudy remains outside, forced to form dangerous alliances with the Japanese. Ten years later, Claire Pendleton comes to Hong Kong and is hired by the wealthy Chen family as their daughter’s piano teacher. She soon begins an affair, only to discover that her lover’s enigmatic persona hides a devastating past.
Takeaway: This is the story of a beautiful English rose.

Romance 100: The Look of Love Over Time
“Mills & Boon” might not be familiar to American ears, but in England it is so well-known that it has earned an OED entry: it means “romantic story book.” Mills & Boon is, in fact, a romance publisher, which this year celebrates its 100th birthday. It was in 1908 that two editors at Methuen—Gerald Mills and Charles Boon—partnered to open a publishing house. Although Wodehouse and Jack London were on its first lists, Mills & Boon quickly settled in as publishers of romances. The company’s covers—nearly always a man and a woman in a fantasy setting—became the template for all romance cover art. This fall, Prestel honors a century of Mills & Boon with The Art of Romance: Mills & Boon and Harlequin Cover Designs. M&B merged, in 1971, with Harlequin, which will celebrate its own anniversay—its 60th— next year. Look for big doings at the BEA in New York.

“The shape of desire never changes,” said the American sculptor Louise Bourgeois. But most certainly, its costumes do.