Here He Is, Mr. Anachronism!

One more addition to the Shirtless Cover Hero controversy.

This morning I’m offering up an older cover of mine from the early nineties (we all remember the cover-artist Pino, don’t we?) that has more than its share of oddities.  First, we have the stern 19th century Yankee sea captain, baring his waxed chest to the bracing North Atlantic winds.  Clearly he must go to the same Hero Tailor as the men on the covers from Jo and Loretta — you know, all the other respectable men of their time are wearing shirts that pull over their heads, but these guys have chosen nifty break-apart shirts a la the Chipendales.  So fashion-forward!


Secondly, you don’t have to be a Patrick O’Brian afficinado to see that there is something really, really wrong with his ship.  Why is this captain so stalwart and unconcerned by the fact that he’s standing waist-deep in crashing waves and water?  Hasn’t he noticed that the ship’s wheel is about one-quarter the size it should be, or that it’s in the middle of the deck, where it couldn’t possibly be connected to the rudder?  (Maybe this is a dummy-wheel, like they have on driver’s ed cars, and behind the captain is another, more properly dressed man farther back actually steering the ship.)  And what exactly is that big piece of canvas flapping around where no sail should be, especially when it’s blowing in the opposite direction of the captain’s hair?

Oh, picky, picky, picky.  .  .  .


Strange medicine

From Loretta:

I was relaxing the other day, re-reading an article I’d saved from an old New Yorker, about leeches, and how they’ve come back into medical fashion.

“Wow,” thought I.  “That’s a nice, gross subject to blog about.  We had some childbirth talk recently.  How about the hundred different ways Regency medicine could kill you?”

Leeches were the big cure-all, especially during the early 19th century.  Doctors prescribed them for whatever ailed you.  (Side note:  Reading history is one of the reasons I tend to view the latest medical miracle drugs with a certain degree of skepticism.  One of my latest skepticisms is antidepressants, which in recent years seem to be prescribed for just about everything, not simply depression.  I hear how it’ll cure insomnia or migraine or backache or whatever, and I can’t help thinking, “Oh, right, like leeches.”)

Anyway, it’s a particular type of leech that does the job, and it was so popular that in some places it was harvested to extinction or near-extinction.  According to the article, excessive leeching is what killed Byron.  I’m not sure where that information came from.  One of the Marchand biographies says he was bled (to excess, definitely) and purged, but it mentions lancets, not leeches.  Anyway, if you want to read all the gory details as well as why doctors are using leeches, it’s the New Yorker of 25 July 2005 and the article is “Bloodsuckers.”  The accompanying illustration is wonderfully macabre.

On to Fanny Burney, who not only had a mastectomy without anesthesia or antibiotics and survived to tell the tale (which she did in lurid detail, apparently) but lived another 29 years.  If we wrote this kind of story in our historical romances, (a) everyone would run away screaming and (b) no one would believe it.

Here’s what happened, according to Claire Harman’s Fanny Burney: A Biography.  Ms. Burney, in her fifties, had a large, painful lump in her breast.  She was in Paris at the time, and the doctor she consulted was “Napoleon’s celebrated army-surgeon Dominique-Jean Larrey.”  Now here’s the part that had me reeling:  “In the medical culture of the day, exposure of a female patient’s body to examination was not insisted on, and it is highly likely, given Fanny’s temperament and her stated ‘dread & repugnance’ of medical intervention ‘from a thousand reasons besides the pain,’ that Larrey had not actually seen the breast until he was just about to cut it off.”  We are told that none of the doctors involved examined the tumor until the day of operation, “and even then, they didn’t touch it.”  It’s now theorized that the tumor–fist-sized–was benign.  Had she had a malignant tumor of that size, her chances of living nearly three more decades were about nil.  For excerpts from her account of the experience–not for the squeamish–check out the Harman biography.

And of course everybody knows that an infallible cure for cancer is the consumption of ground-up woodlice or the drinking of warm urine.

Here is more medical wisdom, this time from The New Female Instructor:  “Of all parts of the body, the head receives most benefit from the effusion of cold water; this is a simple and effectual remedy against too great an impulse of the blood towards the head, where persons are threatened with apoplexy (a stroke); in disorders of the brain and cranium; in wounds and other complaints, to which the head is subject.”

So, when you tell somebody, “Go soak your head,” you mean it in a good way?

Loretta, who must run away now (not screaming) but has plenty more to say about covers, too, when she returns on Sunday.

More on covers

This might be interesting to some of you. As soon as Loretta mentioned the black wellies, I guessed.

When they do photo shoots for cover art, they often use the same shoot for many covers. Heck, they sometimes slip up and use the identical picture, but not too often.

In a comment under “Worst Covers” Loretta mentioned her novel, The Lion’s Daughetr. (Ecxellent book, of course.) The cover’s over on the right under reissues, but I’m adding it here, too, for easy comparison.


Now, consider the step back of my novel, Skylark.


This is a view before they put the quote box on and switched the flowers for a letter, which was a minor improvement, but not much consolation. My NAL covers have mostly been very good, but this one was just straight out weird, especially as this is Sir Stephen Ball, my intellectual Rogue, a lawyer and Member of Parliament. Standing on a heathy headland flashing his unlikely pecs at the world? I don’t think so!.

Apart from resemblance and plausibility problems, and the pecs that look as if they might give birth to aliens, in how many ways is this guy dressed wrongly for the Regency? Find the (deliberate) mistakes.

Jo 🙂

Sign Up For Our Newslettter!

Check out our sidebar to the right!  Sign up for our e-newsletter and we’ll send you periodic and completely random updates regarding Wenches’ book releases, upcoming topics of discussion, guest bloggers, and whatever else strikes our fancy.  Nonfattening and sugar free, but always with a happy ending.  Sign up now! It will improve your marriage, clear your complexion and your sinuses, relieve your bunions, and improve your gas mileage. And it’s free!

Sherrie, wondering if I should investigate a career in NY advertising …

Worst covers

How about each of the wenches posts their least favorite cover (or covers), one original, one from a translation? After all, none of them are our fault. They can hurt because our precious children are sent out into the world in stupid clothes, but we have so little say. My publisher does ask me for input on the design, both at the start and then when they’ve done a first pass at it, but there’s a limit to how much they’ll do to change it. And often it’s a really subtle thing which amounts to good art v bad art. Some, however are mind-boggling, and I’m not talking about straight-out mistakes like extra arms, or even the “we don’t care about the details” ones like wrong hair-colour.

Consider, for example, my first paperback cover for Lord Wraybourne’s Betrothed. Who in the world could even imagine that this man was the hero of a romance novel? Who? (Click on the pictures to see a larger version, if you can bear it.)

And then we have the cover of my sole Bulgarian edition, for my Georgian romance, Something Wicked. Teens going to a very strange Prom in the ’50s, perhaps?

Come on, Wenches. I throw down the challenge. Beat those if you can!