Cover Love – How do you feel about half-naked men? (And a #giveaway.)

To Kiss a Rake 600x900

This is the cover of my upcoming release, To Kiss a Rake. (It’s up for pre-order now and comes out July 29th. Squee!!) Here’s the blurb:


Melinda Starling doesn’t let ladylike behavior get in the way of true love. She’s secretly helping with an elopement, when she’s tossed into the waiting coach and driven away by a notorious rake.


Miles Warren, Lord Garrison, comes from a family of libertines, and he’s the worst of them all—or so society believes. When Miles helps a friend to run away with an heiress, it’s an entertaining way to revenge himself on one of the gossips who slandered him.

Except that he drives off with the wrong woman…and as if that wasn’t scandalous enough, he can’t resist stealing a kiss.


(I’ve had quite a few books out now, most of them romances, but this is my very first cover with a half-naked man on it. I’ve blogged about sexy torsos and clinches on covers before. It has always been an issue with me (apparently an unresolvable one).

Sex sells, judging by the ads for beer or cars or clothes or whatever. My first reaction to many ads is annoyance, because it’s absurd to imply that because you drink a particular brand of beer with your buddies or drive a fast car or win a million bucks, you’ll be sexy, rich, beautiful, and happy ever after—but that’s exactly what those ads want you to believe deep down, even if your commonsense tells you otherwise.

The implication of sex on the cover of a romance novel makes a lot more sense – at least there’s sexual attraction and often explicit sex in the book – but that’s not really what I wanted my cover to convey. Yes, the growing sexual attraction between the characters helps them toward their happily ever after, and yes, they have sex, but the main thrust (bad word choice??) of the story is romance – two people falling in love and having their happily ever after. I guess what I’m saying is that although sex is a natural aspect of a love relationship, it’s only part of the picture. What about trust and forgiveness and kindness and understanding and intimacy and warmth and sacrifice and compromise and so on? Without these ingredients, you don’t get lasting love.

I’m not immune to sexy covers, but I’m much more likely to find them appealing if I can somehow sense the romance as well. Lasting, sigh-worthy love is what I like a romance novel cover to convey, because sex by itself isn’t enough for a happily ever after, any more than money or clothes or cars are. So I’m happy with the cover of To Kiss a Rake, because I think it does just that.

Now for the question I always ask when I blog about this subject. What sort of cover art makes you want to look inside? Specifically, does a naked male torso make you want to read a book? How about a clinch or a woman in a long gown with quite a bit of skin showing? (These seem to me to be the three most popular sorts of covers that imply sex inside.)

Or to put it another way, which is sexier, a half-naked man or Mr. Darcy coming out of the water wet and fully-clothed?

I’ll give a copy of one of my novellas (winner’s choice) to one lucky commenter.


Follow Barbara Monajem:

Barbara Monajem started writing at eight years old. She has wandered from children’s fantasy through mystery to paranormal and historical romance. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

44 Responses

  1. dholcomb1

    Colin Firth never actually came our of the water dripping and fully clothed. lol.

    I don’t mind the shirtless guy covers, but I’m not always comfortable sharing them on FB. I have young friends on FB and don’t want to upset their parents.

  2. Linda

    …a half naked man; is that the top half or the lower half 😀
    A cover which attracts & draws the eye does not necessarily need to imply sex. I like a a beautifully drawn cover with lovely details, it could be a gown, or a glorious background. Admittedly a handsome & muscled man does draw one’s eye!

  3. Lea Ann Edwards

    I don’t necessarily pay a lot of attention to the cover. I see the title then check the synopsis to decide if it is interesting to me. I don’t mind seeing shirtless men or scantily-dressed women, but that doesn’t decide me one way or another. I also check reviews if I’m purchasing online. I like to create my own visual in my head of how the characters look as I read.

    • Barbara Monajem

      I create my own visuals too, Lea Ann. It’s cool if a cover actually reflects a scene in the story, but all too often it doesn’t.

  4. Ashley York

    I think this cover fits the type of romance you write, Barbara, and like all good authors, you convey with words all the deeper emotions as well. Those are the authors I remember and look for. I would pick up a book with this cover and read the blurb…well,actually, I’d see your name and just buy it.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Aww, thanks, Ashley! You just made my day. 🙂

    • Barbara Monajem

      Thanks, Beverly! :~)) I’m so glad you enjoy my stories.

  5. ellaquinnauthor

    For me it depends on what is right for the story. I have one shirtless man on a cover, yet to be released, but he’s got a shirt hanging off him, and the female hides most of him. I think you’re cover is lovely. Shared.

  6. nmayer2015

    The men are so obviously models, and some have developed the pecs until they look as though they needed a bra more than the woman on the cover. They have shirts open down the front before shirts opened down the front. They must have torn the shirts open — such a lot of torn shirts hanging around.
    I prefer men fully clothed and clean shaven. I have seen a cover where the woman is kin a ball gown, the man dressed in formal clothes, at a ball, except his shirt is torn open to the waist. What ever happened to his waist coat?
    Do the covers really sell or is it that readers have come to expect historicals they like to have half naked men on the covers? The availability of eBooks makes it possible for people to read the books in public without being embarrassed by the cover.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Nancy. Yeah, I could do without some of the exaggerated pecs. And I’m laughing now about all the torn shirts! Usually I prefer clean-shaven men, too. I hope the fashion for unshaven faces will pass…

  7. beppie2014

    I do get the concept that sticking to formula covers gives people a clear picture of what the book is likely to be, but a fully-clothed woman and half-clothed man seems a little bizarre to me logically. I’m not at all sure whether having a half-dressed man pursuing me when I’m dressed in the height of elegance would strike me as seductive or comical.

    • Barbara Monajem

      So true — I never thought to examine the logic of the situation. I guess the logic is nothing to do with the story and everything to do with titillating the reader.

  8. Glenda

    Beautiful cover, Barbara!

    Honestly, the amount of clothing on a cover doesn’t really influence my purchase — unless the characters have managed to lose all their clothes – I can’t have that book sitting around where the wrong person might find it. 😉 And yes, a fully dressed or dripping wet guy can be just as sexy as one who is half dressed.

    My main requirement is a cover that reflects the story and the characters in the story. It makes me twitch when cover characters look nothing like the author’s description – I just finished a book with a willowy heroine with short blonde hair but the cover model was very curvy with long dark brown hair UGH!

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Glenda. Umm… I hate to say this, but the heroine of To Kiss a Rake is a redhead — a true redhead, not auburn-haired like the one of the cover. Auburn was as close as I could get… sigh.

      • Glenda

        But at least auburn is sort of close to red…. I know that authors don’t always even get input when it comes to covers. I just wish the people who get final say would pay some attention. 😀

  9. Barbara Bettis

    I do like this cover, Barbara. Good job!! Shirtless guys on covers are fine with me 🙂

  10. allybroadfield

    I prefer that everyone have their clothing on, but it doesn’t affect my decision to buy either way. I’ve been reading historical romance since I was twelve. I know what I’m getting when I buy one, so there’s no need to have half dressed people on the cover.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Ally. I started reading historicals at age twelve, too. They certainly have evolved since then. 🙂

  11. Florencia

    I love the cover ! I also love the story and can’t wait to read it!

  12. Linda Banche

    The purpose of a book cover is to catch the eye. A reader can’t buy a book if she doesn’t know it’s there. With so many books out there, there has to be some way for the book to attract a reader. And yes, a romance cover with a shirtless man will definitely attract notice.

    If you follow an author’s career, her first covers are very sexy. Then, as she becomes better known, the covers tone down the sex.

    I think of Jane Maas, the marketing genius who created the “I Love New York” campaign. She said she found out two things that make products sell: Repetition works. And sex sells EVERYTHING. (Caps hers)

    I’ll look at the covers with shirtless men, too. But that isn’t enough for me to buy the book. I look at blurb and excerpt. The excerpt is the deciding factor for me.

    I prefer covers that don’t have people on them. I find the most off-putting the covers that look as if the hero and heroine are having sex. But then, those covers are trying to attract readers who want to read about lots of sex.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Linda. I find it rather depressing that sex sells everything, although it’s pretty obvious that it does. Are we a totally skewed society? Sometimes I think so. I agree — a cover isn’t enough to make me buy a book. I look at the blurb, and then maybe I read an excerpt or the first several pages.

  13. Ann Gonzalez

    I don’t mind have naked men or clothed men on book covers. Eye catching covers grab my attention and I read the book blurb. If the cover looks boring I feel the book may be boring as well.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Ann. So true — the cover has to SAY something, and a boring cover certainly says the wrong thing…

  14. Victoria Vane

    Hi Barb! I write hot but I prefer modest covers. I have learned however, that readers like flesh! I HATE the cover of A BREACH OF PROMISE as I think it looks too smutty but it is my best seller out of 17 titles!

  15. Collette Cameron

    The cover usually grabs me, then the blurb. Honestly, if the cover is too provocative, I don’t bother with the blurb. While I have no problem with sexual content, I’m after a gripping story first.

    • Barbara Monajem

      I agree, Collette — a gripping story is what matters.

  16. Shelley

    I like when the chest of the guy is bare but it doesn’t have to be. Sexy can be in the way they look at each other. Or the look on her face if he’s kissing her. It’s not all ways about how much clothes they have on.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Shelley. Yep — some of my favorite covers are where the couple look as if they’re genuinely entranced with one another. 🙂

  17. Maggi Andersen

    It’s a lovely cover, Barbara! Don’t mind a bare-chested man on a cover, it can attract more readers. But personally, I like a man in a suit or a well dressed historical hero. A cover won’t sell me the book unless I’m intrigued to read the story.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Tina. Good point — a cover that gives a little mystery makes the reader want to find out more. 🙂

  18. Glenda S. Hefty

    Any cover that is attractive and fits with the story is fine…the cover is not usually the main attraction for me but may cause me to take a second look. I read the blurbs and also if I know the author I am more likely to want to read and get the book. I’m not too fond of really racy covers because sometimes my daycare kids see the books I’m reading (I often will read at naptime.). I don’t care to explain what is going on on the cover!

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Glenda. I have heard the same from schoolteachers. No telltale covers is one of the advantages of ebooks.

  19. Barbara Monajem

    And the winner of the novella is…Shelley! I will contact you by email so you can claim your prize. 🙂