Covers, Covers Everywhere by Sue-Ellen Welfonder

Sue-Ellen/Allie here…

Hello, Everyone!

Are you enjoying spring? This past week has been busy for me. Among other things, I’ve been working hard on preparing ONLY A DUKE OR LAIRD WILL DO, a new bundle a friend and I just launched. Released today for pre-order! (cover at the bottom of this post) My friend is Brenda Jernigan and we’ve been writing for decades.

So we’ve seen a lot over the years.

Many, many changes.

Trends come and go. In romance, the cyclic popularity of cover styles is a great example. When my debut title released, solo hunks were all the rage…

Devil In A Kilt

I was really excited to have John DeSalvo as the cover model. As time went on, he graced many of my NY covers, including quite a few foreign editions. Readers loved him and I am sure his handsome face sold lots of books for me. I was also thrilled to meet him at the Romantic Times Convention the year Devil in a Kilt released. One of my readers (and a dear friend) Mary Hanson knew him and kindly introduced us…


He was incredibly nice – a true gallant – and even struck a Duncan Devil-in-a-Kilt pose for me…


My heart still warms to remember how, well, how charming he was. Meeting him was so exciting – like seeing my hero Duncan come to life, right before me. As a new author, the ink on my book’s pages barely dry, I was very shy back then. Especially standing face to face with my hero.

John sensed that, I think. And he went out of his way to put me at ease. As I said, he was as nice as he was (and is) handsome.

Of course, over the years, I also had lots of other solo hunks on my covers. Here’s one I really liked. Sadly, I do not know this cover model’s name…

A - Wedding For A Knight

Wedding for a Knight was my first book to make the USA Today bestseller list, so this one is special.

All books (and their covers) are special – or should be.

Back in the day, waiting to see a cover was a giddy experience. Design, choice of cover models, everything, was decided by the publisher’s art department. Sure, you were asked for character details, even if you had any specific wishes. But at the end of the day, the publishing house did the cover how they deemed best. The editor would then email it and you’d sit there, eager to click the attachment. Your story come to life!! But another part of you hesitated, not yet ready to see the image waiting to open up before you.

Your cover, at last!

You wanted to love it, hoped for a wowser cover. In reality, some were indeed great, but many were just okay, and now and then you would cringe.

My first wince-worthy cover came when single color covers became popular. All of a sudden, the covers were all red, purple, blue, etc. No flesh tones on the models, no realistic background tones. Everything was one color.

My first ‘color cover’ was green. I hated it on sight and still do.

I think of it as my Incredible Hulk cover…


That trend didn’t last very long. The one that came next took some getting used to. Actually this new ‘in look’ hit the scene almost simultaneously and quickly stole the stage, becoming the favorite cover style of all the big NY houses. What style do I mean?

The headless wonder covers, of course!

Almost overnight, cover models everywhere were in great danger! NY cover artists were lopping off the tops of their heads…

Only for a Knight

In some cases, as seen below, they even cut off entire heads!

Even the ladies weren’t safe!

The artists’ axes were wielded as well on our intrepid heroines…

A - SE - Bride For A Knight

Meanwhile, yet another look crested the horizon.

The so-called cartoon covers!

These were meant to be fun and lighthearted. I had a few for my early Allie Mackay releases and quite loved them…

Allie - highlander_200x324

And a reader fave of my Allie Mackay titles…

Allie - highlander_dreams_201x323

This style, too, vanished almost as quickly as it appeared. I’m sure the look will pop up again, though.


Just like fashion and so many other things, you only need to sit back and wait. Sooner or later, the ‘trend’ is announced anew. Usually with some new small twist that sets it just a bit apart from the earlier covers. As an example, in the early days of romance, ‘prop’ covers were everywhere. No cover models, just an object. Lots of these covers had flowers or wreaths on them.

Some had swords or castles.

The old prop style covers are dated.

If you see one in a used bookstore, you do not need the broken spine or yellowed pages to know that the book is ancient. Yet today, many authors embrace this look and create stunning object-only covers. It’s a new world out there now, and writers hold the reins, doing what they want.

Brenda Jernigan and I chose the prop cover style for our first joint collection, LORDS, LAIRDS, and LEGENDS: Magical Tales of Timeless Romance

LLL Bundle 3D AMAZON JPG Box set JPG

We really love this look.

An old style, but fresh and new.

Of course, some styles (like the classic clinch) rarely change. The backdrops might vary, but the hero and heroine in tight embrace remain a universal symbol of our romance genre. Another one that also screams classic romance is the ‘big dress’ cover.

As I write medievals and contemporary paranormals, I never received a big dress cover.

They adorn later period romances, such as Victorian. Main thing, a beautiful woman and her huge, billowing skirt draw the reader’s eye. The hero, if shown, usually wears black pants and a white, loose-sleeved shirt that will be half falling off him.

Another observation, after a career span that brought me all kinds of covers, the cycle completed itself in my more recent NY series. As with Devil in a Kilt, I came full circle and again received solo heroes.

Here’s one of them…


Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

One look that is currently popular is the ‘runaway heroine.’ Glimpsed from behind, she is either looking ahead, or perhaps glancing over her shoulder, at the reader.

This style, too, isn’t new.

It echoes the classic gothic romances of many decades ago. But with a fresh, energized appeal. Brenda and I chose this look for our upcoming 4-novel collection, a May 10th release, ONLY A DUKE OR LAIRD WILL DO: Scintillating Tales of Noble Passion


We really love how this cover combines a lovely runaway heroine with the iconic Eilean Donan Castle, and even a wee bit of ‘big dress’ pizazz.

We hope you’ll want to grab a copy. ‘Dukes & Lairds’ is only .99 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Before I leave you, please share your own favorite (or least favorite) cover style.

PS ~ For those interested, there’s an Amazon Giveaway for my Allie Mackay title, Haunted Warrior.

To enter, just click here.

Follow Sue-Ellen Welfonder:

USA Today bestselling author Sue-Ellen Welfonder is known for her strong heroines, Alpha heroes, and weaving Highland magic and humor into her tales. Her passions are Scotland, medieval history, Celtic legend and lore, the paranormal, and animals. All can be found in her medieval romances and the contemporary paranormals she writes as Allie Mackay. She lives on Florida’s southwest coast with her husband and her muse, Snuggles the writer cat.

12 Responses

  1. rwmckinnis

    Love the cover. Ordered the book, can’t wait for it to come out.
    I’m drawn more to the male characters, kilts included, smoldering “come and get me lassie” look, with swords, muscles, and did I mention kilts?! I especially liked your covers with the dogs included. Oh, and kilts too!
    Hope the new volume sells well, I know I will enjoy it. Hugs, Wendy

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Thanks so much, Wendy! Appreciate you looking in here and your kind words. We hope Dukes & Lairds sells well, too, obviously. Adore your cover loves. Those are all elements of ideal covers in my eyes, too. xx

  2. Barbara Monajem

    Aren’t covers fun? I remember that feeling of anticipation, often followed by a cringe or at least a “well, it could have been worse”…but I also got some beautiful ones which I still love. I quite like the runaway heroine covers — there were lots of those in romantic suspense back in the day. Your green one surprises me, though — the green gives it such a paranormal look. Does it have paranormal elements (apart from Devorgilla, LOL)? Anyway, best of luck with the new set.

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Yeah, those were the days, for sure! Amazing now to recall how very little say we had in anything. Unthinkable now. I like the runaway heroine covers, too. My green one, yes, there are paranormal elements, but nothing that would merit a green-skinned hero. Just Devorgilla and her own brand of Highland magic kind of stuff. Paranormal light. A legend about a beastie similar to Nessie is also in this old title. So that, too, was paranormal. But all within the Highland magic realm. No vamps, werewolves, or other shifters, no demons. I only write light paranormal ala old Dev.

  3. laurenlinwood

    Loved strolling through the history of romance covers by seeing your lovely examples! Interesting how things always seem to come full circle.

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      I love that, too, Lauren. You are right – everything always does seem to end where it started. Somehow, someway. Not always glaringly obvious, but there if you look, for sure.

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      We love the cover, thanks! Ha ha ha… I am very grateful to be able to find something to laugh about nearly every day. If not an outright laugh, than at least a chuckle, even if somewhat pained as recalling some of my less than stellar covers over the years. It’s all in good fun.

  4. bkj1608

    I’ve always like the cover where the hero is protecting the female. She might not need protecting but it is nice to be in someones arms. And don’t give me a wimpy hero…only the best will do. 🙂

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Well said! Heroes must be heroic! No wimps. No wilting violet heroines either. I can’t stand weak, meek, and weepy heroines. They have to be as strong as the heroes for me to write or enjoy reading them.

    • Sue-Ellen Welfonder

      Thanks! I may do a part two one of these days. Share some of my faves and a few of the real mind-boggling stinkers. So many styles, really. Fun stuff.