Ripping off the covers with Harlequin in Vegas
There's something happening in Vegas right now that we can talk about -- the art exhibit of Harlequin Romance covers on exhibit at Paris Las Vegas. The Times wrote about 'The Heart of a Woman: Harlequin Cover Art 1949-2009" this weekend:
Visitors walk through a doorway next to one of Paris' signature advertising photos: a couple lustily embracing on an elevator, the man reaching for the "stop" button. It could be mistaken for a Harlequin cover.
Inside a small room is a chronology of representations of desire.
The earliest covers draw from film noir and are rife with -- in hindsight -- unintentional comedy.
"Virgin With Butterflies" (1949) shows a brunet in thigh-high stockings encircled by five male heads sprouting butterfly wings. "Men Cast a Net for Her," the cover promises....
There is a kind of goodness -- if sometimes awful goodness -- in Harlequin covers like those in the exhibit.
But romance readers know that other covers are just plain awful. Take these worst-of examples from the Cover Cafe's annual contest. "This cover is enough to make me nostalgic for the bodice-ripping clinches of old," wrote a judge of "Take Two," the second-place 2006 winner. "At least they didn't look quite so weird and porn-y.”
The Cover Cafe, which is devoted to romance novels, also awards a series of best-ofs every year. Maybe some of those -- with titles like "The Boundless Deep," "Abandon" and "The Russian Concubine" -- will make it into a retro-book-cover exhibit of the future.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Paris Las Vegas