Friday, September 23, 2011

Judging a Book by Its Cover

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of judging a book by its cover. But over the last 18 months or so, something strange has happened to me. I found myself falling in thrall with a cover model. And before you start wondering about Sapphic tendencies, let me explain. This blog is about my love of books, but I also love watching stories acted out on the large and small screen. I particularly enjoy serialized programming, including the grandmother of serialized drama—the daytime soap opera. If any fellow soap fans are reading this blog, you’ll know that the last few years have not been kind to the soaps. It’s been one casualty—I mean, cancellation—after another. Today marks the last episode of Erica Kane and All My Children. One of the other soaps cancelled was the venerable 54-year-old As the World Turns. So what do soaps have to do with my blog topic? Let me connect the dots.

I used to watch As the World Turns. My two favorite characters were Katie Perretti, played by the engaging Terri Conn, and her ditzy best friend Vienna Hyatt, played by the luminous Ewa Da Cruz. And then one rainy Saturday afternoon I was browsing in Barnes and Noble when I saw Ewa Da Cruz staring coquettishly back at me from the cover of The Lost Duke of Wyndham. How cool was that? Now I’d never read a single book by the author, Julia Quinn, but I bought the book anyway because I couldn’t resist Ewa’s gamine smile. And I’m glad I did. The book and its sequel (Mr. Cavendish, I Presume) were excellent. So good, in fact, that I’m going to take a paragraph and plug Julia Quinn, who may be, as author Jill Barnett writes, “Our contemporary Jane Austen.”

The Lost Duke of Wyndham is exactly what it purports to be: the story of highwayman Jack Audley who—in a strange twist of fate—turns out to be a Duke. Jack is a charming rouge who falls head over heels for ladies’ companion Grace Eversleigh. Then problems abound. First, there is already a current Duke—the stiff and pompous Thomas Cavendish. And then there’s the Duke of Wyndham’s fiancée. As the presumed heir, Thomas has been engaged to Amelia Willoughby since infancy. Now Amelia’s parents want her to marry the real Duke. Finally, there’s Jack’s irascible and domineering Grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Wyndham, who refuses to accept that Jack would stoop so low as to marry her paid companion. Of course, Jack and Grace get their happy-ever-after, but it’s the second book in the series that wraps everything up in a perfect bow. In Mr. Cavendish, I Presume, the exact same story is played out—this time through the eyes of the newly-deposed Duke and his on-off-on again fiancée. I enjoyed how Quinn cleverly interweaves and unfolds two distinct stories. In book one, Jack comes to terms with his ducal responsibilities and, with Grace’s loving support, rises to the expectation of his new position. In book two, Thomas is freed of the ducal burden and able to loosen up enough to truly fall in love with Amelia. Of the two, I liked the second book better. It was good fun to watch the clueless Thomas flounder after Amelia, the fiancée he ignored all of his life until he realized he might actually lose her—typical male! And if you like these two books, let me know, I have Quinn’s Bridgerton Series to sell you.

Now back to my original topic. Not too long after I bought a book simply for the pleasure of seeing a familiar face, I ran into Ewa again. This time it was on the cover of Royal Blood by Rhona Sharon. If you’ve read my first blog, “You Staked Me at Hello” (Sept. 2, 2011), you’ll understand that Ewa plus vampires was impossible for me to resist, and the book quickly found a place on my shelf. Over the next year or so, Ewa and I continued to “meet cute,” starting with Kiss of the Rose, the first book in Kate Pearce’s Tudor Vampire Chronicles, and then again with The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne. And still my library continued to expand, making room for other Ewa covers, including In Bed with a Highlander (Maya Banks), How to Seduce a Scoundrel (Vicky Dreiling), and The Bride Wore Scarlet (Liz Carlyle).

But it wasn’t until Ewa graced the reissue of Laurie McBain’s classic Devil’s Desire, that I realized I had a problem. You see, I own the original Devil’s Desire (circa 1975), and yet I found myself poised to do the unthinkable—buy another copy simply because of the new cover. For the sake of my overflowing bookshelves and my empty wallet, the madness had to cease! Just not until after I buy Mark of the Rose, the third book in the Tudor Vampire Chronicles; Seduction of a Highland Lass, the second book in the Maya Banks trilogy; and Lord and Lady Spy by Shana Galen. Featuring the exquisite Ewa on their covers, all three books came out this month.

And now for best part of my story: Julia Quinn was not the only author that Ewa introduced me to. Unbelievably, I hadn’t read a single book from any of these authors. Bottom line: Ewa Da Cruz inspired me to try eight new authors! The cost of my first Ewa Da Cruz cover—$7.99 (plus tax). Total cost of all my Ewa Da Cruz covers to date—$69.95 (plus tax). The cost of the Julia Quinn books I have since purchased—$119.85 (plus tax and shipping). The cost of a good cover model—priceless!

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