Go Easy On Her, Tiger.

Another of my Goodwill romance finds. This one warrented a dollar just on the title alone–and then I saw the cover, which. Wow.

Backcover summary:

“The news clip from Thailand lasted only a moment. But what Meg Devlin saw was enough to convince her that her father–missing in action for nineteen years–was alive. Meg’s best hope…lay with Conor Tremayne, the reporter who had shot the film. But could she trust Tremayne–a man who would sell his soul for a story?”

Rupert Murdock IS Connor Tremayne IN a Fox News production OF…Ghost Tiger!

Random sample sentence:

“She [Meg] curled into the warm body at her side, giving in to the memory of Conor’s hands and lips at the irrigation pond.”

Because nothing says romance like an irrigation pond. I hope it’s not the one where the fish lives.

What I love about this cover:

  1. The look on Conor’s face! Wow. Maybe they’re standing next to the irrigation pond. Or an open sewer. Also, his left arm seems to missing. And he’s a dead-ringer for that dude from The Nanny.
  2. The gold leaf border and the cheesed-off tiger in the background. I think both are meant to be visual cues to the “exotic,” to the Southeast Asian location of the story. It’s interesting to compare these choices to the background imagery in “Suffer a Sea Change,” which is much more literal in its interpretation. I don’t know that I’d have made the “exotic” connection here if I hadn’t read the back cover. Indeed, when I first picked it up, the cover read to me as an exemplar of 80s bad taste. But the book was actually published…in 1994!
  3. Meg’s physical positioning. Her arm on Conor’s shoulder makes it apparent that she’s *gasp* leaning on him for strength in this difficult time–though I’m not sure how him groping her ass is gonna help with that, exactly. She looks almost two-dimentional here, which is not, I hope, indicative of her character development within the text.
  4. The tagline. You had me at the Phil Collins reference. Though draping it over Conor’s crotch is an…innovative choice.

Love! Frat Boys! and Visualizing [Female] Desire

One of my projects of late has taken me into the world of romance novel covers. I went into the work thinking I’d talk about the covers of het romances—and then I stumbled across Anne Tenino’s Frat Boy and Toppy. And that discovery led to the presentation below.

You can see a slide show of the images that I reference here and learn more about the book from the publisher here–which you should because this novel? Is awesome.

Covering Up to Strip Down:
Remixing Anne Tenino’s Frat Boy and Toppy

I began this project with a general interest in the covers of romance novels (slide 1), in these too-familiar renderings [rendings] (slide 2) of female garments by well-muscled, occasionally well-meaning masculine overlords.

And then I came across this (slide 3): Anne Tenino’s terribly titled but oh so very excellent novel Frat Boy and Toppy—a male/male erotic romance.

Now on the one hand, this cover is stereotypical, a close cousin of the now-familiar images plastered on heterosexual romance novels—featuring two naked male torsos for the price of one. But on the other, the cover is just bizarre. Its assemblage-like quality comes off as an artist’s fever dream: over-thought, over-designed, and, worst of all [to my mind] a poor representation of the content [and the pleasures] the text presents. My goal, then, has been to redesign Toppy’s cover so that it might more effectively reflect both the book’s content and the current cultural conversation surrounding women and the consumption of popular [erotic] romance, a discussion sparked by the runaway success of this novel, (slide 4) Fifty Shades of Grey.

Perhaps the busy nature of Toppy’s cover (slide 5) is due, in part, to the many different kinds of stories that the novel manages to tell within the generic constraints of an erotic romance; that is, a romance in which sexual encounters are used as the building blocks of a mutually satisfying and emotionally supportive love match and one which concludes with the characters living “happily ever after.” Toppy manages to do this while performing several other kinds of stories within the same text. First, the novel is a coming-out story in which Brad [the titular frat boy] recognizes that he’s gay, that he’s attracted to other men: specifically, to Sebastian, the TA for Brad’s “Classical Greece” history course.

Early in the book, Brad comes out to his family, who are relaxed and groovy about the whole thing, as, it seems, is Brad himself. Indeed, he is pretty angst free about the whole thing: he accepts who he is—and who he is wants Sebastian. That said, Brad is reluctant to come out to his frat, many of whom aren’t homophobic, per say, but are pretty happily ensconced in their belief that Brad’s straight [given that he’s been dating—but not sleeping with—women] and show little interest in discussing the potential fluidities of male sexual desire.

But this is also a romance, a story about two people falling in love and using hot sex as a means by which to discover that their attraction goes beyond the physical. After getting Sebastian’s attention by turning in a paper he purchased online as his own [like you do], Brad confesses his desire. The two men immediately sleep together [in that Yankee Candle- infested living room on the front cover] and it’s all happily uphill from there. Continue reading “Love! Frat Boys! and Visualizing [Female] Desire”