Red Dress-Off


While I was putting together the sidebar for the new blog, I noticed that my May release and Meredith’s August release bear more than a little resemblance to each other.  They are both red dress clinches!  So of course we must have a red dress-off.

First, a little background on the books themselves.

Blurb for Written on Your Skin, by Meredith Duran, on sale July 28, 2009  (just four weeks after her sophomore book, Bound by Your Touch, makes its bow):

Beauty, charm, wealthy admirers: Mina Masters enjoys every luxury but freedom. To save herself from an unwanted marriage, she turns her wiles on a darkly handsome stranger. But Mina’s would-be hero is playing his own deceptive game. A British spy, Phin Granville has no interest in emotional entanglements…until the night Mina saves his life by gambling her own.

Four years later, Phin is finally freed by his new title from the bloody game of spycraft. But memories of the girl who saved him won’t let Phin go. When he learns that Mina needs his aid, honor forces him back into the world of his nightmares.

Phin is a man intent on control. Mina is fiercely devoted to her independence. As they match wits, their practiced masks begin to slip, kindling an attraction more dangerous than any treasonous conspiracy. For in two lives built on lies, love can prove the darkest secret of all…

Blurb for Not Quite a Husband, by yours truly, on sale May 19, 2009:

Their marriage lasted only slightly longer than the honeymoon—to no one’s surprise, not even Bryony Asquith’s. A man as talented, handsome, and sought after by society as Leo Marsden couldn’t possibly want to spend his entire life with a woman who rebelled against propriety by becoming a doctor. Why, then, three years after their annulment and half a world away, does he track her down at her clinic in the remotest corner of India?

Leo has no reason to think Bryony could ever forgive him for the way he treated her, but he won’t rest until he’s delivered an urgent message from her sister—and fulfilled his duty by escorting her safely back to England. But as they risk their lives for each other on the journey home, will the biggest danger be the treacherous war around them—or their rekindling passion?

And now, the Red Dress-Off!

Does your heroine wear a red dress at any point in the book?  And if she doesn’t, would she?

Meredith: Oh boy, does Mina wear a red dress.  To wit:

Her cheery announcement won the ladies’ instant and wide-eyed attention. Phin turned. She was draped along one side of the doorframe, a small, curvaceous package done up in scarlet silk.  How the hell had she gotten out? “Miss Masters,” he said.  There was no help for it; he had to introduce her, as she well knew and had certainly counted upon. “Do come in.”
As she let go of the door and slinked toward them, he caught sight of his pathetic, incompetent, bloody fool of a footman skidding to a stop outside the door.  He gave Gompers a small shake of his head, which turned into an astonished double take as the full effect of Miss Masters’s gown became clear. All at once, he understood that his earlier unease had been a premonition of disaster.  The gown had no structure or tailoring, save for the high, square neckline and the capped sleeves.  The gold sash tied at her waist drew the thin fabric tight around her hips, announcing, very bluntly, that she did not wear a corset.
At her next step, petticoats also began to seem doubtful.

In fact, were she limited to wearing one color for the rest of her life, Mina would probably choose scarlet.

Sherry: LOL.  It’s completely the opposite in my case.  This is what Bryony wears:

He was completely enamored of the severely cut jacket-and-skirt suits she wore, so serious and put together–his lady knight, in her armor of crisp silk, ready to do battle with London’s microbes and infirmities.  At night he lay awake and thought of her prim little hats, her utilitarian walking boots, and the buttons that strained just slightly at the rise of her breasts.

I think Bryony would go through life never wearing red, and never notice that she never wears red.

Does your hero have that sort of build/musculature?

Meredith: Erm… well, let’s put it this way: if any British aristocrat is going to look so fit, it would be Phin.  Once upon a time, Phin served in India with the Royal Engineers, which entailed climbing a whole lot of mountains in order to contribute to governmental maps of contentious border zones in the Himalayas. Since mountaineers tend to be extremely muscular up top (takes a lot of strength to haul yourself up cliffs!), I can imagine he was in pretty good shape.

His more recent, and rather more nefarious activities also require a good degree of physical fitness, albeit of a different type.  To maintain the vein-popping magnificence we see on this cover, I will assure you that only the restriction of word count prevented me from including a riveting scene in which Phin does his nightly round of push-ups and pull-ups.

Sherry: I was very, very thankful that my beefcake does not have that vein-popping magnificence.  Still, the model has got a lot of meat on his bones.  This is what Leo just went through:

Weeks upon weeks of trekking across some of the most inhospitable terrains on Earth, sleeping on cold, hard ground, eating what he could shoot and the occasional handful of wild berries so he wouldn’t be weighed down by a train of coolies carrying the usual necessities deemed indispensable for a sahib’s travels.

Also, he is in denial about coming down with malaria.  Malaria does a heck of a job destroying appetites.  So when Bryony first sees Leo again after a three-year separation, this is what he looks like:

But he had shadows under his eyes. He was thin almost to the point of gauntness. And despite the tan of his skin, his face had a pallor to it.

Of course Leo, when you strip him down, is still ripped from all that climbing and trekking.

The weight he’d lost and the illness had not been enough to diminish what months of strenuous daily exertion had done for him. His body was efficient and compact, his shoulders strong, his abdomen ridged, his legs longthewed and shapely.

In other words, less bulk, but still the same hawt!

Does your title reflect your book?

Meredith: Yes.  Both Phin and Mina are profoundly influenced by (separate) incidents that left a physical mark on their bodies.

Sherry: Absolutely.  He was her husband.  Now he is not.  Ergo, NOT QUITE A HUSBAND.

Does the font size of your name indicate your stature as an author?

Meredith: Ha!  All I can say is: 1) Sherry came up with this question; 2) Sherry is nominated for two RITAs!

Sherry: Hehe.  I am tremendously unobservant.  So for me to notice the font size of Meredith’s name says something.  When I did notice, I went, whoa, them’s some NYT bestselling font size!  Of course the font size of my own name accurately reflect my  modest, relatively new status.

And I’ve been treating Meredith much nicer since I noticed.  🙂

What input, if any, did you have on the cover?

Meredith: So here’s how it goes: the art department asks me to physically describe my hero and heroine, and then they come up with a cover, which they send to me to make sure that the people on the front sufficiently resemble the characters within.

This one wasn’t changed at all, I believe. This pic is a little muddy, but the actual cover is much warmer and richer in color, and I was very happy with that, as it seems to reflect Mina’s personality.  There is a height discrepancy between Phin and Mina that isn’t represented on the cover, but if it were, the clinch would probably look… odd.

Sherry: My publisher does its own secret plotting and just shows me the close-t0-end product.  The first round result looked like this:


The art department made the correct choice to remove the border–which is now tinted red and on the back cover–for the figures of the models to pop much more. I wanted longer fingers for him and hair enough on her to engulf small villages, especially since the latter is specifically referred to in the book.  Didn’t get too much more hair on her–art department said it would muddy the picture–but did get longer fingers on him.  Also, art department gave him a deeper tan and changed his trousers.  Nothing like black trousers on a man to say mysterious virility.  🙂

And why clinch instead of ladyback/mantitty?

Meredith: You know, the covers are designed with an eye to attracting browsers in a bookstore, and it’s safe to say that Pocket has done a lot more research than I have in regard to what attracts a casual browser to pick up a book.  I’m guessing, then, that clinches appeal to readers.  And here’s a confession: I don’t mind clinch covers.  I’ve long dreamed of opening a bar that would be wallpapered entirely in old-school clinch covers.  It would serve drinks with names like “Purple-Headed Passion,” “Throbbing Banana” Daiquiris and “An Ecstasy of Oranges”, and have dim, velvet-lined booths with private jukeboxes constantly tuned to Frank Sinatra and Etta James.

Without clinch covers, this fantasy would be horribly incomplete.  Long live the clinch!

Sherry: According to Sue Grimshaw, Borders’ romance buyer, for newer historical romance authors, the clinch is a must.  And since I do write very hot books, I like that the heat level is reflected in the cover.  (And I especially like her expression on the cover.  She’s thinking: My God that is a bloody cricket bat he’s got there.)

And man, Meredith, the Old-Skool clinch covers are as abundant as hydrogen.  Your bar would run out of walls to display them all.   And even though I don’t drink, I plan to order a “Purple-headed Passion” just to say that I’d experienced it once in my life.  May I also suggest “Explode Like a Ripe Melon?”

13 thoughts on “Red Dress-Off”

  1. I was all set to vote for Meredith on the cover – gotta be fair and go with the heroine actually wearing a red dress in the novel – until Sherry added the excerpt featuring the word “longthewed”.

    You had me with the 10-cent word. I’m just that easy.

    Meredith, a bar wall-papered with old skool covers? I want to go there.

  2. I have to abstain since I’m way too partial to both of you. But I had such fun reading this, especially the quotes from the book. I LOL at the scene where Mina shows up in that dress, which was ROTFLMAO funny both times I read the book. And I so love that potent description of Leo’s trek to find Bryony. Romantic and powerful! Nope, absolutely can’t choose.

    To maintain the vein-popping magnificence we see on this cover, I will assure you that only the restriction of word count prevented me from including a riveting scene in which Phin does his nightly round of push-ups and pull-ups.

    I would have loved to read that.

  3. Far be it from me to argue with authors.
    But –
    (you knew there was a ‘but’ coming)
    it seems to me that the thing the cover ladies might be more concerned about sharing is cover man. He looks kind of like he canoodled with cover lady #1, reshaved his chest, put on a fresh pair of pantaloons, and toodled on over to cover lady #2. Or possibly, waited till #1 left before re-assuming his mark and greeting the freshly arrived #2 from roughly the same position.

  4. Kiersten,

    ROTFL about the 10-cent word.

    Let you in on not quite a secret. Since English is my second language, and I arrived in the States at an age when it was necessary to bulk up my vocab really fast to handle the SAT, my sense of what is a 10-cent word and what isn’t is completely screwed-up. Words like perspicacity–which my agent noted in my manuscript–and clavicle–which was pointed out to me in a review–these words I acquired early on, far earlier than I learned words like “pee” and “poop.”


    Not only would I have liked to read about Phin at his nightly round of push-ups and pull-ups, I would have liked to be there ogling. 🙂

    Maya M.,

    LOL! I knew he was a manwhore!

    • I too get dinged for the big words too and had a critique partner tell me once to dumb it down. A comment I ignored, BTW.

      I was just talking about your books the other day (good things, I promise!) at my writing group. Someone in the circle mentioned how English wasn’t your first language and I commented that I reckoned your method of learning English likely gave you a better appreciation for the words and a greater enjoyment in crafting them into wonderful prose – 10 cents and all!

  5. Man, I love clinch covers. There, I said it. I love clinches, bare lady-backs with dresses falling off, and headless models, all of which are much-maligned everywhere I go on the internet. I buy ’em like crazy, so the publishers aren’t all wrong.

    Oh, and I read them in public, too.

    Both of your covers are gorgeous!

    • Simone,

      Thank you, for myself and Meredith.

      And fabulous to see a staunch fan of the clinch cover! You keep reading them in public–and use them to smack any fool you don’t want to suffer! 🙂

  6. Hi Sherry! Hi Meredith! I love both your first book and have the others on my wishlist! I’ve never visited here on your blog but will be from now on! LOL on the dresses! I just never realized that! LOL that yours wouldn’t wear one Sherry. Maybe make up for that in the next book if its fitting, to have her wear one (and maybe then you’ll get a cover with a white dress 🙂 Love your chatting! I do love a great cover too tho! I’m being honest here, I do pick up books for the cover (but I pick up all books and check the blurb and all) but I love to see the covers! I’m on some bedrest and I tried to get my hubby to pick up a book for me and had him give the worker the info and he texts me and says “You made me buy a book with a nekkid man on the cover with no head!” LOL. He supports my habit but he’s hilarous too!

    How about this for you both, how would you like to see your hero on your cover?

  7. Evangeline, you are not playing fair by using Vivien Leigh as the model! — Especially since that first dress is from one of the scenes that I rewound and rewound as a seventh grader in love with Gone With the Wind. (I re-read that book ten times… and then was given the VHS as a birthday present, which I watched until it broke!)

    How about this for you both, how would you like to see your hero on your cover?

    Hi, Caffey! That’s a really interesting question. As a reader, I like the faceless trend, because I like to envision the characters on my own. And whatever gets someone to pick up a book is fine by me. That said, when I think of Written on Your Skin, the scene that comes to my mind occurs pretty early in the book, and here’s how I see it: we’re standing directly behind Phin, in a tropical garden full of flowers and lush greenery. His form is in darkness, silhouetted by the light coming from an open window above him. And out this window, a woman is leaning. Perhaps her hair (white-blond) is streaming down as she looks at him.

    Would this work as a cover? Probably not. That’s why I’m very glad that Pocket has designers to create them for me. 🙂

  8. How about this for you both, how would you like to see your hero on your cover?

    Three words: with more clothes! LOL. Mantitty always makes me think of male strippers.

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