Romance for White People

Take a look at these covers, from a Jacqueline Frank series I adore:




Now, it’s always been a personal pet peeve of mine when a book cover has nothing to do with the characters within. It’s a little thing, mostly. Unless the cover can’t even be bothered to depict the appropriate race.

In the books, the Shadowdellers are described as “nut brown, mocha, coffee”. They are Middle-Eastern in feature. Any hair color other than black or very dark brown is extremely rare. So what do we get for covers? Buncha white guys. Wouldn’t want to put off those pale-faced readers.

The first time I ran into this, I was particularly conflicted, because the cover was by a favorite artist, Chris McGrath:

House of Cards

C.E. Murphy created a fantastic, strong, female lead, whose race was most assuredly non-white. I guess sort-of Asian was as close as they were willing to get. I will say I was grateful that the third cover in the series was much better. It doesn’t make me think less of McGrath; he was doing a job. I do wonder what the whole process was like. Was the character misrepresented to the artist? Was it correct initially, then altered?

I know the author has little say beyond describing the characters for portraiture. Covers are a marketing tool, purview of the publisher. I’m here to add a voice of protest. Fine, change the tattoos, tweak the hair color, get the clothes wrong, but messing with the race of the character is what it is: racist. Because only white people can be romantic heroes.

It makes me glad I’m now reading these books on a Kindle, where I only have to look at the cover once: when I buy the book. I’d stop buying the book, but I’m not going to punish a good author for a marketing mistake. But I am going to speak out.

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