I’ve been thinking about what makes a great book cover lately. I know a lot of what appeals to readers depends on genre, so I’d love one of the Jaunties who writes contemporary to tackle this same topic in a future post.

I can speak to my observations with covers for historical romances and what I think makes a cover appeal to readers.

1. The cover is lush.

Not surprisingly, historical readers love covers with pretty dresses, gorgeous colors, and beautiful scenery. If I’m jealous of the cover model’s dress, chances are I’m going to pick that book up, if only for the cover alone.




2. The title catches the readers’ attention.

The title and the author’s name are often just as important as the cover image. Is the author’s name big or small? Is the title long or short? The best titles are those readers remember. Authors will often play with common phrases, movie titles, even song titles in order to catch a reader’s attention.

Sarah MacLean’s titles are one example.

 maclean green

 So are Kieran Kramer’s.


3. Most importantly, a great book cover leaves the reader with a question they can only answer by reading the book.

Sarah MacLean accomplishes this with NEVER JUDGE A LADY BY HER COVER. The question? Why is this lady from an era when women wore dresses, wearing trousers. The title is another example of a play on a common phrase.

maclean never

 Sophie Jordan’s novel HOW TO LOSE A BRIDE IN ONE NIGHT piqued readers’ attention by making them wonder if the heroine really is lost on her wedding night.


One of my best covers is LORD AND LADY SPY. Not only does it have colors that pop, it deliberately mirrors the movie posters for Mr. and Mrs. Smith. As an added touch, the designer has the female model standing on a box marked Explosives. That’s a fun nod to the lighter tone of the book and a play on the double meaning of explosive—the traditional blowing up meaning and the sexual connotation.

Lord and Lady Spy - Selected 

I’m thrilled my next full-length novel, EARLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN (February 2015), has so many of the qualities that make a great cover. Take a look. Does it leave you with a question? Is the title memorable?

Earls Just Want to Have Fun-300 


Misadventures in SeductionI have long been a fan of the contemporary trope of the “wrong bed” – somehow the heroine ends up crawling into the bed of her crush/boyfriend/lover’s brother/friend/etc. and has the best sex of her life and then chaos ensues. It’s a fun trope and it works well in contemporary romance. But I really wanted to try my hand at it in an historical. To have the heroine intentionally seduce someone only to find out (at a much later date) that she crawled into the wrong bed. Oh what fun. And thus was born the final book in my Masquerading Mistresses series, MISADVENTURES IN SEDUCTION

First, can we take a moment and gawk at that gorgeous cover? I mean, it’s soooo pretty. Okay, now that that’s done, let’s get to the good stuff. So my heroine, Prudence, is in a bit of a pickle. She’s responsible for her younger siblings and there are plenty of them. Her brother wants to go off and fight the war, but she’s bound and determined to prevent him from doing that so she’s not alone and providing for their younger siblings. So she strikes a deal with a less than gentlemanly gentleman, her virtue, for her brother’s safety, only she accidentally slips into the Duke of Sutcliffe’s bed. What’s a girl to do?

Harrison lay still in the darkness. A sound had awakened him, and it took him a moment to realize it had been the click of his door unlatching. Someone was in his bedchamber. He reached to the bedside table and retrieved his pistol. He hated these bloody country house parties—they exposed him to too many people. He had only attended so that members of the Seven, the elite group of spies he led, could exchange information without drawing undo attention to themselves. But apparently he hadn’t been discreet enough, because someone was entering his room. He gripped the pistol’s handle and tried to appear as if he were still sleeping.

There was movement by his bed, and he wished he hadn’t allowed the fire to die down to nothing but a handful of coals. It wasn’t chilly in the room, but it was unforgivably dark.

Then pressure on the mattress as someone crawled in beside him. Soft feminine curves pressed to his bare chest—soft, naked curves. No doubt a servant girl looking for a toss. He sighed in relief and his taut muscles relaxed. She nuzzled closer.

“I’ve been unable to stop thinking about our conversation this evening.”

He knew that voice, and it was most assuredly not a servant. “Prudence?” he asked in a hushed whisper.

She pressed her fingers to his lips. “Shh. This will be easier for me if you let me do the talking.”

Well, she’d better do the talking, because he didn’t understand what the hell she was about. He set the pistol back on the bedside table.

Yes, he found Prudence Hixsby undeniably appealing. How could he not with her intriguing curves, her sharp mind, and her straightforward practicality? She was precisely the sort of woman—maybe even the precise woman—he would court, if he was a man in the position to court a woman.

But there was no place for romance in his life, let alone marriage, and Prudence was not a woman one romanced without the intention of marrying her.

Which was precisely why he’d worked so hard to ignore the attraction he felt for her. Until this very moment, he’d been certain he did such a good job disguising his feelings that she hadn’t a clue that he was attracted to her. Apparently he was less adept at hiding his desire than he’d thought.

“Pru,” he began, his voice so rough he didn’t even sound like himself.

Again she stopped him. “I understand that this isn’t marriage you’re offering. I believe I can accept that. I am old enough and practical enough to know that doing this isn’t going to ruin my chances on the marriage mart.” She drew in a breath, as though she was mustering her courage. Then she pressed a kiss to his jaw. “Please. I want to do this.”

He should have protested. He intended to but, before he could, she crawled atop him, kissed his chin, and then his jaw. Hot, sweet kisses all the way until she reached his mouth.

He had not expected Prudence to seduce him. She seemed so very irritated with him much of the time. Perhaps that was merely her way of flirting.

Her chaste kisses were driving him insane. That and the very unchaste feel of her naked skin against his. He was hard. She wanted him. He sure as hell wanted her.

He rolled her over and kissed her intensely, taking her sweet seduction and setting it afire. 

So what do you think, are there some plot devices more common in contemporaries that you’d like to see in an historical? Or how about the other way around? 

is Linda.

Congrats! Look for an email  or email me at shana@shanagalen.com


My Highland Spy (1)


The Jaunty Quills are excited to welcome historical author Victoria Roberts to the blog today. She’s the author of the new release, My Highland Spy. RT BookReviews said, “Roberts’ newest features a surprise-laden, quick-paced plot, replete with unconventional and fiercely independent characters. Her lyrical prose grabs readers’ attention, and the high level of emotional tension simply adds to the depth of the story. This book begs to be read and reread.”

Vicki Web

Keep reading to find out how to win your copy of My Highland Spy.

Shana: Welcome, Victoria! Tell us about My Highland Spy.

Victoria: First, thank you for having me today at The Jaunty Quills. This is my first visit and I hope not the last. *waves from western PA*

My Highland Spy is the first book in my new Highland Spies series. The series is about four English sisters in the Scottish Highlands. The oldest sister is a spy for the Crown sent to the Highlands to discover machinations against the realm.

Shana: Tell us about your hero, Laird Ruairi Sutherland. First of all, how do you pronounce his first name? Secondly, is he as sexy as he sounds?

Victoria: The name is pronounced ROOR-ee, and yes, he’s as sexy as he sounds. I think it’s hard to resist a man in a kilt, eh? Ruairi would do anything for his clan, especially his son. And let’s just say he’s not very happy when the English show up on his doorstep.

My Highland Spy (1)

Shana: Those Sassencahs! Who would be happy? (Can you tell I’ve been watching Outlander?)

I love spy books, and your heroine Ravenna Walsingham is a spy for the Crown. What’s she trying to discover?

Victoria: When Ruairi refuses to send his only son to the Lowlands to learn English, King James sends Ravenna to Ruairi’s home in the Highlands. Ravenna masquerades as a governess and her mission is to discover whether or not Ruairi and other Highland lairds conspire to raise arms against the Crown. Ravenna’s not thrilled to be that far away from her sisters for so long and she’s even more flustered by the fact that Ruairi is not the man she expected him to be.  

Shana: Tell us what drew you to Scotland. Other than kilted men, that is :-)

Victoria: I was drawn to Scotland the moment I read my first Scottish historical romance. The book was one of Hannah Howell’s Murray brothers. After that, I read every Scottish historical romance I could get my hands on. I fell in love with the genre, and I fell in love with Scotland.

Shana: Do you have a day job? I know from our conversations at conference you have two children and a husband. How do you manage to write and do everything else?

Victoria: Yes, I haven’t quit the day job. I work as a Business Analyst. My job allows me to work from home so I write before and after work and in between family functions. At times, it’s a wee bit hectic in the Roberts’ household to say the least.  

Shana: Finally, tell us what you have coming next.

Victoria: I’m working on a Scottish historical anthology will bestselling authors Willa Blair, Eliza Knight, Vonda Sinclair and Terry Spear. Readers can look for Kissing the Highlander Valentine’s Day 2015.

Thank you so much for having me today, Shana. It’s been great fun.

Readers, now it’s your turn. What’s so sexy about Scotland? One reader who comments will win a copy of My Highland Spy.

“An exciting Highland tale of intrigue, betrayal, and love.”

—Hannah Howell, New York Times bestselling author of Highland Master

“Roberts’ newest features a surprise-laden, quick-paced plot, replete with unconventional and fiercely independent characters. Her lyrical prose grabs readers’ attention, and the high level of emotional tension simply adds to the depth of the story. This book begs to be read and reread.”

—RT Book Reviews

This Highland Laird won’t bow to the Crown
Laird Ruairi Sutherland refuses to send his only son away to be educated by the English. And he most definitely will not appear in Edinburgh to pay homage to a liege who has no respect for Scotland. So he does what any laird would do-he lies to the king. The last thing Ruairi expects is a beautiful English governess to appear on his doorstep.

But this lady spy might make him…
Lady Ravenna Walsingham is a seasoned spy who is sent to the savage Highlands to uncover a nefarious plot against the Crown. Playing the part of an English governess—a job easier said than done—she infiltrates the home of Laird Sutherland, a suspected conspirator.

If she doesn’t betray him first
Ravenna soon discovers that the only real threat Sutherland poses is to her heart. But will the proud Highland laird ever forgive her when he discovers the woman he loves in an English spy?


Amazon: http://amzn.to/1BCZNW8

Barnes and Noble:  http://bit.ly/1l4KJa5

Indigo:  http://bit.ly/1iSeyP0

Books-a-Million:  http://bit.ly/VFXnFe

Indiebound:  http://bit.ly/WR8U5Z

Website: www.victoriarobertsauthor.com


Award-winning author Victoria Roberts writes Scottish historical romances about kilted heroes and warriors from the past. She was named by RT Book Reviews as “one of the most promising debut authors across the genres” and was also a 2013 RT Reviewers’ Choice award winner for X Marks the Scot.

Represented by Jill Marsal of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, Victoria is a member of Romance Writers of America® and several local chapters, as well as a contributing author to the online magazine Celtic Guide.

Victoria lives in western Pennsylvania with her husband of twenty one years and their two beautiful children—not to mention one spoiled dog. When she is not plotting her next Scottish adventure, she’s dragging her clan to every Scottish festival under the sun.


FHSO_Final500I had a book out recently – and I don’t think I’ve shared anything about it yet. So without further ado, let me share 5 fun facts about FOR HER SPY ONLY, the 2nd in my masquerading mistresses series. 

1. This book came from a Christmas blog I wrote. I was supposed to write a scene about characters stranded on Christmas Eve. I fell in love with the characters so much that when it came time to write the second book in my Masquerading Mistresses series, I scrapped my original idea and started with that blog. 

2. Alistair, the hero, has Aspergers. I wanted to write a different type of hero and all of his characteristics rang true for that, but it wasn’t easy incorporating it into the Regency world. 

3. This is my first book (so far) with a kiddo in it. 

4. I named my heroine Winifred because a lady came to my Weight Watchers meeting with that name and I just loved it, I told her I’d use it in a book some day. Oddly enough, she hasn’t been back…

5. And for the fifth thing, I’ll just share an excerpt…hope you love it. 


24th of December 1808, near the coastline of Sussex



Miss Winifred Wilmington pulled her green velvet cloak tighter around her. She exhaled and the puff of air was visible, so cold was it inside the carriage.

“We are going to die in here,” her maid, Polly, wailed.

Winifred rolled her eyes heavenward. “I seriously doubt that,” she said. “It is rather cold, but I suspect someone will be along soon enough and rescue us.”

“I could remind you that it was my suggestion that we leave earlier in the day. Or yesterday,” Polly grumbled. “It is the eve of Christmas, who else is traveling?”

The thought had crossed Winifred’s mind as well, but she certainly wouldn’t put voice to it. “Holmes went to search for help. Certainly he will find someone to assist us.”

There was no need to panic, as that would solve nothing. Therein lie the significant difference between herself and her longtime maid. Winifred was nothing if not practical. It was a skill she had learned out of necessity. One did not get jilted at the altar without adjusting one’s expectations of life and other people. In any case, she was somewhat concerned about being stranded in this frigid carriage all night, though she was hopeful that someone would come along to save them.

Polly sat up. “Do you hear that?”

Polly was so apt at creating drama, no doubt the woman thought she heard wolves outside. “What?” Winifred asked.

“A carriage is coming,” Polly said.

Winifred strained her ears, and certainly enough it did sound as if wheels were drawing nearer. Hope bloomed in her chest. The wheels rumbled and the horse hooves clattered louder and louder until they were upon them before they rolled to a stop.

“As long as it’s not a highwayman, I suppose we can consider ourselves rescued,” Winifred said.

Polly gasped, her hand going to her throat. “A highwayman!”

A male voice sounded outside the carriage, obviously speaking with his party unless Holmes had found this particular someone to salvage them.

There came a rap at the door. Winifred leaned forward and opened it.

A tall gentleman stood there in a great coat with a top hat perched upon his head. He held a cane in his hand. “Madams,” he said, the timber in his voice deep and rich.

A chill skirted over Winifred’s arms despite the cloak encasing her body. “Good evening, sir,” she said. “I hope my driver, Holmes, didn’t get you out of bed to rescue us.”

“I beg your pardon, I know no such man. I came upon your rig by happenstance.”

“Well, then, I should thank you for stopping to assist us. Can our carriage be repaired?”

“I do not know, nor am I inclined to look,” he said.

That wasn’t very gentlemanly of him. She opened her mouth to tell him precisely that—

“I will offer you a ride,” he said before she could comment.

Winifred considered his words. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it would do. “Yes, my grandmother’s estate is not far from here. We would very much appreciate it.”

“No,” he said.

She started to thank him for his hospitality and then his words sank in. “I beg your pardon? Did you or did you not offer us a ride?”

“To where I am going. I am not a coach for hire.” He tapped his cane against his chest.

She had the childlike urge to mock him, but thought better of it. Her options for getting out of this predicament were rather limited, so she best mind her manners.

“In the morning, you may have the carriage take you to your destination,” he continued. “But in this weather, I am going nowhere else.”

“And where is it that you’re going?” Winifred asked.

“Coventry Hall,” he said.

Nerves prickled at her neck, standing the little hairs on end. “You are?” Winifred asked.

“Alistair Devlin, Marquess of Coventry,” he said with only a shadow of a bow.

“Oh good heavens,” Polly said, finally breaking her silence. She shook her head violently. “Miss Wilmington, we mustn’t go with him. We can wait for Holmes.”

“Don’t be rude, Polly.”

“Yes, don’t be rude, Polly,” he repeated. “I don’t believe you’ll have any other options tonight.” His shoulders rose in a slight shrug. “Though you could certainly choose to stay here and freeze,” he said. “I have made the offer.” He turned on his heel and walked away.

“Miss Wilmington, you know what they say of him,” Polly said once he was out of earshot. She gripped Winifred’s arm tightly. “Mary, who works for Lord Garrick, says she knows the housekeeper that used to work at Coventry. He is a killer,” she whispered. “Murdered his own wife, tossed her right off a cliff, they say.”

“Don’t be so dramatic.” But of course Winifred had also heard those rumors and plenty more when it came to the Marquess of Coventry. He had a most interesting reputation. Of course the fact that he rarely, if ever, was seen in London, only fueled said rumors.

Unfortunately the man was right. The odds of someone else coming along to rescue them were very slim. “It is a good offer,” Winifred said. “Our only offer, as it were.”

“He could be dangerous,” Polly warned.

“He is a peer of the realm. Rumor or not, there is a code of etiquette.” When Polly looked unconvinced, Winifred continued. “Consider that being tossed off a cliff should result in a rather quick death, whereas freezing in this carriage would be slow and painful, I suspect.”

Polly closed her eyes and shook her head as if warding off the image.

“Excuse me, I should like to get down please,” Winifred called out. Nerves fluttered in the pit of her stomach, though it could have been the chill from the opened carriage door. Several breaths passed before a footman appeared to assist her to the ground. “Oh, you must be one of the marquess’s men. Thank you.”

The man nodded, but said nothing. The snow swirled around her, soft as a whisper, covering her face and sticking to her eyelashes. She put her hands in her muff and walked quickly toward the other carriage.

Polly raced up to meet her. “Miss Wilmington, think of your reputation.”

“Don’t be silly. I am a spinster who was jilted. Besides, my reputation has already been damaged. Furthermore, my reputation certainly won’t matter if I freeze to death, now will it?”

“I shall not ride with that man,” Polly said with a firm nod of her head.

“Suit yourself, you can wait for Holmes. Do try to stay warm,” Winifred said.

“If you go with him, I shall resign,” Polly warned.

“Don’t bother, I shall simply dismiss you,” Winifred said.

Polly made a growling noise, yet still followed behind. “I shall come with you to keep you safe, but I refuse to ride inside with him.”

“Do whatever you wish. I am riding inside where it promises to be nice and cozy.”

And with that a gloved hand reached out of the carriage door. She took a deep breath, placed her hand in his, and climbed into the carriage. A lantern hung from a hook, illuminating the interior. She took a seat on the plush bench across from the marquess. “Thank you for your hospitality.”

“I instructed my footman to stay and wait for your driver.”

He certainly did not appear to be murderous. Not that she had any notion of what a murderer might do or say.

“Your maid, she is going to ride outside?” he asked.

“She’s a stubborn lot,” Winifred said.

“You sacked her,” he said.

“Third time this week.” She waved her hand dismissively. “Polly and I have plenty of disagreements.”

He nodded, then picked up the book that had been sitting on the seat next to him. The carriage lurched forward.

She eyed her unlikely travel companion. He wasn’t a friendly sort; formidable was more what she’d consider him. He was tall and lean and imposing, but younger than she had expected. She’d heard of the Marquess of Coventry, but had never before seen him. His reputation in London was notorious. He could not be more than thirty. His cane leaned against the bench next to him, and his gloved hand held onto the gold knob on top. An ugly scar slashed across his left cheek, leading up to his eye.

He looked up from his reading as if he sensed her perusal. His eyes were a startling shade of green, like the first bloom of spring after a blistering winter.

“My name is Winifred Wilmington,” she said dumbly.

“Indeed,” he said, then went back to his reading.

She felt her brow furrow. “What are you reading?” she asked.

“Shakespeare. As You Like It,” he said.

She was quiet for a moment, trying to recall if she’d read that particular play. It seemed she must have, but she couldn’t recall a single thing about it.

“You know I am not afraid of you,” she said. Her mother used to chastise her about her chattiness, but Winifred had a tendency to talk when she was nervous. And the marquess’s silence had her quite addled. “I don’t think it’s very intelligent to believe everything you hear about a person.”

“I see,” he said, not bothering to look up from his book.

“Oh yes, people are quite spiteful with the rumors they spread.” She forced herself to stop talking as she was about to tell him a particularly nasty rumor, but that would be gossiping. She knew she became chatty when she was nervous, and she certainly did not need to say something she would later regret. And she knew the sting of being on the other end of those rumors. When Theodore had left her standing alone with the priest and the church full of onlookers, people had made all sorts of conclusions.

“What is it that people say about me?” he asked, again not looking up from his book.

She studied him for a moment, trying to gauge if he was toying with her. He must know what people said. Even the servants gossiped about him.

He looked up at her and once again she was caught in those unusual eyes. His right brow rose expectedly.

She swallowed. “That you murdered your wife.” Her voice came out weak.

“But you do not believe that,” he said.

“No, I do not.” She shook her head. “You are obviously a responsible and kind gentleman.”

You do not know me,” he said. He set his book aside. His glove gripped the gold knob on his cane.

“No, but you stopped to assist a stranded lady. That says volumes about your character, my lord,” she said, quite pleased with her logic.

He leaned forward, his eyes narrowed. “How do you know I’m not taking you to my castle to ravish you?”

She sucked in her breath. His words should have driven fear into her heart. They should have made her second-guess climbing into this carriage with him. Instead she became acutely aware of how she must look with her traveling cloak and bonnet. She resisted the urge to pat her hair.

“Are you? Going to ravish me, that is?” she couldn’t help asking. No man had ever been so forthcoming with her, and the effect was rather intoxicating.

He crooked his finger at her, beckoning her forward.

Curiosity gripped her. She leaned toward him. He had lovely eyes, mossy green with long lashes.

He grabbed her by the chin and pulled her closer, then caught her mouth in a kiss. So shocked by the touch, her lips parted, giving him a brazen invitation to deepen the kiss. His lips were soft and unfamiliar, yet seductive, intoxicating. Her eyes fluttered closed and her hands gripped the fabric of his great coat around his shoulders. And then the kiss was over, ending as quickly and abruptly as it had begun. He leaned back in his seat and she was left in the middle of the carriage with her eyes closed, no doubt looking very much the goose.

“You should not be so trusting,” he said.

He was right. Of course he was right. Yet, she felt no fear with him, even at the liberty he had just taken. She felt only curiosity and something that was probably desire, at the very least attraction and intrigue. “You never answered my question,” she shot back once she’d regained her senses.

“Which was?”

“If you were intending to ravish me once we arrived at your castle?”

His lips quirked up in a half smile. “I suppose you’ll have to wait and see.”


Keep in contact through the following social networks or via RSS feed:

  • Follow on Facebook
  • Follow on Twitter
  • Subscribe