Off with their heads! (A Weekend to ReCOVER)

A few years ago I read this book by Philippa Gregory:
On a recent trip to the library I also happened to notice that a few other Philippa Gregory covers had a really similar trend to them:
I'm not sure if this is a style started by Gregory (or her publisher), but what is the deal with cutting faces - or at least foreheads - from the covers of historical fiction books?!?? At first I thought it was confined to the Tudor era (an allusion to Henry VIII's passion for beheading people, perhaps?), but the pattern definitely goes before and beyond that time period. Take a look at a few examples I've noticed lately:

These are all from different authors and I'm not certain if they're at all inspired by each other, but I find it rather amusing that they follow the same trend of never venturing higher than a lady's eyes!  I could speculate that the period costumes are a more unique focus, but for the ones with photographs, the cover models all appear to be rather attractive women and I feel rather sorry for them that none managed to get their faces onto the book jackets.  Do they have oddly shaped eyebrows?  Did their hair never quite stay in place for the photo sessions?  I guess we'll never know...    

What are your thoughts on the headless historical trend?  

This post is part of a meme I host called A Weekend to Recover that focuses on discussing book art and cover comparisons.  Feel free to leave your comments below or link up with a post of your own!

10 Response to "Off with their heads! (A Weekend to ReCOVER)"

  1. Sam (Tiny Library) says:
    May 21, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    Weird! I just went to look at my historical fiction bit of my bookshelf and you are totally right. Maybe the faces look too modern?

  2. Enbrethiliel says:
    May 21, 2011 at 4:07 PM


    My Philippa Gregory book The Constant Princess has a woman whose eyes have not been cut out of the frame. It must stand out like a sore thumb!

    "Headless women" are a cover cliche in Romance, too. Or at least they were when I was still reading a lot of Romance--and they did make a refreshing change from what are called "man titty" covers. ;-)

  3. Iben says:
    May 21, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    Lol, never thought about that and I have a fair few of books like that.. However - the White Queen (also by PG) stars a female face, all of it + hair! so it's not *all* her books ;)

  4. lisa :) says:
    May 21, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    TL - I didn't think about the faces making them look more modern. I wonder how Hollywood makeup artists do work for period films... there must be a certain way they make actors look like historical figures. Guess it's a bit of movie magic! ;)

    Enbrethiliel - I think a lot of these are romantic stories so it makes sense that the cover cliche applies to both. And I do prefer them to the "man titty" ones (LOL), though I have to wonder what Fabio is doing in his retirement!

    noiashui - Gregory has so many books that I'm glad she changed up the designs for them, but her works are so popular I still wonder if she was part of the impetus for the style to catch on for historical fiction.

  5. Ellen aka Ellie says:
    May 21, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    Lots and lots of fancy dresses. What else do we need to see?


  6. Sarah says:
    May 22, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    LOL! I actually prefer it this way - I don't like seeing real-life people on covers. The half-face thing that they seem to do on historical fiction covers kind of leaves me to picture the characters in my head.

  7. vvb32 reads says:
    May 22, 2011 at 7:36 PM

    LOL - headless with no brains, perhaps
    i think it's just all about fashion and the clothes, because they certainly are attractive and eye catching dresses.

    btw: i joined in your meme ;-D

  8. lisa :) says:
    May 23, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    Ellen - I do love the clothes!

    Sarah - I hadn't considered the fact that this style does leave more to the imagination. When I see a main character on a cover it does set the description of the character in my mind.

    vvb - LOL! All too true for many heroines, I suppose. Thanks for joining the fun!

  9. SweetMarie83 says:
    May 24, 2011 at 10:16 PM

    I don't know how I missed this meme before, it's so fun! Perfect for a cover whore like me lol. I never noticed this trend before - probably because I love the dresses so much - but it is pretty funny. You do sort of have to wonder the reasoning behind it though!

  10. Casey (The Bookish Type) says:
    June 3, 2011 at 1:58 PM

    I don't think it's just historical fiction -- lots of books seem to do this and it's weird! I think maybe it's so that the characters' appearance is left up to the reader
    s imagination though.

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