When it comes to romance novels, it's hard to adhere to the old adage about judging books by their covers. Whether or not the assumption is fair, when we see Fabio's biceps clamped around a helpless-looking woman, we assume some bodices will be ripped during the pages within.
The too-sultry aesthetic of these covers may seem a little outdated--does every modern woman seeking a page-turner or beach read really want an oily man who subsists on nothing but raw eggs, protein shakes and his own testosterone? So it comes as no surprise that the first romance novel covers, which started popping up everywhere in the 40s, were designed by "the same illustrators who put detectives and bad girls on the covers of pulp fiction."
The tradition stuck. And why not? Sex sells.
TIME recently released a behind-the-scenes look at a romance novel photo shoot. The director of the shoot acknowledges the difference between "seducing" the reader and "abusing" or "overcoming" them, as model Marcus Ricci poses as a smoke jumper, firefighter and cowboy.
"The fantasy is that this is the man who is gonna jump out of planes to rescue me in any situation," she says.
Correction: the model's name in the piece was originally misspelled. It has since been corrected.
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