Case Study 33

Title: The Abominable Mr. Darcy

Author: J. Dawn King

Designer: JD Smith Design

Genre: Romance

Graphics: The Mr. Darcy who is abominable is, of course, the character from Pride and Prejudice. As in the original, here he is the love interest of Elizabeth Bennet. She is joined by others from the 1813 novel. This book takes Janes Austen’s characters in its own directions.

Thus this book is a period-piece romance (and fan fiction). How to convey that graphically? What better than a partial image of Mr. Darcy? That’s what we have: just enough of his clothing to suggest the period and his relative wealth, though some might say that they have seen footmen as well attired.

However that may be, this cover’s image works, though it isn’t clear what the jumble behind Mr. Darcy’s shoulder might be. To me the jumble looks like boulders. To someone else it may look like ruins of a fine house or church. I think I would have preferred a distant aspect of a building, the further to suggest the era, but that’s a quibble.

Typography: The author has written nine novels based on the Pride and Prejudice characters. Four of them include “Mr. Darcy” in the title, so they seem to be variants on a theme. All of them have as their largest text the name of the author, not the title of the book. This is contrary to the usual convention for books, but it’s common for series, particularly when the author is well known.

So far as I can gather from the rankings at Amazon, the author isn’t widely known to the general public, but she may be well known to a niche. That may be why her designer chose to highlight her name rather than the titles of the several books. Another reason may be that romance novels don’t tend toward novelty, especially those in a series. They often are close variants on one another, and readers buy them not so much for deep and well-delineated plot lines but for leisure reading.

To these readers the important thing is to get that next book by a favorite author, the story itself being of secondary concern. We see this with Stephen King and John Grisham, for example. The most prominent text on their covers always is their names. Titles take second place. Fans of King or Grisham buy their books regardless of storyline. So it is with some romance writers.

We find the title, The Abominable Mr. Darcy, in small letters at the bottom of the cover—small but legible enough since the thin white letters are laid atop solid black. The author name is in a light blue that would be too faint if the name were in letters as small as the title, but the name is so large that nearly any color would stand out sufficiently.

The only other text on the cover is the series tagline, “A Pride and Prejudice Variation.” On each book in the series this text is placed at the top between two thin rules. On this cover the tagline is legible and obscures nothing. On some of the others it doesn’t stand out well against a busy or light background, or it obscures a character’s face.

Overall: Romance is one of those genres that has distinct sub-genres, one being Regency romance, which is what this book and the others in the series fall into. The partial image of the man immediately suggests such a time frame, and a reader’s guess as to the era is reinforced by the tagline.

Anyone familiar with Pride and Prejudice will see elements of the cover come together immediately. A stranger to Jane Austen might be unsure of this book’s genre, but little matter: someone unfamiliar with Austen wouldn’t be attracted to this book regardless.