What Really Happens at a Romance Novel Cover Shoot

KATHLEEN KAMPHAUSEN

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Whether you’re a romance reader or not, you’re likely familiar with the concept of romance novel covers. No matter the subgenre, shirtless men often play a large part, whether they’re wearing period-adjacent pants (historical), baring their vampire fangs (paranormal), or holding a prop related to their athletic career (sports). This latter category arguably takes shirtless-ness the most seriously, for obvious reasons: The most convincing cover athletes are the ones who are totally jacked.

Jaci sprays Derek down so his pectorals will properly glisten.

KATHLEEN KAMPHAUSEN

No one knows this better than Jaci Burton, author of the sports-heavy Play by Play series, which features heroes who play baseball, football, hockey, and more. Back in April, she visited the set of the cover shoot for Shot on Gold (out Feb. 13, 2018), the 14th novel in the Play by Play by series and her 78th book overall. Though she’s been writing romance for more than a decade, she had never actually watched a cover get made. As she puts it, covers aren’t her “area of expertise,” so she usually gives the art department whatever relevant appearance details they need and just lets them do their thing. “Here’s a sport, put a hot guy on the cover,” she jokes.

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Derek tries on some hockey gloves.

KATHLEEN KAMPHAUSEN

For Shot on Gold, Jaci’s publicist enlisted a personal trainer named Derek to stand in for Will “Mad Dog” Madigan, a hockey player who falls in love with a figure skater while competing in the Olympics. At the time of the shoot, though, Derek didn’t know any of this — Jaci was still writing the book, and no plot…

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