Book publisher Harlequin is looking for a few good-looking men to grace the covers of its romance novels. So what, you might ask, is wrong with the male models that traditionally grace the covers? Apparently, they're too small in the pec department, for one thing.
Representatives of Harlequin Enterprises, the world’s biggest publisher of romance novel series, inspected the assets of about 200 men who lined up at a Toronto casting house on Saturday to prove they could flutter readers’ hearts better than professional models.
"We're looking for some guys that are not your usual models, but have that iconic look that women go for -- sexy, sensitive, beautiful and fit," said Harlequin spokeswoman Marleah Stout, who attended the open casting.
"We want real men ... exactly what you think in your mind when you're fantasizing or imagining that ideal man."
Toronto-based Harlequin, a division of newspaper group Torstar Corp., sold 131 million books in 94 countries last year. It estimates that a third of American women have read at least one of its titles.
Until now, the publisher relied on modeling agencies to supply bodies for its concupiscent covers. But the readership -- predominantly female and averaging 42 years of age -- was upset when slight, young cover models clashed with the brawny, mature heroes described within.
"Some of the heroes are captains of industry, billionaires," said Deborah Peterson, a Harlequin creative designer and a judge at the audition. "A lot of the models were too young, men in their twenties ... and our audience likes men a little bit older, a bit bigger, than the runway models."
We went browsing through the romance titles on our to be read shelf, and we were struck by how many romance novels don't even have men on the covers at all. We're seeing more women on the covers and cartoon characters. Lots of cartoons. Oh, and lots of vampire covers. Those are super hot. But back to Harlequin's troubles. We think they should chat with Christine Feehan, who writes a gazillion bestsellers for both Leisure Books and Berkley. She and her publishers' art department seems to have the macho cover thing down cold. And, of course, we read everything she writes. In fact, we are getting quite grumpy waiting for the arrival of the next Carpathian book, Dark Possession, which is due out in August, 2007 from Berkley.