My Fair Concubine – Cover Kibitz

The cover for My Fair Concubine had so much to it that there’s a lot to kibitz about. But first things first…

Last week I took entries in the Guess My Cover Contest on what the cover would look like based on the info I gave to the Harlequin art department. The winner of the closest guess goes to:


I’m basing my judgment on the fact that she guessed the hero would be dressed like the still from Red Cliff and standing behind Yan Ling. I think that’s definitely the reference picture they used to get his look.

Best guess goes to:

Beth Matthews

I liked the sensual description of the hero and the heroine and I love the idea of architecture in the background to show the urban setting of the story.

Author copies arrive next month. I’ll contact the winners to get their address so I can send the books to you a month before release date. 🙂


I like to do these cover discussion posts because it’s so interesting how the stories get translated into artwork. The cover artists don’t read the book usually, but they do get a lot of input from the editor and author. Of course, my vision never matches up completely with the marketing department’s vision, but that’s the nature of the beast.

Also, Tang Dynasty fashion is sort of a new thing for Harlequin. I feel they’ve done a spectacular job recreating the look and feel. I like to discuss the costuming and historical appropriateness for those who are into costuming.

So first off — This cover, like the ones before, definitely stands out. When the Butterfly Swords cover was revealed, I thought it was dramatic and I loved that she was wielding a sword, but I was worried that it didn’t look really “romance-y”. Since then, the next two novels have definitely conveyed the lush and sensual tone that I hope comes out in my books.

I love the peach blossoms in the background and the echo of it in Yan Ling’s hair. The romance takes place in spring/summer as well so it’s just a really nice touch.

The hero – Wow! He’s intense. I mentioned that he sort of reminds me of the desert bandit Lo from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Mostly because of the wild hair and high cheekbones.

I’m glad to give some hot Asian dudes a chance to be cover models. 😉

I was surprised that Yan Ling was actually facing away from camera. It makes the cover center around the hero…just a first for my covers.

Let’s talk about hair and clothing now. This cover is the most accurate depiction I’ve gotten of Tang Dynasty clothing and hair style to date. Yan Ling’s hair ornaments and how her hair is partially pinned up and partially down is spot on. I always envisioned Yang Guifei’s famous “Falling off a horse” hairstyle to be something like this part up, part down look. (You’re looking at me like I’m crazy — this was truly a famous hairstyle of the time. I’ve said before that the palace concubines were like the supermodels of the Tang Dynasty).

Her clothing is also very appropriate in terms of the sash and the flowing sleeves. The Dragon and the Pearl cover showed Suyin with a sexier look, but she was a courtesan and a much sexier character.

Now for Fei Long, the hero. His hair is long — which is appropriate to the era — but it’s not tied up in a top knot. This makes him look like a rebel. He’s also in period appropriate armor, but I sort of struggled with that image. The character does have a military position, but we never see him on the battlefield. Military officers were expected to be gentlemen, well-versed in poetry, music, and calligraphy. This plays a huge part in the characterizations in the movie Red Cliff, if you’ve seen it. It also plays a huge part in My Fair Concubine.

My Fei Long is more “buttoned-down” and understated. He’s well-educated and a bit of a square, a la Henry Higgins. The cover Fei Long looks ready to fight off a horde of invaders! Author Inez Kelley, one of my most trusted readers, noted that she could see this guy as Li Tao. I’d agree — if you switch the hero from The Dragon and the Pearl with this hero, it might work. Though that dude was perfect for the quiet power of Li Tao.

And I have a sword on my cover! It looks to be a jian too, as I noted. I’m so impressed that they paid such attention to detail. I’m hoping that the art department is having a good time working on these covers since they’re such a departure from the current repertoire.

All things considered — Does Harlequin know how to bring the drama, or what?

My Fair Concubine – Guess My Cover Contest

It’s three months until the release of MY FAIR CONCUBINE (May 22 – print, June 1 – ebook) which means about now is when I get antsy wondering what my next cover is going to look like.

The joke in the industry is that we, as authors, fill out all sorts of detailed story information to help the publisher come up with the cover. Then marketing just ignores it and puts whatever they want. I have no reason to complain as the cover gods have been quite kind to me, but I thought it would be fun to let everyone in on the “guess my next cover” game.

So, I’m going to provide the information I gave to Harlequin regarding MY FAIR CONCUBINE. You’ll guess what the cover will look like. Closest guess gets an advance autographed copy of  My Fair Concubine. Best guess — meaning the concept I like best that didn’t make the actual cover — will also win a copy.

For Harlequin, we actually have a detailed Art Fact Sheet website where authors are supposed to input story summaries, character descriptions, themes, scenes, links to relevant pictures, the works. It’s quite detailed. Sometimes your editor goes in to input the info, but it’s supposed to be the author’s responsibility. For My Fair Concubine, the team began working on the cover early so my editor gave them some details and they gave me a list of questions.

Unofficial story summary:

Chang Fei Long has been called back home upon the death of his father to learn that the family is swimming in debt. Before his death, his father arranged for Fei Long’s sister to become an alliance bride to regain favor with the imperial court. When Pearl begs for mercy, he can’t bring himself to force her into marriage and exile to a barbarian land. As a result, he has to come up with another false princess to go in her place.

Yan Ling is a servant at the tea house where Fei Long goes to brood about his troubles. When she mistakes his musings as a proposition for sex, she dumps a pot of tea on him and gets thrown out into the streets. Now homeless and destitute, Yan Ling begrudgingly accepts Fei Long’s offer to train her as a replacement princess.

This lighter look into Tang Dynasty culture takes place in the capital city of Changan, going from courtyard mansions to the infamous entertainment district to the seedier parts of the city. In an homage to the classic story of My Fair Lady, Fei Long and Yan Ling are joined by a clever maid and a flamboyant actor as they work to fool imperial rivals and navigate the complicated landscape of their growing attraction.

My editor asked for some reference pictures and I sent her some of the pictures that I had used for research. Also I let her know that I used many visual references from the movie “House of Flying Daggers” for the hero.

And some additional info the art department asked for with my answers:

Ø Specific colour description of heroine’s robe
Ø Is it a kimono type robe?
Jeannie: The robe looks very similar to a kimono, but less elaborate and more wearable and mobile.  Hanfu robes were actually the style that inspired Japanese kimono. The best examples of authentic Tang Dynasty robes can be found here:

The hanfu is always folded left over right. The more revealing styles with bared shoulders or neckline are for song girls and courtesans. (ex: WHF-049). Young ladies of noble birth in the capital would wear something loose and flowing often mixing a lot of layers and colors. (ex. WHF-059)

Ø What type of sword is the hero carrying?
Jeannie: The sword is a straight-bladed Chinese jian. Considered the gentleman of swords, it’s the one most likely carried by an officer and a nobleman. (see picture)

Ø What would a squad captain wear?
Jeannie: Soldiers are often depicted in armor, but that may not be realistic for being off the battlefield. I included three reference pictures. The drawing is a bit closer to theater costume which is often exaggerated but I hope they help to give an feel. (see pictures)

Ø And would the horse be dressed up too?
Jeannie: The horse would not be dressed up.

Reference pictures:

Note: In my mind, I actually had Takeshi Kaneshiro (House of Flying Daggers, Red Cliff) in mind for a secondary character, Li Bai Shen, but hey…he’s not bad hero material either.

All of this has me expecting a pretty kickass cover…but you can never tell what the final version will look like. So join me in the waiting game and guess my next cover.

To enter:

Comment and let me know what you think will be shown on the cover. Will both the hero and heroine be shown? How will they be dressed…or how undressed will they be? *tee hee* What will the color scheme be? What about the background?

And oh yes, will the hero have a whole head? Half a head? Or no head at all? 🙂

Closest guess and best guess wins a copy of MY FAIR CONCUBINE when I get my author copies a month before release.

Contest ends when my cover is revealed, which I’m hoping for within the next two weeks. *giddy*