Elaine Duillo

Elaine Duillo

The Queen of Romance Illustrations

Early Life and Family

Elaine Duillo is the undisputed Queen of romance covers. Like Harry Bennett and Robert McGinnis, she had her start in pulp fiction before moving on to Gothics and romance. She was a giant in the competitive field of pulp artwork, where women were few and far between.

Duillo painted hundreds of book covers. She was an inductee of the prestigious Illustrators Hall of fame.

Born in 1928, Duillo was the matriarch of a talented artistic family. She was married to artist John Duillo. Her daughter Melissa Duillo-Gallo also created romance covers that were influenced by Elaine.

Elaine the Artist

This amazing artist influenced generations of illustrators and revolutionized romance cover art. She helped give rise to the pop culture phenom Fabio.

Although she created many gorgeous stepbacks, or “tip-ins,” as those in the industry called them, Duillo was not a fan. She believed the eye-catching covers she designed were meant to be seen, not hidden away. Yes, to that, I say. Display those gorgeous illustrations displayed proudly!

Back in the day, Elaine Duillo covers guaranteed you were reading a juicy bodice ripper. One only has to look at the step-back cover of Brenda Joyce’s The Conqueror, where the red-haired heroine kneels at the Fabios’s feet, clasping his thighs, while a two-headed flail hangs from his belt as he grips his long sword, and the scene topped off by a stallion rearing in the background, to see Duillo’s cheeky nature on display.

Step-back interior of The Conqueror, Brenda Joyce, Dell, 1990

Not only did Duillo have a great rapport with the models who posed for her acrylic-based paintings, but she was also often close friends with the authors, such as the late Bertrice Small and Janelle Taylor.

Wild Jasmine, Bertrice Small, Ballantine 1992


Duillo understood and appreciated the nature of the campy, pulpy books her artwork graced and it shows she had a blast working on them.

Her paintings graced the covers of so many romance icons: Johanna Lindsey, Bertrice Small, Rebecca Brandewyne, Valerie Sherwood, Shirlee Busbee, Jennifer Wilde, Janelle Taylor, and many more.

Sadly, she passed away on July 30, 2021, at the age of 93.

A Moment In Time, Bertrice Small, Ballantine 1991

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