Cover art can show more than just passionate clinches. These armed heroines are fierce! Whether it’s aiming a bow and arrow, wielding a sword, holding a slingshot, or brandishing a rifle, these armed women mean business. These are strong women who know how to defend themselves.
But is that enough to keep the hero at bay?
Let’s take a look at covers featuring heroines who can protect themselves in different ways.
For the week of Monday, November 7, 2022, to Sunday, November 13, 2022, our Covers of the Week #77 focuses on romances featuring armed heroines who are in control and in charge.
Gordon Merrick, Victor Gadino, and Peter and Charlie
Gordon Merrick created the legendary and popular Peter & Charlie gay romance series. The trilogy portrayed the first mainstream love story between two men that concluded happily ever after.
The books provided another milestone for same-sex fiction when reprinted in the 1980s. A young artist named Victor Gadino illustrated the iconic clinch covers. Never before had male couples been pictured so intimately on the front of romance novels.
On the front of The Lord Won’t Mind, the blond pair are gazing into each other’s eyes and reaching out to hold hands.
Gordon Merrick, Writer of Gay Melodramas and Romances
Gordon Merrick was born in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, in 1916. The new 20th century was moving on a more socially liberal trajectory. Merrick would be part of that cultural momentum.
The son of a stockbroker, Merrick studied French Literature at Princeton. He then got into acting, performing in several Broadway productions. Later, Merrick became a television screenwriter and journalist.
Merrick made history as one of the first novelists to depict graphic homosexual fiction for a mass audience. His tawdry novels were full of melodrama, sex, and beautiful men. Usually, they concluded in heartache for the main characters. Merrick’s books were tantalizing reads akin to those of Harold Robbins, Judith Krantz, or Jackie Collins, only much gayer.
Modern readers might chuckle at the almost-innocent vulgarity and campy nature of his works. Or they may cluck their tongues at the “outdated” themes and unapologetic preference for ultra-glamorous, gorgeous, continent-hopping, wealthy protagonists. Merrick essentially wrote man-on-man bodice rippers, after all.
Merrick wrote fourteen books over 40 years. He would die in Sri Lanka in 1988.
His final novel, The Good Life, was co-authored with his partner, Charles Hulse, and published after his death. Like most of Merrick’s books, it was a bestseller.
Merrick’s Peter and Charlie Trilogy
The Lord Won’t Mind, the First Mainstream Gay Romance (Sort of)
Merrick’s piece de resistance, The Lord Won’t Mind, came out in hardcover in 1970. The book told the turbulent and forbidden love story of two beautiful, blond Ivy Leaguers–one named Peter and the other Charlie.
It was a graphic page-turner and sold like pancakes at the old World’s Fair. The Lord Won’t Mind spent four months on the New York Times bestseller list.
The mass-market paperback edition was then released by the publishing house Avon in 1971. This was a year before they gambled on Kathleen Woodiwiss‘ slush-pile manuscript for The Flame and the Flower.