My favourite jacket this year would be Jo Carnegie’s HORSE PLAY. A strong, sexy story needs a strong, sexy cover, and I love the clean, smart look of this novel that manages to pull off that rare thing: sauce and sophistication.
Everything we need to know is positioned brilliantly, from the scratched stable door (what have they been doing?) to the cover girl’s tousled blonde mane and loose-fitting shirt. We’re guaranteed riding and naughtiness, if they aren’t one and the same, and this basic partnership is echoed effectively in the title. We’ve got horses; we’ve got play. What more do we need?
The typeface is polished, confident in its simplicity, with just that frisky tail on the R to lift it off the page. Slicing through the title is that ultimate of English-countryside-bonkbuster staples: the riding crop. This is subtly placed, drawing our attention because of where it is but not overcooking its role, and for me this is where the cover gets clever: it’s a relatively small detail but at the same time crucial – without it, the sex is lost. And yet, as with so much in the art of seduction, its understatement is its power.
For me, HORSE PLAY deserves its accolade because of how it sits alongside the Jilly Cooper classics while still carving a niche for itself. Many covers attempt to replicate the impact of RIDERS and POLO without success – at worst not a patch and at best derivative. HORSE PLAY has it nailed. After careful and serious analysis, I’ve decided it’s all in the bottom: a bum in tight trousers is inherently Jilly . . . that sounds wrong, but it’s true. Combined with the big unapologetic slam of the title, her books are brought to mind but they don’t overwhelm. Here we swop jodhpurs for jeans, there’s no male hand creeping in for a pervy squeeze (today he’d get slapped away) and the colours are comfortably different. Reminding readers of a much-loved bestseller while standing your own ground is difficult, and I think HORSE PLAY achieves it to perfection.
When I saw this cover back in January, I instantly thought, Yes. These books should look stylish and strong and pack a solid punch: it’s what bonkbusters are all about. HORSE PLAY does it with aplomb. Oh, and I’m loving the red boots.
Victoria Fox is the author of Hollywood Sinners and the upcoming Temptation Island. You can visit her website here.