Exclusive Stepback Reveal: Eloisa James’ My American Duchess

Exclusive Stepback Reveal: Eloisa James’ My American Duchess

Eloisa James knows a thing or two about romance. As the author of over 30 novels, she’s clearly an expert and authority in the genre. This made her the perfect person to explain the history and importance of stepbacks—second covers unique to the romance genre. Here, James wonders if we should step back from the stepback as ebooks begin to reign, and exclusively shares the stepback of her newest novel, My American Duchess.

In the age of ebooks, are stepbacks dated?

Do you even know what a stepback is? Stepbacks are the second covers on mass market paperbacks—generally, they offer a lush, sensual image of the hero and heroine with a hint about the plot. In older stepbacks, the heroine often clings to the semi-dressed hero, as in Brenda Joyce’s The Conquerer. Never mind the size of Rolfe de Warenne’s sword; Fabio has clearly vanquished the heroine’s heart.


But are covers like these as out of date as the heroine’s posture? After all, stepbacks only appear in printed books. Electronic readers display the cover of a book, but the stepback is left behind.

Should we just let the stepback gently pass into publishing history?

I don’t think so! Romances are not read not just for the romance; readers choose to escape to a specific place or time, whether it’s a cozy small town or a Regency ballroom. The stepback puts the hero and heroine in that world, giving the reader’s imagination a reference point.

I’m very proud to present (for the very first time!), the stepback of my next novel, My American Duchess, which will be published on January 26, 2016.

Isn’t it gorgeous? We see the swoop of Merry’s gown, the jewels in her hair, elegant flowers, exquisite furniture. This painting invites the reader into her world, one that doesn’t include fractious teenagers or piles of laundry. I was very happy to spend time there—and I hope you will be, too!

What do you think? Are stepbacks dinosaurs, or should we fight to get them into every romance, no matter its format?  And while we’re at it, what’s your absolute favorite stepback? Post a link in the comments!


Eloisa James is a USA Today and New York Times bestselling author and professor of English literature, who lives with her family in New York but can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. (Her husband is an honest-to-goodness Italian knight!) Eloisa’s website offers short stories, extra chapters, and even a guide to shopping in Florence.


  1. I love the stepbacks! I only wish they were included in the e-format as well. Sometimes you don’t even get the cover art-it’s become more like a title page instead.

  2. I love stepbacks showing the hero (and, okay, I can live with the heroine, too). In fact, I buy books for their cover or stepback art since I don’t re-read books (there’s always something new to read so I just don’t have time). If there’s no nice art with people, then I just get the book from the library. There are so many stepbacks that I love but Jon Paul, Alan Ayers, and Aleta Rafton are some of my favorite artists (Elaine Duillo who painted the Fabio art above was also a wonderful artist). Happily, Eloisa’s books very often have lovely artwork and this is another one.

  3. I love the stepbacks. I think they make the books look and feel richer, and you get a better sense of what the hero and heroine are like. I think ebooks should show the stepback. It isn’t that hard to add one more page to a digital file. They could even put it at the back of the book if they didn’t want to mess up the page count.

  4. I think they should definitely keep the stepbacks. The ones with Eloisa’s novels are always gorgeous! I really wish they included them with the ebooks, and I also wish the ebooks started with the cover. Mine always starts with the book, and I go back to look at the cover. That kind of stuff is important. :)

  5. I still get excited when I see the stepbacks! Its almost as if they are rare at this point which is sad. I’ve been known to accumulate more than one copy of a book simply because once I find the edition with the stepback…I’ll buy it again.

  6. I am a stepback collector! I love the Regency period and the beautiful gowns (like the one above) on display. I wish they would include the stepback in ebooks then I could decide if I wanted to spring for the paperback, as well as the ebook in order to add the stepback to my collection. :)

  7. I enjoy step backs that are correct for the book. correct hair color, etc. If you take the time put just as much effort to get artwork consistent. ie in book she is a redhead, but black hair on artwork..is he cheating already???!?

  8. Please keep doing the Stepbacks. As Ms James said, ” it is a reference point for the hero and heroine” to fill our imagination as we read a story out of our time. When there is no stepback of the characters, I search in my mind for faces fir the characters. I selfishly choose the stepback in making my book purchases.

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