Julie Cooper Tells All: 'The Perfect Gentleman' Cover
This cover for The Perfect Gentleman was kismet, or at least it feels so to me. When cover discussions began, the excellent publishers at Quills & Quartos sent over some book cover sites to surf for ideas. A few evenings later, I was browsing one of those suggested sites when I found one I loved. It showed the hero (albeit of the wrong historic period) pictured with just enough specifics to pique the imagination. I don’t know about you, but I don’t care to have my cover heroes depicted in too much detail…they invariably have the wrong nose, eyes, or hair, are too young or too old, are Matthew Macfadyen when you prefer Colin Firth (or vice versa—I don’t judge!). And since this story starts out with a most unusual Regency Road Trip, the sample cover’s prominent speeding carriage seemed especially appropriate.
I immediately pinned it to my The Perfect Gentleman inspo board on Pinterest and just as I did so, my email program pinged with an incoming email from one of the Q & Q publishers, sending me a link to—you guessed it, the exact same cover.
With fate so proficiently assisting the selection process, the rest was easy.
The back cover also has its story. The Perfect Gentleman’s entirely fictional (of course) Elizabeth Bennet is a talented artist, lacking only education and opportunity to achieve greatness. Her quest to become all she can be is a major plot point of The Perfect Gentleman, and her willingness to take risks and overcome challenges are part of what initially draws our Mr Darcy into her orbit.
Of course, we all know that Mr Darcy comprehends a great deal in his idea of an accomplished woman. I wanted to show that The Perfect Gentleman’s Elizabeth possesses that certain something more substantial, “of capacity, taste, application, and elegance united.” No artwork could be a more appropriate representation of true artistic accomplishment and achievement than the statue of A veiled Vestal Virgin by Raffaelle Monti. The statue was featured in the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice in Pemberley’s fictional collection—unless of course, you despise the 2005 P&P movie version, in which case its claim to fame is a recent showing at Sotheby’s in New York City, as part of the exciting Treasures from Chatsworth exhibition. Either way.
The Vestals were virgin priestesses whose lives were dedicated to the goddess Vesta in ancient Rome. Their job? Tending the sacred fires burning on Vesta’s altar in her temple. They were regarded as fundamental to the safety of Rome. The discovery of a “House of the Vestals” in Pompeii in the 18th century made Vestals a popular artistic subject matter for many years thereafter, so it’s no wonder that the 6th Duke of Devonshire commissioned the one pictured on The Perfect Gentleman’s back cover from Monti’s studio in Milan.
It seems entirely fitting that A veiled Vestal Virgin—an artwork whose technique was so important to early 19th century sculptors and which is so beloved today by fans of the Regency period—should represent Elizabeth’s quest to become the very best artist of her time. With instruction from her very Italian, very gifted, and very temperamental art master, will she be able to achieve such mastery? Or will an anal-retentive, judgmental housekeeper and a nefarious villain combine to create a dangerous, even deadly situation, snuffing out her artistic ambitions before they can flourish?
What part does this beautiful statue play in Elizabeth’s story? Will she achieve greatness only in death? I hope you will open these beautiful covers and find out!