Is Jean Plaidy Blushing in Her Grave?

As promised a few posts ago, here’s a picture of my latest acquisition: a 1950’s paperback of Madame Serpent by Jean Plaidy. The heroine is Catherine d’Medici, and judging from her state of undress, the weather must have been quite balmy in France at the time. I haven’t read the book yet (and won’t be reading this copy; it’s too fragile), but it’s probably safe to say that Plaidy didn’t write anything that quite lives up to the promise of the cover.

Here, by way of contrast, is the cover from the recent UK reissue of Madame Serpent.

It’s just not the same, is it?

18 thoughts on “Is Jean Plaidy Blushing in Her Grave?”

  1. Catherine Delors

    Now these covers are fun: the old one has no clothes, and the new one has no face!
    I am finishing a post on book covers for tomorrow and, if you don’t mind, I will link to this.

  2. I have not seen this one before – how wonderful! (in that cheesy, tacky, shake head in disbelief kind of way). It’s amazing how racy some of those 1950’s covers are! And this is not how I pictured Catherine d’Medici – she would probably be flattered.

  3. If that’s supposed to be Catherine, I wonder what that artist would make of Diane de Poitiers.

  4. Catherine Delors

    Diane was 20 years older than Catherine, but by all accounts she looked better… I must say this shows Catherine in a new light, doesn’t it?

  5. Can someone please explain this new cover genre “the headless woman”? It was interesting the first time but now I actually prefer the tacky covers to that.

  6. Hmmmm… headless women… must be some sort of Freudian theory somewhere about that!

    I certainly prefer the modern cover! It is strange that in a racier age, the picture is much more modest than in the 50’s when such things were tutted at. Still, I bet it helped to sell the book!

  7. Catherine Delors

    Sarah, if you own those books, why not do your own toga post? That’s historical fiction too!

  8. I couldn’t find too many toga ones (they must be hidden behind other books on my shelf) but I did some up with some more spectacularly tacky examples!

  9. suburbanbeatnik

    Thanks again for the link, Sarah! So, you actually own most of these books? Which ones?

  10. You’re welcome! I thought the cover paintings were totally trashy.

    I own copies of the first three, although my copy of Messalina has a different cover (which is just as bad if not worse, if you count the raunchy tag line). For a while I went through a phase where I collected any and all historical novels about royalty, and there were definitely some dodgy ones in the bunch. But for others, the most tawdry part of the novel was the cover, just like with Plaidy.

  11. suburbanbeatnik

    Hmmm, I just looked at your version of Messalina, and I think I prefer the James Bama cover. His Messalina is younger and cuter, and she seems closer to the kittenish sexpot described in the book. (Which is pretty vulgar, by the way. But not quite as vulgar as the toga porn potboilers published ten years later.)

    But it’s true that the tawdry covers of the ’50s often disguised an innocuous story. That reminds me of Tom Ewell’s job at the pulp publishing company in “The Seven Year Itch.” There was one scene where he was approving a risque painting of half undressed college girls for a reissue of “Little Women.” Ah, the good old days!

  12. My word, would you look at Catherine? She’s channeling Messalina. I’ve been in the trenches, cutting – at editor’s request – 200 pages from my Catherine de Medici manuscript, so this has livened up my day considerably. I have the original hardcover of Plaidy’s “Queen Jezebel” and it’s pretty tacky, but this gets the prize. Love it.

  13. Carolina Gal's Literary Cafe

    That is probably the reason I did not like to read historical fiction. Yes, I quess I am a prude. But I always thought historical fiction was alway cheap romance. I never did like romance novels. I just started reading Historical fiction again because most of the covers did not have naked ladies. I assume most historical fiction did not have racy stories. But because what was on the cover I presumed this. I missed out alot.

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