Jann "Jaycee" Muhlhauser - Ballot Chair

This category is a new one for us this year, and is something of an experiment. We collected several non-historical step back covers, but there weren't quite enough to run a full ballot; nonetheless, we thought they deserved to be presented in their own right. The covers in this category include covers that have a eligible 2nd image but are not historical.

The clear winner in this category was Wild, which received substantially more votes than the cover in second place. More than one reader said she'd buy the book for the cover alone.

Readers were quite forthright when they gave the reason for their choice; they all thought the model was hot!

Cover artist: Unknown

Though Jan quipped, "Darn the photographer, he cropped the picture a little too high."

Caroline spoke for many when she gave her reason for choosing Wild above the rest: "Are you kidding me? Abs, abs, abs."

For many readers, the very heart of this cover's appeal was that it's a stepback. They loved that the front was an understated floral design while the inside had the hottie. Wanderleya called it the best of both worlds: "The picture is amazing. The orchid is beautiful and then you turn the page and bam! you find eye candy."

Karen liked that you could enjoy the sexy man without having to flaunt his six-pack to all your co-workers.

The second place cover, Always in My Heart, appealed to readers at the other end of the spectrum. Many chose it because they liked the mood it evoked, which they described as dreamy, romantic, and serene. Just looking at the quiet scene made them want to be there.

Maudeen chose it because "It just says 'pick me up and read me,' and evokes such a calm, loving emotion".

Carolyn found it "artistically pretty" with a "nice blending of colors" and "inviting nature scene."

And Wendy loves "the peacefulness of this cover - the lake and the mountains. I also like how the hero and heroine are 'isolated' - like they are the only two people in the world at that one moment."

Cover artist: Unknown

Cover artist: Douglas Case; design: George Long

The third place choice was Broken Honor, which seems to appeal to two different groups of people. Many chose it because they found it classy and tasteful. They liked that the military theme was present on both covers, and they liked that it actually represented the characters in the book. Several readers commented that they were glad to see "normal people" on a cover.

June had this to say: "While the other covers are eye-catching, I like the sexy yet understated hero and heroine poses the best. This is an excellent example of that sort of cover - strong color with simple design on the outer cover with a sexy, grownup inner picture."

The other contingent of voters chose it because they love a man in uniform (the exact phraseology on nearly half of the comments). Sarah was part of this group: "I admit it, I'm a sucker for a guy in uniform. That, and this hero looks like the sort of guy you could curl up with and be completely safe. Haven't read the book, but I would just to get to spend some time with him."

Those who voted for the fourth place Heart of a Warrior were somewhat similar to those who voted for the first place Wild. They found Warrior sexy and provocative, and many particularly liked the red sheets. Kestra had this to say: "I love all the red...I don't usually gravitate toward clinch covers, but this is by Elaine Duillo, and has all the energy I expect from a Duillo cover. I like the way the arrangement of the limbs, and the folds in the sheets complement each other, like there is a ring around the lovers."

For some readers, like Carrie, the cover had a nostalgic appeal: "Now here is a beautiful old-fashioned romance novel cover. And look at his hair, it's almost longer than hers."

And from Bertrice Small, "It's Elaine Duillo's next-to-last cover before her retirement. And it's gorgeous!"

Cover artist: Elaine Duillo

Ritual of Proof was the fifth place choice, and the top pick of several coverballot members, including Jaycee, who provided this thoughtful analysis of her choice: "For some reason, the fact that the couple aren't your usual 'drop dead gorgeous' people appeals to me. The Potter cover/sb is very nice, timely even, Susan Andersen's cartoon cover is cute, Wild is, well, wild, the Seidel cover/sb combo is OK, the Lindsey cover has been done to death. This leaves Ritual of Proof and the Anderson landscape, both of which appeal in different ways. But the deciding factor for me was the cover itself. Ritual of Proof kept drawing my eye back to it time and time again, while I could have easily overlooked the Catherine Anderson cover on the bookshelf. I love the stepback on Always in My Heart, but ROP gets my vote for #1 because I like both cover and stepback much more than AIMH. Simple deductive reasoning for me. <g>"

Cover artist: Unknown

Another very common refrain among voters who made this choice was the idea of equality. They liked the heroine was shown as strong rather than weak or submissive.

Ann said, "Ritual of Proof looks to be a match of equals. The woman isn't unnaturally submissive or waif-like and the man, while in dire need of a head transplant, has the body of an angel. A lusty match between equals wins every time."

The sixth place choice was Please Remember This, which seemed to attract the same type of readers who voted for Always in My Heart. Readers liked its serenity, composition, and floral design.

Peg liked that the cover design reflected the content of the book: "The picture of a sweet old-fashioned garden perfectly represents the contents: a young woman returns to her mother's birthplace, a small mid-western town, and opens a cafe."

Sandra liked that it was "a thoughtful, reflective cover that invites the reader to go through that gate at the end of the path."

Cover artist: Unknown

Cover artist: Pino Daeni

The seventh place cover was Head Over Heels, which seemed to be snubbed by many because it was a cartoon cover. On the other hand, those that voted for it chose it for exactly that reason. Common adjectives used to describe this one were fun, flirtatious, and modern.

Kate made it her choice: "It's fun, sexy, modern, and a refreshing change from the lusty clinches and tepid Thomas Kincaid landscapes that tend to populate step-covers."

I made it my choice as well. I am a big fan of cartoon covers on contemporaries, and I thought this one had the perfect tone for the book.

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