Lisa Baca & Elaine Lee - Ballot Chairs

Contemporary romance covers often seem to be dominated by landscapes and cartoons. This seems odd to many coverballot members and contest voters, because those types of covers don't seem to fare as well in the voting. While contemporary tastes differ, an attractive couple or an interesting scene has broad appeal (evidenced by our top vote getters in this category).

When asked about the future of contemporary covers, several members of coverballot noted the rising number of romantic suspense books, many of which have generic looking covers that don't necessarily reflect their romantic content. Cartoon and landscape covers also seem to be continuing their popularity. And something to note about this particular slate: the voting was fairly close. The top seven covers all had at least 80 votes, which is something we don't see in every category.

Cover artist: John Ennis

For the 3rd year in a row, a John Ennis cover for Cherry Adair was the winner in the contemporary category; In Too Deep, with its close-up of a man and woman. Those who voted for it found it sexy and appealing.

Rowena on Adair's winning streak: "Cherry Adair must be one of the luckiest authors - the cover just continues with the tradition of the first two books."

Barbara chose it because the hero looked "intense and beautiful," and also because it looked like "the cover for a romance, rather than a cover for a mystery or a thriller or a mainstream novel."

Others seconded Barbara's appreciation for the hero; Ellen said, "Just your basic hubba-hubba. Whatta man, whatta man, whatta mighty good man."

Andrea found the cover sexy, but not in a tacky way: "Every time I look at this, I want to buy another copy just to keep it in my hands. Sexy and romantic - plus, we get the bare chest without being overwhelming.

Several voters really loved the hero's eyes. June said, "Irresistible eyes on that guy, and she looks like she feels safe in his arms."

The second place cover was Hearts of Fire, which shows a couple in profile, as well as the Sydney Opera House at sunset. And voters loved that Sydney skyline! For many readers, the appeal came from the cover's very obvious setting. In a category that sometimes seems doomed to generic covers, Hearts of Fire stands out as a cover that conveys the unique setting very clearly and beautifully.

This is why it caught Leanne's eye. She voted for it because "they unashamedly placed it in the country where the author lives. Sydney harbor is one of the most beautiful skylines I've ever seen."

Malvina found it to be an all-around winner: "A sexy image of two simply stunning characters, Australian or set in Australia, obvious from the stunning Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House at thebottom of the cover. She's looking a little knowing, whereas he's still 'looking around' to see what's going on. He looks like an alert bodyguard type, whereas she just wants him! Simple, striking and effective images."

Several voters also compared the cover - very favorably to a movie poster, and many used the word "cinematic" to describe the scene. Kate was one such voter: "It's classy, suggestive, and looks like the poster for a smart, cosmopolitan romantic drama."

Cover artist: Unknown

Cover artist: Unknown

Coming in third was Girls Night, with its feminine and attractive bathtub. Voters found the cover fun, original, and "girly." Jan chose it because she felt that the cover "gives the reader the impression that there is a fresh story ahead. Something relaxing, a fun read."

Many readers just wanted to climb right in that bathtub and open a good book. Bina was in this category: "Girls Night wins because it's just plain fun and perfectly depicts the title and story. In that tub is exactly where I would want to enjoy reading that book (carefully not getting the pages wet, of course)."

Others loved that the cover was so girly. For Mary, both book and cover gave her a peek into "what might have been": "The cover shows the heart of the story - loved this story - and made me wonder what I would have done if I had raised three girls instead of the three handsome boys I had."

Slow Hands took fourth place honors. Voters found it to be both sexy and tasteful, and they loved the sensual red and black colors. Battie was one fan of the color scheme: "My eyes are attracted to dark and bold covers. Not to mention that the cover matches the title (sometimes a rarity in books)."

Jennifer said: "There's something very sultry about this cover that tells you that you are about to embark on a red-hot read." Allsion found it "sultry" as well: "It evokes images of sultry southern nights and long languorous massages. Very appropriate to the title of the book."

Cover artist: Unknown

Cover artist: Unknown

Coming in fifth was Heart and Soul, which many readers who choose another cover as their first choice, named as a second choice. The reason most gave for choosing the cover is that they found it very romantic. Like the bathtub in Girls Night, it made voters want to be part of the scene.

Karen was one such voter: "Maybe it's that winter thing operating again but I want to kick off my shoes and settle in. Is there wine (and maybe chocolate) on that table?" Gail also found it romantic: "A really nice alternative to a 'clinch' cover!! Without being boring, like 'object' covers can be. This scene screams 'romance' without being tacky or juvenile, and it is intriguing and makes you want to pick up the book."

I liked several covers in this category, but I made Heart and Soul my choice as well. For me the real selling point was the combination of the moonlit water and the gorgeous font.

In sixth place was Last Chance Café, which (as more than one voter pointed out) was inspired by the Edward Hooper painting Nighthawks. Some thought this was not a mark in its favor; for them it was a little too derivative.

Carol felt differently, and explained she liked it for two reasons: "I might buy it based on the cover alone because it suggests to me a really good romance reading experience; second, it is derived from Edward Hopper's famous painting, Nighthawks, 1942, and I am a sucker for that painting, which hangs at the Chicago Institute of Art. I have it hanging across from me, in fact, as I write this! The artists who copy well-known artists' masterpieces generally do fairly well on the covers. This is no exception. (it is copying an idea, so it is not a copyright infringement)."

Other voters liked the general feel of the café, which they found to be interesting and different. This was Mary's comment: "Something about the old fashioned neon sign and the round stools at the counter are very appealing." It also got Vanessa's vote: "It's just so cool - the colors, the era, that thin sliver of moon. It's a lonely, melancholy, desperate kind of cover that seems to speak of a bittersweet story inside."

Cover artist: Unknown

Cover design: Chris Gilbert; photos: Getty & Photonica

The seventh place choice was The Healer. Several voters mentioned that they thought the publisher (Multnomah) did a good job with covers in general and with Henderson's covers in particular. Jill voted for The Healer, and chose one of Henderson's covers last year as well: "I like the red cross overlay - all of these Henderson covers have been really well done, in my opinion."

Dawn was impressed with the overall composition: "The woman draws you in but doesn't overpower the picture she shares the cover with. The images compliment each other rather than competing for the space."

AAR's Jennifer S chose it as well, citing the "simplicity and muted colors" as the deciding factors.

I Know Who Holds Tomorrow was the eighth place pick. Voters were drawn to the graceful artwork, warm colors, and the confident pose of the woman. MaryJanice was one fan of the heroine: "Gotta love this heroine. She doesn't look like she's afraid of anything."

Coverballot's Lisa, one of the contemporary co-chairs, felt that this was one of the best covers the committee found all year, and called it "beautiful and sensuous."

Several readers thought it was so beautiful artistically that they'd like to have it hanging in their living rooms. Anita was one such fan: "Take away the text and this is a work of art. I would take it, frame it and put it on my wall."

Cover artist: Unknown

Cover artist: Unknown

Coming in ninth was Ways of Grace. Those who chose it thought that the heroine shown on the cover was graceful and attractive. Catherine doesn't like the hard-edged look of many contemporaries, and thought that this one was "gently sensual in its imagery." Wendy liked that the cover reflected the story itself: "What I liked about this one was the fact that it only shows the heroine - and the story itself largely focuses on the heroine." Carolyn thought it had a "good title and inviting colors."

Rounding out the contemporary choices was Powers of Persuasion, which despite its last place showing managed to garner the votes of no less than four coverballot members, including contemporary co-chair Elaine. Elaine agreed with several voters who chose this cover because it seemed to exemplify everything romantic: "The lines and shapes are very strong and vivid in this cover. I also like the fact that the couple is facing each other and have a tender expression. This is romance." AAR/Coverballot's Teresa also loved this one: "I think this is a dynamite cover. The ultra-close-up of the hero and heroine's faces is dramatic and unlike most of the covers I've seen before. The close-up and the fact that they are clearly sharing an intimate moment make for an immediate connection with the reader and a strong desire to learn about this couple. The fact that they are also two very attractive people doesn't hurt a bit!"

Cover artist: Unknown

To the Historical with Stepback Cover Results

To the Non Historical with Stepback Cover Results

Submit a nomination for the 2003 Contest
Return to the page of Winners