Linnae Crady - Ballot chair

The Series category continues to improve in both variety and quality. When we first began this contest, we had trouble finding enough good series covers to fill a ballot. Now Series receives the highest number of nominations, and covers show anything from landscapes to steamy Blaze poses. Category head Linnae had some interesting observations about her vibrant category:

"Series covers published in 2002 offered readers a tantalizing piece of the romantic puzzle, one moment in time, captured visually, tempting readers to investigate the romantic story inside. Cover artists often stepped beyond the traditional cover formula - you know the one - where the hero and heroine, along with babies, children and pets are posed amid the story's geographical setting.

"Instead, we were treated to intense, sensual close-ups, the solitary hero/heroine, blurred images and blended theme montages. Many of the covers focused on certain aspects of the human form rather than the whole. Series 2002 covers showcased bare legs, muscled chests, exposed shoulders and sexy backs shot from any and all angles. Some covers hit the target dead center while others missed the mark. Series covers in 2002 were definitely not our mother's romance covers, my compliments to the artists for coloring outside the lines."

Harlequin Superromance
Cover artist: Jon Paul

This year the top vote getter was The Man on the Cliff, which intrigued voters with its seascape scene and retreating male figure. Everyone wanted to know where he was going, and several mentioned that they bought the book just so they could find out. Voters also praised its originality and subtlety - they liked that they could take it on the train or read it in the office and not be embarrassed.

Kristie chose it as her favorite: "There's something haunting about this cover. The waves crashing, the rocky coastline, the castle in the background with the man looking towards it. I've never heard of this book but the cover makes me want to give it a try."

Several readers, like Peg, enjoyed the cover's atmosphere: "Truly beautiful landscape painting - the sea and the gull are particularly attractive. The lone figure creates a very moody atmosphere."

Others chose this cover because its gothic overtones reminded them of old favorites. Deirdre was part of this group: "It reminds me of those old Gothics with a lot of scenery and a sketchy figure." Others, like Sara, compared it to Wuthering Heights: "Very Heathcliff-ish. Romantic and evocative."

The second place cover, His Private Pleasure, is a completely different type of cover - very steamy (literally!) and sensual. And it was a close second; a very few votes behind the winner. Voters loved that it managed to be sexy in a totally original way.

Malvina said: "Hey, this says it all. They're naked, in the shower together, her arm's around his neck and he's kissing her with his eyes closed while he holds her close (with his strong, muscular arms). Hot, steamy, almost voyeuristic reader pleasure... Fan me, someone!"

Aurora liked this one too: "It took me a few seconds to actually 'see' the steamy shower scene. Sensual and intimate, works well for Blaze. Who would have thought that cool pastel colors under the deep red could be this hot?" And Maria summed things up for a lot of people when she said, "You know what's going on in that shower - and it looks like fun!"

Harlequin Blaze
Cover artist: Per Kristianson

Silhouette Special Edition
Cover artist: Joanie Schwarz

In third place was Nora's Pride. Voters found this cover of a woman fading into the petals of a rose elegant, simple, and beautiful. Dawn thought the cover had "a very interesting effect" and added, "I like the way the rose petals wrap around the woman as if she is wearing them as a wrap or stole."

Kathleen, who read and enjoyed the book, thought the cover was perfect for the story: "The colors are warm, the model is beautiful and looks like the Nora in the book. And, not only is the hero in Nora's Pride an expert in growing roses, he used a rose in a love scene that was most imaginative! The rose was very symbolic for the heroine's emotional growth and trust in love. The cover truly represents the story."

It was also the favorite of AAR's Jennifer S.: "It's simple, elegant, and classy. It caught my eye when it first came out and it's an image that sticks with you."

The fourth place pick was The Baby and the Bachelor, a cover that managed to impress even some readers who never thought they'd choose a cover with a baby on it. Coverballot's Jaycee is one such voter: "I don't normally like to see babies on covers, but this one almost brings tears to my eyes. The smiles on both their faces is beyond price, and he looks like there's nothing he'd rather be doing than laying there holding and protecting that helpless little life. It makes me think that if he's this loving and gentle with a babe, he'd be just as loving and gentle with the woman in his life. Sigh."

Series category head Linnae had similar sentiments, and commented, "I think any artist who can make a baby cover sexy deserves my vote."

On the other hand, there was a large group of voters that loved baby covers, especially if they included a sexy, shirtless man. Lisa was part of this contingent: "This is a cover that interestingly alternates between sweet and sexy. The hunk is delicious and the baby is adorable. There is just something appealing about a big strong man being reduced to goo by a little newborn."

Harlequin Temptation
Cover artist: Aleta Jenks

Harlequin Blaze
Cover artist: Per Kristiansen

Silhouette Intimate Moments
Cover artist: unknown

Coming in fifth was Breathless, another Blaze cover. Those who chose this cover found it to be sexy in a discreet and attractive way. MaryAnn thought it was "modern and very sexy," and thought that this is exactly what Blaze should be advertising itself as.

Rosario found the cover to be "sexy and tasteful," and added, "Blaze covers are much better than those of regular series books."

It was Jill's choice as well: " I like the double effect with the mirror, and that guy has some great hands!"

The voters' sixth place pick was Out of Exile. It was a favorite with several coverballot members, including me; I thought the composition was just lovely.

AAR/Coverballot's Teresa likes this one too: "In addition to being beautifully executed, this cover engages the interest of the viewer - who is the hero, the man in the window or the man looking in? I want to read the book to find out."

Robin liked the cover's composition and thought it was very evocative. She also liked that it showed "both romance and danger." Like Teresa, Laura wasn't sure which man was the hero, and she found that intriguing. She added, "It's subtle. I like the darker colours, and the net curtain adds a romantic touch."

Silhouette Special Edition
Cover artist: Dannu O'Leary

Nick All Night placed seventh. Those who chose it thought the hero on the cover was quite attractive, and many of them wouldn't have minded spending "all night" with a guy like that.

Ann said, "I like the way the cover positions me, the viewer, on the bed looking at Nick. He's brooding, and you just want to reach out and whisper, 'Come back to bed, Nick, and I'll make you feel better.' Yummy."

It got Belinda's vote as well; she confessed to being "a sucker for eye candy." Voters who had read the book mentioned that the hero was portrayed just how they pictured him.

The author, Cheryl St. John, agreed: "It's my book, and the cover is almost exactly the way I suggested it in the art fact sheets! I love it!"

Harlequin Romance
Cover artist: Richard Newton

Harlequin Intrigue
Cover artist: Natasha Nicholson

Silhouette Romance
Cover artist: Bernadette Lau

A Convenient Wedding was the eighth place pick. Voters found it sweet and romantic. Barbara made it her choice: "It's just so very romantic - the rosy bower, the fact that the couple seem to be running off together, the lovely simple lines of the heroine's dress and the hero's elegant tails... and not being able to see their faces creates great mystery and allows the reader to use her imagination. It's a perfect cover for a traditional romance!"

Coverballot's Liz loved this one too: "The series category is always my fave because I love series books! There are some nice nominees here...but I finally picked the Gordon cover. I love it for it soft romantic simplicity!"

In ninth place was Personal Protector, another cover that voters thought of as sexy.

Teresa loved it and added that the hero was welcome to protect her all night long!

AAR's Leigh found it attractive as well: "Personal Protector gets my vote because the image is stunning and sexy. Not only is it beautiful, it has the most clarity, which makes it look the most real. The text and series banner is also less obtrusive than on most of the others."

Rounding out the series category was the tenth place Stranded with Santa.

Bertrice thought it was "charming and very romantic in the nicest way."

Coverballot's Mary Lynne liked this one too: "It's simple, and it harks back to the 80s with its line drawing, but this picture really captures an affection between the couple. This interaction is really lovely. And the white background helps you focus on the couple very well."

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