Linnae Crady - Ballot chair

 

The Alternate Reality category is becoming more and more popular. Many of the more traditional romances seem to be stuck in a cover rut, with flowers, scenery, or heroines standing alone – all images that we've seen before.

The subject matter of Alternate Reality romances leaves more room for creativity, and the covers seem to get better every year. This year, Harlequin's Luna line is new on the scene, and their debut is stunning; Luna covers make up half of the ballot. Many readers praised the entire AR slate and Luna covers in general.


In Camelot's Shadow

Luna
Cover artist: Cliff Nielsen

The overwhelming winner (with almost twice as many votes as the second place cover) is In Camelot's Shadow. Readers were passionate about this cover, calling it mysterious, elegant and powerful. They liked that it portrayed a strong capable heroine, and they also liked the mystery of her veil.

Several fans voted for it on the strength of the veil alone. Cora liked nearly every cover on the slate, but the veil on this one was the deciding factor: "...I love the way the veil blows over her face. I've always had a thing for veils." Coverballot's John likes them as well: "action, veils and a pretty face. My kind of gal."

Julie and Lian both were among many who wanted to buy the book because of the cover alone. Julie said: "...this one has beauty and action. The colors are like a Renaissance painting and the fire in the woman's eyes is fabulous. This is another one that I picked up because the cover caught my eye." Lian agreed: "What a fantastic array of covers. A very difficult choice. Each one of them made me want to buy the book based on the cover alone - and that is the job of the cover, right? In the end In Camelot's Shadow had to win as it had both beauty and brawn. A medieval Buffy."

Others admired the strength of the heroine as well. Mary said, "[I] love to see a heroine in action, not waiting for the hero." Melissa admired several covers on the ballot, but thought that the heroine made this one stand apart: In Camelot's Shadow stood out because of its uniqueness. We rarely get to see female warriors on the covers of romances. The colors are very pleasing as well."

The second place cover was The Mountain's Call, a mystical cover with horses and mountains. Interestingly enough, many of the voters who picked the winner mentioned this as a second choice. Those who chose it found it to be majestic, magical, and inspiring. At least two readers said that the beauty of it gave them chills – quite the compliment. Ally was one of them: ". . .this cover grabbed me the first time I saw it months ago. Truly evocative. Makes my skin tingle. Best cover of the year to me." Kathleen was also a fan: "Gorgeous. Horses, runes, spooky mist...absolutely beautiful." AAR/Coverballot's Jennifer chose it as well: "This really suggests a magical place and time. The image is also beautifully bright and crisp."

More than one reader was intrigued by the mysterious symbols carved in the ground. Sorcha's comment was typical: "The figure carved into the hillside is very intriguing - I'd probably buy this book just to find out what it symbolizes." And then there was a huge contingent of voters who adored horses. Many simply listed "the horses!" as their reason for choosing the cover. Laura elaborated: "O.K., being a native of Kentucky I have to vote for the horse cover. But the integration of all the elements impressed me about this cover. Notice how the curlicues of the type and the symbol carved into the earth and even the hair and manes whipping in the breeze all reflect the other. I love the soft colors and the unusually placed light source coming from behind glowing on the herd of white horses and the girl's dress. Also, the title and author's name are small in comparison to the other entries making this seem like an art poster."

The Mountain's Call

Luna
Cover artist: Hugh Syme

Hunted

St. Martin's Griffin
Cover artist: Vince Natale

Coming in third was The Hunted. Those who voted for it called it sophisticated, sexy, and modern. Many felt that it was markedly different from the other covers on the ballot. Jennifer said: "I like the graphic quality of the cover, compared to the overwrought look that typifies fantasy covers." Julie agreed: "This cover is able to show that the book is an alternative reality book without coming off as a child's fantasy book. It was the only cover in this category that didn't make me think of the science fiction books that my nephew reads."

Several readers, like Jessica, liked the heroine's back: "The cover is gorgeous and simple. The woman's naked back is alluring without being tawdry. The black, white, blue and grey color scheme give the book an eerie quality as well. This is a cover that would make me pick up the book and read the back blurb." And more than one reader expressed the desire to look like that from behind. Another Jennifer said, "Everything from the font to the graphic says paranormal. I envy her back. Why can't my back look strong and sensual like that?"

Interestingly enough, a large number of our male voters made The Hunted their choice.

The fourth place book was Echoes, which arguably had the most traditional AR cover; it resembles some of our past winners in tone and feel. Voters who chose this one found it haunting and classically beautiful.

AAR's Cheryl liked the combination or portrait and landscape: "I like the veil effect created by superimposing the landscape over the portrait. Seems to suit the title." Cathy found the cover atmospheric, and added, "I love the way the artist made the woman semi-transparent so that you see the woods through her."

Several readers mentioned that they either bought the book because they had noticed the cover – or would like to buy the book now that they've seen it. Holly was in this category: "This cover really makes me want to buy the book without knowing exactly what it's about. The woman is beautiful, and the shading is very mysterious."

Echoes

Berkley
Cover Design, George Long;
Photo of Woman, Alexa Garbarina/
Photonica;
Photo of Woods, Getty One

 

Always

Pocket
Cover artist: Shasti O'Leary Soudant;
Cover design, Lisa Litwack.

Coming in sixth was Always. This cover appealed to voters who like their images simple and elegant. Sue chose it even though she didn't care for the book itself: "Frankly I loathed this book, but the cover is evocative, ethereal and just a touch spooky."

Coverballot's Mary Alice also liked the spooky quality: "I love the shadows and the feeling that just beyond that fence, right inside the woods, is something beckoning to this woman - she is compelled to step into the trees and find it."

Some readers, like Anna, chose it because they are tired of the fantasy/Luna images: "The Celtic and fantasy images are getting to be cliché (not just in romance either). This one created a mood and made me want to know more about the story." Sherry agreed: "Many of the other covers look over-cluttered, with an almost OCD level of detail. Many appear to be variations on Liv Tyler in the LOTR movies. This one is elegant and has a simple, cool-toned, bluish color scheme. Also, I am not a fan of alternative reality (plain old reality is complex enough for me) and this is the only book I'd pick up, thinking there would be other redeeming qualities that would make me overlook the annoying, fey, magical elvishness."

 

The Wishing Chalice came in seventh, and many readers commented on its traditional, classic romance feel. Anna said: "Maybe it's that this is the most traditionally ‘romancey' of the offerings. Maybe it's the burgundy gown against the fiery sunset (sunrise?) Maybe it's the looking-out-the-window pose that makes me wonder what has the heroine's attention. Maybe I just want her necklace."

Margaret felt that it was "magical and mysterious" and added that she would definitely pick up a copy. Lynn loved the art work: " [It's a] classic cover that is so richly executed. It makes me think that the story inside might contain the same depth and texture."

Lesa was one of many readers to describe the heroine as wistful: "The landscape is beautiful, and I like the wistful expression on the woman's face. She appears to be a strong lady and not a shrinking, virginal violet."

Wishing Chalice

Berkley
Cover artist: unknown

 

The Wizard's Ward

Luna
Cover artist: Jim Griffin

Charmed Sphere

Luna
Cover artist: Stephanie Pui-Mun Lau

Come To Me

Love Spell
Cover artist: Vittorio D'Angelico

Only one vote behind was The Wizard's Ward, which came in eighth. Voters described it as dreamy and magical, and liked how it set a mood. Cait thought she could tell something of the book's content from looking at the cover (always a plus) and added, "I like the floaty Monet look of it." Sandy liked it as well: "it had the best ethereal, dreamy look to it. It evoked a fantasy of old Ireland."

Heidi liked the whole atmosphere of the cover: "I love the immediate sense that this woman, alert and determined, is on a quest. The blend of obscuring mist and revealing slanted light hint at her ordeals to come, as do the lights and darks of the composition, and the left to right movement indicate that she is abandoning her past and moving forward into her future. It caught my interest the first time I saw it on a shelf."

The ninth place cover, A Charmed Sphere, was only a couple of votes away as well. Readers liked its water-color feel and soft pastel palette.

Rosario compared the cover to painted glass. Robin felt that it would stand alone as a piece of art: "The artwork would stand alone, outside of being a book cover. Many of these covers are fantastic. I'm intrigued enough to check this genre out."

Lynne was also a fan: "I bought this book based on the cover. No joke. And I almost never do that. The colors, the swirls, the whole concept spoke to something in me. And it was faithful to the storyline, always a big plus in my book."

Come to Me took the tenth spot. Some of the readers who voted for other covers thought this one didn't looked different enough to be an AR book. But those who voted for it found it to be mysterious and intriguing. Several, like Pat, liked the dragon symbol: "I like the clean look of this cover. It also has intriguing curls to it that are beautifully mirrored in the font and the woman's figure and the dragonish symbol at the right."

Malvina found the cover very evocative: "How intriguing and moody this cover is, with the long, empty corridors behind the heroine, her dark dress and blond wind-blown hair, and that fascinating dragon appearing on the right side of the page. Pick this one up and you're guaranteed to think - what's going on?" Wendy chose it as well: "This cover works so well because it fits the story. A heroine who is isolated, unsure, and by herself in a dark, mysterious environment. I also love the touch of the dragon - which helps convey tone and setting."

 

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