Mary Lynne Nielsen - Ballot Chair

This category has grown and changed since the cover contest began. Originally, we saw a lot of covers from mainstream publishers, but over the last few years inspirational romance and historical fiction covers have made serious inroads.

Catching Katie

Tyndale House Publishers
Cover artist: Mike Wimmer

Our winner (by a very healthy margin), was Catching Katie. It's a perfect example of a quality cover put out by a publisher of inspirationals (in this case, it's Tyndale Press) that really resonates with readers. They loved her mischievous smile, which made them want to smile too. They loved her hat, and they especially loved the title placement.

Jules had a great way of describing it: "It's fun and flirty for a historical. Like she's about to crash a church picnic and have a good time. The hat rocks!" Maria made it her choice too: "I absolutely adore the cover of Catching Katie. The heroine has such a lovely mischievous smile and just looks like someone who'd be fun to spend time with. The hat covers half of her face and very nicely allows the reader to have some freedom in deciding what she looks like. The title is also placed to fit the curve of her hat, further enhancing the bright and slightly unconventional look of the cover. This is definitely the kind of cover that would make me pick up a book."

Jody really liked this one as well: "This category actually has some very attractive covers, esp. the Heyer reissues. I picked this one because it looks different from the rest, fresh and yet still historical." Jody's sentiments also tap into an undercurrent that was common among those who liked this cover. There's something of an anti-photograph and painting backlash. A segment of voters is tired of the portrait cover - many of them felt that Catching Katie provided a nice alternative. Sorcha was among them: "I tend to prefer original art over covers that use part of an already existing piece of artwork, and this is no exception. I love her mischievous smile."


The competition was much keener between second and fifth place - only nine votes separated these four covers. Coming in second was The Innocent. Those who voted for this cover had no problem with paintings-as-cover art; for most of them, it was a trend to be celebrated. Debbie noted, "There are at least four others here for which I would happily vote, but this one feels like a Pre-Raphaelite poem come to life."

When we put the contest online, we didn't actually know the artist, but many of our astute readers did. Denise was one of them: "No artists can capture romance the way the pre-Raphaelites can, and John William Waterhouse is foremost amongst them. 'The Soul of the Rose' is a perfect example of romance in color, composition, theme and tone." There were many Waterhouse fans who voted for this cover, but it also appealed to those of us who didn't recognize the painting.

Tine had this to say: "I like the cover of The Innocent best because of the harmony of the colours. Besides that I find that the cover itself is very romantic - a young woman smelling a rose very tenderly. She wears some sort of dress that together with the beautiful deep colours and the soft roses creates the right atmosphere. You just know she is in love because of her flushing cheeks." AAR's Anne liked it as well: "This shows that covers can have people on them without being drippy or clinchy and yet still be sensual."

The Innocent

John William Waterhouse's 'The Soul of the Rose'


Land of My Heart

Bethany House Publishers
Cover artist: Ann Gjeldum/Cadmium Design

Land of My Heart, the third place cover, was only one vote behind. Voters who liked this one praised the innovative design, which they felt was well suited to an historical – and completely original. Susan loved it: "It's beautiful and different. The colors and layouts are just stunning. The three inspirationals were the class of this field, in my opinion. I wish the mainstream entries were as interesting."

Laura was impressed as well: "The peeling away of layers of time, the turning of a page that reveals our past, the shift from sepia to full color as we enter the story beautifully illustrates the journey that reading this book will be. The black frame around the illustration is another layer that sets off the colors and is like a window letting us sink into the page of the book within the book...I'll just have to stop and say ‘Wow!' - because this one is so innovative."

Sandra had this to say: "I love this cover, the woman on the top page, the image faded and she's looking over her shoulder, the country image on the second page in dark, lively colors. They are divided by the turned page but still connected by the binding of the book. A cover to make me wonder and imagine stories before I open the book." Jane summed up her feelings this way: "Wow! Fantastic! This is the first time I've seen this cover. As far as I'm concerned it's beautiful, original, innovative and effective."


Maiden of Fire was the fourth place pick. It appealed to readers who wanted a more traditional cover that clearly said "romance." Readers like the castle, and the fact that both the hero and heroine were present and accounted for. Ellen was one fan: "This one looked like a medieval painting - with the lovely highlights falling on the woman's face and hair. I loved the pose of the couple in the foreground framed by the window, with a fairytale castle rising up in the distance. This is the period I read the most because I want to be taken out of my daily grind and transported (for a short time) to the distant past. I would immediately pick this book up just for a closer look at the cover picture and because it would speak to everything I look for in a romance."

Katherine felt that it was the most romantic of the alternatives: "I didn't care for most of the nominees. I think they are too artsy for me, so I picked the most traditional cover. I read historical romances for the romance not the history. Most of these covers seem to be about history not romance." Anna agreed: "only one other cover in this ballot looks like a romance novel and not general fiction. I like the pre-Raphaelite women but it has been over done. So I chose the most romantic one." I voted for this cover myself, mostly for the reasons already mentioned. I find many of the other images attractive, but this cover satisfied my need for something both lovely and "old school."

Maiden of Fire

Cover artist: unknown


Light to My Path

Bethany House Publishers
Cover artist: Designed by Kirk DouPonce/The DesignWorks Group

The fifth place choice was A Light to my Path. Readers admired the use of light, the font, and the interesting montage. Leslie had this to say: "This is the cover that most instantly interested me in reading the book. It tells a lot about the story and is beautifully done." Tamera admired the colors and added, "Full of emotion that draws you in." Charlotte found it to be historically grounded: "The images capture the setting and the time (the Civil War) and appear to ground the novel in a real way in its historical setting. The font styles are classic and appealing as well."

It also got top nod from category chair Mary Lynne: "In a slate that usually offers an array of stunning covers (and this year is no exception), this one stands out to me. I love the palette of greens and browns that the artist uses, and I like the way the various images are balanced to sell me the time period and give me a sense of what this book is going to be about. All of the covers were great this year, and I'd like to give a shout-out to the great artistic touches, like the title for Catching Katie wrapping along the brim of the heroine's hat, or the page turning back on Land of My Heart with the shadow of the heroine on it. This category offers a lot of fun every year."


Coming in Sixth was The Fall, which several readers also named as their second choice. Voters found it sexy and evocative.

AAR's Ellen described it as "sensual but not in your face." Coverballot's John chose it as well: "period clothes, pretty girl… and this is the historical group. I really like the paintings but they have won in this category in the past 2 or so years so a photo is a welcome change."

Diana liked it as well: "This one's beautiful. I like the decorative overlay, and I really love partially hidden (and downcast) face as she unlaces her bodice. It makes it easy to guess what kind of fall she'll have.

The Fall

Leisure Books
Cover artist: unknown


The two Georgette Heyer covers, Friday's Child and Arabella, came in seventh and eighth, respectively. Those who voted for them often expressed difficulty in choosing between the two; if they liked one, they liked the other as well.

Friday's Child

Cover design by Richard Ogle;
detail from 'Reverie' by Eva Hollyer
(courtesy of Sotheby's Picture Library)


Cover design by Richard Ogle;
detail from 'Feeding the Doves' by Edward Killingworth Johnson
(courtesy of Fine Art Photographic Library Ltd./Hayes Fine Art)

Lesa voted for Friday's Child: "This gorgeous cover brings to mind the beauty of a bygone era, just as Georgette Heyer's novels do. All of her books should be reissued with tasteful covers such as this instead of the cheap, almost cartoon-looking photos one sees today. This cover is suitable for framing."

Susan was one of several voters who liked that the heroine was reading: "Not the most eye-catching, perhaps, but it's wonderfully romantic. And you can't help but wonder what she's reading."

Janice liked it as well: "A beautifully painted cover with a lovely sense of period, and yet showing that despite differences in dress and era, there's something universal in the sight of a young girl dreaming over her book."

Arabella voters were thrilled to see a Regency cover that actually looked historically accurate. Linda chose it for its "good composition (better than the one for the other Heyer novel). Believable costuming - an excellent match for the period of the story."

Lynne liked it as well: "Such a pretty cover. Although the artist is Victorian, there's a Regency feel to the cover."

AAR/Coverballot's Teresa also picked this one: "Nothing says Historical romance like this cover. I love it. I like it even better that the other Heyer cover because I think the heroine on this cover is much more attractive – so call me shallow."


Virgin's Lover

Cover photography by Jeff Cottenden;
Cover Design by Becky Glibbery

The Virgin's Lover took the ninth place spot. Voters described it as sumptuous and rich, and they loved the dress. While some voters in other categories expressed a distaste for "the headless" figures, several who voted for this cover mentioned that they liked them. Dianne was one: "sumptuous gown, interesting half view of face, I like the gold border..." Liat felt that the feel was historically accurate: "it has a bit of mystery, it's clearly about a woman but we don't know anything else and yet it lures us in to find out more. One of my pet hates is the use of photographs in historicals. I actually won't buy a historical book with a photograph on it, it just feels like there would be no real sensitivity to the time period, and that the 'history' would be wall paper. I like my historicals to feel like they have some factual backbone to them."

Myretta felt that this was the best of a great lot: "This is a tough category for me. I like so many of them. I like the period feel of the Heyer covers. Land of my Heart is very fresh and different. And I think you can never go too far wrong with Rosetti on an Historical cover. But, for me, it was the Virgin's Lover. Very Elizabethan, very eye-catching, very elegant."


The final cover was Blood Moon Over Bengal. Voters liked the exotic location, the aviator heroine, and in some cases, just the fact that a man was present. Karen said: "It's about the only one with a good looking guy on the cover (though his face is partially hidden). I really don't need to see any more women (or any at all) - I like men!"

Another Karen liked both the cover and the book itself: "Actually, I loved this book, but I remembered turning back again and again to the cover. I felt the models really depicted what I imagined the H/H to look like, and I loved the dashing touch of putting her in her flight outfit."

Carol made it her choice as well: "The colors are gorgeous and really get my attention. There's a mysterious look to the sky behind the couple, hinting at danger and trouble for them. You just know the road to love isn't smooth for these two."

Blood Moon over Bengal

Cover artist: John Ennis


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