Jann "Jaycee" Muhlhauser - Ballot Chair

Alternate reality (AR) covers can feature elements of time travel, ghosts, or sexy vampires, or fantastic or magical themes. One thing many voters mentioned when they made their selection was that they wanted the cover to reflect the content; they felt that an alternate reality book ought to be easily identifiable by its cover. Ironically, AR's coverhead Jaycee sees AR trends going in the opposite direction:

"In AR, the direction seems to be leaning more toward the traditional clinch or hero/heroine alone without a lot of AR elements. Leisure is one of the few publishers who doesn't seem to fear a cover being labeled AR, though they do occasionally fall back on what I call the 'safe and sound' covers - the more traditional clinch. I'm pleasantly surprised that the new Harlequin TimeTwists do have an AR appearance, even if it's mostly the feeling of being caught in a timetunnel, being swept away to another time and place. Why publishers are so leery of having the cover strongly reflect the story I don't know, but it's clear by the winner of this year's contest that it's what readers prefer. One can only hope someone out there in publication land is listening and paying attention. <g>"

Nonetheless, the covers on the AR slate are varied, and their appeal is pretty broad. Voting was quite competitive in this category, and the covers in the 4-8 spots are separated by less than twenty votes.

Mira
Unknown

The winning cover was Twilight Hunger, which voters found spooky, eerie and otherworldly - exactly what they want to see on an AR book.

Malvina thought it was " . . .eerie, creepy and definitely arresting. The eyes looking out over the silhouetted woods, and the moon and the mist - it all adds to the otherworldly air. Definitely a chiller thriller romance."

AAR's Liz Zink reviewed the book in ARC form and now wishes she had one with a cover. She especially liked the woman's face entwined with the branches.

It was Kestra's choice as well: "The eyes have it. The way they look out over the title, through the branches, under the moon, gives me a chill already."

The second place cover was Dark Legend. Quite a few who chose this cover mentioned their admiration for cover artist John Ennis.

Sandra chose this cover and mentioned that she had yet to see an Ennis cover that she didn't like.

Gillian liked that it had both AR and romance elements: "Some of these covers, while very pretty, don't feel like romances to me. This one is luscious and gorgeous in its use of colors, while the typeface successfully conveys the Gothic/paranormal elements."

AAR reviewer and Coverballot member Jennifer also made it her choice: "There's something wonderful and tactile about this image. You can see the sleek softness of her hair and the smoothness of her skin. A really beautiful piece of art that makes me stop, look, and want to read the book."

Leisure
Cover artist: John Ennis

Ace
Cover artist: Judy York

The third place Never After was much admired for its fairy tale look. Nearly half the voters who left comments about it compared it to either a fairy tale or an illuminated manuscript.

Diana subscribed to the illuminated manuscript theory: "I love this one! Are you sure it wasn't done by monks working by candlelight?" Both Dianne and Roxanne chose it because it reminded them of fairy tale books from childhood.

This cover was also very popular with the coverballot committee; several members voted for it, including cover head Jaycee: "It embodies everything an AR cover should be. The magical, mystical qualities of this cover just scream AR. ...Both covers on the Shayne books are definitely AR, as is Call of the Moon and Scandalous Spirits (which would get my second vote were it allowed ), yet I keep coming back to the magical world I see on the Never After cover. I want to go to that castle and see what kind of magic is happening there. I want to talk to the folks displayed around the border and see what they have to say about the world they live in. In short, I think this is a classic AR cover, and I love it!"

In fourth place was At Twilight. Like Twilight Hunger, it's a cover for a Maggie Shayne vampire book, and those who voted for it had similar comments. They liked the eerie, otherworldly feel and found it very appropriate for the genre. Cheng-Chen called it a "great combination of beauty and dreamland."

Former cover maven Carol was very impressed with this cover: "This is the best piece of art so far in my voting. It looks as if it could have been done by Dave McKean, it is that good. I'm sure it wasn't (since he only works for superstars like Neil Gaiman) but it has that look to it. Right behind it is the author's other book Twilight Hunger but the woman's face is too much like a cosmetics ad so it isn't quite as good." I also voted for this one, although I had a very tough time choosing in this category (and nearly went for My Enchanted Enemy instead). In the end I was most impressed by At Twilight's eerie appeal.

Mira
Cover artist: Unknown

Zebra
Cover artist: Unknown

Speculation Press
Cover artist: Karen Duvall

Realm of Shadows was the fifth place choice. Those who chose it liked the spooky feeling it conveyed, and they also liked the way the artwork complemented the foreboding book title.

Janez thought it was perfect for an AR book, and added, "The cover makes me think of vampires and werewolves without even opening the book." Angie like the "shadowy, nocturnal quality." Bina isn't usually a reader of AR romances, but sometimes finds the covers so enchanting that she'd like to give them a try. She loved the spooky feeling of the cover and thought it sounded perfect for an AR book.

My Enchanted Enemy came in sixth. Voters loved the colors and the eerie, mystical sea. AAR's Leigh chose it after considering Twilight Hunger and Call of the Moon, because she found it fascinating to look at.

Carolyn, an admitted sucker for seascapes, found the cover enchanting: "The violet and purple hues with the castle and moon in the background and the highlighting of the waves hitting the rocks all form a vivid seascape. The special lighting and nighttime hues make this a gorgeously painted cover." It also suited Jess perfectly: "Of the nominees, My Enchanted Enemy has the cleanest look. I don't like frou-frou, misty, ghoulish covers at all. This cover clues the reader in that the book is AR/Paranormal without it looking silly."

Love Spell
Cover artist: Unknown

The seventh place choice was Whispers in the Stars, which appears to be a cover that did its job; several readers mentioned that they had bought the book because they loved the cover, and were pleased that they enjoyed the book itself.

Goldie was one such reader: "I did buy this book and loved it. Why did I buy it? The cover! The cover made a promise to me the buyer which the story delivered."

Cindy was also a fan of both book and cover: "This cover is really beautiful and draws you into the story. The heroine is surrounded by the sky and stars. Very appropriate. Beautiful colors and evokes a sense of mystery, love, and other reality. Patricia Waddell writes beautiful stories on other worlds, so this continues to typify her style and story." Amy thought the cover was perfect for the title because "even the image seems to whisper."

Love Spell
Cover artist: Unknown

Zebra
Cover artist: Unknown

ImaJinn
Cover artist: Patricia Lazarus

In eighth place was the werewolf cover, Call of the Moon. Those who chose it thought it was sensual and sexy. Theresa thought it really conveyed "the darker side of romance," and Linda chose it because she simply loved the wolf.

Jeanette really found herself drawn into the scene: "You can see and feel the moonlight on your body, feel and smell the night air on your face, hear the wolf's howl in your blood and taste the dampness in the air you breathe. This one affects all my senses."

Come Midnight was voter's ninth place cover, and many voters praised its atmosphere. Suzanne said, "I had never heard of the book, but looking at the cover made me want to find out more about it; it contains a good blend of romance, tension, and danger."

Nana found it mysterious and intriguing. She added, "The atmosphere of the cover is so vivid - the clock striking midnight just as the lightning flashes, the man's head cocked as though he's just heard something and the woman trying to regain his attention."

Rounding out the slate was tenth place Scandalous Spirits, the only e-book cover in the contest. Those who chose it found it refreshing and different.

Lee thought too many of the other covers were almost interchangeable, and for her this one struck just the right note: "It was love at first sight. The cover looks a wee bit 'scandalous' and has just a hint of humor." Barbara thought that it "evokes the imagination before you even know what the book is about."

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