Jann "Jaycee" Muhlhauser - Ballot Chair



This is the second year we've voted in the Historical Series category, which features Traditional Regency and Harlequin Historicals covers. There have been major changes in these types of covers this year. Harlequin Historicals has gradually made their art more elaborate. In some cases, the covers have stepback illustrations either in black and white or in color. And while Zebra Regencies continue to use the same style, Signet made significant changes, designing a new look for their Regencies for the first time in years.

For those interested, the reason we created a separate category for these covers is that, traditionally, the publishers (Harlequin, Zebra, and Signet) spent far less money on them than they did for other historicals. But as the contest began this year, several readers commented that they didn't feel that Harlequin Historicals should be in this category. Indeed, the three Harlequin Historicals on the ballot did so much better than the competition that coverballot decided to take the advice of readers and put them in the Single Cover Historical category, or Historical with Stepback category for those with a color stepback, next year.

It should be added as well that many voters liked none of the covers. Perhaps they aren't historical series fans, or perhaps they think the whole sub-genre just needs a new look. Either way, a number of voters complained that their choice was the best of a bad lot.

Harlequin
Anthony Russo

The winner - by a nose - was The Blanchland Secret. Many of the voters who commented felt it was the only cover that stood out from the pack. JMC's comments are typical: "It wasn't a tired painting/picture of a man in light pantaloons with a dark jacket and boots, posed with a woman in an empire-style dress, the most tired cover images in all of romance. It wins by default."

Others felt the cover would have stood out in any case. Here's what Susan had to say: "I like the whole feel of this cover. It's pretty, romantic, peaceful, and because of the title you know there is a secret. Makes me want to know what it is."

Jenny thought it had a pleasing aura of mystery: "It's mysterious - who are the people who have been sitting here? Who left the flowers? Why? Very atmospheric, just the right cover for a book with 'secret' in the title. Oh, and it's beautiful, too."

It was the choice of former AAR reviewer and editor Marianne as well. She and her daughter both thought the cover was lovely. She added, "Sometimes, no people can be a good thing."

The second place cover was nearly as popular; An Honorable Thief missed tying for first by one vote. Those who liked this one felt that it had an aura of mystery, and they loved that the faces of the hero and heroine were left to their imaginations. Barbara was one of this group: "It's clever! The colours are beautiful. The line created by the white glove is very sensual. The few glimpses of the hero are very sexy (his hands are gorgeous!!) and the fact that the heads aren't there provides a great chance for the reader to decide what the characters look like for herself."

Several voters just loved the costumes. Caroline said, "Let's face it: we all wish we still wore gowns and gloves like this."

Gillian liked the overall composition of the cover: "I loved the Gracie because of the suggested theft in progress. The cut-off faces also added to the mystery, very much in keeping with the atmosphere suggested by the title. I also like how the placement of the title prevented me from feeling as though I were getting an eyeful of the heroine's assets."

It also got the vote of the author herself (yes, Anne, you're allowed to do that <g>) who was thrilled to see an historical series book with "such a lush, elegant, sensual beautiful cover on it. And yes, I know I'm gushing!"

Harlequin
Cover artist: Unknown

Harlequin
Cover artist: Alan Ayers

Two covers tied for third place. The first was Her Dearest Sin, another Harlequin Historical. Several voters mentioned that they preferred it because the Signets all look the same to them, but there was a large contingent that loved all the pink in this cover. Nana was part of this group: "I like the unapologetic pink of this cover. Coordinating the dress, bed, and text gives the cover a polished look. The woman alone by the bed is such a distinctly different pose from all the other covers in this category that I liked it for its originality as well."

Liat thought the cover managed to convey the time period while still looking "clean and modern." She added, " It gets all the important information across (the Rita award, title and author) without clutter, and it's in attractive colours." It also won the vote of AAR's Colleen: "Striking color scheme, detailed period dress conveys the historical time period of the story, overall lushness would make me pick this up off the rack."

Also in third is Playing with Fire, the highest placing Signet Regency. This cover was a favorite with several members of the coverballot committee, including category head Jaycee, who had a tough time deciding between this cover and A Scandalous Journey: "ASJ appeals to me because of the colors, composition, and overall feeling for the period. However, for overall sensuality, Playing with Fire wins hands down. There's a wonderful connection between the couple, and I wonder which of the two is doing the tempting and which one is yet to give in. It's a beautifully done cover."

Coverballot's Mary Lynne made it her choice as well: "I love the way they're in front of the hearth, matching the title so well. And there seems to be a true rapport between this couple, which shows on the cover so nicely!"

There were also many comments from voters who loved the hero's uniform; apparently the appeal of a military uniform transcends time. Sandy, who had a hard time choosing a favorite in this category, said, "this won because I like the hero's uniform - shallow, I know!" She had plenty of company. ;)

Signet
Cover artist: Unknown

Signet
Cover artist: Unknown

Signet
Cover artist: Unknown

In fifth place was The Rake's Mistake, which is an example of the new style of Signet cover, and the only one of the new style to make the ballot. Signet changed the look in late 2002. Those who voted for this one couldn't resist the look of the romantic, moonlit night on the water. Bertrice (yes, that Bertrice) was one moonlight fan: "A moonlit night out on the boat. Who can resist?"

Coverballot's Linnae liked this one too: "I love the moonlight shining on the water in the background, the lovely pastels and the fully clothed yet romantic pose of the hero and heroine."

A couple of voters felt this cover had the most modern look and represented a positive change for historical series covers. This is what Katherine had to say: "This cover looks the newest and freshest. The other choices look as if they were published ten years ago. I love Regency romances but when a cover looks old and dated, its hard to get excited about reading it. So, I'm always glad to see one with a fresh look."

Coming in sixth was A Scandalous Journey (another one of those covers that many readers mentioned as a second favorite). Voters found it romantic and elegant, and it was the choice of several Regency devotees, including Karen (who was pleased to note that all of the covers were fairly attractive). She went with this one because she felt that "this cover represents traditional regencies very well in that it's conveying a nice sense of the period with the three dancing couples, the clothing and furnishings choices."

Vivien is another fan who likes to see a Regency couple look like a Regency couple. She found this cover to be "as romantic as a scene straight from Cinderella."

Kathy liked that the hero and heroine are in a ballroom full of people, yet only have eyes for each other: "The couple seems totally engrossed in each other and the other couples on the edges of the book seem to underline that fact - like the hero and heroine don't notice anything else and are away in their own world."

Zebra
Cover artist: Unknown

The seventh place choice was The Incorrigible Lady Sophia. Its voters loved the carriage scene, which they felt was a nice change from the typical Regency pose. Regency aficionado Myretta was one of its fans: "This is just different enough from the standard full-length picture of the couple to be an interesting cover. I like the view into the carriage. I also like that the hero and heroine are not too modern looking as I feel the Signet covers frequently are."

Kate also found it pleasantly different: "I like the fact that it's not a clinch. I like the look of it - none of the all too common "stately" Regency interiors or soft pastels. The fog and the streetlights give it a feeling of mystery - always appealing."

Ellen liked not only the carriage, but the drama she saw unfolding inside it: "I like the coach and the gaslight, but I really like the seriously perturbed look on the hero's face! She's worried about what's following them, but he's clearly more worried about her - I like that in a man..."

The eighth place choice was Fortune's Lady. This was my personal pick, and I was a little surprised that it didn't fare a little better. Like other voters, I am a little tired of seeing the typical forced garden pose, and I was thrilled to see a scene where the hero and heroine were actually doing something (and something that they do in the book, at that!). Most who voted for it liked it for the same reasons I did. T.L. said, "I love the fact that the h/h are actually doing something instead of just posing, and it's hard to tell whether they're more interested in flirting or calling each other's bluffs."

More than one reader noticed that one of the paintings in the background had recently been seen on a Balogh book. Kestra was one such reader: "It was the colours that first grabbed me; the greens in the logo echoed by the greens in the wall and the tablecloth, then the conversational pose of the h/h...then I noticed one of the paintings on the wall had been used for a Mary Balogh cover recently. Two covers in one!" Actually, it's three. Coverballot's sharp-eyed Mary Lynne noted that the other painting was on the cover of Adrienne Basso's book.

Signet
Cover artist: Unknown

Signet
Cover artist: Unknown

Signet
Cover artist: Unknown

Daphne's Diary came in ninth. It was Jai's choice because she admired the winter scene. For Barbara, the attractive hero was the draw: "This was a difficult choice, because several covers were eye-catching. I chose this one because the gentleman is so delicious. After all is said and done about art, what I really like on a romance cover is a delicious gentleman." Malvina liked both of those features: "He looks absolutely besotted with her - a little urgent, even, yet she's looking just a tad unsure. Oh yes, he's looking most anxious to press his suit. Against the frosty background, this one's steaming and most romantic."

Bringing up the rear was Lord Nick's Folly. Jill thought the characters looked real, and found the shafts of sunlight "gorgeous." Yvonne thought the cover had a dreamy quality, and liked that it "transports the reader to a different time and place."

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