Mary Lynne Nielsen - Ballot Chair

The Single Cover Historical category has always been one of the most competitive, and this year was no exception. It was a tight race, and nearly all the covers made a strong showing. Category head Mary Lynne keeps on top of all the SCH trends, and she offered these thoughtful comments on this year's slate:

"Of the ten covers, six feature women alone. As with last year, that theme for SCH covers seems to speak to romance readers. But there is a difference from 2001. Last year, almost all the covers featured the women turned away in some way, shape, or form that made it impossible to see their faces. That didn't happen this year. While the faces can't be seen in Luck Be a Lady or The Price of Moonlight, we can see the women's faces on A Twilight Clear, To Kiss a Spy, Schooled for Seduction, and Tempting. All of these are some form of profile, but they are clear and distinct. So much of the abstraction of last year isn't there this time around.

"The other four covers featured couples. Two face us directly; one has the woman (there's the woman again!) turned towards us, and the other shows a woman's profile and a man's down-turned face.

"In terms of artistic style, almost all of these covers feature sharp, clear art. There are few drawings here - almost all the paintings seem based on photos, or, in the case of Tempting, are photos directly. Embrace the Dawn is the only cover with a real sketch-like, drawing feel to it. The painting-style look, where you can sense the brushstrokes, is limited as well. Luck Be A Lady is our cover most like a painting in the top nine; although Our Yanks definitely shows that it's an illustrated cover."

Bantam
Cover artist: Alan Ayers

The winner in this category was To Kiss a Spy, a cover that charmed voters with its soft image of a woman by a window. I voted for this one myself; I thought the beautiful colors, unusual pose, and expression on the heroine's face were absolutely perfect. Kate shared that opinion. She thought it was "beautiful, saturated with colors; excellent composition with the balance of elements and the way they come together to form a whole; and a feeling of wistfulness and longing that's utterly romantic, like something out of a fairy tale. Works for me."

Myretta loved it as well: "I always love the Jane Feather covers. They are so evocative of the period and just plain evocative. I want to slide myself into one of those Tudor outfits and sit on the windowsill."

It also won AAR/Coverballot's Teresa's vote: "I love the way the heroine is sitting in the window and looking off to where her lover presumably has gone. It's wistful and lovely as well, with perfect contrast between the font color used on the title and author and the vibrant blues of the sky and the white of her dress. The fact that the window also perfectly frames the text shows how well constructed and laid-out this cover is."

At a few votes short of a first-place tie, Tempting was a very close second. Voters loved that it managed to be sexy without being vulgar or tacky. Wendy found it to be an intriguing combination of the scandalous and the demure: "I love this cover because the heroine demurely has her back to us. Yet, it's also scandalous - because she is merely wearing a corset."

Lisa loved the appeal of the heroine: "I chose this cover because the woman is one of the most appealing women I have ever seen on a cover. It's a soft cover and it seems appropriately romantic."

T.W. had a hard time choosing between Tempting and Our Yanks, but the former won out in the end: "Tempting really lives up to its title: the woman looks delicious, and she looks like she's expecting someone, or is aware of someone just out of the camera's view."

Jove
Art director: Joni Friedman;
Designer: George Long;
Photographer: Wendi Schneider; Hand lettering: Ron Zinn

Zebra
Cover artist: Franco Accornero

The third place cover was The Price of Moonlight. Voters admired its aura of mystery, and several loved the use of moonlight, which they found perfect for the book's title. Sandra called it "striking, and a little mysterious."

Kate pronounced the cover "very unique," and added, " I like the darkness, the columns on the mansion, the character in shadow.'" Cate praised the "mystery woman, neat shadows on the columns and readable yet mood-setting text."

It also got the vote of Sylvia McDaniel herself, who was very pleased with her cover.

Coming in fourth was Embrace the Dawn, which charmed many voters with its sepia tones and overlapping tartans. Several mentioned that just the sight of a tartan was enough to make them pick up a book. Maudeen's explanation of her vote was "SCOTLAND, SCOTLAND, SCOTLAND."

Kestra was another fan: "The combination of two different plaids held by the same brooch, contrasting with the pencil on parchment look of the illustration stands out from the rest and invites me into the story."

It also won Carol's vote: " I really like the juxtaposition of an old, faded, crinkled drawing in sepia tones against a crisp, full color, sharp, bright plaid belt with silver medallion. It is very different, very fresh; a breath of fresh air among these other types that I've been seeing for years."

It was also interesting to note that quite a high percentage of those who voted for Embrace the Dawn mentioned Our Yanks as a very close second.

Tyndale House
Cover artist: C.Michael Dudash

Zebra
Cover artist: Jim Griffin

Thomas Dunne
Jacket design: Monica Benalcazar

Luck Be a Lady was the fifth place choice. Bernadette thought it had "classic style, good colour, and an air of mystery."

Goldie found it "beautiful and pensive."

For Caroline, the cover looked like a book she'd enjoy reading. She added that it was "beautiful," and "invited the reader into the scene."

It also won the vote of Tiffany, who mentioned that she bought the book for the cover alone.

The sixth place choice was Our Yanks; voters loved its authentic 1940s book and were thrilled to see a cover that could indicate the book's setting clearly and beautifully.

LLB confesses that she "loved this cover since I first laid eyes on it." She added, "It has such a '40's' retro thing going for it."

Lori also loved it, and enthused, "Looks like an older war poster!"

It also won the vote of Coverballot's Lisa Baca: "This is very nice artwork. It's so much more historically accurate than many historical covers. It really evokes the era. I would buy this and read it!"


Zebra
Cover artist: Unknown

Schooled for Seduction was the seventh place pick of voters. Its fans found it sexy but tasteful, and several loved that male thigh in the background.

Category head Mary Lynne made it her top pick, and found it to be "A wonderfully suggestive cover, and not just in the way you might think! I wonder who the man in the bed is, and what the woman's relationship to him is, and what their story is. And isn't that what a cover's supposed to do?"

Avrey found the cover "very seductive," and added, " I like that you only see a hint of the man's leg." Katherine considered voting for Our Yanks or Embrace the Dawn, but ended up with School for Seduction as her final selection: "In the end, I went for Schooled for Seduction - partially because I couldn't decide between the other two! - but also because at first the cover doesn't look too exceptional, but then you look closely and see the male thigh on the bed, and suddenly the cover becomes a stunner."

In eighth place was A Twilight Clear. Voters were attracted to the winter scene, which they found classy. Susan simply "loved this image of a dark-haired woman in a dark cloak against the snow."

It was also Robin's favorite: "I usually like couples on a cover, but don't care too much for clinches, but this lady makes me want to know who she is and what she's thinking. I also simply like the colors and composition.

Elaine found it to be "a coolly elegant, perfectly posed, lovely young woman set against a stark winter background."

Zebra
Cover artist: Unknown

Sonnet
Cover artist: Gregg Gulbronson

Zebra
Cover artist: Franco Accornero

Coming in ninth was Not So Innocent. Several readers admired the colors in this one, including Malvina: "I love the image of the embracing couple with the coach beyond illuminated by lamplight. The rich colours of both his cloak, the heightened colour in her cheeks and lips, and the lights beyond provide a visually pleasing effect. Added to that, she is leaning into his embrace, her hand on his neck, her face tilted to allow his cheek to rub against hers. Her lips are brushing against his cheek. He might be whispering something to her - who knows? It's an evocative and interesting image of two people getting to know each other in a tender, tentatively romantic embrace."

It was also the favorite of Coverballot's Linnae: "The streetlamp and carriage in the background are lovely and I love the way the lights fall on the H/H in the foreground. Sigh a kiss on the neck is so romantic."

Rounding out the contemporary slate was A Dangerous Fancy. Yvonne said, "This is a lovely cover, I think it shows a couple having a romantic quiet moment together, love the subtle lighting."

Jean thought the cover was "compelling and touching," and added that it was her all-time favorite cover.

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