Mary Lynne Nielson - Ballot chair

 

The Historical Series category was created to give traditional Regencies and Harlequin historicals a fighting chance. Many of us who read them find a certain charm in their covers, but they don't tend to stack up to the mainstream historical romance covers. To many readers, they are look the same; indeed, the category receives less participation than any other.

Liat, who ended up voting for the winner, had this to say about the category as a whole: "It's very clear from all of them that they are historical category romances so from a branding point of view they work. But they feel very generic, that any of them could have any cover interchangeably." It's also worth noting that no matter which cover they voted for, readers were often convinced they were voting for the only one that was unique. To some, uniqueness was all about the setting or the clothes, and to others it was the weather or the props. Also, you only have to look back a few years to see that these covers have greatly improved over time. When I first started reading Regencies over ten years ago, they all looked like "Sixties Ken and Barbie Do Almacks." Signet revamped their covers, and Zebra is experimenting as well, trying out cartoons, portraits, and more of a single title look. Look for this category to change even more next year.

Her Guardian Knight

Mills and Boon Historical
Cover artist: unknown

That said, the winning cover is the one that looks the most different from the pack, and it absolutely clobbered the competition; the second place cover is over two hundred votes behind. Her Guardian Knight, a Mills and Boon romance, features a knight and his lady. It was clear from the comments that most of those who chose it picked it because it was different, and many of them still felt that it was the lesser of ten evils. Those who did like it often expressed a desire to see a little more of the couple and a little less of the purple banner.

Afton had this to say: "I like the actual picture. I'm not crazy about the fact that the publisher apparently ate half of it, but it's still a cute couple and a cuddly guy in armor (not an easy quality to achieve whilst wearing plate mail). Aw, now I want a guardian knight. Sniffle." Many readers liked that it was a medieval, and more than one admitted to having a soft spot for a knight in shining armor.

Jo-Ann liked the whole look of the cover: "Well, it's a medieval which made it stand out. Plus the whole scene is nice. I like the pose, especially the hand on the chin, indicating great affection as opposed to lust. The colors are nice, the costumes are pretty (if probably inaccurate), and I love her hair." Paula's sentiments were also common: "This one gets my vote because of the natural, honest pose. Neither the heroine or the hero will have neck or back injuries after this." AAR's Cheryl chose this one for its uniqueness as well: "It's different. All the others look alike, though, except for the clothing, this would be the same as the others. I'm looking forward to next year's Historical Series ballot when the new Zebra trad covers will nominated. I've loved what I've seen of them thus far."

 

The distant second place cover was A Rake's Redemption. Readers liked the natural look, symmetry, and most of all, the hero on his knees.

Amy said, "I like how it represents every girls' dream of a proposal with a gentleman on his knee."

Tine also liked this aspect: "I like this cover very much because the lady on it doesn't look so very helpless. Their eyes are at the same height, which makes the two of them look more equal. Besides, they don't look so very clinging and cliché. It is very surprising to see the 'moment supreme'…(yes THE question)on a cover."

Margaret liked the setting: "Great look for a regency. He looks direct and definite, she looks sweet and shy. And I like the 'drawing room' setting." Karen chose this one as well: "Even before opening the book I have a positive view of the H/H. They look sweet here. There's energy in the cover and not of the fake bend-her-over-his-arm sort."

A Rake's Redemption

Signet
Cover artist: John Paul

 

Saving Lord Verwood

Signet
Cover artist: Aleta Rafton

Coming in third was Saving Lord Verwood. Readers like the country scene, and the fact that the hero and heroine were actually doing something. And several, like Annie, mentioned that they chose it for the ducks. Tiffany thought it had a "pastoral feel."

Mallika found the scene more realistic than most of the other choices: "I loved that you could tell by looking at the picture that the two main characters were enjoying each other's company - there was no need for the clichéd, ‘I want you right here and now' pose where the female lead appears to be plastered all over the male lead's chest. I loved the softer, more romantic setting. The lush grass and the fairytale-like colors of the sky added to the atmosphere."

Caroline, who is passionate about historical costuming, felt that this cover (though not perfect) was the most realistic: " . . .the clothing and hairstyles on this cover most closely resemble period accuracy…It still doesn't hold up to analysis, but it's not jarring. I found all the regency covers to be jarring because the gentlemen all looked straight out of modern times, due to their hair."

 

Kiss of the Highwayman came in fourth, and most of its fans liked the romance of the attractive highwayman. Marsha said: "This is one of my favorite genres and while when I see this type [of cover], I am more inclined to buy... this one especially caught my eye. If this is a highwayman...HOLD ME UP!"

Lisa loved the book, and thought the cover was a perfect match: "Well, I read the book and it was great. I like the nighttime mood, and the carriage, and the clinch there in the middle of the road."

Annette liked it as well: "I'm a sucker for a dark hero in a greatcoat and the coach adds a hint of danger and intrigue." It also got my vote. I love coach covers, and when the moonlight and handsome hero were factored in as well, it seemed like the obvious choice.

Kiss of the Highwayman

Signet
Cover artist: Aleta Rafton

 

Spinster and the Wastrel

Signet
Cover artist: Chris Cocozza

The fifth place cover was The Spinster and the Wastrel. Voters found the winter scene appealing, and liked the expressions on the couple's faces as well. Phyllis made it her pick: "I love the colors used, the winter scene behind, and the expressions on the couple's face. It's a lovely cover." Kristin liked it as well: "Most of these covers feel the same to me, but I like the colors and wintry atmosphere of this one the best. Plus, I actually like what the heroine is wearing. No hot pink or undoubtedly grass-stained yellow (see Saving Lord Verwood). And she managed to put on a proper coat and gloves instead of just standing around bare shouldered in the open doorway (see Lady Roma's Romance)."

Ballot chair Mary Lynne thought this one stood out from the pack: "In a field where the similarity of artistic style results in little things meaning a lot, this cover has the details and touches that make it stand out. I love the interaction between the hero and the heroine on this cover. There's a story there, a connection between these two people that is palpable in the art, and I want to find out more about it. The wintry background gives a good focus to these two characters. And the fact that her bonnet is actually pretty wretched matches so nicely with the ‘spinster' of the title."

 

Lady Roma's Romance

Zebra
Cover artist: unknown

Lady Roma's Romance, a Zebra cover, was the sixth place choice. Sabrian thought the type of cover in general was very attractive: "I really like these photo-based covers. They're more enticing and less old-fashioned." Nikki thought it was romantic: "I love the way his head is tilted just a little bit - not too much. It's nearly as if he just leaned in to see her better or get a scent of her or even just kiss her gently."

Jill made it her pick: "This couple looks very classy and glamorous. Their pose is more natural than many of the others and I love the glimpse of the outside. Aren't they cold though?" And Nifty asked, "Can my reason be just because I love her dress?" Since several other readers made the same comment, I'd say yes.

Miss Lindel's Love, also published by Zebra, came in seventh. Voters liked the flowers and the hero (in particular, the hero's butt). Coverballot's Lisa was a flower fan: . . .this is colorful with flowers. These covers, except for this one all seem alike."

Julia thought the setting presented some interesting possibilities: "I've never seen a greenhouse [cover] before. It's nice. Colorful. And it makes me want to be seduced in one. Diane liked the attractive hero: "The hero is the sexiest thing I've seen in awhile. Makes me drool. Slurp." A reader identifying herself as carrotbat agreed, confining her remarks to two words: "tight pants."

Miss Lindel's Love

Zebra
Cover artist: Richard Newton

 

<Moonlight and Mischief

Signet
Cover artist: unknown

Barkin Emeralds

Signet
Cover artist: Robert Papp

Harem Bride

Signet
Cover artist: Jon Paul

In eighth place was Moonlight and Mischief. Voters liked the romance of the moonlit scene. Wen said, "I like the fact that the moonlight of the title is echoed in the painting. All the other covers seem like they could work for any book of the genre."

Jeanne is another Regency fan who thinks the genre in general needs a cover make-over, to her this was the best of the lot: "I like the color scheme the best here. Violet is such a strong, vivid, and warm color. I like the way it's reflected in the top half of the cover, the flowers in the urn, and her stole."

Karla liked it as well: "I like the colours, and the fact the heroine seems to be a more equal participant, instead of being overwhelmed by the hero."

Coming in ninth was The Barkin Emeralds. Those who chose it liked the misty background. Lilly called it Wuthering Heights-looking," and she wasn't the only one to draw that comparison. Helen chose it as well: "The misty background makes this intense couple stand out. Also, their clothes seem true to the time."

AAR/Coverballot's Teresa also made it her choice: "I like the painterly background and the suggestion of a different sort of locale for this story. Also the connection between the two seems more believable and somewhat less posed - like the way they're both touching each other tenderly and leaning in."

The Harem Bride rounded out the ballot at the tenth spot.

Yvonne chose it because she liked the composition of the shot.

Nassy liked the "dressed up look and romantic dancing."

Stacey chose it as well: "I love his stockings. And there seems to be a lot of drama between them. It makes me curious about the plot."

 

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