Committee Chair: Blythe Barnhill

The somewhat controversial Worst Cover category celebrates the bottom of the romance cover barrel - those covers that you hate to take out of the house, or even to the bookstore counter in the first place. These ten choices go beyond embarrassing into the realm of horrible. I headed this category myself, and I have to admit a certain fondness for those covers that you "love to hate." Cover Ballot members and most readers seem to enjoy this category too; everyone always has plenty to say about these clunkers, and it's usually funny. For what it's worth, no one blames the authors for these monstrosities; most have almost nothing to do with the cover, and no doubt most of them deserved better covers than they got.

In years past, all covers were eligible for inclusion on the Worst slate. This year, we changed that. We realize that the budget for covers is far smaller for small publishers and e-publishers. Though all covers remain eligible for the positive categories, we've excluded covers by small and e-publishers from consideration in the Worst catagory. In an effort to "use our powers for good," we present the Worst slate in an effort to get the big publishers to "change their errant ways."

The runaway favorite in this category was Emily's Daughter, a portrait of a young woman holding a portrait, and wearing…a tablecloth? Or was it a giant doily? Or possibly even a lampshade? Voters weren't quite sure, but they knew they would never get married in it, whatever it was. Ironically, this dress apparently beat out many others entered into a contest to be on the cover. I'd hate to see the losers.

Barbara made it her choice: "The cover of Emily's Daughter evokes every woman's wedding day nightmare! That awful dress reminds me of what Barbra Streisand was wearing when she sang "Sadie, Sadie Married Lady" in the movie Funny Girl. I didn't read the book; was the girl indeed pregnant at her wedding? She looked it! If the cover doesn't win the "worst" prize, then she should surely win the "worst dressed" award!"

Genvieve agreed: "This poor girl is looking sooo lonesome! Maybe she's very aware of how awful her dress is!"


Harlequin Superromance
Cover artist: Unknown


Ballantine
Cover artist: Unknown

Although some readers liked the cover of What to Do About Annie, those who hated it catapulted it into second place. To many, the heroes uneven arms and the heroine's distorted figure represented the worst cartoon covers had to offer.

One reader said, "Cartoons can be cute, but these people look deformed!"

Another suggested, "What to Do About Annie? I'd get her a cat that won't laugh at her." One Criswell fan gave it her vote, and added that she was glad Criswell had a strong following, since her covers seemed to be getting worse and worse.

Coming in third was Moonstruck in Manhattan, a cover whose spread-eagle female legs had more than one voter mentioning the words "statutory rape."

It got Julie's vote, and she had this to say about it: "Moonstruck in Manhattan is AWFUL. I wouldn't be caught dead with it in my possession. It looks like it could be called 'Seduction of Cheerleader #5'."

Sarah agreed: "Moonstruck in Manhattan: something about that girl's legs - The slightly pudgy baby fat calves? The red/black/little orphan Annie color scheme? - simply screams 'Statutory Rape!' I can see where the artist was trying to go with the vaguely 'Mrs. Robinson' set up with a guy in the frame of her legs, but something about those very legs makes her seem far too young to be matched with that dude on the sofa, and far too young to be the heroine of a romance novel. Eeeyew."

Coverballot's Amanda was more succinct: "Brittney Spears called, and she wants her clothes back."


Harlequin Temptation
Cover artist: Unknown


Encanto
Cover artist: Unknown

The fourth place cover was Feliz Navidad, or, as I always thought of it, "Play-dough People in Love."

For AAR Reviewer/Coverballot member Claudia, it called to mind a different image. She made it her top pick, saying, "Gumby people of the world, here is thy cover!"

Other voters compared it to coloring books. The bottom line: few people thought it belonged on a romance novel.


Harlequin Temptation
Cover artist: Unknown

Coming in fifth was Smooth Moves, the apparent result of a bachelor auction gone very, very wrong.

One voter had this to say: "I voted for Smooth Moves, because of the goofy expression on the man's face, and because the balloons in the background look more like the decor for a child's birthday party than a bachelor auction."

Coverballot's Amanda had these thoughts: "Reminds me of a guy who's never been laid. 'Hee hee - I'm gonna get some!' I'm king of the world." Not exactly a sterling endorsement.


Bantam
Cover artist: Unknown

Touched by Gold came in sixth. Voters were put off by the strange look on the hero's face, as well as the weird mask in the background.

Margaret found the hero to be "Neanderthal and creepy."

Sarah, who ultimately chose Moonsturck in Manhattan, added these chilling thoughts: "Touched by Gold? "Touched" is a good word - he does look a little "touched" - in the head. And the little rolls of belly fat - niiiice. Can't wait to be touched by those!"


Harlequin Duets
Cover artist: Unknown

Coming in at seventh is the mysterious Harlequin Duet cover, I Love Lacy/Going in Style. Comments about this one were succinct, and all strikingly similar: "What the hell is it?" was the common refrain.

It got AAR Reviewer Mary's vote: "An embarrassment of choices as usual. At first glance I wouldn't have thought this would be my pick, but the more I stared at it the more confounded I was. Just what the heck *is* that hideous thing under the hearts? It's more unsettling than any of the paranormal covers."







Jove
Cover artist: Unknown

The eighth place choice was my personal un-favorite, My Lord Pirate. I spotted this one early in the year, and I never found anything uglier. It fails on so many levels - the tubby chest, the plastic hair that remains motionless in a thunderstorm, and the vacant, stupid expression on the pirate's face.

Audrey shared my low opinion, and made it her choice as well: "Compared to the promotional children's coloring book style of Feliz Navidad and Going in Style, the jeans-hiked-up-to-there man that Maggie Moore is well advised to pass up and the sleazy striptease atmosphere of Moonstruck, this pirate beats them all. There's that random, sparse fuzz growing all over his chest, hair that would honestly look better cropped, his slight puzzled/constipated look, and the hand that doesn't quite wrap around the hilt. Hope that roaring sea engulfs him soon."


Leisure
Cover artist: John Ennis

Desert Bloom came in ninth, but those who hated it really hated it. To many voters, the whole physics of the scene just seemed impossible. Cheryl made it her choice: "I can't figure out who the heck is where in this. They can't both be on the horse, cause I don't see any male legs. If he's standing, he's either 8 ft tall or she's on a Shetland pony. If she's on the horse, she's going to slide right off at any moment. Just the whole perspective is wrong. It's just wrong. And it's a John Ennis cover. He's a good artist. This cover didn't come from the Romance Cover Artist's Sweatshop. There's no excuse for this one."

The cover evoked nothing but questions for Coverballot's Mary Lynne: "Oh, lordy be. How can I hate this cover? Let me count the ways:

  • 1) How the heck is she staying on that horse with that pose?

  • 2) When did her neckline rip to expose that much flesh?

  • 3) Where is he? Is he on a horse? Is that nebulous shape in the background it?

  • 4) What's that thing behind him?

  • 5) Who the heck thought of bright pink as a background for this?

  • 6) Why does her hair make her look like she's swimming underwater?" Wouldn't we all like to know!


Harlequin Temptation
Cover artist: Unknown

This is one category where coming in tenth is an honor - of sorts. Perhaps the cover is bad, but at least it's not as bad as the others. A Man for Maggie Moore was the "least worst" here. Still, it garnered the vote of none other than LLB, who said, "Choosing from among these is so incredibly difficult because they're all so ugly! Which is most annoying? It's almost a toss-up between Moonstruck in Manhattan and A Man for Maggie Moore, but my final choice among these two is A Man for Maggie Moore. What's he smirking at?"



















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