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Blythe Barnhill - 2005 Worst Cover Chair
Jo-Ann Walmsley - Commentary


Take a seat and settle in because I, and a good number of voters, get chatty.  This being my first year commenting on any category, I tried to be as concise as I could be and I think I did well keeping it short in the Series and Alternate Reality categories.  Not with this one though.  It’s a totally separate entity and I felt I had to do it, and the wonderful wit and snarkiness of our voters, justice.  Maybe next year I can be a little more ruthless!  If they let me…

This is a touchy category because nobody wants to hurt anyone’s feelings (well, not the authors’ feelings, in any case), but really, what do some publishers see when some covers cross their desk?  For instance in this year’s contest we have a sloppy looking man splayed across a spatula.  Did someone think this was a good idea and were brain waves actually showing signs of activity at that moment?  Did someone have a momentary hallucination and saw a nice toasty, grilled cheese sandwich instead and thought, “Yummy!”?  Was it a relative who came up with that concept?  

We have no idea how some of these covers come into being.  But we definitely have some opinions on them once they have and on why they shouldn’t ever see the light of day again.  Unfortunately, we didn’t speak up quickly enough because the covers in this year’s contest seemed to have come in pairs: 2 cartoon covers, 2 clinch covers, 2 John DeSalvo covers, 2 surprise covers (as in “what is it?”) and 2 JTTs (Just Truly Tasteless) covers.  They all deserve a very Un-Honorable Mention since they couldn’t all be the winner.

Speaking of the winner - don’t ever let it be said that only men are warmongers because it’s blatantly untrue.  Put John DeSalvo in a pair of radioactive green pants in a pose that defies all human contortions, with a facial expression that indicates extreme ill-health, on the cover of a romance novel and women will bear arms and go to town razing the village that is Love Spell.  Women (for the most part) can be brutal – and I laughed all the way through their comments on the “Winner” of the Worst Cover category.  


Love Spell
Cover artist: Unknown

Stargazer was the clear winner from the beginning.  Votes began pouring in for this cover (one of which was mine) and there would be no overtaking it!  It received more than twice as many votes as the second place cover and almost one-fourth of the total votes in the Worst Cover category.  There was a lot to say about this cover, but two main camps emerged – one was concerned about the glowing green pants and one concentrated on identifying the cover model - not the John DeSalvo part – that was pretty much a given.  But the part where they were all saying “I’ve seen this guy before…”

Amy asked, “Wasn’t this guy the cyborg in the 2nd Terminator movie? Too weird. And his legs look like toothpicks.”  Julie agreed, “He looks scarily like the bad robot in Terminator 2.”, while Terri said, “Ick! He looks like a robot.  Reminds me of The Terminator!”  

Anna wrote, “It puts me in mind of a rubber action figure.” Sharyl thought so too, “He looks like one of those cheap rubber "action" figures that aren't flexible enough to move the arms and legs.”

Becky thought he looked like The Incredible Hulk....not her favorite hero character.

Bonnie saw an alien on the cover! “Eww! Half man, half ... ALIEN? John Desilva (or whatever his name is, is *so* last century when it comes to cover models. Plus, he looks constipated. And could the colors be any weirder??”  

Heather, however, is sure she has seen the title character before. “It's Stargazer!  Saving the world, emitting phosphorous light from his pants?”

Wendy swears she saw him on Star Trek. "Scotty, the transporter shrunk my pants and ate my shirt, again!!!"

Liz thinks he looks like a deranged killer escaping from a genetically enhanced lab while Livia thinks he looks like some weird hybrid: top half waxwork, bottom half close encounter of the third kind.  Shannon is nervous that he looks like a scary stalker who just stepped out of a tanning bed without turning it off, but Susan believes this cover looks more like a Stephen King novel.

And finally, Lynne knows him as “…Pyramid Man gets my vote. Aren't we a bit over this? It just makes me wonder how many steroids go into making a man look this weird.  Or perhaps that's his natural alien form.”

The group who were worried about his pants, his health, and his demeanor had this to say:

Kate fretted, “Oh my. Oh my, oh my, oh my. I don't know about any of you, but I really hate it when my potential hero has radioactive bits. Such a mood killer.”

Cover Café’s John picked this cover because he couldn’t help but wonder, “Is he materializing or what?  He obviously realizes that he is going to be on a bad cover and where is the girl?  Is he upset about that?”

Sula worried. “This poor man looks constipated. And you have to love the green glow emanating from his nether regions. I assume he's the villain?”

And Nai pondered the hundred dollar question, “He's all ephemeral down there... would he be any good in bed?”

Cover Café’s Blythe (also of AAR) summed it up nicely:  “This was a tough choice this year. I nearly voted for The Daring Twin, since she has evidently flown through the air and landed with her skirt bunched up in the hero's arms (no mean feat). Dylan is nearly as bad. Why would we want to read about the cowboy who can't keep his seat on the horse? But I have to go with John and his mysterious dayglow pants. Probably somewhere there is a planet where this is sexy...but it's not this one.”


Only fifteen votes separated the next seven covers, so it was a very close contest in all but the winning and losing slots.  Bad Boys Over Easy and $he’s on the Money tied for second and third place.


Bad Boys Over Easy

The recurring phrases regarding this cover are tacky, tasteless, cannibalistic and amateurish.  Many wondered how this got past a marketing department.

Christy wrote, “This was the only entry that was truly bad on several levels. This looks like someone pasted some pictures together (badly) on their home computer.  The angles don't line up.  The "bad boy" does not even look interested in being awake, let alone bad.”

Lisa commented, “Creepy and the guy looks like a bum sleeping off a bender.”

AAR’s Leigh chose the cover, “Because it's stupid.  With the other nominees (except for Straight Silver, which I don't get, yet doesn't bother me), there seems to be a reasonable enough concept behind them that's been poorly executed.  (i.e. man riding a bucking bronco?  Could work.  It's just badly done.  Various clinches?  Standard cover fare.  These are just drawn in a ridiculous way).  The Bad Boys Over Easy cover is just an inane idea so inherently flawed to begin with that I can't imagine it being salvaged in any way.  So very dumb.”

Bad Boys Over Easy

Cover artist: Unknown

$he’s on the Money

The Bombshell line is slated to go away in February 2007.  Could this cover be a reason why?  There is only one phrase that needs repeating regarding this cover.  Too Pink!  I never knew there were so many ways to describe what is normally considered a very pretty color!

Jill:  “Too much pink.  Reminds me of Pepto-Bismol.”

Shannon:  “Make the neon stop! I think my eyes are bleeding.”

Jenn:  “Holy pinkness, Batman…”

Valerie:  “All that pink (fuscia?).  Do we need another reason?”

Cynthia:  “Because no one should EVER wear that hideous shade of pink!!!”

Zola:  “My eyes...those colors! No wonder dude's out cold. Has a go-go dancing airline stewardess time-traveled from 1964, landed in the supermarket aisle, and cold-cocked him with a basket of groceries? The fluorescent lights in that particular store seem blindingly bright already, and then she arrives wearing bubblegum pink and an orange,  spray-on tan to finish him off…”

April:  “…$he's on the Money just drew me back again and again.  The luster of those splay-legged boots, the colors that Should Not Be . . . Good Lord.  One look at this pink-clad trollop has stretched the man in blue out on the floor . . . Which makes you wonder about the rest of her ensemble.  Who knows . . . Maybe there's a matching hat?”

$he's on the Money

Silhouette Bombshell
Cover artist: Unknown


Hot Spot

Cover artist: Unknown

Hot Spot won fourth place.  The voters who don’t like cartoon covers to begin with really didn’t like this cover, but those who normally don’t mind cartoon covers objected to the thought bubble.  I was one of them – if it hadn’t been for the very-out-of-place thought bubble, I might have even thought this cover was a fun offering.

Anna thought it looked like Anime Porno, and Loraine agreed with her.  “This cover just screams porn! to me.  Trashy girl with hooker clothes and makeup-apparently dreaming about a "Chippendale" stripper and a sleazy guy with a pot belly!  Gross!”

Danielle disliked a lot more about this cover than the bubble:  “So much bad to choose from (Dead men on a spatula! Dead men in supermarkets! Abstract lipstick smears!), but Hot Spot gets my vote. What's with the bad cartoon anatomy? She doesn't have enough room for her internal organs in that torso, and that bend in her spine can't be comfortable. He looks like he's drunk and off in his own world, and her squeezed-in thought bubble where she's mentally undressing him is tacky. (Not to mention that the photo doesn't fit with the rest of the cartoon cover.) And finally, what's with all the camera flair things? The hero's face looks diseased with one of them on his chin. Ugh!”

Isabelle was torn as to which was the Worst Cover. “This was a tough choice - all these covers are basically awful- but Hot Spot wins for me because of its unnatural and kind of creepy cartoony-ness.  And what's up with the champagne bottle?  WHAT is she wearing?  And does he have a potbelly?  Not very sexy.  It was, however, that awful thought bubble with the male torso in it that really cinched this cover for me.  First of all, it doesn't match the style of the rest of the cover, and second, it's just tacky.  Yuck!”

AAR’s Laurie also had a hard time choosing.  “It was close between this and Straight Silver.  This one looks like a parody of the 1970s and disco...the guy in the thought bubble only makes it worse.”


In fifth place we have The Daring Twin.  (note to self – don’t be drinking anything while reading Worst cover comments in the future…)

Sandy is the reason for the above "note".  “I’ve missed Riverdance so much.  I’m glad the amateur dance companies are finally getting a shot at it.”

Bonnie was very confused by this cover!  “Her toothpick thigh can’t possibly be attached to a butt that is substantial enough for her to be sitting on his leg, so how is she in that position? She would need some more leverage, wouldn’t she? Where’s her other leg and arm?  What an irritating cover!”

Liz said, “The others are truly awful, but this one not only repulses but instructs- a laundry list of romance clichés in pictorial form!  Feisty, red-headed chit with barely contained bosom, muscle-bound mullet-haired Scotsman (what’s with his tiger stripe socks?), insipid, open-mouthed mutual adoration.  It’s anti-sexy...”

And Melissa voices the complaint many romance readers agree with.  “Give me a break!
This is exactly the kind of stupid cover I hate, that makes me embarrassed to be seen reading romance.”

The Daring Twin

Cover artist: Unknown


Straight Silver

Harlequin Intrigue
Cover artist: Unknown

Straight Silver came in sixth place and this was a fun cover for comments.  Disregarding the fact that there wasn't a speck of silver anywhere on the cover, the question of the day was “What IS it?”  If anyone could have figured it out, it may have scored higher!  Among the guesses posed were Kool-Aid stained lump of mashed potatoes, dinosaur skeleton, festering boil, crab, thing from outer space, blotchy watercolor, and a movie poster for cheesy 60’s movie.  Imaginations are wonderful things, aren’t they?

Anna was one of many who couldn’t come up with a definitive guess.  “Though there are some doozies here, this gets my vote because I cannot for the life of me figure out what the cover depicts. Are those orange things lips? Why are the lips orange? The red thing below the lips -- is that a volcano? So someone with orange lipstick kisses a volcano at some point?”

Cover Café’s Karen “…had to pick this cover.  I'm not sure what this is supposed to be, but it sure looks like a picture from my biology textbook, a close up shot of a bedbug or a louse.  Not very romantic!”

Donna couldn’t even guess!  “It was close between this one and Dylan, but this one got my vote.  At least I could figure out what was going on with Dylan. He's excited by the horse or bull, right?  This one I just straight up don't get. What is it suppose to be?”

But Suisan had lots of guesses. “Is that a horseshoe crab? Is it a tick?  With lipstick on it?  A tick named "Silver"? A Red tick named "Silver"? What is that lumpy thing anyway, and why is someone kissing it?  Blegh.  Not romantic, not intriguing.  And the title makes absolutely No Sense when put on top of that image.”

And Audrey had more questions than guesses:  “Most of the books in this category got me asking questions. Why is that man's lower body disintegrating? Shouldn't that woman have a leg to stand on or is she just floating in midair? Are women getting more bloodthirsty nowadays - one just killed a man in the grocery store and others apparently want to cook and eat them? Why is that woman rubbing herself against that giant pole? No, the other one! But I chose this one because aside from the large orange lip print I can't identify it. Have no clue what the rest of the drawing is. Also perhaps in real life it is not so bad, but on my computer it's eyeball searingly vivid.”


Celtic Fire won seventh place.  Just look at the cover – nothing much needs to be said about why it’s in this contest.  Yet many voters did manage to find a lot to say which gave me an idea – maybe we should have a contest for the best voter comment?  The following would be great entries!

Amanda:  “Did anyone else notice that the heroine who is humping the Celtic warrior is in the process of burning her arm off with her own torch?  And she doesn't even seem to CARE! She's just going at it while her arm is slowly transformed into a charred stump. Never, ever, have I been so consumed with passion that I have burned an extremity off. Wow!”

Kathy:  “Yeehaw! Save a horse, ride a Celt!”

Susan:  “I've certainly seen worse covers, but this one embodies so many romance clichés: shirtless man, torrid embrace where they seem more embarrassed than passionate, etc.  Plus, it looks like she's about to dance the flamenco, which as far as I know is not Celtic.”

Yuri:  “What does she thinks she's doing - an obscene version of the highland fling? And I can only be thankful than the title is covering their lower halves because I'm really not sure that we don't have an extra leg somewhere!”

Celtic Fire

Love Spell
Cover artist: Unknown



Leisure Books
Cover artist: Unknown

Eighth place goes to Dylan.  John DeSalvo’s having a bad year.  While Stargazer drew barbs from every direction, this cover drew a lot of laughter.  I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what the publisher was going for.

Alison:  “This cover was the only one that made me laugh out loud.  I nearly wet my pants, I laughed so hard.”

Brenda:  “Because it was the only one that almost made me spray coffee out of my nose and onto the monitor.  I laughed until my stomach hurt.”

Susan:  “It's just so LAUGHABLE.  He looks so silly on that bronco, with his six-pack and waxed chest.”

April:  “Yes, I laughed out loud at this cover. Yeesh.  Okay, so obviously someone thought women would find this button-deficient "cowboy" sexy . . . but he just looks so incredibly baaad.  Just bad…”

Sadie:  “Hands down, the worst.  I don't know which is more ridiculous, the fact that he's riding a water buffalo or that he couldn't keep his shirt closed.”


Fangs for the Memories

Cover artist: Unknown

Summer Lovin'

Cover artist: Unknown

Fangs for the Memories, in ninth place, is such a horribly done cover, I think it should get a true Honorable Mention in addition to being a place holder.  Perhaps the concept wouldn’t have seemed so bad if the artwork had been better.

Chantal is still trying to figure out this cover:  “I don't know what that thing on the cover is. Is that a cup, a ducks foot, an arrow? I have NO idea. What’s with the little mouths? My biggest complaint is that the cover art has absolutely nothing to do with the title. There is so much that could be done with a cover that has the word “fangs” on it.”

Devon chose this book because, “A lot of these look awkward and painful, but a cape with no body?  That's just weird. Was this a book about an invisible vampire?”

This cover would probably prevent Sheela from buying it.  “As usual, all the covers are horrible, but for me, this is the worst because it's just plain ugly.  The colors remind me of a school bus, the lip marks look like some weird buttons out of place, and overall, it looks so low-budget that I can't respect the story that it is covering.  Yuck.”

Summer Lovin’ finishes the line-up in tenth place.  It was definitely the least objectionable of all the covers as it received very few votes.  That doesn’t make it a good cover, just makes the other ones a lot worse!  Personally, I didn’t mind it even though it’s not my favorite type of cover.

It’s not Sandy’s favorite type of cover either and she said so with her vote!  “I absolutely will not buy any book with this type of comic art. Just turns me off.” 

Cindy didn’t like the figure on the cover.  “It looks like Morticia got a bad dye job and is trying to enter the new singles scene.”  Phyllis doesn’t like “stick” people on romance covers.

The main purpose of a book cover is to get a prospective buyer to pick it up, look at it, and buy it.  Martha brought it all back into focus:  “This is a really blah cover -- doesn't inspire you to buy the book.”

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