Jenny Gustafsson - 2006 Two Image Cover Chair and Commentary

The Two Image Category started out with only Historical two-image covers but since 2002-2003 it moved on to also include Contemporaries, and Alternate Reality covers. The second cover can be found as a stepback cover or on the back cover of the book. Although the number of TIC nominations increased in 2006 nominations, I get the feeling that there are less two-image covers being published. Whether that’s due to declining budgets (obviously they are more expensive to produce) or just a shift in style and taste is difficult to say.

The embracing couples, or clinch covers, that are so often found in this category are for some voters still very embarrassing and also very much disliked. However, others find them these covers very hot and sexy and think that they fit perfectly. I’m sorry to hear that some voters expressed dissatisfaction with the choices offered in this category (please, do take the opportunity to nominate covers for 2007, while you still have the chance to get your favorite cover into next year’s contest!); however I’m very happy to say that there were also plenty of enthusiastic comments!


The winning cover in the Two Image Cover category for 2006 is Close Enough to Kill! This eerie, almost menacing cover with its creative play between front and stepback image won with quite a wide margin. Cover Café’s Jo-Ann voted for this cover and said: “The profile cut-out cover is very clever and sinister! And then you open the cover and discover the hand about to touch her shoulder – chilling!”

Close Enough to Kill

Cover artist: Franco Accornero

Nina admired it as well: “Now this says supense. You're already creeped out before reading word one. Excellent use of the step-back cover to continue the theme of the main cover.”

Erin: “I love the look of this with the man's silhouette on the first cover and then her fearful look underneath.”

Donna said: “Suspense – a touch on the shoulder can be wonderful or horrifying.”

Chrystal: “It seems like the picture captures just the moment that she realizes that the killer is someone she knows and trusts. She really looks afraid.”

Jenny: “This is really scary. The killer's face in shadow on the front then his hand on the heroine's shoulder in the stepback really makes me shiver.”

Cora thought Close Enough to Kill was a nice change from clinch covers: “I usually hate either one or both images of a two image cover, probably because this is still the last refuge of the clichéd clinch cover. This one, however, is pleasantly different. I like the contrast between the silhouetted profile (probably whoever is closer than she thinks) and the closeup of the frightened woman in the stepback.”

Karen: “It made me shiver, just looking at this cover. Now I want to read the book!”

Judy was over the “torrid clench” and voted for Close Enough to Kill because “this is a very effective layout and just screams heart attack in paperback.”

Denise’s comment made me laugh: “It's the only cover that isn't silly. I love historical romances, but the covers are often just silly, with weird yoga-defying clench poses and expression of acute constipation on the characters' faces. This cover looks like romantic suspense and does a good job of depicting a woman is frightened and not merely suffering from gas pains.”

Rachel thought the cover fit perfectly: “Wow! You don't even have to ask what type of book this is. The cover and the title say it all. A perfect combination of fear and anticipation.”

Audra: “It's a great suspense cover and makes me want to read it without even worrying about what the back copy says.”




Three Little Secrets is our second place winner. Voters loved the lavender tones and quite a few commented on how well matched the front and stepback covers were. Laurie was one and said: “WOW! Love the colour purple, the front cover with the heroine provocatively dressed and hiding the diary – the inside cover with the clinch pose, and misty background, again all in purple. This cover definitely jumps out at you and screams ‘Buy Me!’”

Mo also admired it and commented: “both images compliment each other both in color and as a story tease. The others looked like they didn’t belong they were of two different stories.”

Cindy: “I just love the softer look of the lavender shades. It seems to add a bit more romance to the stepback.”

Kim: “I think the colors, the style, the romance – it's everything a romance should be.”

Terry: “I'm already wondering what's in that book she's holding – it really captures my interest. Love the way the cover works with the title to let the reader know what the story may be about.”

Several voters complimented the hunky cover model. Sarah was one and said: “It's nice to see a non Fabio kind of man holding the heroine. Not to mention the hottie in the background. You get the idea as to what those secrets are, but desire to know which guy gets lucky.”

Karen was quite enthusiastic: “I get two picks of Nathan Kamp without his shirt! But this was a harder category since there are several very nice stepbacks in here.” – I couldn’t agree more, Karen! – Karen continues: “Close Enough to Kill is useless, however, and almost as bad as books whose stepback is only advertising comments about the book.” – Well, as we can see from the results above, quite a lot of voters seemed to think that Close Enough to Kill was a wonderful cover. It just shows how tastes vary. :-)

Linda: “Nathan Kamp's on the cover - need I say more!” – No, that’s as good a reason as any. ;-)

Y had a tough time choosing: “between Two Little Lies and Three Little secrets... but then again I see it’s the same cover artist. I must like his work! I went with ‘Three’ because the inside cover piqued my curiosity: ‘What could that hot shirtless man be looking for?’”

  Three Little Secrets

Cover art: Alan Ayers
Lettering: Ron Zinn




Third place winner is Dawn Encounter, with only seven votes up to second place. This romantic cover with the heroine being swept off her feet by the hero, the crossed swords, and the gates was the favorite of many voters.

Amy: “I think the gates tie the covers together better than the other choices. I like how the gates are opened once you open the book cover. Very cute.”

Nana: “I actually bought this book because of this cover, and I was delighted to find out that the cover accurately reflected the contents. Crossed swords? The hero's a fencing instructor. Eerie atmosphere? It's historical suspense with a murder plot. Hero carrying the heroine out of a graveyard on a humid New Orleans night? Actually a scene from the book! Fantastic! And that's definitely the best-looking hero in this category, by the way.” – Yes, he is handsome, isn’t he? :-)

Dawn Encounter

Cover artist: Unknown

Sandy: “I love this cover because it gives me something totally different than what I was expecting when turning to the second half. From the front cover I think of a contest of wills, dueling at dawn, but with the dawn breaking as the gate opens on the stepback, I get romance, softness, love. Nothing like what I was anticipating!”

Roz: “Beautiful colour. The crossed swords suggest conflict while the back cover suggests a great love story. Particularly like the closed gates on the front to the open gates on the back – very stylish.”

Leila: “I don't know why anyone would want to look as if they've spent a night at the cemetery, but if I could have the hero carry me like that without his knees buckling, then sure! Encounters at dawn, dusk, in cemetery... whatever works for him!”

Catherine: “They are all gorgeous. This one doesn't cut off anyone's face (I really dislike that in covers), it has an effective title, and I like the picture.”

Mel: “I love how the gates have opened to reveal what could be the actual encouter the book is named after – it makes me want to read this book more than any of the others on the list yet I've never even heard of Jennifer Blake!”




In fourth place was Two Little Lies. This sensual, blue cover became a hit with many voters. Anna: “The midnight blue theme is executed throughout every detail and the couple's pose has just the right amount of romanticism. Plus I really love the sensuality of the woman on the front part.”

Katherine: “I love this book and this cover. The cover model is beautiful and I love the inset. I like insets that tell you something about the plot and aren't just a generic couple in a torrid embrace. This inset shows you that the heroine is an opera singer. I also like the picture on the right side which shows the heroine and hero in a passionate embrace. It's hot but not over done or in your face. All three images are important to the book. The heroine’s career plays a big part in the plot of the novel and their uncontrollable desire for each other brings them together, rips them apart, and eventually brings the back for the second time around. I love covers that reflect the book and have meaning to the plot.”

Sula: “This cover was luscious enough to get my attention and cause me to buy the book without knowing anything about the author. (Thankfully, it turned out to be a good book and the beginning of a mini-glom!)”

Elle: “I like the stepback picture--the female model actually looks like she could be a passionate Italian opera singer (which was what the heroine is supposed to be.) I also like the rich blue color scheme and appreciate the more tasteful than average clinch pose (like wow! both the hero and heroine still have *all* their clothes on!) The dress is falling off the cover model a little bit, but the pose is still attractive and not too cheesy.”

Two Little Lies

Design: Melissa Isriprashad
Cover art: Alan Ayers
Hand lettering: Ron Zinn




Only a Duke Will Do

Cover and stepback illustration: Alan Ayers
Handlettering: David Gatti

Only a Duke Will Do came in fifth place. The overall comment for this cover was – sexy!

Traci: “Definitely the sexiest of all the covers. You just know it's going to be steamy. The top cover has a lovely pastel blend – hazy to keep it interesting. The inside cover carries those tones into the lady's gown, a contrast to the blues and lavenders of the rest of the picture. Beautifully done.”

Robin: “it is a very sexy cover without being over the top.”

Donna: “Genuine passion caught in stepback.”

Elaina: “The soft pink of the cover is lovely, not to mention the stepback is extremely sexy. It also mirrors a scene in the book, which is always a nice attention to detail.”

Kathryn: “the front features something slightly differant: the leg out of the carriage. The inside features a somewhat plausible pose, as well as a continuation of the leg feature. If only the man didn't have blond hair, the cover would be perfect!”

Tiffany didn’t mind a blond hero: “hello hotty (and on the inside for once).”

Laura: “Sexy!!” – We get it. It’s sexy! :-) ‘nuff said.




In sixth place was His Lordship’s Desire. This romantic cover became a favorite of many who dislike clinch covers. Vicki said: “I love covers like this, with a front cover without people and then the hero and heroine on the inside in a non-clinch pose. This one is great!”

Jeanne: “I like it when the lovers are on the inside. I'm sensitive about the covers I take in public. Plus these two are not defying gravity, bodice ripping or chest heaving.”

Cover Café’s Mary Lynne voted for this cover and commented: “I like the interplay between the couple on this cover – we're clearly viewing a moment in a long, ongoing relationship, and that's refreshing to see on a stepback. That, and the fact that they both have clothes on! I'm recovering from the shock of seeing a man on a stepback with a *tied* cravat!”

Maria: “The front cover is beautiful and classy with that lovely statue and lush greens. The couple are shown to be affectionate and intimate without needing to be overtly sexual. Maybe he'll help her brush her hair – I love that! And she has red hair, which makes it even better.”

Karen: “I LOVE the expressions on the characters' faces. They tell a story by themselves. I also like the contrast between how demure mirror image appears in contrast to his hand on her back over the thing gown.”

Julie: “His hand on her back while she's going through her evening routine is very romantic.”

Susan: “I'm not a fan of clinch covers even when hidden behind a stepback, which ruled out many choices. I like this one because of the combination of a classy, tasteful image of a country house on the outside and a stepback showing the characters in a romantic but not graphic pose.”

Cover Café member Karen admitted that “none of these covers particularly thrill me (and usually this is my favorite category). I want a cover that's romantic without being tacky, and most of these covers are rather dull. My favorite is the Joan Wolf cover. The front cover works on its own, and the stepback hints at romance without being too obvious. It makes me wonder, ‘who are these characters?’ My second choice is the Jennifer Blake cover, which has a very romantic stepback image but a dull front cover.”

One Night with a Prince

Cover artist: Unknown




To Rescue a Rogue

Cover artist: Phil Heffernan

Seventh place went to To Rescue a Rogue. Voters liked its pastel colors and soft focus. They also admired the dancing couple and the castle.

Caroline: “I love that the second picture is actually unexpected – not your standard clinch, but this intimate little scene and the castle. I also like the almost impressionist quality of the first cover picture – it looks more like art than like the too garish comic-book aesthetics characterizing many standard covers.”

Alyson and Jeanne’s comments yet again show how different our tastes are.
Alyson: “I like the dreamy out-of-focus quality of the picture, which makes it very romantic and also gives the feel of being slightly blurred in a waltz. It is also nice that the hero has his shirt on and that it is tasteful. The inside cover is not nearly as nice, but almost all the other inside covers were extremely cheesy. The cover for Her Master and Commander was the worst out of the category. Where did they get that Fabio look alike?!”

Jeanne: “Plenty of covers with couples in this category, but this cover gets extra points for the woman's dress being in motion, as if she's being twirled around a ballroom. I also liked the picture inside of the castle. 2nd choice would have gone to Her Master and Commander for the better than usual attention to a male seafaring character of that time – the hairstyle, the cutlass. Very nice.”

Liz wants more covers like this one: “No heaving bodice, no seminaked chest, no girls falling out of their dresses – I had to pick this one. I really don't much like these double covers, mainly because they usually feature the above. This one is tasteful though. More like this!!!”




Now we come to my choice! Eighth place went to Her Master and Commander. There were several of these covers that I really liked, and I had trouble choosing only one favorite. I finally chose this cover since it grabbed my attention when I first saw it, and I’ve kept coming back to it ever since. The hunky blond model, CJ, is perfect as this master and commander. ;-)

Nancy: “He has that dominant look when looking at the sea. The second picture could be a portrait by itself, very well meshed cover.”

Karen: “Terrific composition and the stepback is gorgeous. I want to know more!”

Melissa: “I just think CJ embodies a romantic hero in this cover so well.”

V: “I chose a cover for the hero not the female and CJ is a fantasy hero to dream about all through the book!!”

Robert: “It conveys power, passion and emotion without a pornographic component.”

Donna: “It's a hot cover... he looks like a commander on the front and on the inside cover he's her master... cool!”

Her Master and Commander

Cover Artist: Unknown




An Unexpected Pleasure

Cover artist: Phil Heffernan

A Lady at Last

Cover artist: Unknown

The ninth place cover is An Unexpected Pleasure. Mi chose this one and said: “The insert is beautiful and has a true sense of romance. The outer cover gives a sense of mystery, snooping, and anticipation.”

Malvina: “I love the front cover - the skimpy dress, the woman peeking around a door, maybe, as if she's seeking her man... delicious. And then the riot of pink roses while she's in her lover's embrace on the stepback. Gorgeous, romantic, beautiful.”

SeGate: “I think this cover is lovely! It looks romantic and sweet, without being slutty. No one is overexposed and I find this cover more exciting than those with loads more skin.”

Diane: “The woman looks like she is breathless, waiting in anticipation. Wouldn't you love to have someone pull you under the rose arbor and kiss you senseless? He looks like he will.”

A Lady at Last came in tenth place. Elsie had this as her favorite cover: “I love this cover because this is going back ‘old school’ regency covers. The colors are bright and fantastic. Stefan Schwarz always sells the Regency Hero look.”

Caitlin chose this cover because: “in the stepback, the hero and heroine looks as if they are so engrossed in each other that they might as well have been alone in the crowded ball room.”

Dianna said: “I really like the art and the fact that they aren't half unclothed. In this century yes, in that century, no.”

Ellie: “It's refreshing to see a couple in an intimate moment that doesn't involve sex or disarranged clothes. I also think their clothing is very true to a regency period.”

Jenni: “While the close-up image of the heroine on the cover is getting to be a bit over-used these days, I like the way the second image seems to really capture a moment in the story, not just some random romantic interlude.”


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