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Jo-Ann Walmsley - 2006 Worst Cover Chair and Commentary


Perhaps our contest is having an affect on what is appearing on romance novel covers after all! It was pretty hard to come up with 10 "traditional" romance novel covers that would qualify for a Worst nomination. Actually a lot of the covers for 2006 were repetitive of what's become popular or just plain bland. On this ballot, we have 5 cartoon covers (2 of which are Chick and Lit and 1 is romantica), another Chick Lit and another romantica, and 2 contemporary and 1 historical romances. It's quite a mix and covers all corners of the artistic spectrum. So much so that there was a lot of defending other covers going on in the comments that accompanied the votes. All in all it was a very telling and interesting ballot.

In looking at the Worst category ballot this year, there were three obvious contenders for first place. At the start, any one of them could have taken the honor, being as they were all outrageous. Did voters object most to motorcycle riding, leather-clad, hot mamas? Or were they offended instead by belly baring baby brooders or scary beanpole she-males who not only put their shoes on backwards but their feet as well? We were very interested to see how it would all end up but as it turned out there was no suspense or question about it at all. From the first hour that votes started to pour in, it was apparent which cover was going to be the winner - that's how much of a runaway win this was. The original three contenders did, in fact, take win, place and show and they represented 65% of all the votes - out of those votes, the first place cover took 45%! Out of the entire 10 covers, it took 30%. It was just amazing.


Leaving L.A.

Harlequin Next
Cover artist: Unknown

LEAVING L.A. by Rexanne Becnel is the winner of the Worst category in the 2006 annual Cover Contest. Motherhood may be universally revered and worshiped out of all proportion all across the planet (and Harlequin), but bare it on a romance novel cover in an extremely silly and tasteless fashion and well...we just don't want to know.

Alyson: “It was so difficult to choose, but I think that this cover has got to be the worst. The woman's pregnant belly looks like a giant blow of bubblegum highlighted by the cartoonish colors of the photo. She could almost be standing in a fun house mirror - her torso is distorted with her forearm looking almost as large as her leg! The big red bag draws attention to the obnoxious flower-covered leggings. And why would a woman leaving LA be carrying a large pink stuffed animal?”

Catherine: “Oh my! What is she wearing? Would a 39 year old be caught dead in that outfit, pregnant or not? The cover implies that the pregnant girl is about 12 years old. Yuck!”

Wendy: “They're all terrible, but this one just made me go 'ewwwww' and I would never even pick up the book to read the description. If I saw it on a shelf, I'd want to put another book in front of it. Who on earth thought this was a good idea?”

Jen: “If this cover were the ad for a new perfume, it would be called 'Eau de Trailer Trash.' Now, there's nothing wrong with a pregnant belly. Pregnancy is beautiful. But when you combine a bare pregnant belly with a crop top and those hideous pants, you have a recipe for disaster. And what exactly is up with the giant pink bear? At least I think that's a bear. Is this supposed to be a grown woman, or a fourteen-year-old girl who thinks she's being trendy by letting her belly hang out? Either way, ew.”

Carol: “Okay, do any of these body parts actually come from the same body? The legs are bigger than the basketball (is that supposed to be a pregnant belly?), the hand appears larger than the arm it is attached to and the shirt appears on either upside down or sideways.”

Tisi: “That cover looks like the poster child for a "Jerry Springer" episode. What, is she 12? Did she just win a bear at the circus?”




TAKE TWO by Evangeline Anderson came in second place. If you can't tell why just by looking at the cover, I'll let the comments below explain it to you. By the way, this wasn't one of the covers that many voters actually liked and defended...

This cover was my pick. Like everyone else, it's always a hard choice, but I had to go with this one because in addition to the concept being as bad as all the others, the quality and execution of the artwork was just so awful, I can't believe a major publisher put this on a book.

Ginny: “Hands down, I would not buy this book *because* of the cover. Even if I was assured it was life changing and amazing. Nope. What are they standing on? Why is Saturn so close? Is she grabbing ass? Are they going to the beach? What are those two doing while their back is turned? Do I even want to know?”

Cover Café’s Mary Lynne: “Double my horror, double my revulsion, double my distaste, double my shock....and why is the poor planet Saturn, or whatever ringed planet that is supposed to be, the unhappy witness to this silly ménage shot? This simply doesn't have a romantic feel at all!”

Marian: “…This cover is enough to make me nostalgic for the bodice-ripping clinches of old - at least they didn't look quite so weird and porn-y.”

Kim: “Because in addition to the general tackiness, aren't her feet backwards?”

Judy: “Okay. I can forgive (somewhat) the poorly done animated covers. You should never drink and draw but this...! This looks like the cover of a porn video. Both guys look like they're clutching desperately at they're 'packages' in case she decides to dig a little deeper. If that's even possible. Ewww...get that girl some hand sanitizer and while you're at it look for her lost stripper pole.”

Linda: “It looks like two guys urinating off the back porch.”

Danielle: “Okay they are all terrible but this one takes the cake. Why? This is obviously supposed to be a hot book but I have no desire to read about two of the most unappealing male specimens I've ever seen. What is she doing giving them wedgies?? Is that supposed to be sexy? I'm not even going to get into the weird red blob the men look like they are melting into while she just sort of hovers over it. This whole thing is just ewwww.”

Take Two

Cover artist: Unknown




In third place we have HELL KAT by Vivi Anna. This cover, and the one above, are prime examples of how romantica/erotica has infiltrated the romance novel industry. Whether you like to read it or not, apparently you really don't want to *see* it - and many voters feel this kind of cover has no place in the romance novel genre.

Jane: “You are telling me this is supposed to be a romance novel cover and not that of some bizarre comic about BDSM bikers with fake breasts? My goodness. I would not want to be seen reading a book with this cover ever, under any circumstances. "Disgusting" does not begin to describe this!”

Karen: “Boobs (can I say that) in my face=YUCKYUCKYUCK! This looks like a book for a teenage boy (or a man who hasn't matured much). This is just awful, gross, disgusting, etc.!!! I would definitely NOT buy a book with this cover ever!”

Kimberly: “If this was the best book of the year, I wouldn't know, this cover would drive me away without any hesitation.”

Leta: “Her package is bigger than my last ex-husband's. Not that that means it's very big, but that does mean it's very disturbing.”

Emilia: “She's wearing a codpiece--and it appears to be...full. And apparently the guy on the back is about to do a physical check to see if his eyes have deceived him.”

Jeannie: “That is just bad. It looks like bad anime. I really don't like the way she is just about naked and he looks like he is going to cop a feel. You can see her pelvic bone. That is just BAD art. Not only would I not pick up the book, I'd cover the eyes of any little children around and shove all copies behind other books.”

Anne: “What sane woman would look at this cover and think it was 1) a romance, and 2) meant for female readers? This book is something a 20 year-old guy would buy expecting biker porn. Frankly I can't tell if the guy pictured is attacking her or if he's in the process of falling off the bike.”

Lisa: “Is Kensington marketing this book to men or women?”

Pam: “IS this a graphic novel or a romance novel?... I can't imagine that this cover would entice any romance novel reader to pick up this book...”

Liz: “Is this book a romance?” Just about says it all, doesn't it?

Hell Kat

Cover artist: Unknown




For the Love of a Pirate

Cover artist: Unknown

FOR THE LOVE OF A PIRATE by Edith Layton is one cover that was highly defended by many voters who didn't understand why it was on this ballot! Maybe they were prejudiced by their love for a beloved, established author? Maybe a pirate fetish? All the others who voted it into fourth place could have told them it probably wasn't the couple or the pose or the clinch that was the offending sight, but rather the setting:

Heather: “"For the Love of a Pirate?" I think they're going to need the love of a good doctor after that tidal wave smacks them against the rocks during their completely inappropriately timed interlude.”

Cover Café’s Lisa: “...Where, I ask you, is her other leg? How can they do that on a sheer cliff face?”

Kathy: “I think when they're done, they'll need skin patches and a chiropractor! Looks like a painful interlude to me...”

Iris: “Wooohoo, flying pretend-pirates. Someone must have added the wrong background.”

Melanie: “I had to pick this one because I kept coming back to it. I couldn't figure out if they were making out while levitating about rocks. And why would you be rock climbing with no shoes? In a evening dress! And I'm sure it was no easy trip on him either with no shirt. Dude. I guess it doesn't matter since the tsunami is going to kill them both.”

Michel: “My knees are hurting.”

Pamela: “I hate these covers where the H/H are in a position last seen in the Kama Sutra (and I like/read erotica). I'm not sure how those two are balancing on that rocky mountaintop. I expect they plunged off at some point, but I hope they finished first.”

Kathryn: “Ok, some of the others I can justify, they're cartoons, which don't especially appeal to me, and some are just so bad that is it funny, i.e. Squeeze Play. But this! Are they giants? Or is their passion allowing them to hover over the landscape? Because I all see when I look is this is mountains in the distance, with an improbable wave to their left...where exactly are they in relation to the ocean? And if they are proceeding to get in on in a world which is collapsing into the ocean, don't his knees really hurt? Oh, wait, she's not that heavy cause she only has one leg! This offends my eyes and my sense of proportion!”

Helen: “...Talk about unsafe sex!!!”

Priscilla: “I m so glad this made the contest. I love her books but I was ashamed to let people see me buying this one. After I read the story, I was even more angry on her behalf.”




BREAKUP BABE, in fifth place, is actually skillfully done. It's just not very romantic.

Sarah: “The drawing of it is fairly good as cartoons go; it is just very cheesy and gives me no desire to read the book.”

Lissa: “It was between this and Hell Kat. This one just was so disgusting. I didn't want to read it, hated the thought bubble. The whole thing made me want to run, not even pick it up to see why it's so bad.”

Ann: “It's AWFUL. I would NOT buy this book just because of the cover.”

Amy: “It's pretty hard to choose, but I think this one is the worst offender for going too far into ugly comic book land. These covers are not okay and should be banned from romance. I would never be tempted to buy this book since I don't understand what I would be reading. Manga? Tacky self-help? Ick.”

Louise: “Oh, dear God. Would ANYONE buy a book with this cover?”

Tersia: “Really! This cover will make me promise never to buy a book by these publishers.”

Nikki: “This cover looks like a comic book. Well, so do some of the others, but this one screams comic book. I'm not ashamed to be reading a romance novel, but I do NOT want the book I am reading to be mistaken for a comic book.”

Cassandra: “This is a mistake - right? Everything about this book cover is wrong - including the title, the byline and the artwork. I don't think I want to read a romance called Breakup Babe especially if it looks like this. It's so sad, it's not even a laughing matter. Oh - can someone explain After the Rice??! I just couldn't figure that one out at all.”

Breakup Babe

Ballantine Books
Cover artist: Unknown




Venus Envy

Forge Books
Cover artist: Unknown

In sixth place we have VENUS ENVY. This was another love it or hate it kind of cover. Personally, I think it was kind of clever, but many other didn't:

Tory: “There were some bad covers but this one was just too creepy, a woman with no arms. I know she's supposed to be like Venus DeMilo, but still....ughh!...”

Laura: “...Still, Venus Envy made me shiver and grab my biceps to make sure they were still there. Not the sort of reaction that says "I love you," ya know? Bleh.”

Jim: “This just looks so ridiculous. Who in their right mind would put a woman on a book cover without arms, especially if it isn't mythological.”

Eileen: “Arms that are chopped off is not my idea of a romance... weird.”

Tina: “I just can't get past the dismemberment. I mean, the statue itself has a perfectly good reason for not having arms, it's old and beat up, but trying to make it come alive without them and yet she's dressed, well, how did she manage that without any arms?...”




FINDING YOUR MOJO, in the seventh place slot, on the other hand was not a love it or hate it kind of cover. It seems to have been a concept with a certain potential that was not well executed in the artwork or the title!

Maria: There are some particularly hideous cartoon covers and a completely unsexy dominatrix-type in this contest, but I voted for this one because I can't understand why it was seen as a good idea. Who is that little doll supposed to be, an annoying ex-boyfriend who keeps pestering the heroine or a surprisingly unappealing new hunk she meets? This doesn't work as a funny chick lit cover and isn't even remotely romantic.

Samantha: “If that's what mojo looks like, why would you want to find him?”

Tia: "It's hideous and kind of weird. There's just nothing appealing about this cover."

Barb: "Nasty voodoo doll nestled in lingerie? With pearls floating in the background? And what does mojo have to do with voodoo, other than both ending in o? What did a humorous author like Stephanie Bond do to someone at the publisher's to deserve a cover like this?"

Marilynn: "…It looks like a voodoo doll on a side of beef."

Cover Café’s John: "This one is just ugly. The pregnant woman is actually kind of cute and Breakup Babe reminds me of the 1950's detective magazines. I really hate Venus Envy but the idea is interesting. Hell Kat has some interesting angles in their clothing and is really disgusting but this one is just plain ugly."

Finding Your Mojo

Cover artist: Unknown




After the Rice

Forge Books
Cover artist: Unknown

AFTER THE RICE is way down here in eighth place. Near the bottom of the list, when there are fewer and fewer votes, there are fewer comments! But for one reason or the other, voters skipped the most popularly hated covers and found reasons to dislike other ones more.

Gayle: "Dull, looks like they were trying to save money on colored ink. Unappealing."

Malvina: "I would never guess that this is supposed to be romantic. Just looking at this cover makes me depressed, truly. Obviously the honeymoon's well and truly over, the in-laws and other unknowns are in and out of the house, the dog is about the only cute thing, and the heroine looks about ready to commit suicide, she's so miserable. I would be too, with that bizarre lot cluttering up my house... And oh such a lovely charming lady-like posture she has.. gack. A frizzy tizzy picture, arguments going on inside, the hero is nowhere - hang on, is that him, peering out the window looking like a dork? And what's with the other legless woman in the other window, lifting her skirts? Crikey... No, if I'm depressed and want to stay that way I'll pick this up. Otherwise, I'll head back to romance. Tragic... I will say one thing in the heroine's favour, however - at least she's got arms, unlike the heroine on the front of Venus Envy."

Jessica: "It's just washed out and ugly!"

Sunni: "Ugly. Depressing."




Sqeeze Play

Cover artist: Unknown

Love on the Ropes

Love Spell
Cover artist: Unknown

Next to last in ninth place is SQUEEZE PLAY. Not a lot happening in this cover, but what's there offended some voters.

Kristin: "It's offensive."

Devon: "I'm sorry, it's just to fuggly for words. Like someone vomited the cover art onto the book."

Sheela: “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.”

LOVE ON THE ROPES was silly, but the least inoffensive, so it ended up in last place. For a while there, it was questionable if it would even get any votes!

KT: "Hideous, hard-to-read typography. Unfortunate use of color."

Jane: "Cartoons! please. This one was a hard choice."

Tina: "It's a real toss up between this and Take Two (which looks like a rehearsal for an Off Off Broadway revue), but I really hate the disproportion in this one. The girl's pencil neck and scrawny arms creep me out. I may read it though, never read a boxing romance."

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