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Karen Wheless - 2009 Contemporary Cover Chair and Commentary

This year’s contemporary covers are a diverse group. Not only do they come from a wide variety of genres – from inspirational to erotica, chick lit to suspense – but they also feature a particularly wide range of styles. There are beautiful dresses and beautiful muscles, passionate couples and charming vistas. This year, we also have covers from many publishers, including big names like Harlequin and smaller presses like Red Sage. The contemporary category is always one of the most exciting categories, because of this great diversity.

Even before the cover contest, people were talking about the cover that finished in first place, Vision in White by Nora Roberts. Whenever I visited a bookstore, I would hear readers praising the beautiful wedding dress and the contemporary feel of the cover.

Vision In White
Berkley - Penguin
Artist: Photo by Claudio Marinesco
The voters at Cover Cafe must have agreed, since Vision in White received more than twice as many votes as any other cover. Words like beautiful, simple, classy and romantic were mentioned over and over in the comments.

Anna was a particularly avid fan: “The composition here is just stunning. It’s wonderful with the title, and gives us a gorgeous visual while still leaving a lot to the imagination. Also, I kind of want those shoes!”

Eleanor agreed: “Very artistic and intriguing. Lovely crop and colors, and already I want to turn it over and read the blurb.”

Cover Cafe’s Cindy also loved this cover: “This shows every little girl’s fantasy of a beautiful wedding. I love the graceful look of this cover.”

Dishonor also enjoyed this cover: “I truly am a sucker for headless ladies in pretty dresses. I love how this cover is both elegant and thoroughly modern, with that delightful font choice...”

And Malvina loved the fantasy of this cover: “Simple. Gorgeous bride dress. We all wanna play with bride dolls and bride dresses. This is the grown up version, having a bride dress on the cover of our romance. It wins.”

Others loved the cover because it felt so fresh: Joanna was one of those voters: “Different. Different. Finally, something Different!”

Sarah agreed: “I loved this cover from the moment I saw it. It’s fresh and modern and really captures the best of both romance and chick lit.”

And the cover made a sale for Noite: “This book cover is just beautiful. I’m not even a Nora Roberts fan (at all) and this cover tempts me to read the book anyway.”

Several voters mentioned the elegant shoes as their reason for choosing this cover. Xina was one of them: "Ah.....I love the shoes. And the dress. Quite beautiful." And Diane was a shoe fan, too: "A pretty and feminine composition. The shoe makes it sexy." Cei simply said: "SHOES!"



Crash Into Me by Jill Sorenson came in second place, and voters loved the beautiful colors – but were a little worried about this couple’s safety!

Angela was one of them: “Very sexy. Except for the fact that their lives appear to be in danger, of course. That next wave is surely going to pull them into the sea!”

Jelly agreed: “It’s a clinch cover done in an unusual way. I almost didn’t notice them in the first place. Though it should be ridiculous since they look like they’re two seconds from drowning, nonetheless it works – it’s a classic movie cliché of crashing waves = passionate nooky-making.”

Andrew was also a fan: “I have the feeling this won’t win, because the love scene here is impractical bordering on completely impossible. But not only is this cover well-executed, there’s something undeniably erotic about wild sex among crashing waves, practicality be damned!”

Other voters found the scene exciting and mysterious, including Carrie: “I love the motion, energy and sense of danger, as well as the passion you feel coming from the couple. Plus, the monochromatic blue is stunning.”

Yuri was torn between several of the covers, but: “...I think in the end Crash Into Me gets my vote for the colors and the sheer sensuality of that couple in the water that you only see on the second glance.”

And Kelly was the most prolific: “Crash Into Me will be my guilty pick! Why? The Clear Waves of Passion, the Ripples of Intimacy and Suspense, the Stormy Dramatic Color Tones, the font and text are simple, well placed and not the least bit distracting, the Gender Balance, the complete surrender to overpowering desire! There is simply nothing to fault in this cover design! A++”. Kelly, I think you have a future writing cover blurbs!

Crash Into Me
Bantam - Random House
Artist: Alan Ayers,
Designer: Yook Louie



If tommorrow Never Comes
Multnomah Books - Random House
Artist: Kristopher Orr
If Tomorrow Never Comes by Marlo Schalesky came in third place, but it may have won the prize for most passionate fans. I could have filled a page with all of the comments that came in for this cover. Several Cover Cafe members were also fans, including Mary Alice: “This cover is so haunting, romantic and beautiful. I wonder why this man is walking the beach alone, looking lost and forlorn. My heart aches to help him and hold him, to find out what happened to him.”

Cover Cafe’s Katherine agreed: “It’s the most interesting cover. I like the colors, the landscape, and the positioning of the heroine’s face. It all blends together nicely. The cover also peaks my interest and makes me curious about the plot. I would definitely pick this book up...”

Cora was also intrigued: “Some really good covers in this category, but I went for this one because I like the early morning color scheme, which answers the title question (tomorrow did come), the composition of a lonely man on a desolate (but beautiful) beach, and a sorrowful woman looking down on him. Makes you wonder what happened here. Did she leave him? Is she dead? Why is he walking alone on the beach?”

Meg was drawn to the cover's mystery: "The surrealness of this pulled at me, made me ask questions, made me want to stick my feet in wet sand. For me, this far surpassed all of the other covers on this category. The colors are a wonderful tapestry."

Several voters, like Kristie, mentioned the haunting quality. "I find this one very haunting in it's beautiful loneliness. The ghostlike woman, the man walking alone, the slight fog, the colors - they all comes together into something gorgeous. I can almost make up a story in my head based on the cover."

Mary Anne loved it too, and singled out the cover artist for her highest praise. “Lovely, evocative cover art! The seashore with a multicolored play of light on sand, rock and water; the lone wanderer on the beach leaving footprints behind; the vision-like face of a pensive woman in the sky – all these elements combine to create a most memorable cover. If I ever get one of my books published, I hope my cover artist will be Kristopher Orr...!”



The nomination for Strangers by Barbara Elsborg came in at the last minute, but the cover immediately became a favorite. It came in fourth in the final voting. Readers loved the simple, romantic image.

Jill said: “Wow, a couple of really beautiful ones. This one gets my vote because it is a clinch cover done right. The focus is on the faces and their emotional interaction, not on body parts and impossible contortions."

Stuart agreed: “The intimacy hints at a forbidden closeness. It captures the absolute most exciting time of the rush of a new relationship.”

Many voters commented on the artistry of this cover. Willa said: “Great chiaroscuro! I love the contrasts of their dark hair and lashes and the whiteness of the rest of the cover.”

Cover Cafe’s Mary Lynne was also a fan: “I love the interplay shown with the hero and heroine’s expressions here. There’s also a very interesting, washed-out quality to this image that helps it fade to white at the bottom that’s something I haven’t seen often in covers before...”

Paul agreed: “The way white suffuses the space is arresting and catches my eye.”

Laurie also commented on the cover’s artistic qualities: “Love the expressions and emotional interaction in the characters, the warm natural tones, and the dynamic font. Beautiful!”

And of course the author's vote is important, too. Barbara Elsborg simply reasoned: "It's my book! What can I say!!"

Ellora's Cave
Cover Designed by Syneca



All That You Are
HQN - Harlequin
Art Director/Designer: Michael Rehder,
Photographer: Simon Tuckett
The fifth place cover, All That You Are by Stef Ann Holm, also had a contemporary and artistic look that appealed to many voters. Commenters appreciated how unusual this cover was and how it drew them in.

Caroline found this book particularly intriguing. “This is a lovely and unconventional way of showing a couple on the cover (and the blue is simply lovely)."

Sandy agreed; “Interesting view of just their ‘real’ lower legs, but all of them in the water’s reflection! I like it because it’s different.”

Laura mentioned the perspective; "Love that reflection. Cool that all we see are the feet of the actual people, but everything in the reflection."

Heidi liked its modern feel; “Most contemporary photo up here. Very nice reflective moment for the title.”

Many readers were torn between this cover and others. Bron noted: “Toughest category so far; I liked all of these but chose this for the clever effect.”

Kay commented: “nice use of space and font.”

Jennifer said: “this book looks like it will be fun and romantic with lots of heart.”

Carol praised its “original approach”, while Dorothy said, “This is the one that has the most whimsy and makes me curious about what is inside.”



The sixth place cover, Object of Desire by Calista Fox, drew voters who loved the romantic feeling and the sexy but sweet pose.

Denise said; “It was a really difficult choice...I chose this one because of what it conveys visually. There’s a tenderness in this pose that separates it from the typical passionate clinch. He’s kissing her forehead and holding her forearm. It’s sexy for the poignancy of that particular moment...”

Islandelf agreed; “Both sexy AND sweet at the same time. And the title and image seem to reference each other via the attitude (they want each other) and the fact that she’s holding a diamond of some sort in her hands. So a well done play on words!”

Several voters liked the intimacy and affection. Like Bella: "I just like the look of sweet intimacy between the couple.

And Lianne: "The focus on the couple and the tender expressions on their faces are exquisite. As is the cover model. :)"

Alexandra was also a fan: “The couple are in a beautiful, sensual pose without going too far. The lighting is perfect, showing the colors of their skin yet detailed in showing their features at the same time. The font used is a wonderful description of their story, at the same time showing harmony with the composition of the entire photo. Truly perfect!”

This was my favorite cover in the contest, although it was hard to choose just one. I was drawn to this cover from the first time I was it, because it sets the scene so nicely – it shows a romantic, intimate moment between the hero and heroine that draws you into the story.

Object Of Desire
Red Sage Publishing
Artist: Tara Kearney



Sand, Sun...Seduction
Art Director: Margie Miller,
Designer: Tara Scarcello,
Photographer: Michael Alberstat,
Retouching: Allan Davey
The seventh place cover, Sand, Sun...Seduction, had definite appeal to many voters. As Camille put it, “I’d say the reason is pretty obvious , don’t you?” Some of the comments for this book were great fun.

Heather: “Okay, three words. Wet. Naked. Man.” And Nancy: "Hubba!"

Elle: "The cover model is (ahem) eye-catching, and I like the tropical colors of the text."

Angela: “Really? I have to explain why? Ridiculously hot guy getting water sprayed all over him?”

Kelly: I like the pretty colors. Really. That's why.

Emily: “Purely salacious reasons.”

Cover Cafe’s Sharon: “He’s a work of art!...Love this cover! Says hot romance!

Cover Cafe’s Linnae loved this cover: “This was one of my nominations this past year, and I didn’t believe it would make it to the top ten. It is sexy and fun with lush tropical colors, water and a handsome guy. The cover and the title fit together and remind me of summer fun.”

Delle had more artistic reasons for her vote: “Looks almost like a chalk drawing. Very good balance.The title is a little hard to read, but I like it best anyway.”

Another Cover Cafe member, Karen H., also loved it: “The pose is one of my favorites and it matches the title. I just like looking at this and feeling the sun’s heat and the coolness of the water streaming down.”



Lone Star Woman by Sadie Callahan came in eighth place. This book was a favorite of several Cover Cafe members. Amanda said: “It has wonderful color usage and a composition that really draws you in.”

Cover Cafe’s John: “She is believable enough to think she could really be from Texas. The green jeans detract a little but she is pretty and hot in front of that hot Texas sun.”

Other Texans agreed. Nana said: “The heroine looks sexy, modern, confident and thoroughly Texan. I also appreciate the little touches, like picking up the color of the belt buckle in the font and letting the heroine’s hip bump naturally over the top of her jeans.”

Many voters commented on the vibrant colors on this cover. Raelene: “Stunning covers, strong woman.”

Susan agreed: “Such vivid colors make you want to be right there.”

Other readers found the heroine intriguing. Nikki noted: “I really like her stance – no nonsense, don’t mess with me. I’m capable of taking care of myself, and I want that cowboy right over there.”

And Cassie said: “She just looks so touch and capable; someone I’d want to read about. The colors are striking and engaging. A cover that screams for attention in a positive way.”

Lone Star Woman
Signet Eclipse - Penguin
Artist: Unknown



No Limits
Brava - Kensington
Artist: Unknown
Caught Up In The Rapture
Genesis Press
Art Design: Chris Esler

The ninth place cover, No Limits by Alison Kent, attracted voters with the bold stare of the hero. Most of the comments mentioned his eyes in some way.

Emma: “Talk about handsome! His eyes are gorgeous. The type of man people dream of.”

Danielle: “His eyes! Oh my stars –- he can take me to the limit any time!”

Kaye: “The eyes captured me. A little mystery and mischief makes a winning combination.”

Judy: "The hero looking out like THAT makes me feel like the heroine!"

Becky: “I like the way the guy is looking right at me...that gaze promises that with him, there really are NO limits.”

Wendy was sold on this cover. “...I chose No Limits because the model is flat-out sexy with his piercing blue-eyed stare. And because of this cover alone, I downloaded No Limits to my Kindle, so obviously, it worked for me!”

And yet, taste is so variable. I rarely mention negative comments, but this one made me laugh, and it shows how much tastes vary. There was another voter named Wendy who wasn’t a fan of this cover. Wendy L. wrote: “That guy looks a lot like my house rabbit.”

Caught Up In The Rapture by Lisa G. Riley finished in tenth place. This cover attracted voters who loved the charm of the French street scene and the romance of a trip to Paris with someone you love.

Donald agreed: "Nostalgic evocation of love in Paris."

Saundra commented: “It’s like a picture postcard inviting me to France”.

Jenn was also a fan: “I don’t even have much of a feeling for Paris one way or the other, but this cover makes me want to hop on a plane!”

And Eloise said: “I’m into anything French. I’d pick this book up and read it just based on the cover.”

Anna B. agreed: “The Eiffel Tower is a classic icon of romance, and the couple’s pose looks intimate and natural. The variation in fonts for the title and author name also catches the eye.”

And the cover made a sale for Kerry. “I love the intimacy of the couple without it being a clinch, the Eiffel tower giving it a sense of place, and the typography is lovely. Beautiful. I’ll be checking out the story for this one on the strength of the cover.”


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