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Katherine Vonderhaar and Lee Brewer (Commentary) - 2009 Two Image Cover Chairs

The two-image cover is always judged on two pictures: the front cover and the stepback. Thus, artists have a double challenge. Some artists continue the cover theme onto the stepback with just a little embellishment while other artists revert to what can be seen on single covers – a clinch pose showcasing a couple. And sometimes, there are two different illustrators involved with the front cover and the stepback. For this year’s contest, we had quite a variety of different designs, but each one had their fans.

The top winner in the Two-Cover Category, The Scandals of an Innocent by Nicola Cornick, won first place by a wide margin. Danielle M. said: “...Although I'm not a huge fan of chopped off faces I really like how the dress wraps around to the back of the book.” Others chimed in that the “wrap around cover" was the reason they voted for Scandals.

Raelene G. commented: “The dress is lovely, including the way it drapes onto the back cover. I like the insertion of the covers of the two related books. The woman's jewelry and hair add interest.”

The Scandals of an Innocent
HQN - Harlequin
Art Director and Designer: Erin Craig,
Photographer: Dan Lim

And Gayle H. exclaimed: “The wrap around of the gown is gorgeous.”

Elizabeth B. had no doubts about her choice: "This one, no question. I know the half-face thing is a little done, but I just can't resist the rich colors and textures of this one! Also, non-embarrassing for the win!"

Jelly found most of the nominees uninspiring but also noted: “At least, Scandals was a little out of the box and the dress is gorgeous and managing to stay upright on her shoulders.”

Jean W. liked the unique approach: "It's different. Instead of the usual half-naked clinch, it's both stylish and suggestive and elegant."

Victoria S. said: "like the new covers with half faces. This leaves the way the characters look to MY imagination."

Deb L. had a lot to say: “I like how the same image carries over onto the other page. It's very fluid and unbroken. When reading, I like to stop and look at the cover some times when trying to wrap my head around something happening in the storyline. Something like this cover is perfect because it gives me a 'bigger picture' of the big picture - I'm already trying to grasp something - multiple images confuses me.”

So did Suzannah: "GORGEOUS...This is tastefully sensuous--the colours, the texture of the dress, the jewellery, the lovely hair, and that incredibly sensuous mouth. This cover actually makes me think the Headless Heroine is a good thing!"

And Althea summed it up in three words: "LOVE that dress."



The second place cover was Early Dawn by Catherine Anderson. It received multiple comments about its simplicity, how different it was from most two-image covers, how beautiful the colors were, and for that fact it didn't feature a scantily clad couple in a clinch.

Cover Cafe's Linnae was a big fan: “You have to love a cowboy! This is such a fresh take on the TIC category that it won my vote. It is so soft and pretty with the colors of dawn.”

There were more cowboy fans like Linda C.: "The view of the cowboys heading out at the first blaze of dawn makes you feel like you're there."

And Sarah E.: "A beautiful sunrise, horses, and cowboys... what's not to love :)"

And Kelly YD.: "I'm not a 'bodice ripper' type of person and I absolutely love the cowboy mystique."

And Cora B.: stated what many voters thought. “The color scheme, the blurred images and the overall mood match the title. Another big plus is that it's not a clinch nor does it feature embarrassingly ahistorical costumes on the models.”

Fran G. added: “Because it's a beautiful scene that tells you what to expect and NO CLINCH...”

Lizbeth S.loved the cover: "The artwork hit three of my very favorite themes: flowers in the foreground, horses, and sunrise."

Caroline C. said: "The colours are gorgeous, the cover actually goes well with the title, and the delicate flowers and morning light are so full of emotion. Original!"

And Cover Cafe's Christiane had a simple reason for her vote: "This is the way I remember early dawn."

  Early Dawn
Penguin Group, USA
Front Cover Photographer: Peter Lilja,
StepBack Designer: Elizabeth Phillips,
Photographer: Jupiterimages, © Getty Images



The third place winner is Hidden Currents by Christine Freehan. Voters really liked the uniqueness of this cover. Jennifer H. was one such voter: "It's not the standard man & woman in clinch. I see this and I WANT these two to get together. I want to read to find out how they do it."
Hidden Currents
Penguin Group, USA
Cover Illustration: Dan O'Leary,
Cover Handlettering: Ron Zinn,
Cover Design: George Long,
Text Design: Kristin del Rosario

Sweet Vernal Zephyr summed it up well: “The outer and inner cover are NOT redundant. You actually do discover something if you are enticed to lift that first cover.”

Similarly, Denise M. said: “Jackson is looking to sea to find his Elle and she is looking for him from a different coast. To me this cover shows longing and the need to be with their lost love. The sea is stormy and represents the difficulty of their quest as well as the stormy sky, however the sky also shows color and reminds me of the adage, darkest before the dawn (even though it is set on the west coast).”

And Kate noted: “I like the twist on the traditional clinch cover - having the two separated, both staring out at the sea conveys a lovely sense of longing and uncertainty. It throws the whole HEA into question, and adds tension before you even start to read.”

Priscilla C. agreed: "It is so beautiful and full of emotion I can almost feel the wind blowing and the sea breeze on my face. And it goes well the actual story in the book."

Bella F. noted: “I love the mood set by the darker colors; it feels magical & they match the sea, and I also like seeing the woman and the man get their own page/setting.”

Mary Anne: "The dark landscape/seascape with the mysterious woman looking out to sea is most evocative. Also, the palette of muted cool colors is quite effective."

Pricilla C.: "It is so beautiful and full of emotion I can almost feel the wind blowing and the sea breeze on my face. And it goes well with the actual story in the book."

Finally Ell: "The pictures are almost lyrical...I can almost feel the character's longing."



To Beguile A Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt, finished in fourth place. Voters loved the colors! They also loved the natural pose of the couple like Kay: "I like the colors. The poses actually seem possible in real life."

Maria was drawn by the couple: "The dress is gorgeous and the striking shade of blue caught my eye without being unpleasantly bright. What I like best is the tenderness of the couple, especially on the cover. Wow! It's hot, but it's also romantic and to me that makes it even hotter."

Kathy said: "It's beautiful, it's deep mysterious blue, it's tasteful on the outside and sexy on the inside!"

Julie G. commented: “I absolutely LOVE the use of vivid color on this one.”

And Heather W. noted: “I love the colors in the inset, the green shrubbery and the blue flowers which match the gown. Lovely!”

Vicki S. said: “The colors are so vibrant. They jump out at you.”

Liz M. was passionate about the cover: “I love everything about that dress, especially the color, and the garden on the step back is beautiful. I'd love to spend time there.”

Jody also mentioned the garden: "The outdoorsy feel. The artist has really captured the feel of a garden and I love how her dress picks up the color of the wisteria"

For Camille it was all about the hero: "That male model is just so yummy!! The front cover is very eye-catching- I think it's the blue (or is that purple?) That pose in the stepback is nothing new but coupled with the garden scenery, that gown and I repeat, that male model- simply gorgeous!"

And Sandy concluded: “I'm a sucker for blue, it’s my favorite color and the shades and contrast with the pinks are just beautiful. Not to mention the second image is both sweet and steamy.”

To Beguile a Beast
Grand Central Publishing
Cover illustration: Alan Ayers
Hand lettering: Ron Zinn



This Duchess of Mine by Eloisa James finished in fifth place and is one of two Eloisa James covers featured in the finals this year. The color pink was a reason why many voters chose this cover. Sarah L. was one of those voters: "This cover is a delicious pink confection!"

This Duchess of Mine
Harper Collins Publishing
Front Cover Illustration: Gordon Crabb
Step Back Illustration: Jon Paul
Shelley M. noted: “Beautiful soft colors, state of undress, VERY romantic!”

So did Alexandra K.: "The colors and textures pop off the cover giving the feel of the time and place story takes place impact."

And Roz R.: "Fabulous color, dress, setting and models."

Cover Cafe's Sharon chose this cover because: "It's a work of art & says Romance."

Meghan H. echoed those sentiments: “The front cover is almost painfully pretty, and the stepback is sexy without looking forced.”

Antonia said: “It looks like a painting and I love the use of pink. It works without being tacky.”

Margaret is a romantic at heart: "It's a classic cover, soft and beautiful, full of romance."

India liked the passion: "The contrast between prim and proper outside and the passionate interior."

Kristina C. was very sure of her vote: "Absolutely gorgeous!! No contest (as far as I'm concerned) in this category!"

And Amanda was a fan of the colors: “I love the pinks and the soft watercolor tones of this cover. The couple looks tasteful and in-proportion while still looking passionate, and the hero bears a marked resemblance to my favorite Spanish football player, which didn't influence my decision one bit. :)”



The US cover for Tempt Me At Twilight by Lisa Kleypas, finished in sixth place. The UK cover finished first in the Historical category. Voters cited two main factors in choosing this book: The soft white colors and that it wasn't a typical clinch cover.

Cover Cafe's Katherine gave it her vote because: "It's a beautiful cover. I like the blue lettering on the white background. I like the pose, the dress, and the couch. I also like the second cover. It's a nice "clinch" between the hero and heroine. All the other clinch stepbacks have akward poses."

Joyce P. voted for the Lisa Kleypas title but said: “The best of a mixed bunch. Why on earth do publishers continue to be a la French Revolution and cut off heads?”

But other voters reacted in more positive ways. Nikki T. noted: “Love her dress, her hair, the colors. Oh, and the male isn't bad either!”

Michele simply said: "A stunning picture that leads to temptation inside."

Kristie J. commented: “ Ever since Lisa Kleypas moved to St. Martins, she's gotten beautiful covers and this one is no exception. I love how she's sitting there in white on a white sofa. And of course the guy on the inside step isn't too shabby either!”

And one more vote for the male model from Cover Cafe's Mary Alice: “The man is just pure, raw sex appeal! He commands my attention! Hot!!! LOL, so I'm shallow!”

Jill M. voted for the romance: "The entire thing just looks soft and enticing, and the the couple's pose is very believable and not unnatural. It LOOKS romantic."

Anita S. enjoyed both cover and stepback: “I like the author/title font and the partial face on the cover. The couple picture has a faded, sepia feel that I like. Simple yet elegant.”

Tempt Me at Twilight
St. Martin's Press
Cover Illustration: by Alan Ayers,
Handlettering: by Ron Zinn



Confessions of A Little Black Gown by Elizabeth Boyle, finished in seventh place. Lots of voters really, really liked the dress.

Confessions of a Little Black Gown
Harper Collins Publishing
Art Direction: Thomas Enger,
Cover Illustration: Jon Paul,
Livia stated it plain and simple: “That Elegant Black Gown,” while Liz M.: “Loved the dress.”

Heather C. agreed about the dress: "I love the contrast between the dress and the rest of the picture, plus the contrast in the dress itself with shadows and light on the silk."

Andi D. noted: “I think the main cover is the prettiest and that's more important than the inside one. This inside cover is okay, but it's the outside one that takes the cake.”

Saundra said: “In a sea of pastel and pearl, this little black gown is SO striking. Sure, the poor heroine seems to be suffering from a broken back, but I can forgive a lot for instant grab-appeal.”

Heather M. liked the dress but other things as well: “I love the gown! I love the man. And I love the flirty/sexy way the cover models are together.”

Aurore voted for this cover because: "The black gown on the front is very classy and the other picture is hot but still classy."

Blythe concluded: “This was my hands down favorite. It illustrates the title, has great art work, and is romantic without being totally cheesy...”

Laurie was a total fan: "I loved this cover the moment I first saw it - even blogged about how striking it is!"

Perhaps TJB said it best: “Lovely, tasteful, provocative--just like a little black dress should be.”



Star Bright by Catherine Anderson, her second cover featured in this category, finished in eighth place. Star Bright received quite a few votes based on its simplicity. Heather M. loved: "the colors, flowers and the lighting around the heroine".

Cover Cafe's Tina stated: “I love the pastels and the simple flowers on the front cover and the inside scene is gorgeous: serene and dreamy. I'd love to be standing in that field.”

Stuart was rather poetic: “The echo of the golden sun against the wheat field and the subtle golden tones throughout.”

Cover Cafe's John was pleasantly surprised: "3 flowers on the front is kind of nothing and then wow the hot cowgirl on the step back. Unexpected find...."

And Tracy D. simple said: "She looks peaceful."

Nana liked the continuity of Susan's covers: "I saw a cover like Star Bright in a store and knew immediately that it had to be a Catherine Anderson book. The simple pastel flower cover with sun-dazzled stepback wins my vote because it is attractive and distinctive. If I were new to Anderson's books, I'd pick it up; if I were already a fan, I'd be able to find it on a shelf. And that's what a book cover should do..."

Other readers appreciated Star Bright being different. Michele H. commented: “I am so tired of the clinch covers where the hero and heroine are in impossible positions. This is a refreshing change.”

Jessica G. noted: “Simple and clean, obviously a contemporary cover and it is pretty and feminine. I appreciate good contemporary cover art a lot since so many of them are cartoons.”

And Janet P. was emphatic when she said: “Proof positive that a romance novel doesn't need a shirtless man or ripped bodice on the cover to catch my attention!”

Star Bright
Penguin Group, USA
Art Director: Anthony Ramondo



A Duke of Her Own
Harper Collins Publishing
Cover Illustration: James Griffin
Harper Collins Publishing
Cover Illustration: James Griffin

A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James, finished in ninth place and is the second James cover appearing in this category.

The cover received several comments about the heroine’s dress. For instance, Sandy C. commented: “It's an admittedly frivolous reason, but I love that dress!” Manda had this to say: “Gorgeous dress, lovely details on the balcony, and pretty man-back,” while Kim said: “I liked the color of the dress, the candlelight and moon. it all worked together nicely.” And Tina S. declared: “Gorgeous dress and love the inside scene on the stairs.”

They were definite art fans voting for this cover. Victoria P. noted: “The scene is in the book.” Paul C. felt: “It evokes a sense of passion.” And Susan D. mentioned: “All of Eloisa James' covers remind me of elegant paintings from the 18th and 19th century.” Finally, David O.said simply: “It’s painterly.”

Anna B. is a fan of the artist: “I've always liked James Griffin's work, as well as the back view covers, so this may have been stacked from the get-go, and the use of color certainly didn't hurt.”

Laurie G. said: "Love the colors and layout of the artwork and the emotion and action in the characters."

And Rosario: "I like the perspective on the stepback cover, and how there's movement there. He's clearly just pounced on her!"

Karina C.: "Passionate! And who hasn't visualized that very scene so many times while reading those risque historicals?"

Stephania: There is going to be some ravishing going on tonight!

Our last finalist is Believe by Victoria Alexander. Several voters really liked the front cover’s follow-up to the stepback.

Laura W. said: “I like the fact that the inside image is essentially a close up of the front cover. Neat continuation.”

And Ariel D. commented: “I really like that the step-back is the same as the cover from a different perspective.”

In the same vein, Kelly L. noted: “I love the gorgeous winter scene, and the way the stepback shows us that the first picture isn't as innocent as it looks."

Nancy had several reasons for her choice: "Not toooo suggestive (you have to leave something to the imagintation) ... didn't cut the woman's head off ... seems to fit the title of the book (soft and dreamy) ... and didn't split the man & woman on different pages."

While Danielle D. was very honest in stating: “I had to vote for this cover -- two people outside without coats half naked in the middle of winter!”

Denise S. wasn't a big fan of any of the nominees: "Honestly, none really made me go Wow! They're all pretty homogenous. However, I chose Believe because the colors were eye-catching and the hero actually has a little bit of bed-hair going, something I'd expect if the two are engaged in a little playtime as the image implies."

Malvina Y. summed up her choice because of the holiday theme: “I'm getting a bit over the whole half-undressed clinch cover thing, even on the step-back. But what saves this cover is the festive green and red, a Christmassy touch as well as snowflakes. That lifts it out of the ordinary to just lovely.”

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