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Karen Wheless - Contemporary Chair and Commentary

What kind of cover reflects a contemporary romance? If you ask the voters in the cover contest, you'll get many answers. To some readers, romance is a picnic on a spring day. Other readers prefer a passionate couple, a well muscled cowboy or a bride in white. This diversity is what makes the contemporary category so exciting.

The winning cover for 2010 is SUGAR CREEK by Toni Blake. Readers were charmed by this picture of a romantic picnic, and wanted to step into the cover and join in.   Keri S.: "I just want to fall into this picture and live there."   And Elyse: "Just gorgeous. I want to walk into the cover…"

Sugar Creek
Avon - Harper Collins
Illustrator: Ricky Mujica

Nancy: "I looked at the cover and was filled with a longing to be in a place like that – so magical."

Cover Cafe's Heather: "I like the whimsy of this cover. It's simple and lovely and creates the perfect romantic atmosphere."

Kelly M.: "It's beautiful, and so evocative of summer that I can practically smell that rose. And look, apple blossoms on the cover of a book about an apple orchard. Yay, details!"

Cynthia: "Seductive, cozy, and fun setting. Makes me want to catch fireflies, BBQ, take a nap, or do… other things."

Other voters were attracted to this cover because it was so different from other romance covers. Niveau commented, "Sometimes I feel like an author gets so caught up in having the two characters fall in love that s/he forgets to make the novel romantic. This cover, though… it just screams romance, and gives me the warm tinglies inside."

Cover Cafe's Mary was also a fan: "There's no one reason I chose this cover. I love the summertime feel of it, the lightning bugs, the rose, the quilt slightly rumpled, everything just works on this cover."

And some readers admired the cover design, including Arlene R.: "I was impressed at how the designer brought together muted and bright colors (while bright, the dusky sky above and the bright red flower below were believable). But I was also impressed by how the designer brought so many curiosity-provoking elements onto a single cover, without making it look cluttered…"

Carolyn G: "Beautiful composition. Pulls the reader into the mood but allows them to form their own image of the characters."

Author Deb Stover gave this cover the ultimate compliment: "This is a cover I actually bought because of the cover. Gorgeous!"



The cover in second place is familiar to Cover Cafe voters: HAPPY EVER AFTER by Nora Roberts. It's part of the same series as last year's winner, Vision in White. Romance readers love a beautiful bride, and this one was a favorite.

Camille: "It's SO *romantic*… *sigh*. Love the dress, the veil, the bouquet, the font – it goes very well with the title. It isn't at all subtle but I know the series is called the "Bride" quartet so I don't much care."

Joannie: "I'm getting married next month so I'll admit that I am a little biased toward this cover, but it really is very beautiful."

Stephanie B.: "Because of the dress. What woman doesn't want a dress like that for her wedding?"

Malvina: "It's all about the bride frock, and the hint of a luscious kiss happening. We all love brides and the lace and the veil… simply lovely. And sigh, he's kissing her. Happy ever after indeed…"

Covers without faces are a little controversial, but some readers prefer this style, including Mary M: "…I've got to go with Nora Roberts – simple, classic, and just a hint of the face. Which works as everyone will imagine their own version of the cover and therefore it's a winner every time."

Zoe M.: "This is the definition of romance – and I prefer NOT to see all of my contemporary cover men."

Nora H: "My favorite contemporary cover style – modern, fresh and allows the reader to create their own images."

The words elegant and classic kept coming up in the comments. A.N. was another fan: "There's a classical beauty to this one. And the color coordination is beautiful as well…"

Teri P.: "This cover is beautiful. You feel like you can reach out and touch the soft flower petals. One of the most elegantly done covers yet."

Happy Ever After
Berkley - Penguin
Cover Illustration and Design: Rita Frangie;
Cover Photography: Samodelkin8



From a summer wedding to a winter wonderland. The third place cover was the anthology BABY, IT'S COLD OUTSIDE, featuring stories by Jennifer Greene, Merline Lovelace and Cindi Myers. This was my favorite cover in the contest. From the first time I saw it, I was drawn to its combination of fun and romance.

Baby, It's Cold Outside
Art Director: Margie Miller;
Designer: Tara Scarcello;
Photographer: Michael Alberstat;
Retouching: Allan Davey

Many other readers also loved the fun and sexy vibe of this cover, including Cover Cafe's Katherine: "It's super cute. I love their expressions and they look like they are having a lot of fun. I also like the bright colors of their outfits on the white snowy background. Great look."

Maria: "They just look so happy to be together! So many cover couples are angsty or scowling sexily at one another. It's nice to see this side of romance represented as well."

Lara L.: Fresh and fun. Any book cover that actually makes me want to read a book about Christmas and winter is doing it right."

Annie A.: "I like that they're all bundled up but this cover still conveys a sense of sexiness and romance. It's playful and I liked that."

Other readers were drawn to this cover because it was different from other covers in the contest. Edyta agreed: "It's so normal – no half-faces or bodies without heads. (Man! I'm SO fed up with those!) Plus, I really love winter and the snow."

Susan W.: "I love the playfulness, and it shows what a sexy image you can have without using a half-nekkid clinch…"

Rachel: "Well, that's refreshing! A romantic moment that doesn't turn my stomach with its ooey-gooey sentimentality. The couple looks happy and realistic. Also, love the total absence of phallic imagery…"

Cover Cafe's Elaine: "It is romantic and spontaneous and the couple is actually dressed appropriately for winter (no half open buttonless shirts in the snow!)."

And another reader brought us back to the great design of this cover, Laura H.: "It's not often that you see such a successfully designed cover with the title on the bottom and the action on the top...The couple look like they are having fun and FUN is SEXY!! I hate winter but this cover makes me want to find a man and a great knit cap and play in the snow."



The next three covers were within a few votes of each other, starting with SWINGING ON A STAR by Janice Thompson in fourth place. This is one of the most realistic covers in the contest, and readers were drawn to its down to earth simplicity.

Mirole: "I like the couple on the cover – they look like real people."

Jill R.: "They look like people I would like to meet. Beautiful smiles."

Robyn F.: "I love the way the characters look – so real and like they are having a great time! Beautiful background!"

Sally: "Love the real life beauty of it. It's so natural."

Dianne B: "The cover tells a story."

Other readers were drawn to the cover's design, including author Carol Oates: "It's pretty and simple. Reminds me of a movie poster."

Kyrstine K.: "I like the light feel to the whole composition, and the way the two subjects are looking at each other."

Cover Cafe's John: "Engaging couple that looks like they are in or starting a relationship. Simple not overly dramatic."

Dolly M.: "It looks clean, happy, like there's a connection between the two characters; love the water and sunset backdrop, adds depth, and love the scrolling at the top, nice detail, makes me hopeful that the author included important details."

Mary Anne L.: "Charming scene; eye-catching color; skillful composition. The expressions and poses of the models are most inviting – and they clearly indicate something's going on. A fine example of how a cover illustration can be upbeat yet evocative."

Joy M.:"Young Love - Ain't it grand?! Really, really cute!"

Cover Cafe's Linnae summed up this cover's appeal: "It's simply charming."

Swinging on a Star
Revell - Baker Publishing
Photographer: Steve Gardner



Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor
St. Martin's
Illustrator: Judy York

CHRISTMAS EVE AT FRIDAY HARBOR by Lisa Kleypas came in fifth. This unconventional Christmas cover attracted many readers, especially voters who were looking for something unique and different.

Nana: "I like this cover for taking risks. Purple and blue are unconventional covers for a Christmas cover. A landscape is a bold choice for a romance cover. The end result is a book that would draw eyes wherever you shelved it, and that's a great cover."

Andrew L.: "A beautiful design that uses simple colours and light to draw the potential reader into the world of the book. This is my absolute favorite across all the nominees this year, regardless of category!"

Jenny H.: "A really intriguing use of Christmas lights, suggesting a load of stories going on aboard those boats."

Other readers were attracted by the Christmas theme and the unusual elements of the cover, including Cover Cafe's Lee: "Love the sailboats, the Christmas lights, the snow-capped mountains. Beautiful!"

Chris H.: "Love the tremendous use of color. Very interesting."

Trish M.: "I love, love, love the colors and composition of this cover."

Kimberly M.: "I love the purples and blues. I love the Christmas and boats on the water. Christmas and boating… what's NOT to like?"

Jenny B.: "Lighted boat parades were one of my favorite Christmas events as a child, and I loved this cover enough upon seeing it in the contest to go out and read the book! (And it actually had a boat parade in it!)"



SEA OF SUSPICION by Toni Anderson came in sixth. This Carina Press cover was a favorite for its evocative color scheme and intriguing setting. Cover Cafe's Lisa summed up the appeal of this cover: "The moody blue colors go well with the title and it doesn't look like a perfume ad!"

Dana R.: "The colors and the storm at sea really do it for me. If I saw this in the store, I'd pick it up and check out the blurb."

Cover Cafe's Marian: "I can't help it – I am attracted to the blues. I love them and this cover is all about blue."

Author Colleen Coble: "The colors are mesmerizing."

Lynn: "I love the sea and blue… this gets my vote because it is just lovely in my eyes."

Other readers loved this cover's sense of mystery, including Karyn: "Win, win, win for doom and gloom alone. The atmosphere seems to leap off the cover with the roiling sea and the storm clouds. "Something's coming" is the thought that is evoked."

Kathy A: "What an evocative cover. It looks so gothic and rich with mystery and sensuality. It makes me want to dive into the book!"

Cate M.: "Powerful and mystic, compelling in the way effective cover art should be."

Peggy M.: "Portrays an awesome stormy suspense! Love the mixture of blues and grays. The artist used the perfect balance of coloring. This one really draws one's interest, and fits the title perfectly."

Dawn F.: "I have not read this book, but would pick this one up off of the shelves before any of the others you have in this contest. It has a shroud of mystique and I love the background which mists out the character in front."

Sea of Suspicion
Carina Press
Cover Design: Frauke at Croco Designs




Ballatine - Random House
Illustrator: Franco Accornero

The next two covers both feature sexy cowboys, and came in just a few votes apart. Suzanne Brockmann's INFAMOUS is in seventh place. The appeal of this hero was clear in the comments. Or as Sandy put it: "Hunky man! That's what I'm reading romance for! smiley Send him my way please!"

Elisa Maria: "Well hello! I could look at this guy for a while."

De: "The arms. I'm voting for the arms."

Louise H.: "I don't think I really need a reason when the male on the cover of a book looks like this!"

Lori H. summed up her vote:"Cowboy + hot model + mysterious face (I get to dream up my own to match the story)... what more could you ask for?" Readers like Ronya, Mia, Mary V., Christy M., and Kaetrin A. also voted for the Infamous cover because of the sexy cowboy.

Other readers were intrigued by the hero's face, just out of sight behind his Stetson. Merrian: "I love the shape of his arms and how with the tilted hat and covered body, the closed body language pose that along with his hidden eyes suggests that there are things to be unraveled and unwrapped here."

Olivia W.: "Something about the shadows on his face and the fact that we can't see his eyes – very intriguing."

April E.: "Strong and mysterious. I want to know what's going on under that hat."

Carol S.: "Of the choices, this has the boldest, clearest composition. The slouched hat and lighting strike a mood and raise questions: Who is this guy? Why is he infamous?"



MAN OF THE WEST by Sadie Callahan came in eighth. Sadie Callahan's covers have been featured in this category before, and this book's Western setting and appealing hero attracted many readers. BevQB summed it up: "Obviously the sweet beefcake mancandy gets my attention first, but the background immediately identifies this story as a contemporary western."

Cover Cafe's Karen H. was torn between these two hero-centered covers but decided on this one: "This was tough but I like this pose a little bit more than Infamous as it seems a bit more realistic. Plus, more of his face is showing."

Author Christine Rimmer agreed: "I love a sexy man in a hat. And the truck and windmill are just very… Man of the West."

Pat W.: "Hunky guy - what's not to like. Appreciate that he's leaning against a truck and not a horse."

Anna B.: "This tells readers they are going to get a "man of the west" here - cowboy, truck, badge, windmill. Ready to roll."

Other voters zeroed in on the hero. As Cathy H. put it, "Who wouldn't like THAT guy???"

Renee C.: "3 words: Tall, dark and handsome! HUBBA HUBBA!"

Dawn G.: "It's those tight jeans. (sigh…)"

Jeannie H.: "Makes you want to break the law just so he'd arrest you!"

Nikki H.: "Hello! Cowboy! White shirt, sleeves rolled up! Lawman's star! 'Nuff said. I'm going to look up this book right now."

Man of the West
Signet - Penguin
Artist: Unknown



The Man Who Loved Pride & Prejudice
Cover Design: Danielle Fiorella,
Cover Images: Elizabeth Etienne - Corbis;
Sara Gray - Getty Images; Comstock Images
Demon Rumm
Cover Design: Karin Batten

THE MAN WHO LOVED PRIDE & PREJUDICE by Abigail Reynolds came in ninth. The cover, the title and the subject all intrigued our voters, including Stella of Ex Libris: "Love the setting sun's warm glow, the lush scenery and the lighthouse! The tender embrace of the couple and their harmony is obvious. Beautiful cover!"

Nikki B.: "Nice natural setting, sweet couple pose, lighthouse for a bit of character... But mostly just like the way the title sits on the page."

Carolyn C.: "A fresh take on the couple embracing on the cover and a lovely landscape in warm colors? I love it!"

Elizabeth: "Such a lovely pose for the couple! They look so sweet and romantic. I want to be her! (And hey, I'd love to have a man who loves Pride & Prejudice, too!)"

It's always great when the cover contest leads readers to new books. This cover worked for Chicklet: "The clinch is nice without being overwrought, and I liked it being placed off-center so the shopper can see the clues to the setting (the lighthouse, the sea, the marsh.) I hope the book inside this cover is good, because I think I'm on the verge of buying it!

Sami Lee: "All these covers were beautiful, but this one seems to convey the most information about the book: location, mood, the intensity and sweetness of the attraction between the couple. It's mesmerizing."

Every cover that makes the finals in the cover contest is a winner – there were over a hundred nominations in the contemporary category alone this year. DEMON RUMM by Sandra Brown came in tenth. The sunset colors and the mysterious woman walking along the deserted beach attracted voters.

Jill-Marie J.: "Just a very eye-catching cover, even if the book is a reissue."

Michelle M.: "I just really like the colors. You can feel the tension foreshadowed. It looks very intense."

Trish D.: "The colors and contrasts draw the eye and the reflection of the water."

Annette: "Beautiful coloring."

Rhaina: "It evokes a mood."


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