Karen Wheless - Worst Chair and Commentary
What can you say about the Worst covers? This category is our favorite guilty pleasure, covers that have somehow gone very, very wrong. For a cover to make the finals in Worst, it has to go beyond a ripped bodice or a questionable pose. It has to make you wonder, "What were they thinking?" The voters in the Worst category tried to answer that question.
The big winner this year is the anthology FLOGGER'S HOLIDAY SALE. Some readers found the subject unappealing, but most voters were just confused. Manda C. agreed: "It was hard to pick just one. But this one is the most egregious. Not because of the subject matter, but because it's so busy that I can't even figure out what's going on here."
Niveau: "I've been looking at it for the past five minutes and I can still barely tell where one element ends and the next begins. Sure, the other covers are tacky and cringe-worthy, but at least they were understandable."
Noble Romance Publishing
Arlene R.: "I've seen some really stinky covers, but that's not why I voted for this one as the worst. Even worse than the sin of offending or misleading, this cover is just ... plain ... confusing!"
Cora: "Lots of stunning awfulness on display here, but this one takes the prize, because I literally have no idea what this is supposed to be. Erotic Cyberpunk romance featuring the smoking hot love story of two cyborgs wired up with Christmas tree lights? Will the Christmas tree bulbs burn through and the fuses pop once these two get down to business? Honestly, I have no idea."
Kelly M.: "Huh??? While the other nominees were all pretty bad in their own special ways, this one takes the cake for me. I've been gazing at it for quite some time, trying to figure it out, and in the end I'm still just as confused as I was when I started...and also a little disturbed. I'm not even sure which side of this guy I'm looking at - he appears to have collar bones up there, but then the lack of nipples further down makes me wonder if this might actually be his back... And, ok sure, let's assume this is a front-view and his nipples just got shorn off in some freak BDSM accident..."
Anthony B: "How many colors and loud colors are needed for one cover? My answer, this is already too many!"
Andrew L.: "… my vote goes to Floggers Holiday Sale, because it's the only one in the bunch where I don't really even know what I'm looking at. It's a jumble of objects and body parts in at least 4 different scales, and it all ends up looking like a stock-photo site threw up."
Cecilia R.: "Nothing says romance like razor wire between friends."
Nana: "I think this is the box where Hannibal Lecter keeps his Christmas tree decorations."
T.: "There are bad covers and ugly covers and then there are the the "Huh?" covers. Such a mess."
Ellen M: "OK, it's true there are a lot of really excellent choices for Worst Cover this year, but I have to choose Floggers' Holiday Sale as THE worst. The poor cover model looks like a tied-up corpse found in a dumpster, covered by a pile of junk CSI is going to have to wade through in order to determine his killer. He seems to have some kind of electrical tape holding his shoulder together, and what do Christmas lights have to do with flogging, anyway? Oh yeah, it's a Holiday Sale...ri-i-ght. Plus, his left hand looks abnormally large, kind of like Hellboy's big fist. He looks like an electrician's nightmare. At least the floating torso covers give us something to admire, but we can't even see his nice muscular self underneath all the wiring. And the title makes me want to drop the book in the remainder pile. A disaster on all levels, without even the saving grace of a nice washboard tummy or a chiseled profile to enjoy."
HOPE IN LOVE by J. Hali Steele came in second place, although it wasn't that far behind the winner. Usually a buff hero on a cover makes readers happy, but not this time. (Although the comments made me laugh so hard I almost fell out of my chair.) As Jane put it: "A naked man bum on a book cover should not make me think Please, whatever you do, don't turn around!"
Jenny J.: "I can't tear my eyes away from that rear, and yet I'm completely mortified that someone might see me looking--it's almost hypnotically disturbing. Why is this man exposing himself to the waves, whilst attempting to do the splits? Has a crab run off with his swim trunks?"
Cover Cafe's Katherine: "This is a tough choice. They're all awful but this is the worst. I hate the long white hair. Yuck! I hate the awkward position of the body. Yuck! But what sets this cover apart and makes it the worst of the worst is the buttocks. Those tight buttocks make me cringe and laugh at the same time. And that is the sign of truly great worst cover."
Anita: "This guy's backside is so well defined and he appears to be lunging forward. I would think that I would see something more than surf between his cheeks...or maybe it's just Really cold wherever he is."
Phyllis B.: "Nobody with hair that gray has a butt that tight."
Denise: "Good God! Some of these are just eye-burning--this one most of all. Is he roaring at the ocean? That's what his stance conveys--that or he has a serious case of the clap and it really hurts to pee. Every cover I've seen with naked man butt paired with an ocean (and I've seen more than few - ick)scene has never visually translated well. This is a prime example of why. Artists, please stop doing this."
Kelly L.: "…It looks like Gandalf took up bodybuilding..."
Jean C. voted for another cover but dubbed this one: "Lucius Malfoy Does The Full Monty".
Jen: Hope in Love gives me the biggest shiver of revulsion. That's not someone you want to love... that's someone you want to run far, far away from, before he kidnaps you for his World of Warcraft reenactments.
Sandra W: "…Hope in love? More like 'Faith in Restraining Order'."
The third place cover was BLOOD DANCE by J. L. Oiler. Although there were plenty of comments, most voters were just confused. Is this romance or horror? Cover Cafe's Karen H. agreed: "This is worse than unromantic--it's creepy. And that's saying a lot given some of the other covers. But it's doesn't look at all like a romance and at least all the others have something that makes them look like a romance (maybe it's just partially unclothed bodies but that's more to the point than this horror novel cover)."
The Wild Horse Press
Lynn: "Is this a romance? If it is a bodice ripper where is the ripping bodice? When I look at this cover I think chainsaw massacre or other horror. With the other covers I can at least think they are romance!"
Cover Cafe's John: "…what is romantic about a bloody face? Why even would such a cover grace any book today?"
Melissa voted for another cover, but commented: "…it looks like the model is having the most massive nosebleed of all time…"
Eunice: "Um. Wow. Honestly, tough choice. I went with Blood Dance because: 1) It doesn't say romance or erotica at all, and 2) it manages to be hideous, disgusting, and blah all at the same time."
Other readers found the cover horrifying, in any genre. Jill B: "My eye is unwillingly fixed on her abnormally large nostrils. If I try to look away, I am caught by her clownish red lips. This woman is terrifying me even without the nightmare hair and dripping blood!"
Kim M.: "It's just horrid. What is going on with her nose? Pig snout? Covered in blood? Made of play dough?"
Greg N.: "It looks like her face got scratched by a cat, mixed up by a blender, and put into a weed whacker for a bit."
Christina: "There's just nothing going on here. The top, with the title and blood drip, looks like it was created in Microsoft Paint. Also, the model's pose is inexplicable! It's funny rather than sexy. There is also way too much white space on this cover -- and why is the author's name on top of the girl rather than in some of that white space?"
Angela: "I try not to judge a book by it's cover, but I think I'd need a bribe just to get me to touch this one long enough to read the back of it."
Laura H.: "I can only surmise that this book is about a woman driven insane by a combination of PMS and a REALLY bad-hair day. While the blood is beautifully graphic the font for the title looks like a Sorority girl's scrapbook page header for Worst Period Ever! Dead center of the design is the twin black holes of her nostrils perched above the red gash of her lips--my eye is fatally attracted there much like her hair seems to be. On a side note from pure design considerations, the author's name fails to relieve the slight squicky feeling the whole package gives me."
The fourth place cover's title said it all: BAREFOOT BRIDE FOR THREE by Reece Butler. Or as many of our voters dubbed it: Photoshop gone wrong. Sarah: "THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. I'm choosing between Bad Photoshop, Bad Stock Imagery, Bad Cover Design or Just Plain Skeevy. And this wins every one of those categories."
Merrian: "This is the most evil photoshopping I have ever seen. None of the characters are engaged with each other which in a menage I would hope they were..."
Cover Cafe's Tina: "While Flogger's Holiday Sale is a mess, this cover is just a horrible mish-mash of Photoshop editing gone wrong! The woman's head is completely off from the body shape and the men look like they're posing for a calendar! Too much going on and none of if works."
Emily E.: "Oh so badly photo shopped. Every one floating with different light. What were they thinking?"
Lara L.: "…no matter how long I look at Barefoot Bride for Three can I find any redeeming qualities. I taught myself basic Photoshop, and I could have done a far better job. This looks like it was done with Microsoft Word's Cowboy Porn Clipart collection."
Suzannah: "Well, this must be the nadir of writing, publishing, AND graphic design. And is it me, or is the slate this year the worst it has ever been? This cover is not just an offence to the eyes, it's also an offence to almost everything and everyone else…"
Cover Cafe's Heather: "Oh, the choices we must make. While they're all bad, I had to go with this one because it's just bad on so many levels. For example, what IS she doing exactly? And, the title...really? Don't even get me started on the three cowboys."
Stacey I-K: "OMG! Three studs with bare chests. Not to mention a very phallic train. And what plaid monstrosity is the girl wearing? My, oh, my, this is bad."
Elisabeth: "I never thought I'd say this but there is such a thing as too many defined six packs – eww." Or Sula: "Laura Ingalls Wilder marries the Village People?"
Amanda: "…in the end I must go with Barefoot Bride for Three, because it is the messiest mess of Photoshop and the most cheesily ridiculous. The jaunty heroine's foot kicked up, the placement of the men behind her. The guys on the right look like their heads are superimposed over other men's bodies, and I swear the guy on the left is not actually a human photo, but a video game character rendering, like from Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption, only worse. This cover is so awful but it makes me laugh the most, so I hope it wins (loses?)."
And Olivia W. had the best comment: "C'mon Bride the Train ... oh Bride it. (Woot! Woot!)"
The fifth place cover, COMING CLEAN by Inez Kelley, was another confusing cover for many voters. Strangely enough, not many people think of a washing machine (or dryer) as a place for romance! As Gina W. explained: "They're in a washing machine?!?!? Or maybe it's a dryer. Hello. I can barely get my comforter in my washer or dryer."
Malvina: "Seriously. A clinch in the washing machine? SERIOUSLY?"
Debra: "OMG, how in the world did they get people in there!! that just looks stupid."
Amanda: "A couple inside a washing machine? Really?"
Andrew L. voted for another cover, but described this cover as "…the least erotic sex location in history…"
Carol M.: "All the covers in this category continue to amaze me. However, how anyone could think that being in a washing machine is attractive/sexy is beyond me. All I can think is how would you fit?"
A.N.: "Um, don't really know where to start. My biggest problem with this is that this is from Carina - and that's Harlequin. They should know better than to put two people in a washing machine."
Other readers were more concerned with what happens to this couple next. Beth: "I want to know what happens when that guy waiting outside pushes the spin cycle button."
Rachel: "This one was difficult. There were some truly hideous covers up in there, but for the most purely disturbing image, there's no question. What happened? Did they get dismembered and stuffed into a front-loading washer? Wasn't there an episode of "Bones" where that happened? Maybe the artist watched it just before going to work. No wonder they are anonymous!"
Michelle: "As usual, a wonderful range of awful choices of 'orrible 'orrors. However, this one tops the list, with it's nasty image of the couple locked in the washing machine by the heavily chested (or is that a breast?)'dirty laundry' serial killer."
Desiree M.: "Another one that was hard to choose because there are so many bad ones. But this one disturbed me. First the guy in front and cut in half looks like his pec is a boob. Then the couple in the washing machine doesn't scream wet and wild sexy time, it screams homicide with the front guy as the killer. Not romantic at all."
Janet P.: "It really needs a "Do Not Try This at Home!" caption."
The sixth place cover, WET by Margie Church, mostly puzzled the voters. Not many romance readers are looking for a woman's butt on their book covers. As Keri W. put it, "I don't want to have to look at a girls butt every time I pick up a book."
Rhaina: "Ass on a cover doesn't make me want to buy the book."
Jo H.: "Butt dental floss does not sell me on a book."
Patricia P.: "There's nothing here but objectification of the female as a sex object. Is THAT what the book's about?"
Meg R.: "Not sexy, loving--it's lusty/yuk. Don't need seeing a REAR end on a FRONT cover!!"
DS: "Looks like a cheap porno cover from the 80's."
Linette W.: "This is one of the worst covers I've ever seen. First, I'd be embarrassed to be seen holding or looking at a book with this cover. Second, I find it ironic and repulsive that the words 'Noble' and 'Church' are on such a cover even if they are names. If I were in the slutty magazine business or into looking at slutty magazines, then it could win an award for good "artwork." Though in reality, he'd be cupping her rear more, curling his fingertips rather than just holding his hand flat. Nope. Not a book I'd pick up."
Pat W.: "How many people are there? The hand and arm are too large and at the wrong angle to belong the guy in the tattered jeans and there's an extra arm (?) between the 2 main figures. That thong doesn't look too comfortable either…"
Aimee: "This is not a cover even remotely geared towards women. It's boring, badly framed far too literal, and UBER male gaze FTL. Romance? Yeah right. At least the others were pretending..."
Noble Romance Publishing
SHACKLED BY THE COWBOY DRIFTER came in seventh place. Many of the voters were baffled by the hero, including Cover Cafe's Cindy: "This cowboy is so emaciated that you want to feed him instead of romance him."
Shawna A: "Good grief, could those stares be any more dull and drugged-out looking if they tried?"
Wendy gave this cover an honorable mention: "The cowboy's a drifter? It's hard to imagine him getting his chest and stomach waxed in the back of a boxcar. Or is that a service performed at soup kitchens nowadays?"
Other voters commented on his expression, including author Cheryl St. John: "They're all dreadful, but this one has the super-ick factor. This guy looks like a serial killer, and I'd run the other way if I met him on the street!"
Lesley: "Hard choice, but this wins by a nose. He looks more like a serial killer than a romantic hero - no wonder she can't look at him and is levitating away."
DeAnna D.: "These are all SO awful, it's hard to choose. This one wins for the mental-deficient look on the guy's face."
Karen H.: "He looks VERY VERY BORED. She looks like she might be thinking, "this is the only guy they could find."
Caren H.: "First of all, there is no connection between the guy and girl. Second, he looks mentally impaired and/or insane. He does not have an attractive face and his musculature is a little freakish. She looks like a generic office bimbo and nothing about this cover says 'erotica' or 'bondage'."
Charlotte: "Dislike man-titty covers, but if you have to do them, then at least get a hot guy! And what's with the floaty woman. Makes me think she is the dead ex-wife who died in a freak harvester accident that carved her in two. Poor woman."
Myrosia: "They are all awful. But the sheer incompetence of whoever resized the images to fit that cover is stunning. Haven't they heard of the 'keep aspect ratio' checkbox? Or is this supposed to be reflection in some kind of strange mirror?"
Chicklet: "Let's be honest: I could have voted for any of the nominees and felt like I'd made an accurate vote. But since There Can Be Only One, I went with Shackled by the Cowboy Drifter. For one thing, by "cowboy drifter," I assume they mean 'creepy serial killer,' because WOWZA. Second, the heroine's obviously been the victim of that creepy serial killer, because her torso is just floating in mid-air. Third, there's at least two too many different fonts in use, and why is the series title rendered so dully? And finally, SERIOUSLY THAT GUY LOOKS SO CREEPY."
THE DUKE AND THE PIRATE QUEEN by Victoria Janssen came in eight place. This was a cover that some people liked, but others found it confusing. What was going on?
Deborah L.: "I can't figure out where her other leg is--and what is on her leg? Hair or tattoo? And what is that blanket thing knotted around her hips?"
Sara S.: "Ok, so a lot of these covers are HORRIBLE and completely tasteless. However, I feel that this publisher has the least amount of excuse for actually putting this one out. When I first glanced at this cover, my immediate thought was, 'Is that leg hair?!' Okay, on closer examination those are faint tattoos. However, closer examination didn't explain the stump thing appearing between them. There is no way that is her other leg."
Dorothy: "The woman's muscular body and tatoos that resemble nasty body hair make it look like a guy is squatting over the hero. Not a romantic image!"
Marilu V.: "They are all quite quite horrid but the hairy legs of the pirate queen give this one a definitive edge!"
Gail M.: "Ugly colours and no sense of history, it's just trying too hard to be sexy and failing."
Mary M.: "It was really hard to pick just one with so many winners in the contest for worst cover, but I finally went with this one because....while I'm assuming they are meant to be tattoos, the markings just look like the poor woman has leprosy or some other skin disease. Or forgiving the upper part of her body, that she forgot to shave her legs. And he's wearing too much jewelry."
Jean W.: "One: Her left arm is doing something anatomically weird. Two: Who the hell wears a necklace backwards? Three: Her leg looks like it's been appliqued with velvet, which would therefore make her a sofa. Which is just wrong."
SHIFTER'S CAPTIVE by Bonnie Dee came in ninth place, which is something of a compliment in this category.
DLD: "The cover wouldn't be terrible at all if you just removed the porn star wanting to get jumped by two animals."
Amy H.: "They are all bad, but this one looks like they are sniffing her."
Camilla M.: "Is she pregnant and with what or who?..."
Amanda voted for another cover but agreed with Camilla: "Shifter's Captive has unfortunately posed the woman so she looks pregnant, a disturbing thought with the litter of animals otherwise populating the cover."
Lynda R.: "Pregnant Woman's exposed belly is repulsive in this pose rather than beautiful, and is NOT sexy."
David W: "That poor cat looks anxious and somewhat revolted, and I'm in total sympathy."
The tenth place cover is HOWLING FOR MY BABY by Beverly Rae. This cover only got a handful of votes, which is probably a good thing for the author and cover artist. But not for me, since this cover was my choice! Why oh why is this guy chewing on this woman's pants?
Virginia S.: "His face was sliced off and sewed back on a la Frankenstein's monster, maybe?"
Karina S.: "It's a very tough choice. But this cover killed me with it's sloppiness. Uneven height of boots, horrible manly stomach, pasty sleazy boy chewing on her shorts. It's just YUK!"
Victoria S.: "Really?! I mean really!!"