Thanks to the work of Jann “Jaycee” Muhlhauser (and Mary Alice Gibbons), the Alternative Reality ballot was the strongest it has ever been, with many different and eye-catching choices. The slate of 10 covers in this category was vetted from more than 80 covers considered. As you’ll see from looking at the final ten, there’s quite a variety of covers, ranging from the standard clinch (which we saw less of than in prior years) to the more SF/F “shapeshifter” covers. The winning cover was so popular it received more than twice as many votes as the number two choice. And though the winning cover artist is a new name for us – Martina Hoogland Ivanow – covers by other artists we’ve gotten to know over the years, including Franco, John Ennis, and Gregg Gulbronson made strong showings again this year, not only in this category, but in others as well.
The Alternative Reality category is an interesting one in that books that are not genre romances are often nominated, although to be considered in this category a book must have a very strong romantic component. Indeed, three “hybrid” books made it onto this year’s slate. Because of the infusion of books outside the genre romance arena, readers can sample covers created with horror, SF, and/or fantasy sensibilities in mind. Many readers believe these other genres have progressed farther than the romance genre in terms of covers. With the overall success of these books with romance audiences, let’s hope the art departments carry forward this progression into more romances.
Cover artist: Martina Hoogland Ivanow
The overwhelming favorite was Bitten, and many readers admitted that they had seen it in the bookstore and bought the book on the strength of the cover alone. Naturally, this is just what any cover artist hopes for!
Reader C.M. Nielsen called it “a stunning cover for any genre,” and many voters echoed that opinion, commenting that they thought it was not only the best AR cover, but the best cover in the contest, period.
Nancy had this to say: “I bought this book because it so caught my eye at the bookstore. As an Art Director, I’m always on the look-out for good ideas, and this is one of the freshest I’ve seen since the velum cover for Julie Garwood’s book a couple of years ago.”
Katy shared these thoughts: “Just the plain uniqueness of this cover was great. The colors, the texture of the cloth, juxtaposition of limbs are all very, very nice. ”
A distant second was Prince of Time, which oddly enough, came in second last year in its hard cover form (the two covers were different).
Reader Jen made it her choice because it had “an Indiana Jones feeling to it.” She added that the “great back and shoulders supporting the sword” didn’t” hurt either. Several other readers picked it because they wondered where the hero was headed.
Reader Heather is one such reader; she said, “I voted for this one because, in the end, it caught my eye and made me wonder what’s up those stairs.”
Carol was one of several readers who wavered between Bitten and Prince of Time. She ended up making her choice in the most practical way – she “had” to buy Prince of Time but was able to leave Bitten on the bookstore shelf.
Cover artist: Franco Accornero
Cover artist: Franco Accornero
Following close behind in third was The Scarletti Curse, which attracted voters with its gothic feeling. Many also loved the font and color of the red lettering.
Reader Sherry made it her choice: “Fantastic gothic painting and lettering, gray & red very striking, and I love the gargoyle! My favorite of every cover in your contest!”
Coverballot’s Elizabeth Benway also loved this cover: “There are several very nice covers in this category that I like a lot but since I can only pick one I choose the one with the most paranormal feel to it. And it has a lovely ‘clinch’ which is always nice!”
Coverballot’s Linnae chose it because it seemed to epitomize the AR category; she found it “sexy and mysterious strange, yet beautiful.”
Reader Cheryl liked the “spooky feeling,” and Wendy agreed: “What a great dark, dangerous and dramatic cover! Perfect for a paranormal book titled “The Wolf King.”
Cover artist: John Ennis
Cover artist: Unknown
In fifth place was Lords of the Night.
Reader Kathy seemed to speak for many when she said, “I’m not a reader of vampire romance, but I just might start with this gorgeous nibbler.” Laura chose it because “because it is a nice blend of attractive male and a cloud covered moon to hint at night & otherworldliness.”
Secret of the Wolf perhaps suffered in comparison to two previous books by the same author, which won in this category in both 2000 and 1999. Readers were probably ready for something a little different. I was somewhat surprised to see A Passionate Magic come in last; I ended up casting my vote for the winning Bitten, but I was thisclose to choosing A Passionate Magic instead.
Cover artist: Gregg Gulbronson
It was also the choice of three coverballot members, Jaycee, Mary Lynne, and AAR’s Teresa.
Jaycee’s comments were fairly representative: “This is another one of those ‘no contest’ categories. APM is the perfect example of romance in the AR category. While other covers may say ‘AR,’ this cover also says ‘romance’ and ‘mysterious forces at work.’ The blonde hero is so rarely seen on a cover that it would have won points with me just for that. I’m very excited about this cover, and I hope we see more like it in the future.”