It got me thinking, because the answer is: Mostly, yes.
Without exception my heroes are hottest men on two legs. They have broad shoulders, tight butts, and smiles that can melt a woman to a puddle. Their masculinity, beauty and vigour are never in doubt. After all, these are my ideal fantasy men. :-)
Want an example? Here’s how Mitch from HER IRRESISTIBLE PROTECTOR is described when Tash answers the knock on her front door:
Officer Mitchell King stared back at her like some upright holy warrior. From the top of his close-cut blond hair to the tips of his scrubbed-to-within-an-inch-of-their-lives boots. Even out of uniform he looked like he should be wearing one. Everything about him shouted clean-cut hero—the strong square jaw, the not quite even teeth and the direct blue of his eyes. A man on a mission. A man who knew right from wrong. No shades of grey here, thank you very much.
There’s a lot a reader can unpick from that description, but one thing is clear—Mitch is masculinity personified.
As a rule, these are the kind of characters we find in romances, but there are exceptions.
What about LADY OF QUALITY by Georgette Heyer? The heroine describes the hero as one of the ugliest men she’s ever met. It doesn’t stop him from also being the one man who can make her laugh and feel alive. She isn’t the kind of woman to be swayed by physical beauty or she’d have been married long ago. So the hero has to use his wit and intelligence to win her over.
Then there’s Liz Fielding’s THE BRIDESMAID’S REWARD with its plus-size heroine who is desperately trying to lose weight before her sister’s wedding. Her struggles touched a chord with me…and probably hundreds, if not thousands, of other women. A woman that many would describe as “fat” discovers her own beauty and comes to accept the love of a seriously hot hero. A hero who appreciates her for who she is… who finds her irresistible.
I love these stories. I love them for their quirkiness and I love that they force the characters to address any self-esteem issues they may have and to grow. I love that these stories refuse to package beauty up into a neat little box, but explore the greater meaning of beauty. I love these stories because truly heroic souls, who are often overshadowed by those more physically beautiful who surround them, win happiness and that once in a lifetime love.
So, tell me, do you enjoy a romance where the heroes and heroines may not be necessarily beautiful by society’s standards? Do you enjoy reading stories with plus-size heroines? And, if so, let me know if you have any favourite books exploring these themes because I’d love to read them? :-)
Her Irresistible Protector is on the shelves now!
"Are you here to arrest me, Officer King?"
When Officer Mitchell King--her ex and the only guy Tash Buckley has ever loved--arrives on her doorstep, claiming she needs his protective custody, Tash is more concerned by the heart-fluttering, pulse-racing effect he still has on her!
Confined to Mitch's beachside cabin, Tash finds it increasingly difficult to resist her delicious protector...
The hero or heroine might not be perfect, but they're always going to be beautiful in the eyes of the other main character, and it's their description that we read, isn't it?ReplyDelete
I do enjoy reading stories where the hero or heroine is a little bit different.
Oh, yes, Claire, the heroine and hero must think the other beautiful…but not always immediately, I think. I sometimes enjoy reading that slow burn between two characters where the attraction grows bit by bit…and suddenly it's burning out of control. Such fun. :-)ReplyDelete
You've raised a very valid point, Michelle. We do tend to write western heroes and heroines, but I also wonder if when reading our stories the reader puts her own take on the characters any way. If we're not too specific about shapes, sizes and colouring then it is easy for the reader to overlay our words with their own images. (I hope)ReplyDelete
Yeah, that's what I hope too, Sue. Heroines are often place holders, and it's a lovely fantasy to be a raven-haired beauty with porcelain skin, a tiny waist and luscious curves…and to have a hero mad with lust for me. :-)Delete
The thing is, though, I do find those unconventional looking characters really interesting. And I'm wondering why. There's Min in Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me. Then there's Eloisa James's The Ugly Duchess. And who can forget Gideon's reaction to Prudence in Anne Gracie's The Perfect Rake? For some reason, for me, these stories have an extra…zing (but that could just be me). ;-)
Hi Michelle! I was at book group meeting the other day and someone made a similar comment to your non-romance reader; 'Why are the men always so gorgeous, so masculine, so unlike anything in real life?' Interesting. I told her that as far as I was concerned beauty really is in the eye of the beholder and I think that's what's important. That said, we have a reader expectation to fulfil- we all want to read the fantasy.ReplyDelete
I think Bridget Jones was so successful because she was 'us'- the women who aren't happy with their bodies, who wear the unflattering knickers, who make mistakes…not conventionally beautiful at all, but still found love with her Mr Darcy. Then there are the scarred heroines and heroes…very popular too. Molly O'Keefe's book, Crazy Thing Called Love has a scarred hero who is described by one of the characters as ugly inside and out…but by the end of the book we see his true worth and true beauty.
Her Irresistible Protector sounds great- lovely cover!
Oh, yes, Bridget Jones! I watched the movie again last weekend so I wonder if that's also triggered my thoughts on the Depiction of Beauty in Romance Novels (sounds like the title of a PhD thesis. ;-) ). But I wonder if that's part of the appeal -- the Everywoman (i.e., us!) who wins her man despite her "ordinariness"?Delete
I like scarred heroes too (I'm not a sadist, honestly!). There's a hint of danger and suffering…which usually add up to a deliciously tortured hero -- and I find their HEAs very satisfying. Thanks for the Molly O'Keefe suggestion -- love the quotation from it! It sounds like just the kind of book I'm after. :-)
Hmm…and it's just occurred to me that while I love reading about a scarred hero, could I -- or any other reader -- find a short, round, balding hero attractive in the pages of a romance novel? Or is that too much reality for the fantasy to work?ReplyDelete
P.S. This is just me musing to myself. I'm not expecting anyone to answer the question, but do feel free to add your thoughts and opinions. ;-)Delete
It's a good question, Michelle. Most of the time I'd say no... But then again my favorite male character on Sex and the City was Charlotte's second husband Harry - a short, pudgy bald guy. His personality was so wonderful that I became attracted to the whole package. I still sigh when I catch him on a re-run.Delete
I've been wracking my brain trying to think of heroes who aren't traditionally beautiful that I love, Lauren…and I know there must be some. A heroine who does spring to mind is Chummy from Call the Midwife (played by Miranda Hart). Oh, I love her so much and was so happy when she married her man. :-)Delete
While it's true that romance heroes and heroines are generally on the attractive side of the norm, it *is* often the unusual or different who remain most memorable. It's why themes such as Beauty and the Beast and The Ugly Duckling are enduringly popular. I also think many friends-to-lovers books don't have super-stunners; the trope relies on the deep friendship rather than the punch of instant attraction.ReplyDelete
And with all characters, the descriptions are through the eyes of the beloved, and perhaps not now others may see them. Anne Gracie's Prudence is a fabulous example.
One of my all-time favourite scarred heroes is named Elvis in Susan Anderson's Exposure. He's a giant of a man with a prosthetic hand and a scarred face. He's also pretty scarred inside, from what I remember, and now I'm wanting to find this book and read it again.
The unusual and different *do* stay with us, don't they? Perhaps it's their difference that makes them memorable. But you're right, Bron -- Beauty and the Beast and The Ugly Duckling stories are perennial favourites…I think it's in part that we love to cheer for the underdog. :-)Delete
I love the sound of Susan Anderson's hero Elvis. Your description reminds me a little of Robyn Carr's Preacher from Shelter Mountain. He's not scarred, but he's a giant of a man with a shaved head and a big bushy beard and he looks seriously intimidating. Will keep my eyes peeled for the Exposure. Thanks for the suggestion, Bron!
Michelle, I love the stories where characters aren't lovely to look at, or not totally. I particularly enjoy the ones where they feel they're not up to standard but are made to see their true value. That's one of the things I enjoyed about your 'Nanny Who Saved Christmas'. Beauty and the Beast stories are always such fun and I enjoy reading a scarred hero (and writing them too!). I thought it interesting that my first book accepted by Harlequin was about a woman who'd always been overweight and though she'd lost a lot of that weight was still on the statuesque side, plus she was scarred from an accident (A MIstress for the Taking, if you're interested). I love books where it's clear beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the one in love is affected by the inner beauty they see rather than a pretty face.ReplyDelete
Annie, I have 'A Mistress for the Taking' here! I must go dig it out as I'm loving the sound of it. You're right -- seeing a character grow and come to see themselves as beautiful and worthy is a fabulous journey to witness (am so glad you enjoyed that element of my 'Nanny'). :-)Delete
<<"I love books where it's clear beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the one in love is affected by the inner beauty they see rather than a pretty face.">>
Yes! I think that's part of the reason these types of stories work so well for me -- the idea of a hero or heroine really seeing the inner soul of their beloved. Happy sighs.
Hi Michelle - great post. I love a hero or heroine who is not 'perfect'. One of my favourites is an old Emma Darcy book where she describes the hero as being 'like a beaten up boxer'. As for heroines, one of my favourite books of all time is Reckless by Ruth Wind - with a heroine who was curvy and nothing like the pencil thin women the PTS suffering hero normally got involved with. Of course, this woman was his undoing, which was wonderful. Her Irresistible Protector is on my TBR pile and I'm so looking forward to reading it.ReplyDelete
Yay, Helen! Another vote for the physically imperfect heroine and hero. LOL on that description of Emma Darcy's hero -- it's just...perfect! Ooh, now, I haven't read a Ruth Wind book (I know! I know!), but 'Reckless' sounds like a fab read so I'm adding it to my list.Delete
Ooh, hope you enjoy Her Irresistible Protector!
I love reading about heroes and heroines that are a bit different or scared in some way and a bit over weight and I know I have read a few but for the life of me I can't think of the names of them at the moment I remember reading a Margo Maguire historical and the hero was blind and it was such a great story.
LOL, Helen. I was like that -- stumped when I first tried to come up with titles featuring unusual heroes or heroines. Have to say the Margo Maguire historical sounds fab. Glad to know that you like those kinds of stories too!Delete
Hi, Michelle! I do like heroes and heroines who are openly imperfect, who aren't necessarily the models who catch our eye on the covers. I appreciate heroines for instance, who ARE truly ordinary, not just ones who go from plain to bombshell with the benefit of losing the glasses and a few pounds, or who win a makeover, and vavoom--suddenly their beauty is visible to all! I think that's one of the reasons I love Debbie Macomber's Morning Comes Softly--the heroine definitely is no babe, and the hero comes to see her as beautiful only after he really gets to know her and because he's grown to love her, has grown to see her as lovely. There was a bit of this also in Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels because Sebastian is described as huge and scary looking and sees himself as The Beast, but the heroine's view of him helps him change how he sees himself as well. I don't mind curvy heroines either, but being a bit of the "built like a boy" type myself, I also appreciate stories where the heroines aren't always lushly built. :)ReplyDelete
Hi Fedora, and thanks for the Debbie Macomber recommendation -- it sounds like it deals with this theme exactly in the way I'm talking about. I'll look forward to reading it. And I'm so glad you enjoy the imperfect and/or ordinary heroines too. There's something about that unmemorable-ness in relation to their looks that just catches at me. I think it adds to the realism of the story and at the same time sprinkles the fantasy with fairy dust.Delete
Ooh, now I forgot about Sebastian from Lord of Scoundrels. I think because the heroine finds him so attractive I considered him attractive too. But you're right, it's the heroine's view of him that helps him see himself truly.
And just to show how different we all are -- "built like a boy" is what I would LOVE to be as I'm on the lushly curvaceous side and so it sounds exotic and oh-so attractive to me. ;-) I guess we all bring our preferences and preconceptions to the table when it comes to beauty. :-)
Ah, Michelle :) It's a bit of that wanting what we don't have, eh? Glad there's plenty of room in the world for all of us, however we're shaped, and plenty of stories in the world for however we look :) I do hope you enjoy Morning Comes Softly! It's been memorable for me because of that theme :)Delete
LOL! Yes it's precisely that, Fedora. The grass is always greener… ;-) I'll just be grateful that there's room in the world for all sorts of books and all sorts of people.Delete
And, yes, am looking forward to getting my hands on Morning Comes Softly. I'm sure I'll love it.
I absolutely love stories where the hero or heroine don't fit with societal norms of success or beauty. I think they allow for so much depth and development of character and the satisfaction of their happy ever after is even more rewarding to me as a reader because they're less than "perfect", if you know what I mean.ReplyDelete
I absolutely agree about the HEA being more rewarding for me for these kinds of characters, Yvonne. I think it's that idea of being "less than perfect" that gives me such a high for them at the end. :-)Delete
I'm so glad so many other people enjoy these kinds of characters in a romance novel too!
Great post, Michelle! Got me thinking too! Emily May did a wonderful less-than-perfect hero in Beauty and the Scarred Hero. And his scar was pivotal to the plot which really made it a beautiful touching story.ReplyDelete
I know it's a cliche but beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, isn't it!
Oh, yes, I remember Emily's book! It was fab. :-) And the scar really was integral to the story.Delete
Oh, yes! Things become cliche's only because they're so true. But beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.