Heroines in romance novels seem to be always beautiful and slim, right? Bertrice Small’s Sky O’Malley, had perfect skin unmarked by a single blemish. I loved that book but I also love it when an author goes against the trend and creates a less than perfect body type in a heroine who’s perhaps past her prime or has a plump figure.
In the book ‘Where The Heart Is’ by Billie Letts, the heroine, Novalee Nation, is overweight. I know, the movie version cast a tiny actress for the role but its heart and soul was born from the book that had had a less than perfect body heroine. Hero, Forney Hull, sees her inner beauty. He’s fascinated by Novalee when she visits the library to find out how to save her sick tree.
There is no perfect body, of course and beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. As in Anne Gracie’s ‘The Perfect Rake’, hero, Gideon shows us. He falls in love with plump (by Georgian standards) Prudence; he admires her figure a number of times. She’s his kind of beautiful. She has a “mother hen” nature in taking care of her sisters that he loves too. He’d sworn off marriage but in Prudence he finds the kind of woman he could spend a lifetime with and it’s his brand of attractive.
My favourite reunion-story, ‘Persuasion’, by (I don’t need to tell you but I simply must give her credit) Jane Austen, has heroine, Anne Elliot, a faded version of her younger self. Poor heroic, heartbroken Captain Wentworth claims to barely recognise her she’s so changed. If this isn’t proof that she’s not the prettiest girl in the room, he drives it home by giving all his attention to the pleasing Miss Musgroves. So much attention that by the time he realises Anne is the only one he could ever love, her status as more attractive than any other has returned, but he’s created expectations in one Miss Musgrove that may divide him from Anne forever. That his foolishness costs him a few sleepless nights is his just deserts.
All heroines have an inner beauty. They’re understanding and compassionate but flaws are fine, even physical ones. I’ve read lots of Mills and Boon Sexy and Desires with heroines who’ve been scarred or suffered burns, but their hero isn’t put off by them. For me it makes the HEA all the sweeter because I want life to compensate her for her pain and I’ve become so invested in her worthiness of being loved by a good man.
Let’s acknowledge that most of us have something we feel a bit insecure about even though we know we shouldn’t. Fiona Lowe’s Ruby and Rita winning ‘Boomerang Bride’ has a secondary character who is dealing with physical disfigurement. I became so deeply invested in her journey and felt sad for her, but it was a joy to watch her find courage to deal with real life issues and be valued and loved.
I guess we all want acceptance, so seeing a heroine who’s not beautiful in the traditional sense find love, reassures us that each of us is just as worthy of happiness as these heroines are. Christina Aguilera summed it up. “You are beautiful, no matter what they say.”
Romance is my life. I love writing about romance, talking about romance writing and living my brand of a romantic life.