Book Review

Book Rant: The Wicked Ways of a Hero’s Thighs

Book Rant: Cartoon woman holding phone with bubble that reads Unleashed Fury Goes HereBook rants mark the spot where suspension of disbelief collapses in a pile of cravats, and the reader reaches for the keyboard and emails me the ire. All the ire. Every last ounce. I am never upset to receive a book rant – I fully understand the feeling. And many of us have had that feeling.

This book rant comes from Julia, who is a bit flummoxed as to the musculature of a historical hero’s thighs. 

I just finished reading Eloisa James’ Your Wicked Ways. Amusing story- nothing like a little husband and wife get back together fun. Let’s disregard my feelings on a vicar who is 1) able to leave the vicarage for nigh on a month with little concern and 2) willing to abandon the cloth for a lady love with very little “dark night of the soul” torment.

My main beef with the book is this:

The heroine, Helene, waxes rhapsodic about the muscular nature of the hero’s legs. Rees, said hero, is a composer. (My autocorrect wanted to make that “composter”. THAT would explain some leg muscles.)

Book Your Wicked Ways - seriously this cover is yawntastic - a fuzzy focus watercolor of a bridge over some murky water

Does he compose by tapping out rhythms in fancy shoes? He does not.

Does he compose by dictating music whilst doing dips and squats? He does not.

Does he leap up in the middle of composer’s block and go for a quick run along the Serpentine? He does not.

While Rees does occasionally walk for exercise, he does NOTHING, NOTHING through which he would have gained this swoon-worthy physique.

While am I so perturbed by this?

I live with two men.

Get THAT picture out of your mind. One is my husband and one is my brother.

My husband is in the military. Physical training (PT) is part of his work. He gets time DURING his work hours to exercise. He’s in good shape. I happen to think he’s pretty attractive. He has nice legs.

Swoon-worthy…? Well, how much wine have I had?

A very muscular man using a tape to measure the circumference of his absolutely massive thighs - image from Shutterstock

His “low-key” exercise is to walk 3-4 miles at a slow pace on the treadmill, playing a video game, and wearing an 80-lb weight vest.

My brother works as an administrative assistant. He is in voice training to be an opera singer. He plays the piano. He also builds sets for plays, shovels snow, wrestles with his niece and nephew, and runs. Judging from how women flock to him, I’d say he’s got good looks. His muscles, like those of my husband, are also worked for.

I have no idea how a man who ONLY plays the PIANO all NIGHT long would get muscles, especially LEG muscles, to die for.

Are the standard “piano-weight” keys magically heftier in this book?

Are the pedals hooked up surreptitiously to a leg press?

Is his harpsichord the only one in Regency England to be played with toes?

I’m willing to suspend a LOT (and, I mean, a LOT) of disbelief as a romance reader. I get that no one wants to reader about a pale-assed sunken-chested knock-kneed composer who bleeds out from a paper cut from a frenzied flipping of pages in the score.

Nevertheless, when one hears about the hero’s muscular legs over and over again… one needs some semblance, a mere wisp, the barest hint of logic as to how said limbs came to be in such a glorious state.

Here ends the rant.

I’m off to find a book about a pedicurist with biceps like Hercules.

Do you have a book rant? A romance novel that made you rage-bomb angry? You can email me about it, if you’d like. Or, you can read the other Book Rants, and know you’re not alone!

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    “I get that no one wants to reader about a pale-assed sunken-chested knock-kneed composer who bleeds out from a paper cut from a frenzied flipping of pages in the score.”

    Oh, I don’t know…have you seen “Impromptu”? ;)

    (one of my favorite movies, I must concede.)

  2. 2
    Vasha says:

    Yep, generic descriptions of a romance hero’s pulchritude can be such cliche-fests that they kind of lose their purpose of being appealing—it’s too easy to just skim over mentions of body parts that don’t give the sense of being attached to an individual.

  3. 3
    appomattoxco says:

    I think the only way to get a body like a romance cover model is to body build and then Photoshop. In his younger days my father had very strong thighs He was a brick mason he was strong enough to lay fire brick [200lb cinderblock] all day and come home and move bee hives at night. He didn’t have a gut or chicken legs but no bulging man-tity or six pack abs either.

  4. 4
    Dora says:

    I think that’s a fair criticism. Romance novels are still supposed to be, at their heart, about people, and being reminded over and over again about the unrealistic characteristics of someone sort of knocks you out of the story and takes them from person to character, if you get what I’m trying to say. A single mention of how gorgeous/muscular/turgid someone is? Eh. A constant litany of bulging thighs? Not so much.

  5. 5
    Heather S says:

    I think I read that one. I hated it – particularly the “hero”. He was an ass. A jerk. I recall him as being obnoxious and a philanderer. I think this was my first and nearly my last Eloisa James book – I still don’t enjoy her work nearly as much as other people seem to.

  6. 6
    azteclady says:

    Oh my good lord, yes.

    This doesn’t bother me as much in contemporaries because there is usually some sort of mention of gym time—even if in passing—but historicals wherein the hearoine swoons at the sight of the hero’s muscular chest, when we’ve been told that most if not all of his physical activity consists of either dancing or riding? Yeah, not all that believable.

  7. 7
    denise says:

    lolol I get what you’re saying!

  8. 8
    RowanS says:

    Okay, just to play devil’s advocate here:  Back in the day, there were basically two ways of getting from point A to point B – horse or walking. Gentlemen rode. Riding builds thigh muscles like whoa nelly (especially if they’re riding a spirited stallion and hey do NOT get me started on people riding stallions in urban areas, because that’s a whole ‘nother rant). IF they were in a carriage it was either for a long trip or they were driving (usually their high perch phaeton in romancelandia). Wrassling horses (and of course no self-respecting hero would drive less than a spirited pair, if not a four-in-hand) develops fierce chest and arm muscles. So, yeah, built-in gyms. You also have to factor in different diet, higher in protein (at least for the wealthy, which of course Our Hero is). So I don’t have a problem with it in general.

    But yeah, I can see where a composer might be more challenged, unless he walks for MILES every day or runs marathons or something.

  9. 9
    MarieC says:

    I don’t remember this book, but now I want to read it…

    I guess it would depend on whose the heroine compares his thighs to. Maybe everyone else’s are gout ridden or stick thin…?

  10. 10
    Lynn says:

    Holy smokes, you had me laughing so hard my husband came from the other room to see what I was snickering at. Thanks. I needed that.

  11. 11
    Holly Gault says:

    Perhaps Rees rides horses and maybe hunts, a lot of thigh-mastery there.

  12. 12

    I have never understood the fascination with heroes’ thighs.  Eyes, yes, thighs, no.  They are largely invisible, unless he wears see-through trousers – and that body-builder image above?  Looks as though, to coin a local phrase, ‘he couldn’t stop a pig in a passage’.

    Shudder.  I’ll stick to my beta-heroes, thanks.

  13. 13
    Todd says:

    I’m always reminded of an old “Barney Miller” episode where Wojo is interviewing an older woman who says he reminds her of her husband and says, “he had thighs like concrete.”

  14. 14
    Kate Pearce says:

    Also playing devils advocate here. :)

    Well, I’m not enamored of descriptions of thighs myself, but the primary methods of getting around in that era were a) walking and b) riding. Having learned to ride myself, I’d say that yes, you could get fabulous thighs and fantastic abs just from riding a horse.
    Also men were leaner and shorter in those days and ate less, so I don’t think it’s unbelievable that he could have nice thighs. Not that I’d want to read about them endlessly either. :)

    Also being a vicar in those days meant something totally different to what it means today. Many men of the cloth within the church of England had no ‘religious calling’, it was just a job that they performed and they treated their parishes as a source of income, often employing curates to do all the actual church work for them. So taking a month off? Not a problem in those times. :)

  15. 15
    Neasa says:

    I’ve read this book, and the commentary about the heroes thighs completely passed me by.  Just goes to show…

    I will generally raise my eyebrows at descriptions of, say, H’s sculpted, muscular torso – which does seems stupidly unlikely and anachronistic to me, but not entirely impossible.  However the rage-trigger for me is Inexplicably Bronzed Chest (TM) in historicals set in England.  Regardless of the time of year, if he is ethnically English (which 99% of your Dukes and Earls and what-have-yous are) he is not going to have a bronzed chest.  Ever.  And it is so ubiquitous it’s actually comical.  He’s English, he’s living in England and the year is 18-whatever.  He is not ever (ever!) going to be out of doors without a shirt for long enough to acquire any kind of colour that could be called ‘bronze’!!

  16. 16
    Dread Pirate Rachel says:

    I’m jumping on the devil’s advocate bandwagon here. I agree with Kate Pearce and RowanS regarding the horse issue; I’ve never had such pain in my thighs as when I was learning to ride a horse. Don’t forget that differences in diet as well as the fact that daily life in general involved much more physical labor before we got all our modern conveniences. I don’t have trouble imagining that even somebody with a relatively sedate occupation could still be physically fit.

    Also, if somebody’s swooning over the hero’s thighs, we can be relatively sure (since this is Romancelandia) that it’s the heroine. We’re reading the description of the hero’s body from her perspective, and physical attraction is hardly homogeneous. Maybe we don’t “get” the heroine’s thigh-fixation, but I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t understand my obsession with my husband’s shoulders. So… Different strokes, I guess?

  17. 17
    Julie M. says:

    I appreciate the info regarding horse riding and the possibility of a buff body, but it was still a good/fun rant! And it has turned out to be educational because while I’d heard horse riding was such great exercise now I understand it better.

  18. 18
    PamG says:

    I don’t read Eloisa James anymore for reasons unrelated to body parts, but I doubt that the heroine obsessing over her honey’s thighs would bother me. 

    Thighs (or any other body part) are not solely the product of exercise.  There is a genetic component too.  My dad worked hard all his long life first on construction and, after retirement, as a farmer.  Hunting in fall and swimming in summer were his preferred recreations.  In all that time, he never had anything but skinny white chicken legs till the day he died at 93.  In fact, my mom’s family used to needle him about his legs. 

    On the other hand, my husband, whose work life was periodically interrupted by injuries & health issues and who was never enamored of strenuous recreational activities, has always had thighs like rocks.  When he did exercise regularly, their girth and granite-like qualities increased considerably, though he never saw a lot of definition.  My eldest daughter—bless her little heart—took after Daddy and the least exercise would bulk out her thighs, much to her and her wardrobe’s dismay.  So I can totally see a musician who gets moderate physical activity having admirable thighs.

  19. 19
    Amanda says:

    Reminds me of complaints about the ubiquitous “Quidditch muscles” in Harry Potter fanfiction. :)

  20. 20
    Karen H near Tampa says:

    Just so you know, there are thigh-lovers out there and I’m one!  My partner is a definite mesomorph and has always had very muscular thighs, even now when he’s not doing much exercising and is getting older.  And I have always appreciated those thighs a great deal.

    This goes back a ways (but then, so do we) but my very, very favorite scene in the original Conan the Barbarian was when Conan was shown moving the wheel around as he grew from a child to an adult and suddenly, he’s an adult and the first shot is of those huge thighs!  I saw that movie 3 times in the theater (something I have not done for any other movie ever), largely because of that scene.  Those thighs just do something to me, even now when I just recall it.

    And, I, too think the muscular thighs in Regency novels are due to a lot of horseback riding so it doesn’t bother me at all.

  21. 21
    Kilian Metcalf says:

    Gone for a month? What a wussie! In Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers (published in 1857) Canon Stanhope, rector of Crabtree Canonicorum and of Stogpingum parishes and a Prebendary of Barchester Cathedral, takes his family and lives in Italy for 12 years. Oh, yes, he gets the full income from these preferments the entire time he is gone. He returns to Barchester at the insistence of the new bishop’s wife. The previous bishop, a widower, apparently was okay with this absenteeism. Considering the trouble the family causes the diocese, the new bishop probably wishes he had left well enough alone, but his wife wears the pants, so back they come under the threat of having their income cut off.

  22. 22
    SB Sarah says:

    Killian: LOL. Also: Canonicorum is my new favorite word.

  23. 23
    Corinna says:

    I know it makes perfectly logical sense to assume that men wouldn’t gain a lot of muscle without working out, but the truth is that genetics play a much larger part in the size and shape of muscles than some would care to admit.

    I have the ultimate proof of this in my two sons.

    The older one is built like my husband’s side of the family: tall (6’4”) and slender. Older son is 23 and works as a horse trainer and wrangler. He rides every day, and it is nothing for him to ride 10 or 12 hours without stopping. His musculature is of the toned type, rather like a runner’s—hard, but certainly not bulging.

    His 20-year-old brother, on the other hand, is in college, and engages in very little strenuous exercise.  He spends a lot of time sleeping, eating, studying, and playing the occasional video game. The most activity his legs see is a weekly basketball game with his buddies.  But through some cruel (in older brother’s eyes) twist of fate, the kid has some enviable muscle definition, much, much more so than his brother does.

    It is isn’t right. It isn’t fair. And it certainly isn’t logical. But there you are. Just as some women have gorgeous hair just by toweling it dry and walking out of the house, some men are blessed with larger muscles than their counterparts.

    Knowing this, reading about a composer with muscled thighs wouldn’t even make me raise an eyebrow.

  24. 24
    Jill-Marie says:

    Late to the party (as usual) but I will second/third the fact that riding builds KILLER thighs and impressive upper body strength, particularly among those of us who ride jumpers or eventers … or reining horses or barrel horses or endurance horses or … well, you name it. Spend enough hours in the saddle and you’re going to get muscles. There’s a reason **good** riding is considered second to only to swimming in the number of muscle groups it uses. :-)

    As for driving? Anyone who has ever watched competitive driving (and it is an incredibly fun sport to watch!) will soon realize what an awesome workout it is for your arms and shoulders.

    But it was an excellent rant!

  25. 25
    Mollyscribbles says:

    Romance characters are always in great shape; I remember one where the heroine had a flat stomach and slim thighs . . . and a three-month-old infant that she’d been a working single mother to, minimizing potential gym time.

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