GS v. STA: The Plus Size Heroine - The One Who’s Well Adjusted

Oh, the plus size heroine. You may choose from the following options:

1. She diets her way to happy endingness, because nothings says “blissful sex and unlimited love forever after” like losing weight and having thin thighs.

2. She diets her way to happy endingness after seeing the visual holyshit that is her head photoshopped onto a thin body. Once this, she suffers from absolutely no misapprehensions as to what her body looks like and instantly adapts to a gym-centric, carrot-stick-loving life, because thin is so in. (No, Jemima J, I have still not gotten over that one).

3. She’s the plucky, plump sidekick of awesome, a sterling character inside a sexually unacceptable and therefore sexually unthreatening character who compliments but doesn’t compete with the heroine.

4. Like the heroine who is so very very accomplished but does nothing but fuck up left right and center, she’ll go on and on about how big and unattractive she is, how she’s larger than the other women she knows and it bothers her, yadda yadda – and then you find out she’s a size 10 or some shit like that.

Weight is a tricky issue for the heroine, who must be a perfect embodiment of all that is perfect without pissing us readers off too much. Lately there have been more explorations into The Land of The Plus Size Heroine in all genres, but mostly it’s a matter of omission. As Robin Uncapher wrote back in 2006

Out-of-fashion beauty was one of the main problems our thin, wide-eyed heroines had to overcome. What these girls had to worry about was being too beautiful, so beautiful the randy heroes could not keep their hands to themselves.

More recently, though, something completely new has happened in the world of romance. A small number of romance writers have been writing women who look more like most of us, not just by being plain, but by feeling overweight. Books like Ruth Wind’s Beautiful Stranger, Justine Davis’ A Whole Lot of Love, and Suzanne Brockmann’s Get Lucky started popping up.

Of course, as Robin points out, once you name a number as a size, a whole lotta women on either side of that number line up to argue about where the real “fat” line lies. Is it size 2? Is it size 14? Is it no size at all? Or is it every size, since so many women suffer under the idea that they are far, far too big for the ideal. Smart authors, if you ask me, leave it up to the reader and never name a number at all, leaving “plus size” in the mind’s eye of the beholder.

So are there plus size heroines that aren’t going to diet their way to happy endings, thereby reinforcing the damaging stereotype that only thin people deserve happiness? Are there heroines who remain their size and then move on to happiness? One Bitchery reader wrote:

I’m looking for romances that feature larger heroines.  I’m wondering if you can poll the readers for their recommendations.  I don’t care the sub-genre of romance, I just want to have a list of books that feature larger women.

The Rotund did a romance novel review in which the heroine was constantly bringing up her eating habits even though she was an okay size.

It got me thinking that I hadn’t read many and so I’ve gone looking and found some to order, but just want extra feedback.

Thanks to Barb Ferrer, I have read A Whole Lot of Love (among the worst titles ever, really) and it’s marvelous. The heroine, Layla Laraway, is a larger woman blessed with a hot-sex-on-chocolate-silk voice, and she’s a fundraising mastermind. When she meets The Hero, a hottie mchot executive named Ethan, he’s initially smitten with her voice, and has to adjust to the fact that his imagination of what she looked like doesn’t match reality (which he does quickly, thank heaven).

Her insecurities are real, but only part of the obstacles between them, and the heroine herself is marvy. In fact, Alzheimer’s Disease is often more of a focus in the narrative than Layla’s size. And, most importantly, her size is part of her character, not an obstacle to her happy ending – as in, she doesn’t have to make half of herself disappear to earn her future happiness.

So what other plus-size heroines have you read and liked? And which ones made you want to scream at the reinforcement of what The Rotund calls the “hegemony of Thin?”

ETA: While wandering around my house far, far from the reaches of the internet (it’s a scary place, that part of the house – there’s a mountain of laundry that never gets smaller) I realized that there are actually potentially two types of plus-size heroines. One: the kind for whom weight is a conscious issue but hopefully for the sake of a narrative not the only issue, and two: a plus size heroine whose size is a matter of fact element to the story, who doesn’t agonize over it at all.

It seems to me (and I haven’t caffeinated yet fully so I am happy to be disagreed with) that the place in which the openly imperfect heroine* most comfortably resides is historical romance. There are some historical heroines who aren’t visually perfect, for weight reasons or otherwise (note: examples blocked by lack of caffeine), but of course the hero, through the rose-colored lenses of her Magic Hoo Hoo, finds her fascinating. In contemporary romances, it might be more difficult to create an openly imperfect* heroine for weight reasons specifically because of the fatism that affects contemporary society, wherein if you’re fat you’re presumably lazy.

Are there heroines, in any time period, who are totally accepting of their size? Are there well-adjusted women of size in romance?

*Note: *I* for God’s sake do not think any amount of weight up or down is an imperfection. (My post partum ass, let me show you it. Next week.) I am referring to the standard of perfect imposed upon contemporary women, which currently seems to follow a “you should look as bony and square as a 10 year old boy” visual style. So when I say “Visually imperfect” it’s not from my perspective that I’m labeling imperfection. You look marvelous just the way you are. Really.

Comments are Closed

  1. ehren says:

    this is why I write things as I see them, whether they’re in my head or in the real world.I also draw things, most times, as I see them as well. I’m overweight and have always been larger than every girl around me since I was born. Kids used to call me Ehren Fatten and sing it with the twilight zone theme tune.

    :3 therefore, I enjoy writing about a woman who’s built like a valkyrie who likes chocolate a bit too much who’s able to kick ass and think on her feet a bit. But, as I said, I like to keep to what I see, be it inside my head or not, so if the character is thin, I write them thin, if the character is big, I write them big. I don’t have many thin characters, by the by. XD

    now, to get paid for this head of mine… :: grin::

  2. Leslie H says:

    Back in the 80’s there was a Harlequin Temptation that featured an overweight Hero AND Heroine who meet at a fat farm! (I shit you not!) They fall in lust as they lose weight and then have to go back to their lives and relationships. About a year later, they meet again, back at the fat farm because they both gained the weight back! As they met, they looked into each other’s eyes and he said “Pizza” and she said “Ice Cream” and that was enough. Magic ensued.  I will think of the name anon.

    ALSO do not forget Terry Pratchett! In GUARDS GUARDS Sam Vimes has an extremely sweet romance with Sybil Ramkin, a wealthy, large size aristocrat who is an awsome buttkicking heroine.

    Also Agnes in MASKERADE is overweight and totally frustrated that her fabulous voice is unappreciated until the beautiful blonde stands in front of her and pretends to sing. It was a novel that showed a genuine understanding of how it feels to be fat and invisible. Mr P Rules!

  3. MS Jones says:

    I have to weigh in (haha) to agree AnimeJune and Esri Rose’s comments. I can’t think of a single regency or contemporary romance that has a fat alpha male, or even a hero with a bit of a gut. 

    Jack Aubrey (from the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brien)was overweight, and a very believable hero, but those books are not romances.

    And I don’t believe fat sitcom husbands are the same as romance heros.

    Is this a double standard or am I missing something here?

  4. TracyS says:

    AMEN, Tracy! At 5’6”, 209 lbs., I wore a size 18. I’ve lost nearly 20 lbs. and now wear a 16. (Have to lose weight for health reasons not for body image/feel good about myself reasons). Writers need to get a firm grip on body types. 6’4”, 170 does not well-muscled mantitty make. That’s skinny

    LOL Silver! For sure. My Brother-in-law was 6’4”, 180 when my sister started dating him.  I called him “Ribs” because you could count them one by one!  He’s now 240 (bulked up and filled out as he matured)~much better!

    I was 197 at my heaviest (I’m 5’3”) and wore a size 18.  I’ve lost 20 lbs (high blood pressure, not anymore!) and am a size 14 or 16 depending on who makes the clothes. I honestly lost the weight for health reasons. I was body conscious sometimes, but my hubby is so hot for me that I still had confidence. LOL

    I think authors are best to stay away from exacts unless they know someone with the stats and that’s what they are going for.

    As far as “imperfect” heroes.  I’d go for it.  My hubby is imperfect and I find him sexy as hell.  Really, I’d read a book about a guy with a pot belly. If the heroine found him sexy then we would too.  It’s all in perception.

  5. Silver James says:

    But no, those problems are never addressed, because the author wants to believe, and wants to make readers sympathetic to the belief, that fat women in our society are powerless little Cinderellas, waiting to be rescued from their fatness by a dreamy prince who will never, ever be tempted to look at the airbrushed perfection of a Playboy bunny, and that they’ve somehow won when that happens without losing weight.  I’m sorry, that’s just not the type of heroine I can root for.

    Jennifer, RIGHT ON! Your whole comment hit the nail on the head. I wish I could come to your presentation.

    This whole conversation reminds me of the early days of bodice-rippers and virginal semi-rape because, like, you know, good girls can’t have consensual sex and like, you know, enjoy it! ARGH! Luckily, as our views about sex matured, so did our romances. Now if we could just get over the “heroines have to be dead sexy and heroes have to be hawt mancandy” attitude. Yes, there’s something to be said for “fantasy” but I prefer mine with a dose of reality. I’d like to think that the HEA could happen for me, or my best friend, or my daughter, or my hairdresser, or…the widow down the street. (I’ve been married 25 years so I don’t really count – but you know what I mean.)

  6. Joanne says:

    If the weight issue is the main driving force of the book then I’m not buying. Period. Books about bigger sized women that are perplexed/bothered/bewildered by their weight bore me as much as the the dainty, fairy-like creature who is fading away from lack of appetite. If the heroine is whining then the book hits the wall.

    If the hero is attracted to her and he’s lovin this female then she looks good enough for me and the author has done his/her job.  I don’t want to talk or read about calories and dress size when I’m in the middle of a fantasy/romance book.  This is suppose to be take-me-away-fiction. Not Prevention Magazine.

    Thin, fat, tall, short, the description of the heroine is just that, it’s not suppose to be the story line. Is it? It isn’t in my TBR pile. I hope.

    Fat hero? Is that big fat or sloppy fat? Sorry but I’ll take a double standard in my romance reading and the hell with politically correct.

    For my heroine? Can she make the hero’s jaw drop? Then she’s just the right size.

  7. sandra says:

    The heroine of Theresa Medeiros’ The Bride And The Beast is fat, and the hero loves her that way.  Why are women supposed too look like concentration camp survivors? Personally, I tend to agree with the heroine of Leslie LaFoy’s Grin And Bear It: “Yeah, I could go on another diet. Yeah, I could join a health cluband get something resembling a shape other than roundish.  But it’s such a shallow thing to do.  I don’t enjoy deprivation or physical abuse.  If I did the diet and workout thing, it would only be because I want to look good to men.  And that is just way too pathetic.”  Of course, she doesn’t get any in the course of the book.  She meets two men who seem interested, but decides that one of them is so gorgeous that sex with him would be humiliating, and the other reminds her of vanilla pudding – sweet and bland.  I guess you could say her standards are too high. Spamword is Shall 61 as in ‘Shall 61 pounds stand between me and a fashionable figure?”

  8. Popin says:

    I thought Kelley Armstrong did a good job with Paige in Dime Store Magic and Industrial Magic. Paige is chubby, but still a kickbutt heroine.

    One book that had a chubby main character and I loved was The Frog Prince by Jane Porter, but it’s chick lit and the previous example was Urban Fantasy. I don’t think I’ve ever read of a plus sized heroine in a straight up romance novel.

  9. AnimeJune says:

    And, let me remind you, “fat” and “unattractive” are not the same thing. The only thing that makes a person “attractive” is if you are attracted to them. Looks can certainly help, but so can personality, humour, morals, personal taste, dreams and goals.

    I mean – the cliche of the stick-thin gorgeous ICE QUEEN who’s the Hero’s Eeeeeevil Ex is a great example. She’s gorgeous (often more so than the heroine in contemporaries), but she’s not attractive to the hero.

    I can think of several roly-poly (or at least not wash-board abbed) men I find attractive – true, most are comedians, but I find humour sexy. Ricky Gervais, Mark Addy, Seth Rogan…

    Some are sexy on the basis of playing intelligent and dangerous men on televison – Robbie Coltrane on Cracker, Anthony Anderson on the Shield.

  10. Sarah Frantz says:

    There’s Suzanne Brockmann’s Into the Night with Joan, who is a little overweight.  She’s angsty about it, but Mike does a great job of convincing her she’s hot and sexy and she doesn’t lose the weight to get her HEA.  In fact, she’s described later in the series as still Queen size, but hott.

    There’s Laura Kinsale’s Seize the Fire, the Most Perfect Book of All Time, wherein Olympia is fat and Sherry loves her anyway.  He spends page and pages and pages saying how hot and sexy she is, and she doesn’t lose her weight either.

    Those are the two I can think of.  Neither woman is really happy with her weight, but the heroes think they’re hot and they get their happy ending without losing the weight.  Ditto Min, in Bet Me as many people have already said.

  11. Tina C. says:

    Katie MacAllister did one called “The Corset Diaries” which was sort of a reality show historical romance.

    Thank you!  I was trying like crazy to think of the name of this book and couldn’t!  The part I remember most is that when they put her in the corset, her breasts are all but entering the room about 5 minutes before she gets there and the hero is all agog.

    There’s another book where the heroine is bigger and has a hard time believing that the movie star hero really wants her when he could have any twig-sized starlet he wanted.  It’s called Jude’s Law, by Lori Foster.  While it’s not one of my favorite Foster books (I tend to prefer her mixed-martial-arts fighter books), it’s very enjoyable.

    Excerpted from the back cover:  “There’s only so much frustration a guy can handle before he gets a little nutty.  For Jude Jamison, his frustration has a name—May Price.  She’s everything the former Hollywood bad boy actor came to Stillbrook, Ohio, hoping to find:  open, honest, lovable, and full of those luscious curves you don’t find on stick-figure starlets—curves May doesn’t seem to appreciate in herself.  Every time Jude tries to get close to the skittish business woman, to take her in his arms, she thinks he’s joking.  Joking?  Joking does not involve lots of cold-shower therapy.”

    Regardless of the implication on the back cover, the book is really much less to do about her weight and more about her learning to value herself more.  Granted her weight does come up, however, it’s because she has a hard time believing that Mr. Rich-and-Famous is really interested in her and not just toying with her because he’s stuck out in the middle of nowhere and he’s bored.  That said, I don’t recall thinking that May spent an inordinate amount of time whining about her weight.

  12. Maya says:

    Didn’t have time to peruse comments so far, so this may be a repeat:

    NO REGRETS by Michelle Ann Young, Sourcebooks Casablanca

    historical romance, i think it’s one of the nominees for favorite book of the year in a list whose name I forget

  13. CC says:

    Suzann Ledbetter in her direction books has Hannah Garvey.  She starts out uncomfortable with her size and her age in the first book and by the time she and The Sheriff are engaged she’s comfortable within her skin and with being five years older than the sexy sheriff. She’s not angsty, she’s real.  Complaining about her hair color and seeing the micro-imperfections in herself no one else sees or pays attention to.  Something I think more of us do than are willing to admit to.

  14. JaniceG says:

    Don’t know whether they’re available in the US but an Australian author named Kerry Greenwood, who is plus-sized herself, has a series of mysteries featuring a zaftig heroine who used to be a professional CPA in suits and now owns a bakery and is happy with her size. First one is EARTHLY DELIGHTS, in which she gets a gorgeous Israeli detective boyfriend and so far has kept him :->

    As for imperfect heroes, you can’t do better than Carla Kelly – most of her heroes are not ultra-confident Corinthian types. Even if you don’t want imperfect heroes, I’d recommend her books, which feature very believable characters.

  15. Eve says:

    [[Considering that I’ve never met a plus sized, “average,” or fat woman who isn’t obsessed or concerned or worried about her weight and society’s perceptions about her, I don’t know how realistic this heroine would be.]]

    Pleased to meet you, Jana. I’m plus-sized (6’ tall, size 22), have incredibly great sex with my husband, wear the clothes I want to wear (get compliments all the time), and don’t obsess at all about weight. Could I lose a few pounds? Of course! Do I worry about it? Not at all.

  16. Don’t get me started on numbers. I’m 6’ tall. 165 lbs is hotness on me.

    I like my heroines offbeat for looks. The lady who is plain enough to pose as a man. The one who is too plump and curvy for her time. The one who is all austere angles in an era of curves. Conjoined twins.

    My heroes are mostly ordinary. Middle-aged, a little paunchy from a desk job. Too short to be taken seriously. The guy who wears a beard to cover up an ugly scar on his jaw. Older, tired and limping from being shot.

    I’d just like to see more bodies, period, in books. Make it fit the story.  But don’t whine. Whiny heroines—who are not clearly putting on an act—are a deal killer.

    Horse16. Yep. that’s me.

  17. Wryhag says:

    Let’s get real about this.  Most (not all, but most) readers don’t want to encounter heroines beyond a size 12 any more than they want to encounter heroes and heroines beyond the age of 40.  Big-name authors might be able to get away with “bigger or older” pairings, but most writers will stick with young-and-gorgeous, just to be on the safe side.

    The Western media’s pretty much got us by the ‘nads when it comes to standards of desirability.

  18. Lynne says:

    Wow, Jennifer Armintrout! What you said, totally.

    One thing (among many) that gets on my nerves in romances is the fascination with unusually tall men. It’s just a little too “me big man, you little woman” for me.



    The only book I can recall at the moment with an overweight hero is Carla Kelly’s Regency, Libby’s London Merchant.  Part of what made the book enjoyable was who got the girl—not the handsome, rakish Duke, but the bumbling and chubby country doctor.

  20. WandaSue says:

    Speaking for myself …

    When I was fat (5’1” and size 16), I majorly wanted to read about fat heroines.  The reason is obvious. 

    Then nearly three years ago I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, suffered eye damage, high blood pressure, etc., and everything changed.  It took two years, but with a very serious life style change (diabetic diet and LOTS of exercise) I am now a size 4 or 6, and I have never felt or LOOKED better in my life.

    I would NEVER NEVER NEVER go back to being a fat woman.  NEVER.  Not just because of health reasons, but … let’s be honest here:  given the choice, how many of YOU would honestly chose to be a size 16 over a size 6? 

    And frankly, “curvy” and “fat” are NOT interchangeable.  I am “curvy”—34 D.  But fat?  No way, no how. 

    I don’t want to read about fat women now, and I surely don’t want to read about fat men.  It doesn’t feed my fantasy.  Sorry. 

    If I’m going to invest a few (or many) hours losing myself in a romance, I’m not going to do it trying to “identify” as a fat heroine.  Sorry—but been there, done that, and that t-shirt is just way too big now.

  21. DS says:

    Don’t have time to read all of this but I can mention a Regency where the hero is plump—Joan Aiken’s The Smile of a Stranger I think. It doesn’t have any sex but I really liked the characters. 

    A book I hated—in fact I never got past the first few pages with the set-up that the heroine was told by her boss that she would never advance in the company because her uncontrolled weight was a sign of an uncontrolled mind or some such crap.  Instead of getting a lawyer and suing his butt off she went on some weight loss program like Jenny Craig and lost so much weight that she was won a cruise from the weight loss program.  At this point the book went sailing across the room and I have successfully eradicated the title and author’s name from my mind.

  22. Elizabeth says:

    I’m not sure if I imposed my own body image on some of the books I’ve read, but I’m noticing a lot of what people are calling “plus size heroines” here are really just rounder, more realistic women, but not actually fat.

    I also don’t like most “fat” romances because of the whineyness (I forget who posted it, but I agree with you, whoever you are!). When I moved to Japan, all of a sudden my size M was a size XXL, and people reacted accordingly—men in charge would make rude comments about diets, female coworkers made jokes about my size, etc. Did I feel like crap when they did that? Of course I did! But did it define my entire life in Japan? No! My life story is about my experiences, the people I meet and the things I do. My life story is not about coming to grips with my body.

    You can argue that I had a healthy body image from being an M in America for so long, but reading a book after book about woman vs. her self image gets old. I certainly don’t mind her battling body issues while also doing something else, but if her weight defines her whole story, I don’t want to read it.

  23. Seressia says:

    There was the “Living Large” series of anthologies featuring Donna Hill, Brenda Jackson and others.  The second book is “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and the third anthology is “A Whole Lotta Love.”  You’d have to find them used, though.  “A Cinderella Affair” by A.C. Arthur is also good.

  24. DS says:

    rebyj said on…
    07.26.08 at 12:34 PM |

    I remember reading a Harlequin in the late 70s maybe early 80s, where the heroine was what was described as hugely fat ( probably a size 12 lol) , then she was in an accident and was in a coma and woke up to a beautifully thin and toned body. She probably caught her a greek cowboy billionaire too!

    Barbara Cartland!  The heroine had just been forced into a marriage and for some reason after the ceremony and before the sexoring, she fell into a coma for about three years.  When she woke us she was gorgeous and toned—uh huh, just like Kay Hooper had a character in one of her Fear books wake up from a six month coma with a great manicure.  I really laughed at this one.

    Also I think we may be getting a bit close to the self insertion discussion here.  I don’t care what size the heroine or the hero is as long as the book is well written. 

    Seize the Fire is a favorite book but not because of the heroine’s size.  It’s the author’s skill.  And it might be used as evidence ito support Armintrout’s argument because the only pictures I have seen of the author show her as thin.

  25. let’s be honest here:  given the choice, how many of YOU would honestly chose to be a size 16 over a size 6?

    Holy projecting weight issues, Batman!  Maybe I’m out of the norm here, but I’m pretty sure that being fat is the result of my choice to eat a steady diet of cookies and candy.  I choose to be fat. 

    I don’t see what your weight loss has to do with other people’s reading choices.  Don’t like romance with overweight heroines?  Fine.  But you seem to be saying, “Hey, all you have to do is get skinny and you won’t mind whether or not people like you are correctly portrayed in the books you like to read.”  Which is kind of weak, yo.

  26. Stephanie says:

    All I can think of, off the top of my head, are the fake plus-size heroines, especially during the Regency-era historicals. Eloisa James’s Josephine and Annabel from that quartet (uh, Pleasure for Pleasure and Kiss Me, Annabel! respectively) were both roundy women who didn’t look all that great in the empire-waist sack-dresses of the era, but who looked great in other clothes. I bet they were probably size 14 or so by today’s standards, but hourglass figures, so of course they were amazingly beautiful in the right clothing. Or no clothing.

    (And no cellulite or thigh dimples, either. Nor body odor.)

    That series also had an overweight hero . . . until he stopped drinking and of course turned out to have the perfect romance hero build under the beer gut. *sigh*

    Edith Layton had an unattractive hero, can’t remember his name . . . he wasn’t fat, though. Rail-thin, with a horsey face, and the most attractive voice EVER, apparently.

  27. Stephanie says:

    let’s be honest here:  given the choice, how many of YOU would honestly chose to be a size 16 over a size 6?

    And, uh, this has to do with “What books have you read with good plus-sized heroines?” how?

  28. ev says:

    Well, there’s Miles Vorkosigan from Lois McMaster Bujold’s series – he’s not likely to win any beauty contests (the cover art on some of those books doesn’t help this impression in the slightest), but I have to say, he’s one of the “sexiest” heroes I’ve ever encountered in fiction.

    Amen to that sister!!!

    My heroes are mostly ordinary. Middle-aged, a little paunchy from a desk job. Too short to be taken seriously. The guy who wears a beard to cover up an ugly scar on his jaw. Older, tired and limping from being shot.

    The older, tired and limping from being shot, describes my hubby perfectly. So does the paunchy part, although he is no longer middle aged- unless we are now living well over 100!! But I haven’t kicked him out of bed yet!!

    I am around 5’3” and finally am under 200lbs. I think. I don’t do scales, even at the dr’s office. My figuring on that is this- first, it doesn’t sabatoge me when I do my exercise and eat right or binge every now and then. I wear a size 16/18 down from a 20. So as far as I am concerned that is good.

    Secondly, I don’t have health problems because of my weight. I used to be a size 0-2, before I got preggers with my daughter almost 25 years ago. Then I got sick. Then we discovered I have intense allergies, ok, deadly, to most over the counter medicines. So I occassionally end up on steroids. The side effects suck, but they work.

    I do not have high blood pressure, diabetic problems, cholesterol problems or any other myriad health problems that people automatically assume over weight (or obese or any other term you want), people have. When they ask me what meds I am on, I love the looks I get when I tell them Flintstone chewable vitamins and the occassional Tylenol. That’s it. I like busting stereotypes.

    I did lose 35lbs (I was measuring then) by dropping soda, including diet soda, from my diet totally.

    As for books, if anyone is still reading this, Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner is probably my favorite. She’s large, writes for a magazine, her ex makes the mistake of writing a magazine series about dating a plus sized woman (for a competitor) and she gets even. And she even gets her HEA with someone else. I laughed quite a bit when I read it. The sequel that just came out was quite good too, although a tear jerker. And she was still not a skinny minny.

  29. ev says:

    let’s be honest here:  given the choice, how many of YOU would honestly chose to be a size 16 over a size 6?

    by today’s standards, Marilyn Monroe would be around a size 12. She sure as hell had no problems getting men!!!

    Even at my size 16, I never lack for finding someone to flirt with. I may be married, but I still get the offers. And I love to keep up my flirting skills. Hubby on the other hand, just rolls his eyes. Cause he knows who I am going home with. And he just isn’t the flirting kind.

  30. Thank you Sarah and everyone for all the recs (and that awesome list).  I was the one who asked about the books.  It’s been fascinating to see the responses.

    I’m a fat woman and working on the ever challenging issue of building my self-esteem in a society that is not terribly accepting of women with bodies as large as or larger than mine.  Having worked with women in my therapy practice who deal with body issues (and yes this really isn’t just an issue that fat women face), I know that having role models or positive images in media is really helpful.  That, along with my own desire to read fat-positive fiction, is what spurred my interest.

    I second the issue about heroes who are not conventionally attractive.  Although is skinny and strong, my partner is a geek who definitely presents that way.  But I think he’s sexy as hell!

    My word: lay46!

  31. SonomaLass says:

    On the “double standard”:  I think some women find it easier than others to empathize with a plus-size heroine, whether that’s due to personal experience or just a different imagination.  But trying to find a less-than-hot hero attractive is harder—let’s face it, most romance readers are straight women, so it’s the ability to imagine being attracted to the male that is the main ingredient.

    And what about M/M romance?  Do both men need to be hotties?

    Me, I’d welcome a few more books with physically imperfect heroes, but that’s because I’m older (and wiser?  more cynical?) and prefer a bit more realism in my romance. 

    FWIW, my daughter-in-law (to be, in six days!) is a gorgeous and confidant plus-size lady.  She doesn’t stress out about her weight, and most of the men I know (including my tall, skinny and handsome son!) find her very attractive.

  32. JenB says:

    I’m plus size, and I don’t see the “plus size girl gets the super mega hottie” storyline as realistic. In real life, we see far more hot women with “imperfect” men than hot men with “imperfect” women (though I know there are exceptions to every rule…yada yada yada).

    I read a contemporary romance once in which the heroine constantly complained about her weight and considered herself fat. Then we find out she weighed 135 pounds. Shit.

  33. WandaSue says:

    Let me add …

    My husband is a handsome man, fit and strong … but paraplegic.  Imperfect?  Yeah.  But damn, he’s hot!  He’s a frickin’ chick magnet, frankly, which I find gratifying … though sometimes I do experience a twinge of jealousy. 

    Let me add, too … (after having read some of the comments following my earlier post) …

    … that I far prefer being a size 6 to a size 16.  I have been both.  This is MY preference. 

    If you have worn both sizes and still chose the size 16, then … you go, girl.

  34. Alpha Lyra says:

    I prefer romance novels with average-looking heroes and heroines, though perhaps there aren’t very many of them. My favorite is

    The Raven Prince

    by Elizabeth Hoyt. Neither hero nor heroine is overweight, but the heroine is described as plain and mousy, and the hero has smallpox scars. I find characters with imperfections easier to relate to, and more interesting than those who personify today’s standards of beauty.

  35. WandaSue says:

    I don’t see what your weight loss has to do with other people’s reading choices.  Don’t like romance with overweight heroines?  Fine.  But you seem to be saying, “Hey, all you have to do is get skinny and you won’t mind whether or not people like you are correctly portrayed in the books you like to read.” Which is kind of weak, yo.

    Fat heroines don’t feed MY particular fantasy—as I said in my earlier post. 

    I’m not going to spend $8.00 putting myself in a fat-chick’s shoes.  I want a fantasy—so I’m taking it all the way, girlfriend!  I’m gonna be slim, beautiful, and witty!  And I’m gonna catch me a smart, good-hearted hottie!

    Does the plus-size heroine feed YOUR fantasy?  I guess it does.  So go for it!  Read, write, and live the “plus size” romance. 

    I wish you all the best at it!

    If there is a huge market for fat heroines and paunchy heroes, it is my guess that publishers will fill that gap.  Time—and sales—will tell.

  36. soakbonus says:

    This may qualify as a “faux” plus-size heroine, but Catherine Anderson has a novella in the anthology Tall, Dark and Dangerous where the heroine Charlotte believes she is fat, but the hero thinks she has curves in all the right places.  It is one of my favorite stories ever.  I’ve read it countless times.

  37. Stephanie says:

    that I far prefer being a size 6 to a size 16.  I have been both.  This is MY preference.

    That’s great, Wanda Sue, but I don’t know if you missed the point that we don’t care what size you are. We care what books you read.

  38. Jessica says:

    One book I enjoyed with a “larger” woman was “The Perfect Wife” by Lynsay Sands.  It is about a couple with an arranged marriage, and while there is some angst from the Heroine about her weight (largely because she had been told all her life how huge she is), the hero likes her exactly how she is.  From the back cover”

    “Paen Gerville longed for a lively, well-rounded woman, one whose plump breast would cushion his head after the lonely, harsh life of a solitary fighting know.  At first his wife-to-be promised no such delights—her form was unbending, her health apparently fragile as she fainted into his arms after their first kiss.  But one split bridal gown later, her assets were eye-poppingly apparent and Paen could only grin as he anticipated the surprises yet to come on his wedding night with The Perfect Wife”

  39. JaneDrew says:

    I ran into a Harlequin Presents a couple of months ago, “The Sicilian’s Virgin Bride,” (which I kept reading as “The Sicilian Virgin’s Bride,” but that would pr’ly be a very different book…).  Anyway, the heroine had grown up as a very curvy, non-skinny girl surrounded by thin, obsessive model-types, and never considered herself to be attractive. She flees from her new husband during the wedding reception, and they don’t see each other again for something like six months, maybe a year.

    I was assuming that she would have done the usual “Depressed Romantic Heroine Starvation Diet”…. except she ended up at a farm with a family who were enthusiastic about feeding her. So, she came back and weighed even more than when she’d left!

    More importantly, the hero found her gorgeous just as she was—and when she realized that his problem wasn’t that he thought she was fat and unattractive, it was that he found her incredibly sexy and it was driving him nuts, she not only got a massive self-confidence boost, she proceeded to attack his personal complexes with a sledgehammer. And also with lingerie. 😉

    After growing up reading endless variations on heroines moping and starving and ending up even more pale and waiflike by the time the repentent hero comes knocking at their door, I thought it was great to see a heroine who gained weight, and a hero who thought she was insanely sexy just the way she was.


  40. Tania says:

    I can’t think of many romances where the heroine was described as being plump or overweight. “Beauty And The Beast” by Teresa Medeiros, someone said, had the heroine being larger, but if I remember correctly [Spoiler!!]she ended up losing the weight for one reason or another somewhere near the end (and the hero being annoyed/upset by the change).

    I personally would love to read more romance novels that had heroines with not-perfectly-proportional bodies. Most of my weight is centered quite firmly on my ass and hips. My sister’s pretty much the opposite. I want to read about a pear-shaped heroine with a fantastic Queen-tribute-worthy ass, or one who has skinny limbs and large breasts, or pretty much anything other than super thin and perfectly hourglass.

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