Beauty is as Beauty Does

By Mary Jo   

Cat_243_dover_18RevMelinda must be looking to assemble a Wenchly library because of all the great questions she’s suggested!  The one I will address today is:

“How important is it that a hero/heroine be physically attractive?  What other character traits/meanings does Beauty (or lack thereof) communicate to the reader?  What were historical standards of beauty and how do they differ from our own time?  (And how do you mediate this for the reader–?)”   

This is a topic so juicy that more than one Wench might address it.  For starters, it can easily be divided into separate topics for female and male beauty.  I’ll start with female beauty because it’s probably a more complex subject.

Authors deal with physical beauty in many different ways, even among our own books.  But since romance usually has strong fantasy elements, it’s not uncommon for characters to be gorgeous beyond the general run of humankind.  Early Muchabrunette historicals sometimes devoted pages to her ripe, luscious lips or his strong, manly calves and amazingly broad shoulders.  The famous Angelique, heroine of a series of romantic historical adventures by a French couple who wrote as Sergeanne Golon was described as the “most ravishing—and ravished—heroine” in literature. 

“Ravishing and ravished.”  Traditionally, female power has come from a woman’s ability to attract men, preferably powerful men who would put her in a position of increased wealth and security.  Many have many paths to power, but for women, being desirable is one of the best available currencies.

Beautylady_hamilton So early historical romances abounded with fabulous babes who could be ill-used and dragged through a bush backwards, yet still be so utterly stunning that every man who sees her just has to have her.  Such a heroine would have a perfect face, masses of great hair, a tiny waist, and her worst problem is getting her amazing breasts into her skimpy ball gown.  Ah, yes, such problems as we all have.  <g>

But there are germs of truth in this stereotype.  Beauty is alluring, and studies have shown that good looking people start life with a real advantage.  More relevant to my topic, sexual attraction is an important component of developing Beautycleopatra romantic interest in another person, so describing how a character looks is a way of showing interest and attraction.  Hence the fact that romance tends to be a descriptive genre.  Books generally give a fair amount of attention to how characters look, and how others respond to them. 

But that doesn’t mean characters have to be beautiful.  I tend to like having heroines of average looks—young, healthy, nice enough figure and features and they clean up well, but not drop-dead gorgeous—but what I think matters less than that the hero finds her irresistible.  Often he’s struck by her immediately (men tend to be visual creatures so this is not unreasonable), but sometimes the attraction grows over the course of the story.  I remember a Kasey Michael’s Regency where the hero started by thinking the heroine’s red hair was downright freakish, and in no time, he was convinced that she was the most beautiful woman in England.  <g>

There’s a good dose of realism in this.  Yes, there is love at first sight—I’ve had several women friends who saw a man and knew instantly that they would marry him.  (Though it isn’t always love per se.  One friend heard a little voice in her head saying, “You’ve just met the man you will marry,” and she retorted, “But he isn’t even American!”  Nonetheless, Reader, she married him. <g>) 

But love at first sight and psychic flashes are a somewhat different topic.  Getting Beautyhelen_of_troyback to beauty, I seldom have truly beautiful heroines—and when I do, they may well suffer for it.  Being the object of every man’s desire can be tiresome and even dangerous.  (Gwynne in A Kiss of Fate learns this the hard way.  The hero always thinks she’s gorgeous, but when other men start thinking the same thing, it’s a total nuisance.  And ultimately, a weapon.) 

Over the years, I’ve regularly played with ideas of beauty, and as a reader, I enjoy stories where the average-looking girl is the one who is wonderfully lovable and who wins the guy.  And I’ve loved some books that take the concept Beautyrecamier even further.  Our Lady Layton did a wonderful historical romance called To Wed a Stranger, where the beautiful bad girl from several earlier books gives up and marries a guy who is nice but a virtual stranger.  Then right after their marriage, Annabelle falls ill and loses her looks.  All of her life, she’s has power because of her beauty, and suddenly it’s gone.  How does she feel about herself?  How do others feel about her?  How does her husband feel his marriage?  It’s a wonderful, romantic story and exploration of beauty. 

A book that takes this idea even further is the always terrific Deborah Smith’s recent The Crossroads Café, which came out in September from the small press Belle Books.  You might have to special order it, but the story is well worth the effort.  Catherine Deen is a major movie star, and possibly the most beautiful Beautyzetajones woman in the world.  She’s basically a pretty decent person, but all of her life she has enjoyed the special perks—and exploitations—of being beautiful.

Then a horrible car accident ruins Cathy’s looks and her life falls apart.  Her view of herself and her beauty were central to her self-image.  Not only is her sense of herself destroyed, but all the world’s paparazzi are eager to shove their cameras in her ruined face to beam her image around the world.  Salvation comes from a distant cousin in North Carolina (so distant that a Yankee like me would say not really a cousin at all <g>) and Cathy ends up taking refuge in her late grandmother’s remote mountain farmhouse.  There she discovers what she’s really made of, with the help of a man who has also suffered greatly.  The issues are dead serious but it’s a smart and often funny story of growth and redemption, with an amazing climax. 

Beautypierce_brosnan Men are a whole ‘nother topic.  They need to be sexy and wildly attractive to the heroine, but they don’t have to be handsome.  Being fit and athletic goes a long way toward making a guy look good, and scars and craggy faces can be very sexy without conventional good looks.  In other words, a great body compensates for less than perfect features.  Much rarer is a hero like Carla Kelly’s Hal Hampton, who is pudgy, nearing middle age, and balding.  <g>  If I recall correctly, by the end of the book he’s in better shape, but still balding.  Some deviations from the norm are more acceptable than others.

(I wanted to make Peregrine, the hero of my book Silk and Shadows, bald.  Think BeautybrynnerYul Brynner or Patrick Stewart.  But my editor begged me not to do it, so I refrained.  Sigh.)

As for historical norms of beauty, we know they change.  The ripe, voluptuous beauties of the Georgian era are very different from modern ideals, which in some cases are thin to the point of bony emaciation.  (When I studied art history in college, the professor said that in baroque periods, both the buildings and the women got larger.  Funny what stays with you from an education!) 

As for mediating physical appearance for readers—well, I’m not a very visual writer.  I usually settle for a general sketch of height, coloring, and general appearance and let readers fill in details as they wish.  Here are how the characters in next summer’s A Distant Magic see each other:

Forgetting her manners, Jean stared in frank appreciation at one of the handsomest men she’d ever seen.  The newcomer was dressed with expensive European elegance, but his strong features and dark coloring surely came from some more exotic land.  Lean and a little above average height, he moved like man who walked in dangerous places.  And wherever he walked, women would notice. 

When Nikolai first spots Jean Macrae (he’s just knocked her unconscious with magic so he can kidnap her):

Nikolai’s hand still held the girl’s, which slowed her collapse enough for him to catch her before she folded onto the floor.  Dear God, but she was light, scarcely heavier than a child!  He stared down into the small, pale face.  She must be in her middle twenties, but she looked much younger, a prim sheltered child of the British aristocracy……….This pallid girl, who had become his by the merest chance, would be his weapon.  He studied her with avid curiosity, thinking that her slight body had never known adversity or hard labor.  Her light green dress brought out her delicate coloring.  Her hair was powdered heavily enough to disguise the color.  He hadn’t really noticed her eyes.  They might have been a light hazel. 
But she was a pretty thing, in a fragile, high-bred fashion. 

Beautydu_pompadour As you can see, there is a some attraction, particularly on Jean’s part, but there is more going on here than just appreciation of physical appearance.  Incidentally, I tend to find it works best for me if the hero is noticeably handsome—my books are mostly female fantasies, after all!  The heroine is negotiable, and mine come in all shapes and sizes. 

As readers and writers, how do you feel about the use of beauty in romances?  For true romance, what matters is believing that these two people really love each other, and that’s more a matter of emotion, beliefs, and commitment.  But looks do matter.  What stories has stuck in your minds where looks are a significant factor?  What do you hate, what would you like to see more of?  Please tell!

Mary Jo, who has average looks–i. e., cleans up fairly well, looks like something the cat dragged in when on deadline–and has found that works just fine.

51 thoughts on “Beauty is as Beauty Does”

  1. I find that heroines are more believable if they are average in looks and concerned about some unattractive flaw, even if it’s like one I remember from G. Heyer. She was an insipid blonde, whereas voluptuous brunettes were in style.
    Historical heroines are not so concerned about weight as those in contemporaries. Matter of fact, it’s pretty rare to have a heroine who is overweight in contemporaries- it’s almost as though one isn’t worthy of finding love if “zaftig”.
    If the heroine is stunningly beautiful, I find it hard to identify with her, probably because I don’t trust really beautiful people (my own predjudice). In my experience, the accident of pleasing features confers many perks, but there’s often very little admirable character or spine under the surface. I’m sure it is a burden to be so lovely and the recipient of unwanted attentions (not that I personally have experienced this) but someone who overcomes adversity is much more attractive as a heroine to me.
    There is some evidence to suggest that certain characteristics we find beautiful are universal, and have a “survival of the species” edge. For example, women who have an hour-glass shape are more likely to be fertile and able to deliver a child without surgical intervention.
    But the whole point of romance is love transcending time (and surface features) and making something beautiful out of the difficulties of life. I care much more about internal character than external appearance.

    Reply
  2. I find that heroines are more believable if they are average in looks and concerned about some unattractive flaw, even if it’s like one I remember from G. Heyer. She was an insipid blonde, whereas voluptuous brunettes were in style.
    Historical heroines are not so concerned about weight as those in contemporaries. Matter of fact, it’s pretty rare to have a heroine who is overweight in contemporaries- it’s almost as though one isn’t worthy of finding love if “zaftig”.
    If the heroine is stunningly beautiful, I find it hard to identify with her, probably because I don’t trust really beautiful people (my own predjudice). In my experience, the accident of pleasing features confers many perks, but there’s often very little admirable character or spine under the surface. I’m sure it is a burden to be so lovely and the recipient of unwanted attentions (not that I personally have experienced this) but someone who overcomes adversity is much more attractive as a heroine to me.
    There is some evidence to suggest that certain characteristics we find beautiful are universal, and have a “survival of the species” edge. For example, women who have an hour-glass shape are more likely to be fertile and able to deliver a child without surgical intervention.
    But the whole point of romance is love transcending time (and surface features) and making something beautiful out of the difficulties of life. I care much more about internal character than external appearance.

    Reply
  3. I find that heroines are more believable if they are average in looks and concerned about some unattractive flaw, even if it’s like one I remember from G. Heyer. She was an insipid blonde, whereas voluptuous brunettes were in style.
    Historical heroines are not so concerned about weight as those in contemporaries. Matter of fact, it’s pretty rare to have a heroine who is overweight in contemporaries- it’s almost as though one isn’t worthy of finding love if “zaftig”.
    If the heroine is stunningly beautiful, I find it hard to identify with her, probably because I don’t trust really beautiful people (my own predjudice). In my experience, the accident of pleasing features confers many perks, but there’s often very little admirable character or spine under the surface. I’m sure it is a burden to be so lovely and the recipient of unwanted attentions (not that I personally have experienced this) but someone who overcomes adversity is much more attractive as a heroine to me.
    There is some evidence to suggest that certain characteristics we find beautiful are universal, and have a “survival of the species” edge. For example, women who have an hour-glass shape are more likely to be fertile and able to deliver a child without surgical intervention.
    But the whole point of romance is love transcending time (and surface features) and making something beautiful out of the difficulties of life. I care much more about internal character than external appearance.

    Reply
  4. I agree with Kathy [above] that it’s more important what’s on the inside; and I’m also not very fond of heroines that are stunningly beautiful ~ I have a hard time, well relating to them I guess.
    One of my favourite historical stories of all time is JANE EYRE; and we all know that Jane is not a beauty, but rather a fairly plain-appearing person. Her attraction is her empathy and strength of character.
    As for contemporary romance, the one that sticks in my mind is Lori Foster’s TOO MUCH TEMPTATION. Grace is the heroine and she is, to say the least, voluptuous; definitely far out of society’s norms. But she is a wonderful, caring person and this is what the hero, Noah, finds so wonderfully attractive and to him, Grace is all that is beautiful. This is probably the first story that I remember where the heroine is certainly NOT supposed to be attractive by the standards of present day society.
    The most appealing characteristics for heroines: Strong character combined with caring; appearance in her is not that big a factor for me.
    Heroes: I’m into the fantasy element myself; tall, well-built, healthy ~ but as for looks, nice eyes!
    Really love the post Mary Jo!

    Reply
  5. I agree with Kathy [above] that it’s more important what’s on the inside; and I’m also not very fond of heroines that are stunningly beautiful ~ I have a hard time, well relating to them I guess.
    One of my favourite historical stories of all time is JANE EYRE; and we all know that Jane is not a beauty, but rather a fairly plain-appearing person. Her attraction is her empathy and strength of character.
    As for contemporary romance, the one that sticks in my mind is Lori Foster’s TOO MUCH TEMPTATION. Grace is the heroine and she is, to say the least, voluptuous; definitely far out of society’s norms. But she is a wonderful, caring person and this is what the hero, Noah, finds so wonderfully attractive and to him, Grace is all that is beautiful. This is probably the first story that I remember where the heroine is certainly NOT supposed to be attractive by the standards of present day society.
    The most appealing characteristics for heroines: Strong character combined with caring; appearance in her is not that big a factor for me.
    Heroes: I’m into the fantasy element myself; tall, well-built, healthy ~ but as for looks, nice eyes!
    Really love the post Mary Jo!

    Reply
  6. I agree with Kathy [above] that it’s more important what’s on the inside; and I’m also not very fond of heroines that are stunningly beautiful ~ I have a hard time, well relating to them I guess.
    One of my favourite historical stories of all time is JANE EYRE; and we all know that Jane is not a beauty, but rather a fairly plain-appearing person. Her attraction is her empathy and strength of character.
    As for contemporary romance, the one that sticks in my mind is Lori Foster’s TOO MUCH TEMPTATION. Grace is the heroine and she is, to say the least, voluptuous; definitely far out of society’s norms. But she is a wonderful, caring person and this is what the hero, Noah, finds so wonderfully attractive and to him, Grace is all that is beautiful. This is probably the first story that I remember where the heroine is certainly NOT supposed to be attractive by the standards of present day society.
    The most appealing characteristics for heroines: Strong character combined with caring; appearance in her is not that big a factor for me.
    Heroes: I’m into the fantasy element myself; tall, well-built, healthy ~ but as for looks, nice eyes!
    Really love the post Mary Jo!

    Reply
  7. To me, what matters is finding the attraction between the lead characters believable. Their looks are secondary. They can be beautiful/handsome or not. When I recall my favorite romances, I don’t remember exactly what the characters looked like but vividly recall who they were. Where beauty irritates me these days is on the movie screen–the ultra-thin Hollywood beauties with perfect features and Barbie figures. One of the things I have always loved about British films is that the standards of beauty allow for much more variety, and more interesting faces and figures. This is the kind of beauty in my mind when I create a beautiful/handsome character.

    Reply
  8. To me, what matters is finding the attraction between the lead characters believable. Their looks are secondary. They can be beautiful/handsome or not. When I recall my favorite romances, I don’t remember exactly what the characters looked like but vividly recall who they were. Where beauty irritates me these days is on the movie screen–the ultra-thin Hollywood beauties with perfect features and Barbie figures. One of the things I have always loved about British films is that the standards of beauty allow for much more variety, and more interesting faces and figures. This is the kind of beauty in my mind when I create a beautiful/handsome character.

    Reply
  9. To me, what matters is finding the attraction between the lead characters believable. Their looks are secondary. They can be beautiful/handsome or not. When I recall my favorite romances, I don’t remember exactly what the characters looked like but vividly recall who they were. Where beauty irritates me these days is on the movie screen–the ultra-thin Hollywood beauties with perfect features and Barbie figures. One of the things I have always loved about British films is that the standards of beauty allow for much more variety, and more interesting faces and figures. This is the kind of beauty in my mind when I create a beautiful/handsome character.

    Reply
  10. To me what’s important is that the hero/heroine find each other attractive inside and out. Let’s face it, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder – what’s is really attractive and sexy to one person is a total turn-off for many others. I too try to make my characters average looking, though admittedly if any veer towards really stunning, it’s usually the men. Hmmmm, wonder why that is?

    Reply
  11. To me what’s important is that the hero/heroine find each other attractive inside and out. Let’s face it, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder – what’s is really attractive and sexy to one person is a total turn-off for many others. I too try to make my characters average looking, though admittedly if any veer towards really stunning, it’s usually the men. Hmmmm, wonder why that is?

    Reply
  12. To me what’s important is that the hero/heroine find each other attractive inside and out. Let’s face it, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder – what’s is really attractive and sexy to one person is a total turn-off for many others. I too try to make my characters average looking, though admittedly if any veer towards really stunning, it’s usually the men. Hmmmm, wonder why that is?

    Reply
  13. Wonderful question, RevMelinda!
    And, Mary Jo, thanks for the tiny peek into A DISTANT MAGIC. Boy is Nikolai in for a surprise when Jean’s eyes pop open! I can’t believe I have to wait all the way until summer for the rest. [insert sad face here]
    As for beauty… I like it when the hero finds himself thunderstruck by the heroine’s beauty. But, for me, its so much more interesting if the heroine looks different from ‘all the rest’ and that’s what he finds physically attractive. Maybe she’s overly tall, short, or more or less well rounded than all the rest. It shows a depth of open mindedness.
    I don’t like it when the heroine is thunderstruck by the hero’s beauty. Or, if she is, she should hide it in the beginning. Fawning over an attractive man is a mark of low self esteem, IMHO.
    As for features… I would like to see more heroines who actually have a woman’s body. Give the hero something to put his hands on. Why can’t the larger woman turn the hero’s head? Is a small waist that important? I love Giles and Desdemona in MJ’s ANGEL ROUGE and Jack and Abby in THE MARRIAGE SPELL because of this very thing. They just seem more real to me.
    Siding with the Kathys above, I need more than beauty, large or small. Kindness, tenderness, humor, understanding, giving, and a heart open to change… these are what make the story work for me. In the end, I would rather have a long look at a beautiful soul than a gander at a well formed physic.
    –the littlest wenchling

    Reply
  14. Wonderful question, RevMelinda!
    And, Mary Jo, thanks for the tiny peek into A DISTANT MAGIC. Boy is Nikolai in for a surprise when Jean’s eyes pop open! I can’t believe I have to wait all the way until summer for the rest. [insert sad face here]
    As for beauty… I like it when the hero finds himself thunderstruck by the heroine’s beauty. But, for me, its so much more interesting if the heroine looks different from ‘all the rest’ and that’s what he finds physically attractive. Maybe she’s overly tall, short, or more or less well rounded than all the rest. It shows a depth of open mindedness.
    I don’t like it when the heroine is thunderstruck by the hero’s beauty. Or, if she is, she should hide it in the beginning. Fawning over an attractive man is a mark of low self esteem, IMHO.
    As for features… I would like to see more heroines who actually have a woman’s body. Give the hero something to put his hands on. Why can’t the larger woman turn the hero’s head? Is a small waist that important? I love Giles and Desdemona in MJ’s ANGEL ROUGE and Jack and Abby in THE MARRIAGE SPELL because of this very thing. They just seem more real to me.
    Siding with the Kathys above, I need more than beauty, large or small. Kindness, tenderness, humor, understanding, giving, and a heart open to change… these are what make the story work for me. In the end, I would rather have a long look at a beautiful soul than a gander at a well formed physic.
    –the littlest wenchling

    Reply
  15. Wonderful question, RevMelinda!
    And, Mary Jo, thanks for the tiny peek into A DISTANT MAGIC. Boy is Nikolai in for a surprise when Jean’s eyes pop open! I can’t believe I have to wait all the way until summer for the rest. [insert sad face here]
    As for beauty… I like it when the hero finds himself thunderstruck by the heroine’s beauty. But, for me, its so much more interesting if the heroine looks different from ‘all the rest’ and that’s what he finds physically attractive. Maybe she’s overly tall, short, or more or less well rounded than all the rest. It shows a depth of open mindedness.
    I don’t like it when the heroine is thunderstruck by the hero’s beauty. Or, if she is, she should hide it in the beginning. Fawning over an attractive man is a mark of low self esteem, IMHO.
    As for features… I would like to see more heroines who actually have a woman’s body. Give the hero something to put his hands on. Why can’t the larger woman turn the hero’s head? Is a small waist that important? I love Giles and Desdemona in MJ’s ANGEL ROUGE and Jack and Abby in THE MARRIAGE SPELL because of this very thing. They just seem more real to me.
    Siding with the Kathys above, I need more than beauty, large or small. Kindness, tenderness, humor, understanding, giving, and a heart open to change… these are what make the story work for me. In the end, I would rather have a long look at a beautiful soul than a gander at a well formed physic.
    –the littlest wenchling

    Reply
  16. FWIW, I’d love a hero who was Yul Brynner or Patrick Stewart bald. YUM.
    “To me, what matters is finding the attraction between the lead characters believable.”
    I agree completely. I’m reading for the relationship, how the characters interact, so it doesn’t really MATTER to me if the heroine is gorgeous or plain, or if the hero is a physical type I find attractive or not. I mean, if he’s described in a way that I can imagine him as looking like Sean Bean or Nathan Fillion or Ioan Gruffudd (or Yul Brynner, for that matter), I’ll think, “Mmm, hot.” But that doesn’t matter if the author doesn’t make him an interesting human being with good chemistry with the heroine. Ultimately, it’s about the words on the page. If I want to appreciate the visual appeal of a hot guy, I’ll break out my DVD collection. And by the same token, it doesn’t matter if the hero ISN’T my physical type as long as I believe the heroine desires him.
    That said, in my own writing I create heroes that I’d find hot, because it’s just more fun to imagine them, and it helps me write the heroine’s lust more believably! And as for heroines, so far I’ve given mine the kind of hair I wish I had. Mine is straight and dark brown. It’s not bad hair, and it fits the rest of my coloring, but it’s ordinary. So I’ve been handing out glossy black curls, rich chestnut curls, etc. And when I decided a heroine needed dark brown hair, I made sure it was wavy and abundant and when let down fell gloriously to her hips. I guess since I can’t *have* interesting hair, I’m compelled to *write* interesting hair!

    Reply
  17. FWIW, I’d love a hero who was Yul Brynner or Patrick Stewart bald. YUM.
    “To me, what matters is finding the attraction between the lead characters believable.”
    I agree completely. I’m reading for the relationship, how the characters interact, so it doesn’t really MATTER to me if the heroine is gorgeous or plain, or if the hero is a physical type I find attractive or not. I mean, if he’s described in a way that I can imagine him as looking like Sean Bean or Nathan Fillion or Ioan Gruffudd (or Yul Brynner, for that matter), I’ll think, “Mmm, hot.” But that doesn’t matter if the author doesn’t make him an interesting human being with good chemistry with the heroine. Ultimately, it’s about the words on the page. If I want to appreciate the visual appeal of a hot guy, I’ll break out my DVD collection. And by the same token, it doesn’t matter if the hero ISN’T my physical type as long as I believe the heroine desires him.
    That said, in my own writing I create heroes that I’d find hot, because it’s just more fun to imagine them, and it helps me write the heroine’s lust more believably! And as for heroines, so far I’ve given mine the kind of hair I wish I had. Mine is straight and dark brown. It’s not bad hair, and it fits the rest of my coloring, but it’s ordinary. So I’ve been handing out glossy black curls, rich chestnut curls, etc. And when I decided a heroine needed dark brown hair, I made sure it was wavy and abundant and when let down fell gloriously to her hips. I guess since I can’t *have* interesting hair, I’m compelled to *write* interesting hair!

    Reply
  18. FWIW, I’d love a hero who was Yul Brynner or Patrick Stewart bald. YUM.
    “To me, what matters is finding the attraction between the lead characters believable.”
    I agree completely. I’m reading for the relationship, how the characters interact, so it doesn’t really MATTER to me if the heroine is gorgeous or plain, or if the hero is a physical type I find attractive or not. I mean, if he’s described in a way that I can imagine him as looking like Sean Bean or Nathan Fillion or Ioan Gruffudd (or Yul Brynner, for that matter), I’ll think, “Mmm, hot.” But that doesn’t matter if the author doesn’t make him an interesting human being with good chemistry with the heroine. Ultimately, it’s about the words on the page. If I want to appreciate the visual appeal of a hot guy, I’ll break out my DVD collection. And by the same token, it doesn’t matter if the hero ISN’T my physical type as long as I believe the heroine desires him.
    That said, in my own writing I create heroes that I’d find hot, because it’s just more fun to imagine them, and it helps me write the heroine’s lust more believably! And as for heroines, so far I’ve given mine the kind of hair I wish I had. Mine is straight and dark brown. It’s not bad hair, and it fits the rest of my coloring, but it’s ordinary. So I’ve been handing out glossy black curls, rich chestnut curls, etc. And when I decided a heroine needed dark brown hair, I made sure it was wavy and abundant and when let down fell gloriously to her hips. I guess since I can’t *have* interesting hair, I’m compelled to *write* interesting hair!

    Reply
  19. Nice selection of pics there. I forget if MJP is one of those authors who was an art history major in college but I see Mucha, Romney, Gerard, Dante Gabriel Rosetti (my fave!) and um. . . Fragonard?
    I think I hate MJP’s old editor because Peregrine as a baldy would have been AWESOME! I actually think Yul Brynner was the sexiest male movie star ever — that piercing stare, that lethal cat-like grace, the hypnotic cadence of his voice. OMG. I think I need to sit down. He’s like a Walking Orgasm.
    As for beauty for the H/H, like Loretta, I can never remember what the H/H looks like since i cant see them so they being the Most. Perfect. Physical. Specimens. Ever. has no bearing on me as a reader. I am reminded of the first line in GWTW — “Scarlett OHara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” Yeah, what the reader remembers instead is that Scarlett was a survivor and sported what contemporary readers would now term as “the Crotch of Doom.”

    Reply
  20. Nice selection of pics there. I forget if MJP is one of those authors who was an art history major in college but I see Mucha, Romney, Gerard, Dante Gabriel Rosetti (my fave!) and um. . . Fragonard?
    I think I hate MJP’s old editor because Peregrine as a baldy would have been AWESOME! I actually think Yul Brynner was the sexiest male movie star ever — that piercing stare, that lethal cat-like grace, the hypnotic cadence of his voice. OMG. I think I need to sit down. He’s like a Walking Orgasm.
    As for beauty for the H/H, like Loretta, I can never remember what the H/H looks like since i cant see them so they being the Most. Perfect. Physical. Specimens. Ever. has no bearing on me as a reader. I am reminded of the first line in GWTW — “Scarlett OHara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” Yeah, what the reader remembers instead is that Scarlett was a survivor and sported what contemporary readers would now term as “the Crotch of Doom.”

    Reply
  21. Nice selection of pics there. I forget if MJP is one of those authors who was an art history major in college but I see Mucha, Romney, Gerard, Dante Gabriel Rosetti (my fave!) and um. . . Fragonard?
    I think I hate MJP’s old editor because Peregrine as a baldy would have been AWESOME! I actually think Yul Brynner was the sexiest male movie star ever — that piercing stare, that lethal cat-like grace, the hypnotic cadence of his voice. OMG. I think I need to sit down. He’s like a Walking Orgasm.
    As for beauty for the H/H, like Loretta, I can never remember what the H/H looks like since i cant see them so they being the Most. Perfect. Physical. Specimens. Ever. has no bearing on me as a reader. I am reminded of the first line in GWTW — “Scarlett OHara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” Yeah, what the reader remembers instead is that Scarlett was a survivor and sported what contemporary readers would now term as “the Crotch of Doom.”

    Reply
  22. In the end, I think no matter what we all say, and how enlightened we think we are, looks do matter. Even if it’s the first meeting. But in the end the person we find is always the perfect one for us, even if everyone else around us wonder why. LOL For example, back in high school, huge crush on this one guy. . . but others said, why, he’s so nerdy. LOL But to me, totally cute. 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  23. In the end, I think no matter what we all say, and how enlightened we think we are, looks do matter. Even if it’s the first meeting. But in the end the person we find is always the perfect one for us, even if everyone else around us wonder why. LOL For example, back in high school, huge crush on this one guy. . . but others said, why, he’s so nerdy. LOL But to me, totally cute. 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  24. In the end, I think no matter what we all say, and how enlightened we think we are, looks do matter. Even if it’s the first meeting. But in the end the person we find is always the perfect one for us, even if everyone else around us wonder why. LOL For example, back in high school, huge crush on this one guy. . . but others said, why, he’s so nerdy. LOL But to me, totally cute. 🙂
    Lois

    Reply
  25. I’m a bit of a contrarian on this – or unashamedly shallow. *G* After all, who’s the wowest hero of all time for me? Lymond the beautiful. (SPOILERS FOLLOW.)
    Who are the women in his life? Christian, Oonagh, Guzel, Philippa. Beauties all. Sure, Philippa was masquerading for a while as a flat-chested, coltish tomboy, but we know what flat-chested coltish tomboys develop into to, don’t we?
    I’m as fond as anyone of the story of the ordinary looking woman who snags the gorgeous guy. I’m a hard sell for the story where the woman falls in love with the man everyone else finds unappealing.
    The real saving grace in all this is that tastes truly do differ. Let’s take cultural icons. Did I see in the supermarket that George Cloony has been voted sexiest man alive? Huh? He’s not for me. I don’t even find him good looking. Hugh Laurie. Love him as an actor, but sexy? I could allow myself wicked thoughts about the young blond doctor, though. Colin Firth, no way. Nazeem whatever who plays the Iraqi on Lost, which I’ve lost interest in. Oh, yes. 🙂
    Pierce Brosnan in his prime. Now there was a beautiful, sexy man. Johnny Depp. Yup, and he’s by no means physically perfect.
    So we have that wonderful word “attractive.” Can be heavy-lidded eyes, a way of moving, a way of paying attention,the angles of a face, the shape of a torso, a rugged chin, androgyny, lines of a life lived hard, or making beautiful music on a piano.
    We all find different things attracting, thank heavens!
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  26. I’m a bit of a contrarian on this – or unashamedly shallow. *G* After all, who’s the wowest hero of all time for me? Lymond the beautiful. (SPOILERS FOLLOW.)
    Who are the women in his life? Christian, Oonagh, Guzel, Philippa. Beauties all. Sure, Philippa was masquerading for a while as a flat-chested, coltish tomboy, but we know what flat-chested coltish tomboys develop into to, don’t we?
    I’m as fond as anyone of the story of the ordinary looking woman who snags the gorgeous guy. I’m a hard sell for the story where the woman falls in love with the man everyone else finds unappealing.
    The real saving grace in all this is that tastes truly do differ. Let’s take cultural icons. Did I see in the supermarket that George Cloony has been voted sexiest man alive? Huh? He’s not for me. I don’t even find him good looking. Hugh Laurie. Love him as an actor, but sexy? I could allow myself wicked thoughts about the young blond doctor, though. Colin Firth, no way. Nazeem whatever who plays the Iraqi on Lost, which I’ve lost interest in. Oh, yes. 🙂
    Pierce Brosnan in his prime. Now there was a beautiful, sexy man. Johnny Depp. Yup, and he’s by no means physically perfect.
    So we have that wonderful word “attractive.” Can be heavy-lidded eyes, a way of moving, a way of paying attention,the angles of a face, the shape of a torso, a rugged chin, androgyny, lines of a life lived hard, or making beautiful music on a piano.
    We all find different things attracting, thank heavens!
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  27. I’m a bit of a contrarian on this – or unashamedly shallow. *G* After all, who’s the wowest hero of all time for me? Lymond the beautiful. (SPOILERS FOLLOW.)
    Who are the women in his life? Christian, Oonagh, Guzel, Philippa. Beauties all. Sure, Philippa was masquerading for a while as a flat-chested, coltish tomboy, but we know what flat-chested coltish tomboys develop into to, don’t we?
    I’m as fond as anyone of the story of the ordinary looking woman who snags the gorgeous guy. I’m a hard sell for the story where the woman falls in love with the man everyone else finds unappealing.
    The real saving grace in all this is that tastes truly do differ. Let’s take cultural icons. Did I see in the supermarket that George Cloony has been voted sexiest man alive? Huh? He’s not for me. I don’t even find him good looking. Hugh Laurie. Love him as an actor, but sexy? I could allow myself wicked thoughts about the young blond doctor, though. Colin Firth, no way. Nazeem whatever who plays the Iraqi on Lost, which I’ve lost interest in. Oh, yes. 🙂
    Pierce Brosnan in his prime. Now there was a beautiful, sexy man. Johnny Depp. Yup, and he’s by no means physically perfect.
    So we have that wonderful word “attractive.” Can be heavy-lidded eyes, a way of moving, a way of paying attention,the angles of a face, the shape of a torso, a rugged chin, androgyny, lines of a life lived hard, or making beautiful music on a piano.
    We all find different things attracting, thank heavens!
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  28. Jo said… “Pierce Brosnan in his prime. Now there was a beautiful, sexy man. ”
    Oh, be still my heart! Never has a more beautiful man walked the face of this earth. I loved him in Remington Steel. It was the accent. Oh, the accent. And as James Bond… will someone please get me a fan.
    Nina

    Reply
  29. Jo said… “Pierce Brosnan in his prime. Now there was a beautiful, sexy man. ”
    Oh, be still my heart! Never has a more beautiful man walked the face of this earth. I loved him in Remington Steel. It was the accent. Oh, the accent. And as James Bond… will someone please get me a fan.
    Nina

    Reply
  30. Jo said… “Pierce Brosnan in his prime. Now there was a beautiful, sexy man. ”
    Oh, be still my heart! Never has a more beautiful man walked the face of this earth. I loved him in Remington Steel. It was the accent. Oh, the accent. And as James Bond… will someone please get me a fan.
    Nina

    Reply
  31. Oh, Wow! Yul Brynner!
    It isn’t just his appearance though. It’s his whole Presence. And that voice.
    My TiVo is set to record him wherever he appears.
    Frankly, I think Peregrine has a similar Presence which is a more important similarity than being bald. That whole dangerous grace thing. {shiver}

    Reply
  32. Oh, Wow! Yul Brynner!
    It isn’t just his appearance though. It’s his whole Presence. And that voice.
    My TiVo is set to record him wherever he appears.
    Frankly, I think Peregrine has a similar Presence which is a more important similarity than being bald. That whole dangerous grace thing. {shiver}

    Reply
  33. Oh, Wow! Yul Brynner!
    It isn’t just his appearance though. It’s his whole Presence. And that voice.
    My TiVo is set to record him wherever he appears.
    Frankly, I think Peregrine has a similar Presence which is a more important similarity than being bald. That whole dangerous grace thing. {shiver}

    Reply
  34. I love this discussion for so many reasons.
    #1 — Mary Jo, you are far from average, what with that coveted porcelain skin and beatuful soulful eyes…and then there’s that warm ever present smile of yours!
    #2 — I fell in love at first sight with the man I eventually married. At the time I didn’t think he was especially handsome; his nose was a tad too narrow, I thought. But I knew. I knew the way he looked at me, that he’d be my husband and we’d have children together. So, I’m so glad you believe in that sorta thing.
    Once, while I was at the market, I walked past a man and my first thought was that if I wasn’t currently married to my soul mate, then this man with this big warm scent would be quite compatible. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t even say hello, nor did I have the desire to, but the smell was interesting and how interesting that I should have that sudden thought. He wasn’t wearing cologne and he didn’t smell of perspiration, but his scent triggered a nerve. I doubt I’d recognize him if I saw him again, though. It was just the smell of him.
    #3 — Physical attractiveness, cultures and physicans… yes, physicians. In my line of work, I have had the marvelous opportunity of working with some of the medical world’s key opinion leaders in every therapeutic area you can imagine. What I found is that oncologists, who are often Italian or Latin, prefer heavier women–near zoftic in some cases. They see a healthy appetite for food as indicative of a healthy appetite for sex. Interestingly enough, they also like assertive and even boisterous women. The medical thought could be that chemotherapy is dosed by body mass and the more chemo a patient can take the better their chances of complete remission. A very thin woman (or man) is a medical oncologists nightmare. I attend ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncologists) almost every year and every oncologist (and I do mean every one) of them have wives who are not thin by anyone’s measure, but they are dazzling with vibrant personalities. It stands to reason, doesn’t it? Lively, healthy looking women for such brave men.
    Cardiologists have, on average, thin wives. Sometimes too thin. Why they have this attraction is less interesting to me than the oncologists.
    Family physicians, GPs, have very average wives in almost every way. They are all around well balanced.

    Reply
  35. I love this discussion for so many reasons.
    #1 — Mary Jo, you are far from average, what with that coveted porcelain skin and beatuful soulful eyes…and then there’s that warm ever present smile of yours!
    #2 — I fell in love at first sight with the man I eventually married. At the time I didn’t think he was especially handsome; his nose was a tad too narrow, I thought. But I knew. I knew the way he looked at me, that he’d be my husband and we’d have children together. So, I’m so glad you believe in that sorta thing.
    Once, while I was at the market, I walked past a man and my first thought was that if I wasn’t currently married to my soul mate, then this man with this big warm scent would be quite compatible. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t even say hello, nor did I have the desire to, but the smell was interesting and how interesting that I should have that sudden thought. He wasn’t wearing cologne and he didn’t smell of perspiration, but his scent triggered a nerve. I doubt I’d recognize him if I saw him again, though. It was just the smell of him.
    #3 — Physical attractiveness, cultures and physicans… yes, physicians. In my line of work, I have had the marvelous opportunity of working with some of the medical world’s key opinion leaders in every therapeutic area you can imagine. What I found is that oncologists, who are often Italian or Latin, prefer heavier women–near zoftic in some cases. They see a healthy appetite for food as indicative of a healthy appetite for sex. Interestingly enough, they also like assertive and even boisterous women. The medical thought could be that chemotherapy is dosed by body mass and the more chemo a patient can take the better their chances of complete remission. A very thin woman (or man) is a medical oncologists nightmare. I attend ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncologists) almost every year and every oncologist (and I do mean every one) of them have wives who are not thin by anyone’s measure, but they are dazzling with vibrant personalities. It stands to reason, doesn’t it? Lively, healthy looking women for such brave men.
    Cardiologists have, on average, thin wives. Sometimes too thin. Why they have this attraction is less interesting to me than the oncologists.
    Family physicians, GPs, have very average wives in almost every way. They are all around well balanced.

    Reply
  36. I love this discussion for so many reasons.
    #1 — Mary Jo, you are far from average, what with that coveted porcelain skin and beatuful soulful eyes…and then there’s that warm ever present smile of yours!
    #2 — I fell in love at first sight with the man I eventually married. At the time I didn’t think he was especially handsome; his nose was a tad too narrow, I thought. But I knew. I knew the way he looked at me, that he’d be my husband and we’d have children together. So, I’m so glad you believe in that sorta thing.
    Once, while I was at the market, I walked past a man and my first thought was that if I wasn’t currently married to my soul mate, then this man with this big warm scent would be quite compatible. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t even say hello, nor did I have the desire to, but the smell was interesting and how interesting that I should have that sudden thought. He wasn’t wearing cologne and he didn’t smell of perspiration, but his scent triggered a nerve. I doubt I’d recognize him if I saw him again, though. It was just the smell of him.
    #3 — Physical attractiveness, cultures and physicans… yes, physicians. In my line of work, I have had the marvelous opportunity of working with some of the medical world’s key opinion leaders in every therapeutic area you can imagine. What I found is that oncologists, who are often Italian or Latin, prefer heavier women–near zoftic in some cases. They see a healthy appetite for food as indicative of a healthy appetite for sex. Interestingly enough, they also like assertive and even boisterous women. The medical thought could be that chemotherapy is dosed by body mass and the more chemo a patient can take the better their chances of complete remission. A very thin woman (or man) is a medical oncologists nightmare. I attend ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncologists) almost every year and every oncologist (and I do mean every one) of them have wives who are not thin by anyone’s measure, but they are dazzling with vibrant personalities. It stands to reason, doesn’t it? Lively, healthy looking women for such brave men.
    Cardiologists have, on average, thin wives. Sometimes too thin. Why they have this attraction is less interesting to me than the oncologists.
    Family physicians, GPs, have very average wives in almost every way. They are all around well balanced.

    Reply
  37. I had a Yul Brynner moment and forgot to answer your question. 🙂
    Books don’t create pictures in my head when I read, so I don’t normally notice a character’s looks particularly, only generally – he’s tall, dark, and handsome – she’s short and curvy, etc. The only character who has really stuck in my mind because of his looks is Esmond from Captives of the Night. His beauty is integral to the plot because the heroine is a painter and initially sees him purely as a work of art. I saw him through the heroine’s eyes, and he’s now stuck in my mind as the ultimate in male beauty though I couldn’t tell you his particular coloring. One of the most poignant moments in the book is when the heroine notices his only flaw, his broken hand.

    Reply
  38. I had a Yul Brynner moment and forgot to answer your question. 🙂
    Books don’t create pictures in my head when I read, so I don’t normally notice a character’s looks particularly, only generally – he’s tall, dark, and handsome – she’s short and curvy, etc. The only character who has really stuck in my mind because of his looks is Esmond from Captives of the Night. His beauty is integral to the plot because the heroine is a painter and initially sees him purely as a work of art. I saw him through the heroine’s eyes, and he’s now stuck in my mind as the ultimate in male beauty though I couldn’t tell you his particular coloring. One of the most poignant moments in the book is when the heroine notices his only flaw, his broken hand.

    Reply
  39. I had a Yul Brynner moment and forgot to answer your question. 🙂
    Books don’t create pictures in my head when I read, so I don’t normally notice a character’s looks particularly, only generally – he’s tall, dark, and handsome – she’s short and curvy, etc. The only character who has really stuck in my mind because of his looks is Esmond from Captives of the Night. His beauty is integral to the plot because the heroine is a painter and initially sees him purely as a work of art. I saw him through the heroine’s eyes, and he’s now stuck in my mind as the ultimate in male beauty though I couldn’t tell you his particular coloring. One of the most poignant moments in the book is when the heroine notices his only flaw, his broken hand.

    Reply
  40. From MJP:
    Kathy K the 1st, I’ve also read that the hourglass figure has a lot of appeal to men. The overall size is less important than that nubile shape. So a large, curvy woman is going to be very appealing to a lot of men. The obsession with skinniness may come more from women.
    Another thing that seems universal is that certain proportions and symmetries in the face are seen as attractive in all cultures. (The article that made this point had Denzel Washington as one of the examples, and no question, he’s gorgeous.) I also saw an article last Sunday’s PARADE supplement that said even chickens liked pretty girls! Apparently they were responding to the facial symmetry.
    FWIW, I find a lot of professional pretty girls to be fairly indistinguishable. Like, I can’t tell Britney Spears from Paris Hilton. To me, the great beauties have different faces that radiate character. I’m thinking women like Katharinen Hepburn and Julie Roberts.
    Nina, you’re right–Nikolai gets some MAJOR shocks once Jean wakes up! Fragile, indeed. 🙂 He has a tiger by the tail.
    I don’t actually use actors as models for my characters, but Peregrine in Silk and Shadows had a mysterious Asian past, and Yul Brynner is definitely the right type. But even if I’d made him bald in the book, I guarantee that the NAL art department would have given him hair on the cover. 🙂
    Jo, I’m with you about Lymond the Beautiful, but he was an utterly fascinating hero in so many ways (some of them very unheroic!) and his being beautiful is part of what made him what he was.
    As to Pierce Brosnan–gorgeous, no question. In fact, that picture of the bare chested guy is Pierce himself, but no one was looking at his face, were they? (evil chuckle)
    Cathy, thanks so much for the kind words! I do feel very grateful for having inherited my mother’s most excellent complexion. Some of the other genes were less excellent :), but we win some and we lose some.
    It’s interesting how that stranger’s pherenomes went straight to your lizard brain. I think scent is a largely unexplored area of attraction. (In romance, ‘strong masculine scent’ is too likely to mentally translate as ‘needs a shower!”)
    And it’s FASCINATING what you’ve observed about doctors’ wives! While a vibrant personality and full figure make sense for oncologists as you describe it, cardiologists are probably thinking how those starved rats live twice as long and that influences their choice of skinny wives. 🙂
    What a fun topic….
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  41. From MJP:
    Kathy K the 1st, I’ve also read that the hourglass figure has a lot of appeal to men. The overall size is less important than that nubile shape. So a large, curvy woman is going to be very appealing to a lot of men. The obsession with skinniness may come more from women.
    Another thing that seems universal is that certain proportions and symmetries in the face are seen as attractive in all cultures. (The article that made this point had Denzel Washington as one of the examples, and no question, he’s gorgeous.) I also saw an article last Sunday’s PARADE supplement that said even chickens liked pretty girls! Apparently they were responding to the facial symmetry.
    FWIW, I find a lot of professional pretty girls to be fairly indistinguishable. Like, I can’t tell Britney Spears from Paris Hilton. To me, the great beauties have different faces that radiate character. I’m thinking women like Katharinen Hepburn and Julie Roberts.
    Nina, you’re right–Nikolai gets some MAJOR shocks once Jean wakes up! Fragile, indeed. 🙂 He has a tiger by the tail.
    I don’t actually use actors as models for my characters, but Peregrine in Silk and Shadows had a mysterious Asian past, and Yul Brynner is definitely the right type. But even if I’d made him bald in the book, I guarantee that the NAL art department would have given him hair on the cover. 🙂
    Jo, I’m with you about Lymond the Beautiful, but he was an utterly fascinating hero in so many ways (some of them very unheroic!) and his being beautiful is part of what made him what he was.
    As to Pierce Brosnan–gorgeous, no question. In fact, that picture of the bare chested guy is Pierce himself, but no one was looking at his face, were they? (evil chuckle)
    Cathy, thanks so much for the kind words! I do feel very grateful for having inherited my mother’s most excellent complexion. Some of the other genes were less excellent :), but we win some and we lose some.
    It’s interesting how that stranger’s pherenomes went straight to your lizard brain. I think scent is a largely unexplored area of attraction. (In romance, ‘strong masculine scent’ is too likely to mentally translate as ‘needs a shower!”)
    And it’s FASCINATING what you’ve observed about doctors’ wives! While a vibrant personality and full figure make sense for oncologists as you describe it, cardiologists are probably thinking how those starved rats live twice as long and that influences their choice of skinny wives. 🙂
    What a fun topic….
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  42. From MJP:
    Kathy K the 1st, I’ve also read that the hourglass figure has a lot of appeal to men. The overall size is less important than that nubile shape. So a large, curvy woman is going to be very appealing to a lot of men. The obsession with skinniness may come more from women.
    Another thing that seems universal is that certain proportions and symmetries in the face are seen as attractive in all cultures. (The article that made this point had Denzel Washington as one of the examples, and no question, he’s gorgeous.) I also saw an article last Sunday’s PARADE supplement that said even chickens liked pretty girls! Apparently they were responding to the facial symmetry.
    FWIW, I find a lot of professional pretty girls to be fairly indistinguishable. Like, I can’t tell Britney Spears from Paris Hilton. To me, the great beauties have different faces that radiate character. I’m thinking women like Katharinen Hepburn and Julie Roberts.
    Nina, you’re right–Nikolai gets some MAJOR shocks once Jean wakes up! Fragile, indeed. 🙂 He has a tiger by the tail.
    I don’t actually use actors as models for my characters, but Peregrine in Silk and Shadows had a mysterious Asian past, and Yul Brynner is definitely the right type. But even if I’d made him bald in the book, I guarantee that the NAL art department would have given him hair on the cover. 🙂
    Jo, I’m with you about Lymond the Beautiful, but he was an utterly fascinating hero in so many ways (some of them very unheroic!) and his being beautiful is part of what made him what he was.
    As to Pierce Brosnan–gorgeous, no question. In fact, that picture of the bare chested guy is Pierce himself, but no one was looking at his face, were they? (evil chuckle)
    Cathy, thanks so much for the kind words! I do feel very grateful for having inherited my mother’s most excellent complexion. Some of the other genes were less excellent :), but we win some and we lose some.
    It’s interesting how that stranger’s pherenomes went straight to your lizard brain. I think scent is a largely unexplored area of attraction. (In romance, ‘strong masculine scent’ is too likely to mentally translate as ‘needs a shower!”)
    And it’s FASCINATING what you’ve observed about doctors’ wives! While a vibrant personality and full figure make sense for oncologists as you describe it, cardiologists are probably thinking how those starved rats live twice as long and that influences their choice of skinny wives. 🙂
    What a fun topic….
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  43. What a fascinating comment by Cathy that oncologists tend to have “full figured” wives! Thought I’d add my experience from my hospice work–perhaps those who work with cancer patients see thinness as undesirable because folks who are suffering from advanced cancer have such profound thinness and an inability to gain weight because of their disease process. In fact, loss of weight (even a pound or two) is documented in the hospice chart as evidence of “decline” and progression of disease. It makes complete sense to me that if your medical practice included many extremely thin folks in the throes of intractable disease, you’d start to find fleshiness a sign of health and vitality.
    Also in a completely different direction: in college I had an art professor (modern sculpture) who was determined to convince us girls that men preferred full figured women over thin ones (what a sweet professor, trying to help us with our self esteem issues!). He showed a bunch of slides one day to men in the class and sought their input as to “which image is sexier.” One image was of a stone fertility figure–apple shaped, huge breasts and belly–and another was of a sculpture featuring a completely emaciated and skeletal woman. Unanimously the men asserted that they thought the fertility figure was MUCH sexier! Then my professor asked the men which one of the images they would ask out on a date. Unanimously they said the skeletal figure! It wasn’t quite the lesson the professor had in mind, but it did show us pretty forcefully that “dating” is as much about “displaying a trophy” as it is about sexual attractiveness!–and that a choice of a “life mate” is a different process than the choice of a “playmate.” (Vive the romance rake and his reformation at the hands of the “right” woman!)

    Reply
  44. What a fascinating comment by Cathy that oncologists tend to have “full figured” wives! Thought I’d add my experience from my hospice work–perhaps those who work with cancer patients see thinness as undesirable because folks who are suffering from advanced cancer have such profound thinness and an inability to gain weight because of their disease process. In fact, loss of weight (even a pound or two) is documented in the hospice chart as evidence of “decline” and progression of disease. It makes complete sense to me that if your medical practice included many extremely thin folks in the throes of intractable disease, you’d start to find fleshiness a sign of health and vitality.
    Also in a completely different direction: in college I had an art professor (modern sculpture) who was determined to convince us girls that men preferred full figured women over thin ones (what a sweet professor, trying to help us with our self esteem issues!). He showed a bunch of slides one day to men in the class and sought their input as to “which image is sexier.” One image was of a stone fertility figure–apple shaped, huge breasts and belly–and another was of a sculpture featuring a completely emaciated and skeletal woman. Unanimously the men asserted that they thought the fertility figure was MUCH sexier! Then my professor asked the men which one of the images they would ask out on a date. Unanimously they said the skeletal figure! It wasn’t quite the lesson the professor had in mind, but it did show us pretty forcefully that “dating” is as much about “displaying a trophy” as it is about sexual attractiveness!–and that a choice of a “life mate” is a different process than the choice of a “playmate.” (Vive the romance rake and his reformation at the hands of the “right” woman!)

    Reply
  45. What a fascinating comment by Cathy that oncologists tend to have “full figured” wives! Thought I’d add my experience from my hospice work–perhaps those who work with cancer patients see thinness as undesirable because folks who are suffering from advanced cancer have such profound thinness and an inability to gain weight because of their disease process. In fact, loss of weight (even a pound or two) is documented in the hospice chart as evidence of “decline” and progression of disease. It makes complete sense to me that if your medical practice included many extremely thin folks in the throes of intractable disease, you’d start to find fleshiness a sign of health and vitality.
    Also in a completely different direction: in college I had an art professor (modern sculpture) who was determined to convince us girls that men preferred full figured women over thin ones (what a sweet professor, trying to help us with our self esteem issues!). He showed a bunch of slides one day to men in the class and sought their input as to “which image is sexier.” One image was of a stone fertility figure–apple shaped, huge breasts and belly–and another was of a sculpture featuring a completely emaciated and skeletal woman. Unanimously the men asserted that they thought the fertility figure was MUCH sexier! Then my professor asked the men which one of the images they would ask out on a date. Unanimously they said the skeletal figure! It wasn’t quite the lesson the professor had in mind, but it did show us pretty forcefully that “dating” is as much about “displaying a trophy” as it is about sexual attractiveness!–and that a choice of a “life mate” is a different process than the choice of a “playmate.” (Vive the romance rake and his reformation at the hands of the “right” woman!)

    Reply
  46. I like to read about attractive couples, but there are times when it bugs me if they are too beautiful, because then I can’t relate to them. (Like Mary Jo, I clean up good, it’s just that I do not consider myself a looker!)
    I’m really looking forward to Mary Balogh’s newest book in her ‘Simply’ series. About Sydnam Butler, a war veteran, who was wounded and amputated, and who is now running one of the Duke of Bewcastle’s estate. (Does not want to be a burden to his own family or see the pity in their eyes). He finds the ONE, a woman, Anne Jewell, who’s had some tough times herself, now a teacher at a private school for girls and a single mother (raped during her time as a governess) So it is possible to have unattractive heros and frankly I can’t wait to read his story.
    Some years back I read a great book that’s called The Corset Diaries. I don’t know if it’s unusual to write about plump women in this, the age of ‘thin is beautiful’, but I enjoyed that book immensely. I’ve made it a point of reading more of those stories that make a girl feel good about her size (12 is not fat) and attractive too! Another story in the same style about a TV reporter, who has a year to lose her excess weight if she wants to keep her job, goes to a gym and hires a personal trainer… well, you’ve guessed that he falls for her no matter her size, but the story is all about helping her realize that the ‘perfect’ look she’s asked to achieve is NOT for her when height and bone structure is taken into consideration.
    That’s what all women should be able to understand. It’s not about fashion, or looks, or exterior beauty; it’s about your inner self and it’s where true beauty comes from.

    Reply
  47. I like to read about attractive couples, but there are times when it bugs me if they are too beautiful, because then I can’t relate to them. (Like Mary Jo, I clean up good, it’s just that I do not consider myself a looker!)
    I’m really looking forward to Mary Balogh’s newest book in her ‘Simply’ series. About Sydnam Butler, a war veteran, who was wounded and amputated, and who is now running one of the Duke of Bewcastle’s estate. (Does not want to be a burden to his own family or see the pity in their eyes). He finds the ONE, a woman, Anne Jewell, who’s had some tough times herself, now a teacher at a private school for girls and a single mother (raped during her time as a governess) So it is possible to have unattractive heros and frankly I can’t wait to read his story.
    Some years back I read a great book that’s called The Corset Diaries. I don’t know if it’s unusual to write about plump women in this, the age of ‘thin is beautiful’, but I enjoyed that book immensely. I’ve made it a point of reading more of those stories that make a girl feel good about her size (12 is not fat) and attractive too! Another story in the same style about a TV reporter, who has a year to lose her excess weight if she wants to keep her job, goes to a gym and hires a personal trainer… well, you’ve guessed that he falls for her no matter her size, but the story is all about helping her realize that the ‘perfect’ look she’s asked to achieve is NOT for her when height and bone structure is taken into consideration.
    That’s what all women should be able to understand. It’s not about fashion, or looks, or exterior beauty; it’s about your inner self and it’s where true beauty comes from.

    Reply
  48. I like to read about attractive couples, but there are times when it bugs me if they are too beautiful, because then I can’t relate to them. (Like Mary Jo, I clean up good, it’s just that I do not consider myself a looker!)
    I’m really looking forward to Mary Balogh’s newest book in her ‘Simply’ series. About Sydnam Butler, a war veteran, who was wounded and amputated, and who is now running one of the Duke of Bewcastle’s estate. (Does not want to be a burden to his own family or see the pity in their eyes). He finds the ONE, a woman, Anne Jewell, who’s had some tough times herself, now a teacher at a private school for girls and a single mother (raped during her time as a governess) So it is possible to have unattractive heros and frankly I can’t wait to read his story.
    Some years back I read a great book that’s called The Corset Diaries. I don’t know if it’s unusual to write about plump women in this, the age of ‘thin is beautiful’, but I enjoyed that book immensely. I’ve made it a point of reading more of those stories that make a girl feel good about her size (12 is not fat) and attractive too! Another story in the same style about a TV reporter, who has a year to lose her excess weight if she wants to keep her job, goes to a gym and hires a personal trainer… well, you’ve guessed that he falls for her no matter her size, but the story is all about helping her realize that the ‘perfect’ look she’s asked to achieve is NOT for her when height and bone structure is taken into consideration.
    That’s what all women should be able to understand. It’s not about fashion, or looks, or exterior beauty; it’s about your inner self and it’s where true beauty comes from.

    Reply
  49. From Sherrie:
    “As readers and writers, how do you feel about the use of beauty in romances? What do you hate, what would you like to see more of?”
    I love beauty and the beast stories, and I’m a sucker for plain woman/gorgeous man romances. I really love it when Plain Jane runs the hero a merry chase by NOT succumbing to his fatal charms and falling in a twittering heap at his feet. There is something so delicious about a gorgeous hero who is used to being chased by women, and suddenly he finds himself confronted by a woman who not only *doesn’t* chase after him, but forces *him* to chase *her*! (Heh heh).
    What do I hate? Perfect heroes and heroines. Another thing I dislike is short or medium-height heroes. He doesn’t have to be a giant, but make him taller than average. One thing I would dearly love is heroes and heroines who didn’t give each other electrical jolts every time they touch. That has become as clichéd as the lock of hair that the heroine always wants to brush away from the hero’s forehead! And please, no more historical romances with ultra-PC heroes embracing 21st Century ideals.
    What would I like to see more of? Older woman/younger man romances. Plump heroines (says the plump writer). An honest-to-goodness alpha barbarian, chest-beating, table-thumping, head-knocking hero. Do not assume this means a Neanderthal whose vocabulary consist of grunts and who drags women around by the hair, however!

    Reply
  50. From Sherrie:
    “As readers and writers, how do you feel about the use of beauty in romances? What do you hate, what would you like to see more of?”
    I love beauty and the beast stories, and I’m a sucker for plain woman/gorgeous man romances. I really love it when Plain Jane runs the hero a merry chase by NOT succumbing to his fatal charms and falling in a twittering heap at his feet. There is something so delicious about a gorgeous hero who is used to being chased by women, and suddenly he finds himself confronted by a woman who not only *doesn’t* chase after him, but forces *him* to chase *her*! (Heh heh).
    What do I hate? Perfect heroes and heroines. Another thing I dislike is short or medium-height heroes. He doesn’t have to be a giant, but make him taller than average. One thing I would dearly love is heroes and heroines who didn’t give each other electrical jolts every time they touch. That has become as clichéd as the lock of hair that the heroine always wants to brush away from the hero’s forehead! And please, no more historical romances with ultra-PC heroes embracing 21st Century ideals.
    What would I like to see more of? Older woman/younger man romances. Plump heroines (says the plump writer). An honest-to-goodness alpha barbarian, chest-beating, table-thumping, head-knocking hero. Do not assume this means a Neanderthal whose vocabulary consist of grunts and who drags women around by the hair, however!

    Reply
  51. From Sherrie:
    “As readers and writers, how do you feel about the use of beauty in romances? What do you hate, what would you like to see more of?”
    I love beauty and the beast stories, and I’m a sucker for plain woman/gorgeous man romances. I really love it when Plain Jane runs the hero a merry chase by NOT succumbing to his fatal charms and falling in a twittering heap at his feet. There is something so delicious about a gorgeous hero who is used to being chased by women, and suddenly he finds himself confronted by a woman who not only *doesn’t* chase after him, but forces *him* to chase *her*! (Heh heh).
    What do I hate? Perfect heroes and heroines. Another thing I dislike is short or medium-height heroes. He doesn’t have to be a giant, but make him taller than average. One thing I would dearly love is heroes and heroines who didn’t give each other electrical jolts every time they touch. That has become as clichéd as the lock of hair that the heroine always wants to brush away from the hero’s forehead! And please, no more historical romances with ultra-PC heroes embracing 21st Century ideals.
    What would I like to see more of? Older woman/younger man romances. Plump heroines (says the plump writer). An honest-to-goodness alpha barbarian, chest-beating, table-thumping, head-knocking hero. Do not assume this means a Neanderthal whose vocabulary consist of grunts and who drags women around by the hair, however!

    Reply

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