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Physically imperfect heroines

Romance - from historical to contemporary

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Jan 29, 2007, 5:58pm Top

Ok, so I have been wondering about this for a while. It seems that the VAST majority of romance novels have heroines (and heroes for that matter) that are physically pretty much perfect. They are always gorgeous, have "perfect" figures, bone structure, whatever. That's not to say that that's a bad thing - romance is escapist/fantasy reading after all. (And I'm not trying to imply that people who aren't "thin" aren't beautiful.)

I was wondering, though, if there weren't any novels out there in the genre that have physically "imperfect" heroines (or heroes). Say, maybe, plus-sized or very "plain-faced" gals in the starring role...?

Has anybody come across any of these in their reading experience?

2olga10 First Message
Jan 29, 2007, 6:30pm Top

"perfect wife" by Lynsay Sands - plus size heroine;
"pleasure for pleasure" by Eloisa James - plus size heroine
"again the magic" Lisa Kleypas - disfigurement
"music of the nigt" by Lydia Joyce facial scarring
"romancing mr. Brigerton" by Julia Quinn plain looking

Hope it helps..

Jan 29, 2007, 6:33pm Top

I have, though I can't recall the names of the particular novels offhand. I do remember one from the 80s or early 90s with a plus-sized heroine ~ she was a singer or actress in the Old West or San Francisco, or something like that. Maybe Alaska. Anyway, she was variously described as "statuesque" and "voluptuous" and maybe even Ruebenesque, though I'm not sure about that last, and I vaguely recall that she had no hangups about her size. Plus the hero who was a big man loved her that way! :) More recently, I've read some romances where the heroine starts out being described as "plain" or even as having a less-than-perfect feature like a too-long nose or boring brown hair and freckles, but then the hero starts to fall in love with her & she becomes beautiful to him. (Sort of like what happens in real life.) :) And I've also read some romances where the hero isn't drop-dead gorgeous but has rugged or strong features, maybe too big a nose or deepset eyes or even (gasp) wrinkles around his eyes. But the heroine thinks he's the strongest, most handsome of men because of what he is inside. I'll try to remember the names of some of these more recent romances and post more later, because I too like those kinds of novels more than when both parties are physically "perfect."

Jan 29, 2007, 6:44pm Top

Thanks, CC ~ I knew you'd know some titles right off! Also there's Mary Balogh's Simply Love, with Sydnam as the hero dealing with disfigurement and a missing arm.

Jan 29, 2007, 7:26pm Top

I've always hated the word plus-size. How can you be plus sized, you're just sized, period. You don't see anybody referred to as minus-sized.

One of my all-time favorite heroines is Min from Bet Me, a gorgeous big, beautiful woman whose tall, dark and handsome man is crazy about all of her. She even gets to eat chicken marsala over and over again in the book!

Catherine Anderson has made a career of writing about women who are not cookie cutter heroines. There's Molly, from Anderson's Sweet Nothings, who is overweight and short; Bethany, the paralyzed rodeo champion in Phantom Waltz; Carly, the blind from birth heroine in Blue Skies; and Laura, the brain-damaged heroine in My Sunshine.

And one of my favorites, Alannah, the blind from birth heroine from Sasha Lord's Medieval stunner Across the Wild Sea, and the deaf and mute heroine (can't remember her name) from Mary Balogh's Silent Melody, to name a few.


Jan 29, 2007, 8:15pm Top

One of my favorites is He Loves Lucy by Susan Donovan. Lucy goes on a game show to try to lose weight. I won't give any spoilers, but needless to say, this *is* a romance, which means people get loved for themselves.

I have to say that more than the perfect heroines -- I think a lot of people have written them, to tell the truth -- the perfect heroes drive me a little batty. Not that I don't like perfect men ('cause I do), but they all begin to blend together over time.

Jan 29, 2007, 10:01pm Top

If you are into paranormal romance novels, Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter novels (especially Night Play in particular) have larger sized women. In Seize The Night the heroine, Tabitha, has a long scar on her face. She does really well. Seeing as how I am imperfect myself I love the idea of a buff God hero for an imperfect heroine! :)

8j.elena First Message
Jan 29, 2007, 10:30pm Top

It's one thing to be physically imperfect...I'd be alright with that as a heroine. Having a heroine so annoying you want to drop a course so you don't have to read the book is far worse. For example, "Pamela" definetly WASN'T on the "must read before I die" list...damn British Lit.

Jan 30, 2007, 7:02am Top

I loved Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon because her heroine, Bride, was a plus size and had all the hang ups that come with it.

Jan 30, 2007, 5:50pm Top

Lori Foster also writes imperfect heroines. Love her stuff!

Jan 30, 2007, 7:39pm Top

Bearing in mind that each of us probably has a different opinion of what is or is not handsome/beautiful and sometimes one person's "plain" is another person's "gorgeous," I ran across an old Catherine Coulter today (Season of the Sun). The male model looks like a raptor of some sort. No appeal whatsoever. Because of that, I have no interest in reading the book. Do you find that you must be attracted to the hero in order to enjoy the book?

Jan 30, 2007, 7:45pm Top

Moonspun Magic by Catherine Coulter has a disfigured heroin. She spends the entire book trying to hide it from her hero, who is the twin to her attempted rapist. That would be pretty off-putting to me too!

Edited: Jan 30, 2007, 10:13pm Top

katybear- you HAVE to read Bet Me, it's fabulous. It has some great lines.

For fun, try Janet Evanovich's Plum series. The heroine eats many, many donuts. Romance actually takes a back seat to the donuts :)

A Lady's Pleasure has heroine that's called "whey-faced". Like storee said the heroine becomes beautiful in the heroes eyes in most of the "plain-faced" heroine books I've read. I try to skip over the parts that are testimonials to the heroine's unending beauty and perfection.

Jan 30, 2007, 10:55pm Top

Seize the Fire by Laura Kinsale has an overweight heroine.
Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale has a hero (a young man) who is recovering from a stroke.

Jan 30, 2007, 11:40pm Top

The Abducted Heiress, Claire Thornton's newest Renaissance (sp?), has a heroine whose face is covered with smallpox scars. I did a double take reading that for the first time, but it was a great book.

One of Jo Beverly's heroines' face is horribly scarred from glass shattering in a carriage accident. She wears a mask while making love to the hero so he can't feel them. I was more bothered by the fact she wore the stupid mask than I was that she had scars.

I think a great hero is Sydnam in Mary Balogh's Simply Love. The whole left side of his face is missing, and he's also missing a limb. But, he still had the right one for the heroine, so it all worked out!


Jan 31, 2007, 1:18pm Top

I second Storeetllr's recommendation. Lori Foster's heroines are often plump, "plain" or have any of the sort of "imperfections" that would make them a no-go in Hollywood. Character-wise they may have had jobs that are universally riled. My favourites having these qualities are Jamie and When Bruce Met Cyn.

For Lisa Kleypas her Suddenly You also had a "plus-sized" heroine, in addition to being older than her beau. If you like historicals just about all of the older Amanda Quick novels, whether medieval or regency, feature heroines that are fairly average in the physical department.

Jan 31, 2007, 5:28pm Top

In Exposure by Susan Anderson, the hero has a scarred face and a prosthetic hand. I thought he was fantastic.

Jan 31, 2007, 5:42pm Top

Quite a few heroines of Regencies are described as being 'not in the common style', or being of a physical type that is out of fashion. Also a number of the heroes have scarring of either the physical or emotional kinds from their experiences in the Napoleanic Wars.

Jan 31, 2007, 7:08pm Top

Kristin, I remember that one! That was a great book.


Feb 2, 2007, 10:41am Top

Heaven Texas Gracie Snow is plain.

And in most Jayne Ann Krentz the h/h are interesting looking, not beautiful.

Feb 6, 2007, 2:15pm Top

In The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer, the title character is described as "built along statuesque lines", and in her Civil Contract, Jenny is decidedly plain and even dumpy. And indeed, while some of her heroines are conventionally attractive, even beautiful, she offers quite a few counter-examples.

Edited: Feb 7, 2007, 10:43am Top

I can't remember the title, but I read a contemporary romance a few months ago. The heroine was a size 20 and the hero, a gorgeous firefighter, loved every bit of her.

Edited because I got carried away with the commas.


Feb 7, 2007, 10:26am Top

I think Lori Foster wrote one, maybe Jude's Law, that was about a plus-sized girl and a good looking actor that fell for her.

Feb 7, 2007, 10:43am Top

Open Season by Linda Howard talks about the heroine, Daisy, as a plain
34 year old woman still living at home with her parents before she makes some changes in her life.

Feb 7, 2007, 11:03am Top

Book, was that the one where the heroine was a librarian and she gave herself a makeover on her birthday and hooked up with the sheriff or police chief? I'm not a big fan of "makeover" plots, or plots where the heroine pretends to be a boy, or twins who pretend to be each other, etc., but if this is the one I'm thinking of, the sheriff had a crush on her before the makeover, but he was shy?


Feb 7, 2007, 11:24am Top

CC, yep, that's it! I just love Linda Howard & how she writes. I will admit that some of her books are not as good as others, but she is an auto buy for me.

Feb 7, 2007, 12:07pm Top

Book, I thought so! I remember a particular line from it which cracked me up...about a "first" for the heroine. LOL


Feb 7, 2007, 12:23pm Top

Another hero instead of heroine, but Remy from The Red-Hot Cajun has a scarred face and body.

Feb 7, 2007, 1:11pm Top

CC, What was the line?

Feb 7, 2007, 1:22pm Top

Remember, after she and the chief made love the first time, she is particularly pleased with her "first wet spot"?


Feb 7, 2007, 1:23pm Top

LOL, oh yeah! :) I just might have to go back & re-read that one.

Feb 7, 2007, 1:26pm Top

I thought it was sweet. It's hard to imagine a 34 year old who is that naive.


Feb 12, 2007, 11:05pm Top

I know that for the most part, heroines are described as 'perfect'. However, I like to think that because the hero has fallen in love with her, this is what makes her perfect, if you know what I mean.

“Do I love you because you're beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you? Am I making believe I see in you, a woman too perfect to be really true? Do I want you because you're wonderful, or are you wonderful because I want you? Are you the sweet invention of a lover's dream, or are you really as beautiful as you seem?” -Hammerstein II

Feb 13, 2007, 9:35am Top

A movie on this theme is The Truth about Cats and Dogs.

Feb 14, 2007, 7:11am Top

There is a new one by Sarah Brophy called Midnight Eyes. The heroine, called "Lady Deformed" is blind. The setting is Medieval England. I haven't read it yet but is in my to read pile. It got an excellent review in the January Romantic Times with 4 stars.

Feb 14, 2007, 12:20pm Top

Loving the Highlander by Janet Chapman has a heroine who has some pretty severe burn scars she recieved as a child. She always wears a glove on one of her hands and her back is badly scarred so she ALWAYS wears a light tank top or camisole. She's VERY sensitive about it and dosn't want anyone to see.

Loving the Highlander is the 2nd in a time travel trilogy. It's unusual in that the time travelers are a small group of men transported from (14th?) century Scotland to the present, but this occured a few years before the books take place. The men have had time to acclimate to the 20th century and make a place for themselves in Maine.

Mar 20, 2007, 7:00pm Top

Katie MacAlister's heroines always are real women with real issues. They pass gas at embarrassing times; they are too tall or too short; their chests are either too flat or too big; they are chubby; they have big butts; they sometimes have disabilities; and they never see themselves as desirable. My first encounter with Katie's heroines was in her novel Men in Kilts wear the heroine fell asleep due to jet lag in the lobby of a hotel and drooled all over her expensive silk shirt. The most awesome thing about Katie's presentation is that the women can laugh at themselves.

Mar 20, 2007, 7:26pm Top

At least one historical or Regency book dealt with a heroine who was deaf. Needless to say, I cannot remember the author or title. And I think one or two have dealt with a physical imperfection - lameness (fall from horse, etc.)

Mar 20, 2007, 8:48pm Top

I'm just going to add the Mills & Boon/ Harlequin author Betty Neels .. almost everyone "wasn't perfect" or if she was, it was portrayed as an "imperfection" not something making her better.

Mar 22, 2007, 5:14pm Top

The deaf one was Silent Melody by Mary Balogh. It is connected to Heartless.

Mar 28, 2007, 11:31am Top

One of my favorite books in the entire world has a love story in it, but has a lot more, too: Tell me That You Love Me, Junie Moon by Marjorie Kellogg.

The main character, Junie Moon, has been horribly disfigured by an attacker and, while in the hospital, meets two other men with disabilities and starts a relationship.

Mar 30, 2007, 9:07pm Top

I think it is Hazard by Jo Beverley in which the heroine has a deformed foot and accompanying limp.

And in her Rogues series, Hal lost an arm at Waterloo.

In fact, quite a few historicals have heroes with facial scars.

The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie, Prudence is not beautiful like her sisters - plain, big nose, etc.

And The Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer is one of my all time favorite books!

Mar 31, 2007, 4:57am Top

I forget which one it is, but Susan Wiggs has a heroine that has a deformed foot. It's either Charm School or Halfway to Heaven. I think it's the latter. Both are worth reading. I haven't read any of her contemporary stuff. Is it any good?

Apr 6, 2007, 10:14pm Top

Waiting for the Moon by Kristin Hannah was (at least it was in 1995) a fantastic book with a heroine who took a header off a cliff and ends up brain damaged. Amazingly enough, the book really worked and I remember it very fondly.

Apr 6, 2007, 10:16pm Top

I forgot to say...one of Lisa Kleypas' heroines is burned in a fire and almost loses the love of her life because she feels disabled. One of Amanda Quick's heroines had a limp as well.

Apr 12, 2007, 10:25pm Top

I can't believe it took me this long to remember one of my very favorite romances!

Precious Bane is a justly famous English novel by Mary Webb dating from the earlier part of the last century. It's heroine, Prue Sarn, was born during the very early 19th century with a harelip, a physical defect so obvious and so impossible to hide that her family and the people in her rural Shropshire village assume it means she will never have the opportunity to marry. In consequence (after having fallen secretly in love with the weaver, Kester Woodseaves), she strikes a bargain with her ruthless brother, Gideon, that she will work like a slave for him, helping him to gain money and power, if he promises to have her harelip surgically cured when he is rich.

While the hero, Kester Woodseaves, is a bit of cipher and has never felt fully realized to me, Prue and Gideon are powerful, remarkable characters. Their relationship is complex and goes far beyond the simply exploitative scenario a brief summary of the plot suggests.

Although set during the Napoleonic era and therefore technically during the early Regency period, this book is quite unlike standard modern-day romances set during the period as the protagonists are mainly rural, little-educated farmers and craftsmen. The use of dialect is heavy and many of the folk customs detailed are likely to be unfamiliar to most readers but the story itself is universal.

Apparently, a British television adaptation of this novel was made starring Clive Owen and Janet McTeer. I haven't seen it but, oh my, do I want to!

47booksrmylife First Message
Apr 12, 2007, 11:12pm Top

let's not forget plain jane (eyre).

Apr 12, 2007, 11:49pm Top

Hi, Marietherese. I'm adding Precious Bane to my wish list, and I'm going to try to find out if it the TV version is available on DVD. Thanks for the recommendation!


Apr 13, 2007, 3:40am Top

one of the most beautiful romance with physically imperfect heroine (and a not so perfect hero) is Dancing with Clara by Mary Balogh. I highly reccomand this one. ciao, elisa

Apr 13, 2007, 3:42pm Top

MarieT, apparently the televised version of Precious Bane has not been released on DVD. Bummer.


Apr 13, 2007, 5:36pm Top

Thanks for checking, CC. It seems like fewer and fewer British TV adaptations are making it to DVD lately compared to how often they used to be released during the heyday of Masterpiece Theatre and other programs like it. *sigh*

Apr 15, 2007, 10:14am Top

That's so disappointing. Marie, I read your post and immediately got excited (especially about an adaptation with lovely Clive) and then immediately was disappointed when CC said it wasn't available. At least we can read the book! It sounds pretty good - I'll have to add it to my wish list.

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