Sep 27, 2017

Why are heroines always beautiful? - Kandy Shepherd

A friend was reading one of my books recently. “Why do all your heroines have to be so beautiful?” she asked. (The book was Hired by the Brooding Billionaire and the heroine was indeed beautiful though with a quirky nature and prone to dressing in khakis and steel capped worker’s boots to play down her looks.)

“Because a romance has an element of fantasy,” I replied to my friend. “As readers we want to identify with the heroine. We like to see an idealised image of ourselves and that usually means beautiful.”



Then I stopped myself. All my romance heroines are not necessarily beautiful. In fact one of my favourite (and best-selling books) From Paradise to… Pregnant! features a heroine who is actually quite plain. The book starts:

“Zoe Summers knew she wasn’t beautiful. The evidence of her mirror proved that. Plain was the label she’d been tagged with from an early age. She wasn’t ugly—in fact ugly could be interesting. It was just that her particular combination of unruly black hair, angular face, regulation brown eyes and a nose with a slight bump in the middle added up to pass-under-the-radar plain.”

Zoe gave herself a makeover and even got a nose job that she confesses to late in the novel. She is immaculately groomed and dresses elegantly. Even so, she still feels a degree of insecurity about her looks. But the hero fell in love with pre-makeover Zoe back when they were teenagers. He doesn’t notice her nose, or care about her hair, he sees beauty in her just the way he is.

Zoe is my only heroine who is out-and-out plain. Others are stunningly beautiful. Mostly they’re attractive or above average in looks. Each has to be written so they are relatable and sympathetic. But they’re always beautiful in the eyes of the hero. That goes without saying!

What about in movies and TV shows? I’m binge watching The Blacklist at the moment. My husband thinks lovely actress Megan Boone is too beautiful to be believable as an FBI profiler. “Can’t they at least have her wearing glasses? he asks.

Megan Boone
What do you think? Does it matter if a romance heroine is beautiful or not? I’d love to hear your comments.


I leave you with one of my favourite movie romance heroines played by Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing. She’s often described as plain, but I think she’s beautiful. Can you believe the movie is thirty years old this year?


20 comments:

  1. Kandy, I was thinking about this the other day as I wrapped my latest book and decided my heroines aren't always beautiful per sae but they are in the eyes of the hero. There's something about the heroine that touches him deeply and that is beautiful. My take anyway. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Couldn't have said it better myself, Sue!

      Delete
  2. Hi Kandy

    That is a really good thought I read a lot and yes probably most of the heroines are beautiful as you say it is the fantasy but I loved a flawed heroine one that is flawed by physical scars or she has curves that attract the hero because beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and beauty will always shine from the inside. Having said that I do love your stories.

    Oh and Dirty Dancing is one of my favourite movies and I went to The Girls Night Out not long ago to see it on the big screen for the 30's anniversary with 2 of my daughters it was lots of fun

    Have Fun

    Helen

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Helen, thank you for your thoughtful comments. I agree flaw can make a heroine somehow endearing to both the hero and the reader. Love isn't always easily won and the higher the stakes the greater the happy ever after!
    Dirty Dancing just doesn't age, does it! I didn't see the recent remake - why would you try and improve on perfection?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Most of my heroines are beautiful to the hero. Most are even a little older than the hero too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for swinging by, Janice. "Beautiful to the hero" really is the key, isn't it. I like that your heroines can be a little older than the hero.

      Delete
  5. Seems to be a norm I think in all stories. Slim, beautiful. But then when reading the beauty is in the eye of the beholder ! I recently read a book where the guy didnt think she was much to look at but as time passed she grew on him and her beauty also increased in his perception :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true, Katrina! In my Conveniently Wed to the Greek (which I know you read and enjoyed, thank you!) the hero thinks his type is blonde, tall and model slim. It takes him a while to realise how attractive he finds the shorter, curvier redheaded heroine.
      I really like your comment that "her beauty also increased in his perception".

      Delete
  6. Elizabeth Bennet was not considered beautiful despite her fine eyes-there were prettier girls in the book, e.g. Jane, and of course Mr Darcy says ‘She a beauty!—I should as soon call her mother a wit.’ before he succumbs to her charms.

    Fanny Price in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park is plain (and incredibly dull) but the beautiful girls are rather shallow and somewhat wicked in that novel. Jane Eyre is of course also plain. Generally in a romance though, I think you're right we want a bit of escapist fantasy and prefer to put ourselves in the place of the beautiful rather than plain heroine ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mel, yes Jane Austen certainly knew how to write a plainer heroine who wins over her more beautiful, but lacking in character, rivals. And haven't they endured!

      Delete
  7. Hi Kandy,
    I love this post. Yes. pretty heroines are interesting, aren't they? I've written some beautiful, some ordinary and one badly scarred. Personally, for me the main thing is a heroine I can relate to, which isn't about her looks at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Annie. The more we relate to her the more we want the romance to work for her!

      Delete
  8. We shouldn't forget that in romance, heroes and heroines are seen through the eyes of their one true love.

    I know my physical flaws better than anyone, but my husband thinks I'm beautiful and tells me so. Do we not expect the same for our characters?

    And besides, what is beautiful? Why do we limit our thinking to external manifestations when we think of beauty?

    Surely true beauty comes from having a beautiful character and that is something hero recognises, even if no one else does.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it what hero and heroine find attractive about each other - not just looks, that fires the romance isn't it, Elizabeth.

      Delete
  9. I think there's a perception that all the characters are beautiful because of what goes on the covers of the books. They're models, but our characters are not. Often we gets snippets of a description--blonde hair, blue eyes, short/tall etc. What what does that really mean? It could be Reese Witherspoon or it could be someone who lives down the street and definitely isn't a model.

    I think the hero needs to find the heroine attractive in some way, so we get that lens from him. But it doesn't necessarily mean the heroine will stop traffic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely, Stefanie. Looks are the first impression, especially when we write in the visual male's POV. But that doesn't have to mean super model beauty. The more books I write, the less physical description I tend to put in. When the characters discover what is behind the looks is when they start to fall in love.

      Delete
  10. Thank you, Kandy. I won't go so far as to say a heroine's looks don't matter at all to me. But I will say they matter very little.

    For what it's worth, in my own fiction I don't describe my heroines (or any other characters) as beautiful, handsome, pretty, attractive, plain, ugly, etc. At least not from an absolute or omniscient point of view.

    The problem with these descriptors is that they're opinions. They're subjective. They depend on taste, both of the individual and his or her culture.

    An example of this, a glaringly obvious and oft-cited one but bear with me, is the women in the paintings of Peter Paul Rubens. By today's standards, too fat. And pretty plain-faced. I could cite plenty of other examples, but I bet you already can.

    The only times I use such descriptors is when it clearly IS someone's opinion. When one character says or thinks another character is pretty, plain, handsome, etc. And even then, what someone looks is less important than what he or she does.

    Appearances matter in our culture. So I can't say they don't matter to me. But I will say other things matter more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Mary Ann. You've put it so well. Your point that appearances matter in our culture is a good one. And that it takes more than that to fall in love and stay in love.

      Delete
  11. I love this discussion! The covers have a huge impact on our perception of the heroine as beautiful, but I love heroines that are "normal" whose beauty grows as they fall in love. When the hero sees beauty where he once saw none, that tells me that she is special to him.

    Also, I like the aspects of inner beauty shining through.

    That said, one thing I hate is when a heroine describes herself and tries to convince the reader that she isn't pretty because of tiny flaws (nose a touch too wide, eyes too close together, etc.).

    BTW in the series I'm working on now, the hero likes the heroine's looks because her looks don't stand out. (It's a spy series and her "average" looks let her blend in as any undercover character she portrays. LOL) I love building her insecurities about her looks while playing on her competence in other areas!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kelle, great to see you here! I agree with everything you say. And I love the idea that the hero in your story likes the heroine's average looks because it lets her become other characters more easily!

      Delete