Thursday, 20 December 2012

Does Size Matter - Romance Heroines

So far in the Does Size Matter series we've looked at the size of the story, the men who appear in them and today I want to discuss the women we read about in romances. Yes, I'm an equal opportunity blog :)

Last week it became clear to me that readers definitely want men that are larger than life, the ultimate rarely attainable man, bigger and better than what we have in our own real lives. This week I'm wondering why it appears to be the opposite scenario for the women we read about. It appears to me, from talking to friends and readers that what we want from our heroines in the books we love is a bit of reality. We don't seem to want to our romance women represented the way a lot of media portrays the feminine form - stick thin insect like creatures. We want curvy, voluptuous, Rubenesque. We want real women and according to Google (yes the authority on the average (real) size for women in the US is a size 12-16. It's much the same here in Australia as well.

So why do we want ourselves in romance novels but not our other halves? Real life women are familiar to us, I don't have any cover model gorgeous friends, but I do have sexy, attractive friends that don't fit the image of what's portrayed in the media as such. I think part of it is being able to relate to the heroine. I know I want to read about someone who may not fit the mold of 'beautiful' but is still seen as being gorgeous in the eyes of the man who loves her. Especially if he's a hunky sex god. But I don't just want my heroine to be curvy or larger bodied, I want her realistic in more ways than that. I want sassy, a woman who can stand up for herself and isn't the typical damsel in distress that need a man to save her. I want a woman who would like a man but knows she'll be okay if she doesn't end up with Mr. Sexy by her side. 

Having said all that, as an author, I firmly believe that when it comes to our heroines size doesn't really matter. It's the attitude that counts. Yes, a lot of my heroines have been curvy and voluptuous but I've also written heroines that are thin. Realistic women is what it's about, how the character sees themselves is how I write them. In Healing a Cougar's Heart my heroine, Isabelle, was stick thin. This is how she described herself; 
She looked in the mirror. Red hair, long and a bit frizzy when it wasn't wet, framed her face. She was thin, not very buxom at all. She’d always consoled herself that no man needed more than a mouthful when it came to a woman’s breasts. Her legs were her best asset; at least they were long. Not that they went anywhere. She had narrow hips and only the slightest curve to her butt. She looked like a human greyhound, lean and sinewy, built for moving fast.  
Healing a Cougar's Heart, Jan Graham, 2012.
Having a stick thin heroine didn't hurt reviews in anyway, RT Book Reviews rated it 4 out of 5 when they reviewed it in October this year and the book sold as well as all the others in the Sydney Cougar series. Does that prove size doesn't matter when it comes to our heroines, I'm not sure. 

Most of the romances I read tend to describe the heroine in one on two categories, curvy or thin. So how curvy is too curvy? Would we accept a heroine described as obese, or fat. Instead of curves are rolls acceptable on our heroines body? I haven't written any women described in such a manner but I have read books where women have been overweight or obese. It didn't bother me, they were still great characters, well written, interesting women. And their weight certainly didn't bother the hero of the story. Real women come in all shapes and sizes, I think that's reflected well by most authors when they construct a romance. Unlike our heroes physical type, our heroines vary greatly and I think that's a good thing because women vary greatly in real life and that means your bound to find yourself reflected in a romance book somewhere.

So as readers and authors, what do you think? Does size matter when it comes to the females we read and write about? Is a real woman, attitude and personality wise, more important than how she looks or does every physical type of female need to see herself reflected in the books she reads?

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