The past few weeks I’ve been brushing up and doing final edits on the contemporary romance that I once published here on the blog. I’m aiming for publication on The Genius and the Muse (formerly Tracing Shadows) around the end of next month. At least, that’s the plan. This is my first dip in the Contemporary Romance pool, so I’ve been doing cover research, looking at the lists, checking out marketing and blogs, and it’s made me question something: Will romance readers “buy” a hero who doesn’t fit conventional standards of male beauty?
See, The Genius and the Muse is a parallel love story. There are two couples and one of the heroes is, to be frank, not all that handsome by romance novel standards. (Notice, I didn’t say he wasn’t attractive. Attraction is far more subjective.) He’s pretty rough. He’s a welder/sculptor, so he has burns and scars. He’s not all that tall. He definitely doesn’t shave regularly. Story short, he’s not going to be in any Abercrombie ads, readers.
We talk a lot about standards of beauty for women, and how books can challenge those in ways that movies or television can’t because it’s a non-visual medium. And as a reader, I can fall for a mental picture I create more easily than an actor on the screen. But still, it’s rare to find heroes in romance who aren’t described as devastatingly good-looking or at least, ruggedly handsome.
In my first books, the Elemental Mysteries, my hero is very good looking. In fact, his male beauty is part of his history and a fairly significant plot point. In this story, it was just as significant to Javi’s character development for him to not be conventionally handsome. But let’s be frank, the vast majority of romance readers are female! And who doesn’t like picturing a handsome hero, right?
So, this leads me to my questions today. As a reader, can you enjoy a story where the hero or heroine doesn’t fit the conventionally attractive mold? As a writer, do you shy away from creating characters who are not beautiful because they might not be as attractive to readers? While reading isn’t a visual medium, those mental pictures can be pretty vivid. And let’s be honest, you don’t see a lot of average looking people on the cover of romance novels. (You also don’t see many faces, there seem to be a lot of muscular torsos out there. Interesting.) But obviously, looks do count!
Let me know what you think in the comments. No judgement. Be honest! After all, it’s understandable to want to delve into an imaginary world of attractive people when daily life is a grind, and you haven’t put on make-up for the day (or week). I do the same thing, people!
Hope you have an amazing weekend, and I should have more news about the book posted on the blog next week.
Thanks for reading!