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Friday, February 2, 2007

Do Fat Girls Need Love Too?

It has come to our attention that some of our readers/lurkers took issue with one of my (Dylan) reviews, Good In Bed by Jennifer Weiner. Their issue is something we here at Sanctuary's Finest have discussed amongst ourselves before. So let me start by asking you guys a question.

Do you guys like reading books with large heroines?

Several heroines come to mind when thinking about this topic. There's Minn Dobbs from Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me, Bride McTierney from Sherrilyn Kenyon's Night Play and from one of the latest books I've read, Heather Wells from Meg Cabot's Heather Wells Series. Now all of these heroines were not the skinny model types, they were solid, plus size women that we see everyday around town.

Some of us may be plus size women ourselves and there's nothing wrong with that, I don't hate, I congratulate but what I want to know is it's one thing to be friends with plus size women and to be a plus size woman but would you want to read about these same kinds of plus size women getting their freaky freak on with the hottie hero in our books?

Do you or don't you?

I personally have no qualms about reading books with large women starring in them. It's one of those non issues for me. Now, I won't say that incredulous thoughts like, "Yeah right, these gorgeous stud muffin guys that ALL women are fawning over is going to choose and fall in love with so and so plus size heroine.." don't pop into my head from time to time because they do. As much as I would LOVE to believe something like that (I'm not a small girl, let me tell you), I just don't see it happening. Most all of the men that I come in contact with at work, at Church and just around town are all fawning over and falling in love with the Heidi Klums and the Jessica Alba's of the world. Women like Sara Ramirez and Queen Latifa, who are beautiful women, don't get the attention and the adoration that other women (Heidi Klum and Jennifer Lopez) do. At least we don't see it very often.

I'm not saying that men don't love large women but most men usually go for smaller women and to prove my point, we've asked 10 different men that we know (very good looking men too) if they'd give a larger woman the time of day against a skinny model type woman.

My brother, Pete, who is one of those extremely handsome men that girls just can't help but fall in love with, had this to say on the matter, "If she pays like she weighs then she can stay, baby!" and after some scolding on my part, finished on a more serious note saying, "Honestly, larger women don't even make it to my radar. But it depends on what you think is fat, I don't consider you (me, Dylan) fat, but you think you're fat so everyone has their own interpretation of what is fat. Now if we're talking sizes, then I'd say anything over a size 16 is fat and no, I probably wouldn't try to get at her."

That seems to be the general consensus from all the men we polled. "No, we don't even look at larger women." Is that right? No, not necessarily, but it is reality. Whether it's society, or the way we were brought up, or whatever, weight does factor in when it comes to attraction.

Are there exceptions? Absolutely. But the normal response from a man is the one you see above.

To take this a step further I (Holly) surveyed women, asking what they're typical fantasy weight is. The average response? Size 7. As a follow up, I asked them how they see themselves when they fantasize about the perfect man. One of my best friends, who's probably a size 14 said, "Oh, girl, I see myself as all kinds of skinny, and more beautiful than anyone else in the world. Is that real? Hell no, but this is my fantasy, right? I can be whatever I want to be."

In my opinion, that's what it comes down to. Fantasy. I think one of the reasons larger women are scarce in romance novels is that no one, whether your small and petite, or large and in charge, really fantasizes about being big. Are there exceptions to this? YES! But I would imagine that if we (as women) were totally honest, no matter what our sizes are right this second, in a perfect world - a fantasy world - we'd be a size 2 and so gorgeous we'd blind me.

I'm not saying that's reality, but it's fantasy. And that's what romance novels are, the ultimate fantasy. A romance novel offers us a chance to escape to another world, where the fat girl gets skinny and grabs her man, or the beautiful woman who's abused by her family is rescued by the dazzling, orgasmic, fantastically hot hero. In our own personal fantasies, I'd be willing to bet that we don't picture ourselves at 500 pounds. So why do we want to read a book about it?

Personally? I don't care. It doesn't bother me one bit if the heroine is bigger than a size 3. I actually prefer a more "normal" looking heroine. A size 12 is the national average, you know.

But other women, Jazz included, prefer not to read about that. We could start some psycho-babble bullshit and say it's because they aren't comfortable with themselves, but I don't believe that. I believe that it all just comes down to personal preference.

For myself, I may not mind a bigger heroine, but man, I cannot stand it when a heroine is older than her hero. Especially if the main focus of the story is their age difference. I don't want to read about a heroine who happens to think the hero is "young enough to be her son". Sorry, doesn't work for me. Does that mean other people agree? Nope. I happen to have some very close friends who prefer that particular storyline, but it's not for me.

And you know what? That's fine. You have your preferences and I have mine. That doesn't make either one of us wrong, just different, and there's nothing wrong with that.

To be totally honest, I would actually prefer to see more "large" women featured in romance novels. Why? Because it makes it more real. When I read Night Play and Bet Me, my heart melted because those heroines weren't a perfect size 5, and those heroes loved them - all of them - for who they were. It didn't matter to Cal one bit that Min was larger than average, and Vane's comment to Bride when she asked him to make her skinny had me tearing up (won't spoil it for those who haven't read it, but man was it touching!). I love that.

Same with He Loves Lucy by Susan Donovan and Jemmima J by Jane Greene. Those heroines were bigger than "average" too, but I adored reading about them - sex scenes and all.

What it all comes down to is personal preference. You have yours and I have mine. What I might like, you might hate. That's ok. That makes us different. And you know what? That helps authors sell books. If we all liked the same thing no one would get published, right?

But I'm curious, what's too much fantasy and too much reality? You tell me. What exactly do we want in our novels? Are we ok with large heroines and short heroes? Do we want rich men and poor women? Are we too demanding? Is it possible to strike a good balance between fantasy and reality?




Blogger Bev (BB) said...

Lori Foster does larger heroines fairly often and well by not overdoing it. She doesn't make them too large to make it "the" issue of the book. Just a normal woman who isn't stick thin. She also does large heroes who appreciate a woman of, um, substance. :D

February 2, 2007 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Zeek said...

I have no problem with plus size heroines ...

"Yeah right, these gorgeous stud muffin guys that ALL women are fawning over is going to choose and fall in love with so and so plus size heroine.."

LOL! That thought often runs thru my mind as well, but that doesn't mean I didn't buy it in the "fantasy area", specifically thinking about Vane and Bride- who I just LOVED!

What does tend to bother me is like what happened in Jemmima J and, I think, Jude Devereaux did it too in Angel... the heroine is big and then loses weight and THEN gets the guy. That bugs me. THAT'S too much reality for me- I mean the fact that you have to lose weight to find a man. More so than just having an overwieght heroine, imo. Or perhaps it's more of a uncomfortable reality for me.

An overwieght heroine finding love with a sexy God is pure fantasy and that's why it doesn't bother me. :D

February 2, 2007 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Jazz said...

We so should have combined out posts cause mine right under here is practically the same. lol. But anyway.

First can I say that in my fantasies I am never a size 2 cause I think that is unnaturally skinny.

And your so right, it is everyones mindset as to what is skinny and what is fat. Cause I concider (know) myself overweight, but I'm a size 12 so I guess I'm actually average. My ideal size? 7/8, that is what I always was before I had kids. It's not skinny, it is comfortable and I like that. I like to have curves and hips and a butt.

And the more I think about this issue the more I think I have a problem with the details that go into a book with big women. Or something. Cause I loved both Bet Me and He Loves Lucy. I didnt' have one issue with either book. Night Play was okay but I couldnt' get into Bride or Zane being an animal. lol.

February 2, 2007 at 12:00 PM  
Anonymous K said...

I don't like a book that focusses so much on the physical attributes of the heroine because when I read, I AM the heroine.

If the character's personality is real, her motivations understandable, I'm happy.

Though the fact that Barbara Cartland's heroine's were all tiny, blonde wisps did drive me a bit batty.

February 2, 2007 at 1:01 PM  
Blogger Maria, Lover of All Things Romance said...

I really have to congratulate you on raising this topic. It takes guts, you don't want to offend anyone but it is an issue. I don't mind a larger heroine. I really don't. But it would take an author with a lot of skill to make me accept a short hero. That's terrible, isn't it?

February 2, 2007 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

No, it's not terrible, it's reality. lol I'm a short girl myself and still I need a big, tall hero to make a story work for me. Maybe I'm just shallow? lol

I can't stand it when the ALL of the heroines are beautiful, tiny, flat-stomached, big chested, long-legged girls. That is SO not even close to real. I'm thinking Julie Garwood here.

I always say Fat is a State of Mind. It's true. A size 2 stick figure can think she's fat and (in her mind) she will be. The same goes for a size 16. She can look good to herself and be seen that way by everyone else, too. It's all a mindset.

Jemmima J particularly bothered me for just that reason. Very uncomfortable. On the other hand, He Loves Lucy didn't bother me in the least. Although, the tone was different.

You're right, she does. I truly enjoy that in a story.

February 2, 2007 at 1:59 PM  
Blogger Bev (BB) said...

Does it make a difference if it's a historical as opposed to a contemporary? It doesn't particularly to me but I think it does change the dynamics some. There's one book in particular that I'm thinking of - Eve Byron's Only in My Dreams. She's not just large weight-wise. She's tall. Big-boned. A true Amazon. Very much against the Regency norm of "beauty".

And the American-raised hero loves her anyway, pretty much on sight.

February 2, 2007 at 2:13 PM  
Anonymous Holly said...

An excellent question, Bev.

I have a major issue when reading historicals if the heroine is tiny, with a flat stomach and no weight on her at all, because that wasn't the fashion back then. I think too many authors get wrapped up in modern day preconceptions and don't put enough historical fact into their books. But I'm probably the minority there.

I haven't read the book you mentioned, but I don't think it would bother me. Especially if the author mentioned how it wasn't norm for the times. I'll have to check it out.

February 2, 2007 at 2:24 PM  
Blogger nath said...

Very interesting topic; unfortunately for me, it doesn't matter if the heroine is a larger woman, because it just won't register in my mind. For me, when I read, there's just a name and a silhouette... I can barely remember whether she's blond or brunette and what color of eyes... Sad no?

February 2, 2007 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger Mari said...

I'll read novels with plus sized heroines if they're recommended reads. I really enjoyed Bet Me and He Loves Lucy. I admit that I'm a bit wary about them, but that's because obsessive heroines (re: age, size, etc.) annoy me. Oftentimes, there's also a skinny woman cast as a villain. Which brings us to another one of my DNF criteria: predictability.

I find book titles like "Real Women Don't Wear Size 2" ironic in light of the big deal that some people make out appreciating all shapes and sizes;). I suppose I should add that this is just an observation and I realize that marketing handles titles, not the author.

February 2, 2007 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger Dylan aka Rowena said...


I've never really read a Lori Foster book, I've been meaning to but just never got around to it. Got any recommendations?

February 2, 2007 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger Dylan aka Rowena said...


I know what you mean, it can get annoying when the larger heroine loses all this weight before she gets with the hero, that's probably why I haven't picked up Jemima J to read even though I've had it forEVER. But Holly liked that book and I trust her judgement so I bought it, but I did wonder in the back of my mind, why he waited until she was skinny before she got with her? Why did he wait, Holly and Amy?

I want to fall in love with a sexy God and I want him to fall in love with me too...I mean, hello? I'm cute dammit! LOL.

February 2, 2007 at 5:06 PM  
Blogger Dylan aka Rowena said...


I think Size 2 is too skinny too, I want some meat on me still but I do want to be thinner, now I have to just keep up the exercise and eat a little better and see what happens. LOL.

I loved all the books you mentioned, all of them...it was the bomb!

February 2, 2007 at 5:08 PM  
Blogger Dylan aka Rowena said...


First of all, welcome to the blog, I haven't seen you around here (I don't think) so I wanted to welcome you.

And I don't think I'd care to read about heroines issues with their weights in EVER book about large women, for once I'd like to read a book about a large woman who is happy with the way she is and finds and falls in love with a man who loves her just the way she is...kind of like Cal, only she's not worried about her weight. That would be nice.

February 2, 2007 at 5:10 PM  
Blogger Dylan aka Rowena said...


Another welcome to our blog, haven't seen you around so I wanted to make sure I welcomed you. And I'm a height snob too, I want my heroes tall and strong...as long as they've got that going on, they can be funny, serious, blonde, dark haired, I don't care, just make them tall and strong.

February 2, 2007 at 5:11 PM  
Blogger Dylan aka Rowena said...


It doesn't matter to me, so I don't really care if it's historical or contemp...=)

February 2, 2007 at 5:12 PM  
Blogger Dylan aka Rowena said...

LOL Nath...

...I wish I was like that, I remember all of it. Like Meredith Bancroft was blonde and Lauren Danner had honey colored hair, Jade from JG's Gaurdian Angel had red hair, hmmm...yeah you get the picture, right? LOL.

February 2, 2007 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger Dylan aka Rowena said...


That's a good point. We want to appreciate all women and yet it's okay for them (meaning the book people) to title books about what size REAL women are? And the tiny size 2 women aren't real? Let's be real now.

Obsessive heroines can be annoying too, especially about things like weight, work, heart break and being ice queen because they've gotten the shaft a few times, it can drive me right up the wall.

February 2, 2007 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger Kristie (J) said...

Being on the other side of a size 8, 10, 12,14 and keep going - I don't like books with large sized heroines. I live the life and don't want to read it in my romance fantasy life. And I hated He Loves Lucy. Hated it with a passion. I did like Bet Me though.

February 2, 2007 at 6:15 PM  
Blogger Charm School Reject said...

Ugh. Okay. I don't want to read about overly large women. Big boned, sure. Three chins and four stomachs to where you gotta do the pushback? No thanks. If they are gonna be an "equality for all sizes", great. BUT shouldn't they do that for guys too then? Who want to read about an eeny meeeny teeny weeny shrivel little short tort man? Yeah. No.

As long as they don't make a huge deal about the weight, it shouldn't really matter. Skinny chicks get just as much of a bad rap in the real world as bigger girls do. AND they are still self conscious about their bodies as well. (This being said by a used to be size one now a size nine to ten.)

Put that in your juice box and suck it. (I just said that cuz its funny...it doesn't serve a purpose.)

February 2, 2007 at 7:37 PM  
Blogger Author Dara Edmondson said...

It doesn't bother me either. I think it's reality these days. Jemmima J bothers me because she gets the guy when she loses the weight. I'm all for self-acceptance. I don't care if the heroine is skinny or plump as long as she's a kick-ass woman.

February 2, 2007 at 8:11 PM  
Blogger Bev (BB) said...

Dylan, the one I reread the most by Foster is TOO MUCH TEMPTATION. There's a part of me that knows it's shouldn't be believeable but at the same time it's totally believeable that Noah falls head over heels in love with Grace in spite of himself and it's fun watching it hit him that it's happening. And the thing is, he's in lust from the start and she's always described as pleasingly plump or voluptous. But then he's also described a big man's man.

Another one of hers with a larger heroine is JUDE'S LAW. I enjoyed that one as a story but I don't think the larger heroine/hunky hero worked as well as in TMT. I think it was because Jude was a very in shape champion fighter/movie star and it was little tougher sell in terms of the romance. It still worked, mainly because the heroine in it has no problems with her size. She has more of a problem with his star status in comparison to hers.

Noah was just more convincing as an everyman if you get my drift. Foster excells at those regular guys that don't get on my nerves. :D

I think there's at least one other story of hers I have with a larger heroine but I can't put my hands on it at the moment. It may be in an anthology. Seems like she has a zillion of those.

February 2, 2007 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Daphne said...

I think the only book I remember reading with a large woman was Night Play, and I only remember it because she (SK) kept bringing up the weight issue. If you (the author) mention she's a large woman once, fine. If you keep bringing it up every chapter, not fine. Still, it doesn't bother me too much, if the author wants to write those characteristics, fine. I can always change it in my head. Just like when I read about a hero with grey or blonde hair, I just change it to a dark brown or black. Just my preference.

February 2, 2007 at 8:54 PM  
Blogger Daphne said...

I'll have to admit, I think the type of genre (within romance) does factor into the equation. If I were to say I sometimes like reading about large women because it's more realistic, I'm usually thinking about that in the context of a contemp. When I read a historical, I realize that time doesn't change the fact that large women existed back then too. However, (maybe it's just the way I think) to me a historical setting is more fictional than realistic, because it's in a time that I didn't live through. I've never read a historical with a large woman. I guess I just don't expect to find too many of those, given that in my mind I see historicals as more "fantasy" than contemps.

All romance books cannot be 100% realistic. If they were, then why don't we see any unhappy endings?

February 2, 2007 at 9:12 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

Well, Daph, that's true about the "fantasy" angle, but in reality, women from historical times were generally bigger. To have every miss in society skinny and tall just isn't realisitic. The average body type/weight back then was plump and curvy, with a definite stomach.

Or am I completely mistaken here?

I totally agree. Her actions speak way louder than her physcial description if you ask me. ;)

February 4, 2007 at 11:12 AM  
Blogger Daphne said...

oh no you're absolutely right holly. i'm just saying that i've never read a historical where the heroine was larger, so it would just seem weird to me. not weird in a bad way.. just different.

don't listen to me, i never make sense anyway.

February 4, 2007 at 11:31 AM  
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