Hi dear friends,

I am back from YALC!!! I know I have tons of posts and comments to catch up with and that’s what I’ll do in the coming days but I wanted to rekindle with my Thursday discussion tradition!

Today’s topic has been inspired by a comment from Lashaan @bookidote about one of the book launches I hosted on the blog weeks ago.

The synopsis or excerpt had a description of the male MC and Lashaan commented with “I always find it somewhat funny to read the detailed description of the body of men in romance novels. Is that the main difference between contemporary romance and pure romance? The amount of “sensuality” included? And if there’s explicit sexual content, it falls into erotica?”

Well as usual Lashaan is right and it had me thinking about physical description of main characters and how they usually “have to” fit the genre we read.

I used the “have to” on purpose and will test that theory.


Why do most people read romance?

Well I can’t speak for every reader of course but I read them to dream! To escape reality and live in a fantasy world.


If the main male character is bald, with a protruding belly and his breath smells of stale beer and cigarettes, chances are high that I won’t dream about him but rather have nightmares!

The character’s appearance must make the story believable!

And what do you have in romance? A love story!

I am not saying that in real life people who are not flawless can’t find love otherwise 90% of the population , me included, would stay celibate but every love story, even YA love story, begins with some chemistry between the two main character. It can be M/F, F/F, M/M. It can be at first sight or slow burn. But each time you have a “little something” happening between the heroes.

If the male MC is handsome it will be easier to believe in.

Handsome does not mean flawless! He has to have charisma or some cuteness. A cute shy nerd can beat a hot jock!

If you have a F/F love story it will be one (or both) of the main characters.

You would have a hard time buying it if the main MC was totally unattractive or even repulsive!


Of course we also have retelling of “The Beauty and the Beast” but most of the time we know or guess that there is a hidden beauty under that skin! And the hero is often not repulsive but rather different as in a beast versus a human.


Now let’s take the traditional M/F love story.

Does that mean that the female main character must also be very attractive? No!

Why? Because let’s face it, the majority (I don’t say all) of people reading romance is female. And we are not catwalk material most of the time but rather ordinary girls.

We will even have an easiest time identifying with the female MC if she looks just like the girl next door. Because we love the idea that you and me could be swept off our feet by the handsome hunk, even with uneven boobs and pudgy thighs.

I would compare it to the Disney movies and Grimm tales where the poor ordinary girl get chosen by the prince. It’s the EF as in Cinderella Effect 😀 

Is it double standard? Definitely!


I think that physical appearance and stereotypes are the most important in the romance genre.

If you read a crime book, I don’t think you’d care if your detective is bald and smelly. What you’d care is his mind, the way he would solve the crime and sometimes his little quirks that can fit in the genre. If he is attractive, so be it but that’s not really important. Other factors would play a major part like the atmosphere, the clues left behind to solve the crime or the mystery etc.

The same can be said about horror stories (and no, not all monsters are hideous you can have angelic faces and morph into a beast the page after); woman fiction etc.


Is it fair? Probably not.

Shouldn’t we have more romance with ugly heroes? Well good luck with really repulsive ones! You have exceptions of course but you’ll notice they all have something special to “make up” for their “uglyness” (see Beauty and the Beats above).


And to answer Lashaan I think the hotter the book, the most bodily description, bare chest and bulging biceps you’ll have indeed!

Now do share your thoughts with me!

Do you agree that physical appearance is not as important in other genres?

If you read F/F or M/M is it also important?

Could you read and love a romance story with an ugly character?


Thanks for reading!


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  1. I’m actually thinking whether i’ve ever came across a detective in a mystery who was bald & smelly… Can’t think of a main character detective being like that (they are usually fairly decent looking in the books i read), and the smelly ones are usually the side characters nobody likes to work with / have bad work ethic, and so on 😀 Villainising smelly people…

    I think it’s prolly more important in romance to have hot main character, but i also think “hot” is defined differently by different women so there should be some variations to suit different tastes 😀 (I’m guessing there are?)

  2. I think you nailed it on the head with “we love the idea that you and me could be swept off our feet by the handsome hunk, even with uneven boobs and pudgy thighs.” Those are my favorite types of romances for that very reason 😀

  3. Lol, Sophie! Great points and yes, I think attractive characters are mostly important to romance and what makes the romance believable. Now that you’ve got me thinking, the curious part of me is thinking what if a the reason the main characters are attracted to each other is because they are smelly. Haha – different strokes for different folks!

  4. I’m all for realism and representation – the dad bods, the “plain” girls – but I also read romance for escapism and often that means delicious men and beautiful women. And I’m okay with that. Is it sometimes unrealistic? Of course it is, But again… romance + escapism! I don’t need 100% reality when I read romance. So a dreamy guy with an average girl is a wonderful thing in my book! 🙂

  5. Alright the logic of this post is hilarious and pretty true as well. I do think that we will NEVER see the unattractive heroes unless its a beauty and the beast type of story. Now I wouldn’t mind seeing more average joe’s, that would be nice. But I doubt it will happen and if it does won’t be common. I have just accepted it is what it is and focus on the story and the romance.

    1. I think you are right even if average guys could seem sexy seen through the eyes of the female (or male) MC!

  6. Yep! All this! ALL of this! We read to escape and to believe that an ‘ordinary’ girl could have that super hot, buff, godlike creature of a man fall in love with you. It’s fantasy in its own way for reality is much different.
    It doesn’t mean we don’t love our ‘ordinary’ menfolk with their ‘dad bods’ or anything else but most of the books we read just wouldn’t work without the super hot dude. *shrugs*

  7. Hahahaha thank you so much for the shoutout. Sophie! I loved your insights on this subject and it’s super intriguing to see how important the stereotypes are in this kind of fiction. I also laughed out loud at “If the main male character is bald, with a protruding belly and his breath smells of stale beer and cigarettes” hahahahah An author who would take on such a challenge will be praised as a God in my books! 😛 Awesome discussion post as always, Sophie!! 😀

  8. Not necessarily ugly, because like you said, there needs to be attraction/chemistry, but maybe not perfection. I have not seen it often in adult romance heroes, but here and there, I am seeing less than perfect YA love interests. I distinctly remember one girl commenting on how the boy was a little soft in the middle, not fat, but she loved his eyes so much. It was cute the way she talked about him.

  9. Ooh can’t wait to hear about YALC.

    Okay “Handsome does not mean flawless”. I think that’s kinda it. You’re right, most of us are not gonna be enthralled if the character is described as ugly or nasty or whatever. That’s just the way it is. But they don’t have to be all hot and perfect either, like you point out. And like other commenters have said- there is some escapism involved haha.

    Although I would say- a love story with “ugly” characters might be interesting? I mean, maybe they’re beautiful INSIDE but seriously- that would be kinda interesting!

  10. LOL I saw your headline question and before I even read this, I had my answer. “Why don’t we see pudgy and lazy male MC in romance stories?” well, because then it would be too much like our own reality 😉 I love my husband despite the fact that his six pack is, as he puts it, “underneath all this fat” and he isn’t the most romantic guy in the world. He is my best friend and that counts for everything, but when I read a romance novel…I WANT IT ALL….the abs, the gorgeous guy, the stud in bed…

    1. It’s the same with me and my husband Tracey! And I am certain our men do prefer reading about beautiful women.

  11. As always, Sophie, not only do you come up with great discussion material, but then proceed to outline all the points we all think about, and answer them deftly! I couldn’t agree more. It doesn’t matter about the pairing, one can be plain but the other? Usually has to be fairly good looking or, otherwise, as you say, what’s the point. All romance is about what we dream about though know, isn’t reality for most of us, which is the point of why we like to read again, as you say, romances in the first place.

    It’s all down to escapism. And I believe all the best books, regardless of genre, have this romantic element that make them work. Well, at least for female readers that is. men, on the other hand, are a whole other story!

    1. Well Alexandra it would be interesting to know what our male counterparts need in their books Alexandra 😉