Beautiful Heroines? Bah! Humbug!

 

At 13, when I started getting interested in boys, all the heroines in romances seemed to be head-turning, heart-stopping beauties, with bee-stung mouths. Long hair tumbled to their shoulders or was worn in a carefully tousled chignon, like Brigitte Bardot.

One look, one flutter of those eyelashes, and the hero would be smitten.

I’d already suspected that this was how things worked, because my best friend was beautiful, like a young Elizabeth Taylor.

When we started Grammar School, cool fifth-formers with Elvis quiffs would pass her crooning, ‘Wh-a-a-at is luurve, five foot of Heaven and a pony-tail.’ (The song goes on, ‘the cutest pony-tail, that sways with a wiggle when she walks.’ )

I, on the other hand, was more Beryl-the-Peril – small, sturdy, self-conscious, blessed with hair that frizzed in damp weather and a tendency to flush easily.

How could I ever inspire love?

Because this was how the world worked, wasn’t it? So cruel, so unfair! It was a terrible blow.

Then, I read Jane Eyre.

MP

Here was a heroine, as plain and self-conscious as myself (and Charlotte Bronte!), who still sparked passion in the hero. I started to see that passionate relationships could be generated by great conversations, argument and humour.

Ever since, I’ve been drawn to books by Carol Shields,(Republic of Love, Happenstance) Anne Tyler,(all books!) Barbara Trapido,(Temples of Delight, Noah’s Ark) all confirming that belief.

So, I’m afraid my own heroines are condemned never to be beautiful! Too easy for them! Too dull, too predictable!

In An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy – Annie has a limp. I’d been tempted to give her a stutter, too, but thankfully was talked out of it!

Gerardina, in The 20’s Girl, is no beauty, either.

So, is it just me? Does anyone else prefer plain heroines?

If you do, I’d love to hear about them.

June

 

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About Lizzie Lamb

I write contemporary women's fiction mostly based in Scotland with hot heroes, feisty heroines and always a happy ending. Along with three other authors - Adrienne Vaughan, June Kearns and Margaret Cullingford - I formed the New Romantics Press under which all our books are published.

Posted on May 5, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 45 Comments.

  1. Great post June and very thought provoking. Your heroines are beautiful but not in a conventional way, they are spirited, quirky, highly principled and above true to themselves. Hence they capture the hearts of two very different, very handsome men!

    Also, I am a great believer in ‘eye of the beholder’. For example, Princess Margaret was stunning but when I look at pictures of the Queen at the same time, she is the true beauty to me. Always Sophia Loren above Bridgette Bardo, Elizabeth Taylor above Marilyn Monroe, and above ALL their contemporaries Emma Thomson and Meryl Streep are truly beautiful in my eyes.

    …and to my mind, while youth is totally, mind-blowingly sexy, confidence and vitality at any age is what makes and keeps someone attractive, smother me in positive aura any day of the week!

    By the way, happen to think you’re rather gorgeous too…now who do your heroines remind me of?

  2. Great post: Miss Piggy has got it all!

  3. I’m with Adrienne on this. I never could understand why the aunt I adored and my contemporary friends found the plainest of my acquaintances , beautiful when I admired the beauty of girls no one else remarked on.. However, I do find some widely admired film stars beautiful so I can’t be sufficiently abnormal, to make it a back-handed compliment when I agree with Adrienne on your own appearance,

    • It took me a long time, Margaret, to see that nice people somehow become really attractive in our eyes, while difficult people quickly lose their charm.
      My early best friend was nice as well as gorgeous, though. Grrr.

  4. Hm, well, I like Miss Piggy and there’s a lot of her in my heroines – opinionated, sassy, beauties but they don;t know it and care less, but – like Miss Piggy – they have a soft centre. I hope that’s what attracts my heroes to them, the fact that if he wants to win her he’s got to try just that little bit harder. Let’s face it, we all want Kermit to love us, don’t we? As for beauty – I think confidence (but not overweening) is what attracts us to people. Eye of the beholder and all that. But a heroine ( no matter how beautiful or not) is a complete turn of for me if she’s a whinger. If I wouldn’t like to be friends with my heroine and hang out with her then she won;t make it past the first page.

    • Your heroines are very attractive characters, Lizzie, but have just realised, you barely mention their physical attributes. It’s what they say and how they act that makes you root for them.
      Um, it’s well known that you don’t like whingers!

  5. newromantics4

    Reblogged this on Lizzie Lamb and commented:

    I must admit that my heroines need to have something ‘beautfiul’ about them – but it can be a wit, a great sense of humour of a sense of self.

  6. For me a plainer heroine is more realistic and means I can connect with her more. However, I do like them to be able to ‘scrub up’ when needed and that’s pretty much the same for heroes too. I don’t want either to be perfect because no-one is in real life.

    Interesting post, thanks June.

    x

  7. Lorraine Hossington

    Hi June, I have to say I do like a heroine who is plain. The fact that Annie has a limp draws you to her. Knowing that she isn’t perfect in every way makes you want to know her more. No one is perfect, and for me beauty starts from within. I loved her and Colt.

    And Lizzie, I so agree with you about Miss Piggy! I always loved her and Kermy.

    Lorraine x

  8. ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. I love my heroines to be feisty, independent and loyal – when you sparkle on the inside, this shines through to the outside. Great post.

  9. Reblogged this on June Kearns and commented:

    Beautiful Heroines? Bah! Humbug!
    Well,that’s what I think. You might possibly disagree!

  10. Great post, June. Jane Eyre has been my favourite novel for as long as I can remember and part of the attraction is that this plain girl could inspire such passion and devotion. What I loved about Jane was that she never compromised or settled for less. Just because she wasn’t beautiful in the traditional sense it didn’t mean she was willing to forego her principles and beliefs. She had belief in herself. I loved that.
    I must admit it’s the same with men. I am drawn to quirky looking men who, at first, I find unattractive. Then their personality will start to come through or they’ll do or say something so lovely that suddenly they’re beautiful! (Although I do love The Musketeers!)
    Definitely it’s the personality that makes the heroine beautiful. No one wants perfection. Far too scary to live with! 🙂

    • My own feelings exactly, Sharon! Thanks for commenting.
      I think Jane Eyre must have struck a chord with a lot of Victorian women. Its a grand book.

  11. janelovering

    I always think that if the heroine and hero are beautiful then so many problems are just wiped away for them…Much prefer the ‘real’ heroine, the one who can be okay looking in the right light but doesn’t have that ‘head turning’ thing that makes every man pant after her (in which case she really doesn’t have to work very hard to get the hero, does she?). I can’t identify with the drop-dead-gorgeous, in either the hero or heroine, so I prefer those who are more ‘ordinary’. Plus they tend to have far more personality, on account of not having spent their lives having things handed to them on a plate! Jane Eyre every time!

    • Thank you, Jane!
      Like you, I think it’s far more interesting if the heroine becomes appealing in less obvious ways than looks – in how she behaves and what she says.
      I’m still put off when things seem to come too easily to her.

  12. Great post, June. I’m always far more interested in the heroine’s character and how she reacts to situations than what she looks like. I think that’s the same in life as well. Some of the most attractive women aren’t classically beautiful, but have a vitality and an air about them that makes them appealing and appear very beautiful, I think.

  13. Thanks so much for that, Georgina.
    These have all been fascinating comments.
    I agree that personality, character and humour are the real charmers.
    Wish I’d known that when I was thirteen!

  14. I’m not interested in physical attributes when I read a story, I prefer to use my imagination.

  15. Margaret Cullingford

    To be honest June, I’m at a loss to answer this one. I really don’t give a stuff what they look like as long as they don’t frighten the cats. A heroine for me is someone with backbone, who thinks for herself, works through anything and everything that’s thrown at her with fortitude and humour. When I tell you my favourite female film star of all time is Katharine Hepburn – think African Queen, in that is she plain or is she plain? – As a teenager/young woman she was my role model – not Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, the other Hepburn. I rather liked the way Katharine always gave the male protagonists in her films as good as she got, and nevertheless always got her man. Just felt way to go, and if they can’t hack it then they’re not worth having. Hope that’s an answer of sorts.

    • It’s a perfect answer, Mags!
      Katherine Hepburn was a fabulous example of a woman who used her wits rather than wiles.
      My fave was The Philadelphia Story, where she played opposite Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart.
      There’s divine casting!

  16. Love that Beryl the Peril line!

  17. I thought Gerardina was beautiful! Great romance, btw, enjoyed every page. Thank you. (I laughed when I saw the passing reference to a book called the Captive Heart. That was the title of my first book for M&B).

    • Elaine! That’s amazing – we must have a psychic connection!!
      Thank you so much for your lovely comments, and for following up our conversation on Twitter. Great to meet you.

  18. My pleasure. Would you mind if I contacted you soon? I’d like to know more about how you self-publish.

  19. Thanks. Have you considered writing a sequel? It’s got all the ingredients for one.

  20. Oh dear, I think I’m alone here – I prefer heroes and heroines in books to be at least pretty attractive! I’m not talking god and goddess like perfection, but I don’t see anything wrong in people making themselves as attractive as they can be, and I’ve never fancied any of the modern heroes of ‘lad lit’ who are often a bit wimpish. As for women, I like heroines who are attractive, intelligent and strong. My favourite of my own is beautiful, but doesn’t make a big thing of it, and gets annoyed at being judged on her looks. I like looking at good looking people, as I like looking at beatiful pictures/scenery, so I suppose I like reading about them, too. I don’t find I identify with a heroine more, just because she can’t be bothered to get her eyebrows plucked (even though I often can’t be bothered to get mine done!!!!)

    • Don’t think we’re disagreeing, Terry! My turn-off was always the heroines who were soo attractive that everything seemed to come really easily to them.
      Gorgeousness clearly runs in your family,( I’ve seen the evidence!) so perhaps we’re looking at it from different perspectives! Although un-plucked eyebrows would definitely be several steps too far!

  21. Ah Miss Piggy is witty and funny and that stays the test of time! And Katherine Hepburn got the man despite thinking for herself and having a smart tongue. 🙂 SD

    • Margaret Cullingford

      Couldn’t agree more, Sandra. Must say Hepburn used to be my role model. Still is when I think about it..

  22. I say very little about my heroines physical attributes as I like my readers to build up their own image of how she looks. I do think that she is better looking than she thinks she is and hope that this comes across in the attention she attracts. I’m never keen on too much repetition about someone’s looks anyway in a story, I just want the story. I prefer to hear more about personality and why someone is the way they are rather than the way they look.

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