Today’s guest review is from Penny Watson, a romance author and reviewer and connoisseur of beards. You can find more of her writing on Penelope’s Romance Reviews.
Always The Chunky Bridesmaid, Never The Chunky Bride
I can’t be the only person who finds it odd that a majority of romance novel heroines look like a Barbie doll, (slender, long legs, perfect breasts, shimmery hair), when in reality the average woman is a size 12-14.
The fact that just a handful of mainstream romance novels have non-slender heroines (Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon comes to mind; Bride, the heroine, is a size 18), is ridiculous. I also find it discouraging that books with chunky women need their own trope designation: BBW (Big Beautiful Women). Why? I don’t think it’s catering to folks with a fat-fetish. I think that many romance readers are uncomfortable with the notion that a real woman, not a Barbie doll, can be found attractive, and…GASP!…fall in love.
Usually the chunky girl is the “side-kick” in romance. While the heroine (size 2, with perky breasts and legs “that go on forever”–how many times have you read that line?) gets the swoon-worthy guy, hot sex, and her HEA, the chunky side-kick is usually good for a few laughs and some snarky dialogue.
It’s telling that a plethora of physical imperfections are acceptable–scars, lost limbs, etc–and yet a few extra pounds are viewed as a fate worse than death. At least in Romancelandia.
There are two issues going on with the “plus-size” heroine. One is personal body image. And two is sexual chemistry/attraction with the hero.
In the few novels I’ve read with non-slender heroines, body image is one of the main sources of internal conflict. It’s rare to find a larger character who is confident and happy with herself. This of course leads to conflict within the relationship arc…how can the hero possibly find the heroine attractive if she doesn’t look like Paris Hilton? Are his feelings real?
Well, FLIRTING WITH THE CAMERA by Ros Clarke was a breath of fresh air. For the first time in years I found a book where the heroine was chunky, beautiful, and confident. In fact, she is pursuing a modelling career. This was my first novel by Clarke, and I loved her matter-of-fact writing voice with its UK-flair. I also loved that there was a strong sexual connection between the H/h right from the beginning, and Hattie’s vibrant personality and lush body were instantly appealing to the hero. Because the hero Tom is a photographer, Hattie’s vivacious personality–which translates well onto film–is one of the main focal points of the story. Yes, Tom is also attracted to her copious curves. But as we all know, real-life chemistry isn’t just the sum of our body parts. It’s much more than that. And Clarke shows how these two characters forge an instant attraction that grows and develops believably over the course of the novel.
There were a lot of details that felt very real and authentic to me. The very bittersweet and touching relationship that Hattie has with her mum is one. Her past abortion, which she reveals to Tom in a very matter-of-fact way without the melodrama, also felt realistic. Tom is not a larger-than-life hero, he is a normal guy who makes a lot of dunderhead moves. The only really dramatic moment in the story is the final photography show, and I adored the grand gesture, which ties in the photography theme and real romance.
Clarke plays around with the concept of being behind the camera and in front of it. I liked how Tom is aware that he is at fault for poor photographs, not because his subject has failed, but because he has failed to remove his own barriers.
I actually got a bit teary-eyed at the end. And it wasn’t when Tom and Hattie reunited (although that was sweet and satisfying, too). It was when Hattie and her mum are standing in front of the huge portrait that Tom has taken and displayed at his first art show:
“You’re beautiful,” she heard her mother whisper, as though she’d just discovered an extraordinary truth…
She felt the same. She never wanted to stop looking at it. She’d always believed that she was beautiful. Had no shame in her body…[Tom] had shown her beauty to the whole world.
That was the most emotional moment of the story for me. Tom had always seen Hattie’s good and beautiful qualities, but Hattie’s mother was a constant source of sadness. That line was wonderful and touching.
I really enjoyed this story and I’m looking forward to reading more novels by Ros Clarke. Grade: A-/B+
Let’s just wrap things up with a couple of chunky girls with attitude…
Vanessa, do these pants make my butt look big?
Yeah, they do.
Finally, take a peek at this most excellent video…REMIX by NKOTB, starring Artemis. Chunky girl stuck on the sofa? I think not. Chunky girl is hot, sexy, and not afraid to work it. Damn it, I love this video.
WHO GOT THE LAST LAUGH?
Rocking the attitude,