Our culture is full of downer messages about the romantic prospects of curvy ladies. From the multiplex to the Fiction and Literature shelves, it can seem good things wait for “After.” Fortunately, many romance novelists stand ready to offer a counter narrative. We’ve touched on this subject before, but here are 10 of my personal favorites.
The Bride and the Beast, Teresa Medeiros
When the local villagers decide the self-declared Dragon of Weyrcraig wants a virginal snack, plump, opinionated Gwendolyn is basically their only option. And so the rational-minded woman is left tied to a stake in an abandoned castle courtyard in a rainstorm. As it turns out, the Dragon is actually the rightful chieftain of Clan MacCullough, back to avenge his family’s death. And while the villagers might doubt Gwendolyn’s ample charms, he wants to eat her alive.
Seize the Fire, Laura Kinsale
Her Serene Highness Olympia of Oriens has some very grand ideas about the changes she’ll bring to her country, once she’s installed on her rightful throne. But she’s a bit naive, and therefore picks as her protector the cynical war hero Sheridan Drake. The two end up marooned on a icy deserted island. Away from the real world, romance blossoms, and we get some truly tender moments. For example: Some of Olympia’s considerable weight melts away under starvation conditions. Sheridan promises, “The instant we get back to civilization, I’m going to put you on a strict course of comfits and rich puddings, I assure you.”
Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie
When Cal Morrisey first meets Minerva Dobbs, she’s wearing a unflatteringly boxy suit and fuming over a breakup. He thinks: “No way.” And yet the universe keeps throwing them together, and pretty soon Cal realizes he’s very, very attracted to the prickly Min. Pretty soon he’s peering down her shirt and frenching her on a park bench. When her mother tries to scold Min about consuming carbs at dinner, he grabs a roll, butters it for her, and tells the woman to can it (though not in so many words). It’s swoon-worthy.
Night Play, Sherrilyn Kenyon
Bride’s just been dumped, via FedEx. Her own FedEx account, as a matter of fact. Her TV-personality boyfriend has decided he needs a girlfriend who’ll help advance his career, and Bride is simply too portly to fit the bill. It’s a low point. Then into her boutique walks the stunning Were-Hunter Vane Kattalakis, who (in a previous book) fell in lust at first sight with the curvy redhead. He proceeds to buy her a super nice necklace she’s been pining after, tells her she’s beautiful, carries her to a dressing room, and blows her mind.
A Whole Lot of Love, Justine Davis
Men always fall for Layla Laraway’s sexy voice, and CEO Ethan Winslow is no different. He agrees to participate in a bachelor’s auction at an Alzheimer’s fund-raiser partly because it’s a chance to meet her. Layla thinks she knows what to expect from the meeting, and it’s not much — she’s watched too many faces fall in disappointment at the in-person reality of her figure. But after a moment of hesitation, Ethan realizes that while she isn’t what he thought he wanted, the reality is even better.
The Corset Diaries, Katie MacAlister
A genealogical researcher and therefore constantly in need of money, Tessa takes a job on a reality TV show called A Month in the Life of a Victorian Duke. She starts to get nervous when she realizes she’ll be filling in for a lovely slender blonde woman, and she’ll be living in close quarters with her on-camera husband, the charming (and young) Max. When they do hit it off, it unleashes all sorts of insecurities about her smooshiness. But Max doesn’t see smooshiness. He just sees sexiness.
He Loves Lucy, Susan Donovan
He Loves Lucy isn’t perfect. It’s the sole book on this list with a plot revolving around weight loss, which makes me hesitate to include it. Hotshot marketer Lucy Cunningham lands a fitness club’s account with her pitch: They’ll take one woman, hand her over to personal trainer Theo Redmond, and follow her progress on the local morning show. She’s none too pleased with the condition that she be the test subject. Lucy is convinced she’ll be working with a dumb, pretty jock, but Theo turns out to be basically a saint. He’s a considerate guy who’s good at his job, and he supports a little brother with Down Syndrome. And he falls for Lucy before she slims all the way down.
Romancing Mister Bridgerton, Julia Quinn
Penelope falls head-over-heels for Colin Bridgerton as a young woman, but she doubts the handsome gentleman will ever reciprocate. She’s plump and shy and an utter wallflower, and besides, Colin seems the type to travel forever rather than settle down. Her own mother is convinced Penelope will remain forever unmarried, caring for her parents in her old age. But one day he returns home and really starts paying attention to Penelope and realizes he can’t live without her.
Too Much Temptation, Lori Foster
In a genre that’s never shied away from sweet secretary characters, Grace Jenkins stands out as one of the sweetest. She works for Agatha Harper, calmly managing the irascible old woman’s life. All the while, though, she’s making calf eyes at Agatha’s hunky grandson Noah. She stays in the background until Noah catches his fiance cheating and breaks off the engagement. Grace rushes over to comfort an intoxicated Noah, one thing leads to another, and suddenly she’s gone from shy virgin to enthusiastic sex slave.
Suddenly You, Lisa Kleypas
Amanda Briars is a plump spinster. She’s settled comfortably into the role, and her successful career as a novelist means she’s able to live well without relying on anyone else, despite her unmarried fate. While content with her life, she decides she wants to know what she’s missing out on and requests a male prostitute as a 30th birthday present from the notorious Mrs. Bradford. Mrs. Bradford is no fool, so she takes the opportunity to match Amanda up with her publisher, the swoonworthy Jack Devlin. Jack’s also smart as a tack, so he sees Amanda as the desirable woman she is.
By day, Kelly Faircloth covers innovation and technology. She spends the rest of her time reading and writing about books. Her work has appeared at io9, Inc and The Big Money, and she blogs intermittently at www.NoKindaLady.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyFaircloth.