Today we're delighted to welcome author Tera Shanley to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Tera's latest release, An Unwilling Husband, is a western historical with a proper Bostonian lady heroine—and a rough cowboy who has no choice but to accept her help—and her hand in marriage. Tera is here to talk about beards, and the lack thereof, on romance novel covers. Thanks, Tera!
Fan of facial hair or not, you have to admit, there are some awesome names out there for a man’s natural grown face blanket. The Wild West was peppered with incredible jaw pelts, but the fashion has dwindled over the last century, leading me to wonder why.
Perhaps it was that women didn’t have as much say in the way the male gender adorned themselves back then, or maybe they just liked their men as rugged as possible. Maybe it was the lack of disposable razors and the inconvenience of straight razors and hard gathered warm water. Or maybe it was simply that Old West women didn’t mind having the top layer of their epidermis scraped off from rough whiskers.
Have you ever kissed a bearded man? I have, and it was awesome for exactly two minutes and thirty-seven seconds. About that time my thoughts started drifting off. I wondered—in my head of course because my lips were terribly busy—but I wondered if scientists had invented Chin Chapstick for kissers of scruffy men. And if they had, could I buy it at the local pharmacy or would I have to special order it?
These days, the fashion is for a man to sport a baby smooth face or sexy scruff. I can’t recall ever reading a book where the hero was bearded. Jamie Fraser from Outlander wore a beard from time to time, but only out of necessity as he seemed to like his jaw smoother to avoid the itching.
Facial hair seems much more common in television and the list of actors who can pull it off is never ending—Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Somerhalder, Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Robert Pattinson, Viggo Mortensen, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Cavill, Colin Farrel. So eye catching to look at, but even in the movie Jeremiah Johnson, Robert Redford’s character notices his lady sporting some pretty painful looking rawness around the lower half of her face after a night of fiddling around under the old bear skin. He shaved his face immediately for her comfort, bless that thoughtful man.
Scruff is sexy, but to what extent? Book covers are smattered with scantily stubbled men, with just the right balance of edge and whisker, but what length is too long? Two day shadow? Three? I found two Goodreads lists made exclusively for great bearded heroes, and do you know how many bearded men were on the covers of those books? Three out of one hundred. If the books on those lists have a man on the cover, they are cleanly shaven, hairless wonders. Now, maybe that is because there is a definite shortage of bearded cover models to choose from, or maybe it’s because women tend not to pick up covers with overly hairy men on them.
I did come across a book titled Bearotica: Hot and Hairy Fiction with a heavily fuzzed man in full beard on the cover. Perhaps men with too long facial hair fall into the category of fetish now, since we live in a culture where men are supposed to be as hairless as a baby mole rat. I admit I can’t look away from well-done facial hair to save my life, but when it comes to writing, my heroes have stubble at most. It’s just too difficult to make Chin Puffs and facial Landing Strips sexy. Unfortunately for Wild West cowboys, the way of the handlebar mustache has gone the way of springy chest hair, especially on romance novel covers. Though, if Ryan Reynolds circa Blade: Trinity ever called me up and asked to be the cover model for one of my novels, I’d write a beard right onto my hero with a grin on my face. My heroine would just have to deal with stubble rash.
I utterly failed to find a recently released Historic Western Romance cover with a face-furred man on it. As writers, we strive for authenticity when penning historic fiction, but when it comes to the covers, readers are visual. We don’t want to see windblown two foot long beards and sweeping Horseshoe mustaches sprouting from our book boyfriends’ beautiful faces. I’ve come to the conclusion that beards and mustaches are the hairy shoulders of the cover model world.
What do you think? Is facial hair hot or not? Have any of you read a book with a great bearded hero in it?
Learn more about or order a copy of An Unwilling Husband by Tera Shanley, available now:
Tera Shanley writes in sub-genres that stretch from Paranormal Romance, to Historic Western Romance, to Apocalyptic (zombie) Romance. The common theme? She loves love! A self-proclaimed bookworm, she was raised in small town Texas and could often be found decorating a table at the local library. She currently lives in Dallas with her husband and two young children and when she isn’t busy running around after her family, she’s writing a new story or devouring a good book. Any spare time is dedicated to chocolate licking, rifle slinging, friend hugging, and the great outdoors. For more information about Tera and her work, visit www.terashanley.com.