Dec 2 2013 10:30am

The Height of Passion: Tall Heroines in Romance

Big Girls Don't Cry by Cathie LinzIn romance, as in many things, a woman’s appeal is based on her contrasts to her male counterparts. A hero might notice that a heroine’s skin was so soft in comparison to the rough pads of his fingers, or the heroine might revel in the contrast of the hard planes of his chest against the soft swells of her bosom. But how a hero and heroine interact is often changed when those contrasts are lessened. He might be a towering giant to her delicate flower, but some heroes might find these delicate flowers off-putting and require a heroine who would be more his equal. Enter the tall heroine.

The hero finds her striking, where society has often found her graceless and unfashionable. Particularly in historical romance novels, the heroine’s height is noticeable compared to her contemporaries.

It should be noted that I am not a tall person. On a bad day I am even considered short, Hobbit-like, if you will. For me, as with many people, I like to find a heroine who is similar to me—give me a short, plus-sized, shy bluestocking/nerd (depending on the genre) any day! But even I, who searches for my identical literary twin in every book, love a tall heroine. Just practically speaking, it certainly makes kissing seem much less arduous—no weird angles and stooping to get to your heroine’s lips. No, our heroes can go lip-to-lip and nose-to-nose with their tall heroines!

Often, the tall heroine comes as a double-edged sword—both curvy and tall. Cathie Linz’s Big Girls Don’t Cry offers us Leena, who is returning to her dead-end hometown after fizzling in her dead-end plus-size modeling career. While it’s never outright stated that Leena is tall, certain assumptions can be made since she’s a model.

Surrender to a Wicked Spy by Celeste BradleyOlivia from Surrender to a Wicked Spy by Celeste Bradley is another curvy and tall heroine. Though we’ll have to forgive her hero, the larger-than-life “Viking god,” who often describes her as “sturdy”—he is a man after all. The book opens with one of my favorite meet-cutes—Olivia’s mother pushes her into the Thames so she’ll be saved by the passing eligible bachelor/Viking god and turns around and must save him. Dane is a very large aristocrat and it is because of his largeness that he feels awkward around the dainty debutantes of the ton.

Perhaps he ought to be ashamed of noticing that she was a healthy armful and that she fitted rather nicely against him. Most young ladies seemed to aim for a sort of wispy daintiness. It was refreshing to be this close to such a sturdy female. She felt rather ... unbreakable. He always felt somewhat uneasy when he came too close to some of the more petite women in Society. His common sense told him that he was not going to crush them during a dance, but his imagination supplied many an awful vision anyway.

She was attractive, as well, in a healthy country-bred sort of way.

Dane and Olivia’s initial wet encounter leads to marriage (drat, her mother won!), but is one of my favorite books in Bradley’s Royal Four quartet.

In Sarah MacLean’s No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, Mara again offers a nice armful to make the very large Temple (the name is fitting) feel less ungainly himself.

She’d been long and full of curves, made just the way he liked his women, a match for the height and breadth that was too often his curse when it came to them. He did not like feeling like he might crush a girl.

Jack Byron of Tracy Anne Warren’s Seduced By His Touch is a tall hero as well, but does not have as many hang-ups about his size as Dane or Temple. Seduced brings together a few tropes in another all-time favorite of mine. Grace Danvers is a red-headed, bespectacled, reluctant heiress who is about to get her petticoats seduced off of her as Jack sets out to seduce her in order to pay off a debt to her father.

If you want to see Grace, go to Hatchard’s this afternoon at four. She’ll be the tall one with red hair. Knowing me girl, she’ll most likely have on her spectacles. Don’t be late.


E. G. Danvers

A tall redhead with spectacles, Jack groaned in his head.

At least it ought to make her easy to spot!

Never a Gentleman by Eileen DreyerEileen Dreyer’s offers us a tall, plain spinster in Never a Gentleman who has inadvertently gotten herself married to Diccan Hilliard—and Diccan is less than pleased (read: mean) about the arrangement.

Why her? Grace Fairchild had to be the most honorable, well-respected spinster in England. She was also the most unfortunate. Taller than most men, she was, to put it baldly, plain. His Aunt Hermitrude looked better, and she was sixty and slew-eyed. To make it work, Miss Fairchild didn’t walk. She lurched like a sailor on shore. Whoever named her Grace must have been blind. Whoever put Diccan in her bed had been cruel.

While Diccan is often considered a statue come to life, Gena Showalter’s The Stone Prince actually is one. Jorlan is tall, handsome, and a warrior from space—and he needs the equally statuesque Katie to fall in love with him. In The Stone Prince, you need to read between the lines to see Katie’s tall form, as Jorlan is so tall he considers her tiny. While he may be alien, he’s male enough to notice her long legs.

Through half-lowered lids he watched her legs close the remaining distance between them. She had the legs of a warrior maiden: long, slender, firm, the kind that wrapped around a man’s waist and held on till the end of the ride.

Chas O’Neill in Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins also knows how it feels to not be considered desirable because of her height. She’s almost six feet tall and surrounded by brothers, but soon she finds her heart entangled with two men, where height isn’t that big of an issue.

Almost a Scandal by Elizabeth EssexIn the case of Elizabeth Essex’s Almost a Scandal, Sally Kent uses her long legs and tall form help her stay disguised as a boy in the Royal British Navy—yes, she’s tall AND a chick in pants! Instead of making her feel unattractive, her height makes her feel powerful.

It wasn’t the first time Sally Kent had donned a worn, hand-me-down uniform from one of her brothers’ sea chests, but it was the first time it had felt so completely, perfectly right. She had always been tall and spare, strong for a girl, but dressed in the uniform of His Majesty’s Royal Navy, she felt more than strong. She felt powerful.

Do you find yourself reading lots of books with tall heroines? Do you prefer them over the smaller heroines that are considered the norm?


Jennifer Proffitt is a Midwest transplant to New York City. She spends most of her time reading and writing about romance, but you can follow her other adventures on Twitter @JennProffitt. She works for Heroes and Heartbreakers and Criminal Element.

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1. carmenlire
I've read all of these books, except one I think. I never really notice tall heroines unless their height is a real problem/emphasized in the book. Such is the case for Grace and Diccan.
Just as a sidenote, the first time I read Never a gentleman I remember finishing it and admiring just what a great book it was. I reread it maybe a year later and was appalled. Diccan was such an unmitigated ass and I don't think he redeemed himself at all at the end. Grace deserved much better. Ok, sorry, rant is over.
Jennifer Proffitt
2. JenniferProffitt
@carmenlire, Rants are fine, and, in fact, encouraged! We want you to be passionate and you wouldn't be if there wasn't the occassional rant. I was just talking about a similar reaction to books as the one you're describing, because I typically have a very strong, very positive reaction to books when I first read them and then once I get some distance from the book I recognize all of its flaws.

In Never a Gentleman, Diccan is a total ass, and, unfortunately, while I did enjoy this book (and I love Grace), he's a very hard character to like. Let alone see what Grace loves about him.

What book do you think you didn't read? I'd love to know!
Wendy the Super Librarian
3. SuperWendy
I like tall heroines, and I'm not just saying that because I'm tall (for the record, a shade over 5'9"). I tend to get annoyed with those short cuts. Hero is Giant Hulking Man. Heroine is teeny tiny and so often the way the author writes it she needs a ladder to climb up to kiss him. To often this is shorthand for Protector Meets Damsel In Distress Rescue Fantasy and....I'm kinda over that. Not that there isn't shorthand for tall heroines (they're wallflowers, spinsters, overlooked Plain Janes etc.) - it's just I find those shorthands more appealing :)

I was sitting here thinking of recommendations and the only one that came to mind at this moment was Land of Dreams by Cheryl St. John. Historical western. Was published by Harlequin Historical in the 1990s, but the author has since self-published. Reasonably priced in digital. Heroine is nicknamed "Too Tall Thea." Plain Jane spinster. Hero meets her and immediatley thinks all the men in town are blind and dead stupid because she's still unmarried. I don't recall her being curvy. I think she's one of the rare "beanpole tall" heroines.
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