Feb 7 2014 9:30am

Waxing the Undercarriages: Manscaping on Romance Novel Covers

What a Rancher Wants by Sarah M. AndersonToday we're delighted to welcome author Sarah M. Anderson back to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Sarah's latest release, What a Rancher Wants, has one of our favorite tropes, where the hero falls for the best friend's little sister (plus there's scandal, and betrayal, and sheltered upbringings). Sarah is here to talk about men and their manscaping. Thanks, Sarah!

A few months ago, I wrote about my personal bias toward/against women waxing their pubic areas and asked readers what they thought about heroines in romance novels who do/do not shave, wax, laser, or otherwise tame their “ladygardens,” as one commenter so delicately put it.

I was in the ‘can’t be bothered/too cheap/don’t like pain or regrowth (itchy!)’ camp. But there were a surprising number of people, both readers and authors, who are all for paying gardeners to manicure the greenery, so to speak.

Pros for trimming the hedge included how it felt for the heroine during sex, how the heroine felt during sex and, let me see, how the heroine felt during sex. And, frankly, that’s a pretty darn good list of reasons. If it works for you, go for it!

This leads us to the inevitable question (you saw this coming, right?): How do you feel about heroes who wax?

Magnum PILet’s get my personal bias out of the way first: I watch Magnum, P.I. in the evenings when I’ve made my word count. Tom Selleck is pretty much the poster boy for a man who embraces his hairiness with an open . . . mustache. I have been known to live-tweet his body hair on twitter. (Long Live the 'Stache!)

So I was perturbed when the trend swung the other way not so long ago. Suddenly, ripped, hot men were not only shaving their faces, they were waxing their backs. And their chests. And . . .

And their—um—how to delicately phrase this—their…undercarriages.

Yes, men are waxing—and, given the pictures I am most certainly NOT looking at on the internets or tumblrs, they’re waxing everything.

But is this what we want our heroes to do? Do we want hairy dudes or smooth dudes? Or something somewhere in the middle?

Why don’t we look at some shirtless abs on romance covers and come to a consensus? (As an aside, I find that looking at shirtless abs on romance covers solves a LOT of my problems.)


So I did what I always do when I need to research a topic—I asked Twitter for their favorite hot shirtless abs on covers and called it a ‘sample.’ To the results!

First, let’s look at the nearly hairless:

Rescued by a Stranger by Lizbeth Selvig features a very attractive man who has no body hair to speak of. Clearly an example of hair today, gone tomorrow!

Jaci Burton’s sports guys got MANY nominations for hottest set of male abs—specifically Melting the Ice and Playing to Win. Chest-hairless dudes, both of them—but good LORD the muscles on the football player! Frankly, his shoulders distract me from the whole hair issue.

And I would be remiss not to include my own shirtless, hairless dude, Mystic Cowboy. But what he lacks in chest hair, he makes up for in long hair. I may be biased (okay, I am) but I love Rebel.

Then I started to get suggestions that featured hairless chests paired with scruffy cheeks. I love a good five-to-ten-day-old beard on a hero—yum.

First, we have Shadow’s Stand by Sarah McCarty. Note the five-day-old stubble he’s rocking—and the complete lack of hair on his arms or face. And the belt. Wowzers.

The Arrangement by Mary Balogh was nominated by Tiffany Reisz. I can’t tell for sure because he is technically still wearing that shirt, but I think he’s chest-hairless and I don’t think he’s shaved in a couple of days. It gives him a debauched look, which works for me.

But lo! What’s this? Abs with chest hair? Do my eyes deceive me?

It is! CHEST HAIR! Thank Tom Selleck!

Keri Ford’s book Satisfying Her Tastes just barely squeaks into this category. He definitely has arm hair and what could be the faintest downy little layer of chest hair there.

Then someone turned me onto Cara McKenna’s Unbound. Cara told me, “I love that they let Rob keep his chest hair! I'm also glad it's not so glaring that you can't notice anything else.” I’m also very glad they let Rob keep his chest hair. Very, very glad.

But hands down, the hairiest heroes around were Lori Foster's. Several delightful readers pointed me in the directions of When You Dare and Trace of Fever.

When You Dare features that is-it-or-isn’t-it chest hair which is just fine, because dude, those pecs!

But Trace of Fever, hands down, takes the chest-hair cake. Not only does that guy have chest hair, but he’s angled so all that glorious hair actually catches the light. That’s right—they’re highlighting the chest hair. Praise be!

So, what do you think? Are you in the Tom Selleck camp, where his chest hair is practically a character in its own right? Or do you like your cover models so very, very smooth—all the better to appreciate those muscles with?

Learn more or order a copy of What a Rancher Wants by Sarah M. Anderson, out now:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & NobleBuy at Indiebound



Award-winning author Sarah M. Anderson may live east of the Mississippi River, but her heart lies out west on the Great Plains. With a lifelong love of horses and two history teachers for parents, it wasn’t long before her characters found themselves out in South Dakota among the Lakota Sioux. She loves to put people from two different worlds into new situations and to see how their backgrounds and cultures take them someplace they never thought they’d go.

When not helping out at school or walking her rescue dogs, Sarah spends her days having conversations with imaginary cowboys and American Indians, all of which is surprisingly well-tolerated by her wonderful husband and son. You can learn more about Sarah at

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Y'know, my tastes have really changed over the years. When I was a teenager I'd have said hairless all the way. Nowadays I actually find hairless weird and would go for that Lori Foster cover-level of hairy all the way.
Fiona Marsden
2. Fiona Marsden
Give me hair lots of hair under starry skies above
Don't wax it clean
Let me run fingers through it, grip my man while we do it
Don't wax it clean...
Fiona Marsden
3. Keri Ford
I'm a lot like redline_ hairless all the way when I was a teenager! Now give me a MAN. then's hard to resist a Jaci Burton play-by-play cover.
Jennifer Proffitt
4. JenniferProffitt
I think the Lori Foster Cover is pretty much my ideal! And Hugh Jackman has been my ideal man for a really long time (like even as a teen), and he's pretty hairy, so I guess I've always been OK with it. My one place I won't go: hairy bellies. Not. Cute.
Heather Waters
5. HeatherWaters
"Now give me a MAN."

Ha ha, I couldn't have put it better, @Keri Ford. EXACTLY.
Fiona Marsden
7. Sarah M. Anderson
Clearly, you people are my people!!

@Fiona--I'm going to be singing that song ALL DAY LONG.

@Keri--Yes. So much YES!

@Redline--I wonder if that's normal? Is that what most of us go for? Because I was the same.

@Jennifer--I really think it depends on the belly. And the treasure trail.

After I wrote and submitted this blog, I read a GQ article about grooming and how much hair the ol' undercarriage should sport and the woman doing the talking made an argument that hairless was like watching the flagpole resing on beanbags, but you shouldn't have so much hair that it could wrap around your thumb. So I think she was advocating for a light trim, not shaving. I think I was okay with that. What do you guys think?
Jennifer Proffitt
8. JenniferProffitt
@Sarah M. Anderson, I'm not talking Treasure Trail, totally okay with that, and, in fact, encourage it. No, I'm talking full-on belly hair--and back hair. We're mammals, we're meant to have hair. And a guy is a guy. I think part of the appeal of men is the contrasts they have with women--and vice versa--so as Danny Castellano said: You're a woman, look like a woman--and if you're a man, look like a man. That being said, I don't like it when it looks like a dude is wearing a shirt when he is shirtless.
Fiona Marsden
9. Sarah M. Anderson
@Jennifer--well, I actually married one of those guys, so I am a lot more forgiving of overall body hair, I guess. He doesn't mind the stretch marks or thunder thighs, I don't mind the full-body carpeting!
Fiona Marsden
10. Jan Murphree
I like the hair! Trim it down below...and leave it!
Jennifer Proffitt
11. JenniferProffitt
@Sarah, oh no, I totally agree. IRL, I think those things are fine, and we want someone who "doesn't mind the stretch marks or thunder thighs," because long-term commitment is about more than looks. I'm talking about in an ideal situation where we're drooling over the hunky male models on a romance novel cover, in a purely superficial and shallow way. There's a great quote from 500 Days of Summer about Dream Girls (and could apply to dream boys) that says:
“I think technically 'The Girl Of My Dreams’ would probably have like a really bodacious rack, you know, maybe different hair, she’d probably be a little more into sports, But truthfully, Robyn is better than the girl of my dreams. She’s real.”
Fiona Marsden
12. Sarah M. Anderson
@Jennifer--OH! AH! Okay, yes--it may be a tad too early in the morning now because yes, I TOTALLY get your point now.

Never mind me. *drinks more tea* *admires more shirtless heroes*
Tiffany Dover
13. tiffany_dover
While I enjoy looking at the hairless chest and abs, I feel like it is more masculine to have the hair. That's testosterone baby! Yum!

Add an aside, many of the cover models seem to be exactly skinny.

Can somebody please put a man-sized man on one of the covers? They're all man-sized in the books :-)

I'd prefer to drool over Duane "the rock" Johnson all day over the skinny ab-taculars. Just my opinion. :-)
Nicole Neal
14. icecharm
I have had a VERY hairy man and a (naturally) chest-hair-less man, and I have to say I prefer the latter. For the ... undercarriage, I would definately want there to be hair or I would think I was with a pre-pubescent! I already feel like a pedophile when I look at pretty 18-year-old guys since they are younger than my son!
"Flagpole resting on beanbags!" HAHAHAHA!
Jennifer Proffitt
15. JenniferProffitt
@tiffany_dover, I agree with you on wanting to see manly men on the covers when they're manly men in the book. But sometimes I think that they're either not man-sized in books, or they're TOO man-sized.

Also, I think there's a bit of a chicken or the egg scenario going on here. When the hero is scarred for example, and obviously pretty on the cover, there's a huge outcry. But would we buy a book with a horribly disfigured hero on the cover? Who knows. **Sweeping Generalization Done, Back to Manscaping!**
Fiona Marsden
16. JulieS
I think a man needs to look like a man, not a boy. Why is it we must constantly change our looks and likes to what the cover girl/boy models look like? Hair was put there for a reason people. A little neatening fine.
Fiona Marsden
17. Njoy21
Love the chest hair with the happy trail, but not too much hair. I want to see those gorgeous pecs and six pack abs.
Fiona Marsden
18. Sandra Dailey
Give me a hairy chest to cuddle up to and I'm happy.
Fiona Marsden
19. Melody Gonser
I prefer a medium hairy chest but not on back.
Fiona Marsden
20. Susan K Davis
I like a little hair on the chest and there is no way I like a man that shaves his armpits or lower. I like the undercarriage natural. If a man has body hair, let it alone! I like bare chests, too but ONLY the chest. Hairy arms are sexy to me. When did men start thinking they needed to shave any place other than their face???
Carmen Pinzon
21. bungluna
@Susan K Davis - when the marketing mafia finished screwing up women's self-image and decided to expand their stranglehold onto the male segment of the population. Must sell all those products, y'know.

I come from a culture where "real men" are hairy, so I was actually attracted to hairy males when I was younger. As I grew older, the hairiness attraction diminished, but I still like some hair on my eye candy. I especially admire a well defined 'happy trail'. ;-D
22. traderscoobies
Chest hair for sure! My ideal is Henry Cavill. #drool I love when I'm reading a description of the hero and he has chest hair. So hot!
Fiona Marsden
23. Sarah M. Anderson
WAIT! I have a Very Important Question!

'Treasure Trail' or 'Happy Trail'? I'm seeing both here--but I've only ever seen Treasure Trail!

What do you think???? Enquiring Minds NEED to know!
Fiona Marsden
24. Mzcue
Another vote for the men with man hair. The metro-sexual guy never did it for me as a romantic hero. Waxed chests (and worse) make me think of having to compete for mirror space in the morning...and who wants to read about heroes like that? Nope, nope, nope.
Patricia Wilkerson
25. Proofreaderpat
A moderate amount of man hair is nice.Gorilla hair,not so much!(no to baboon also)
Fiona Marsden
26. Shark with Lasers
Count me in with liking some hair. Burt Reynolds posed for Playgirl on a bearskin rug one time, and he has just the amount I like to see on a man. I am especially fond of the triangle of hair on the pecs of a mature man. It's nice to run your fingers through it.
Fiona Marsden
27. bookaday
Sarah, I have only ever heard Happy Trail - never saw/heard Treasure Trail until I read it here. When I was a teen/college kid, we always talked about hot guys and started singing the song "Happy Trails, to you..." when he had a sexy HT! I definitely prefer a guy w/some chest hair. I always thought the weirdest cover was for a book called Rejar by Dara Joy. The main character, Rejar, shape-shifts into a cat - but in his "man" body (on the cover, anyway) he is completely hairless - long hair, but no chest hair, no armpit hair, nothing!
Fiona Marsden
28. Kari Lemor
Oh, yes, to chest hair. Not gorilla like but definitely enough so that you know you're with a MAN not a boy. And the Happy Trail is one of my favorites *sigh*.
The thing I don't understand is having a guy who doesn't bother to shave his face but he has time to shave EVERYTHING else. And arm hair... why would you ever get rid of arm hair? I find that very sexy as well.
I also laugh at the romance novels where the guy is a cowboy or military and has a waxed chest. Really?? When does he have time to do this and why would he even care? It seems really silly to me. Leave the chest hair (and other hair) alone and let us enjoy!
Fiona Marsden
29. Marieta89
Team hairy here.I must say, however, that i draw the line at hairy shoulders and backs.Hair above the collarbones doesnt thrill me either.
Also, some grooming/trimming is only thougtful.I'd rather avoid eating hair, and a manjungle would make that difficult indeed.
Cindie meincke
30. Cindie
My man at home doesn't have hair on his head, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the hair everywhere else! The light that reflects on the red hair on his arms just makes me crazy! I think it is crazy to shave and deal with the stubble that will scratch, and the unsightly ingrown hairs that result. I vote hair!!!
Fiona Marsden
31. Abra S.
I am definitely a fan of body hair! I like the hair across the chest and the happy trail. So sexy. I work out at a gym that body builders frequent. Five O' Clock stubble all over the body is not sexy and that's what I think of when I see the hairless bodies on covers.
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