May 13 2014 11:00am

Where Have All the Bearded Cover Models Gone?

An Unwilling Husband by Tera ShanleyToday 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!

Chin Strap
Mutton Chops
Flap Wings
Chilly Cheeks

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.

Bearotica, edited by R. JacksonScruff 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:

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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.

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Krissy Daniels
1. Krissy Daniels
Bearotica! Oh, I needed that giggle today. I love my hubby with a trimmed goatee, but the big, bushy beard fad is hot in Seattle right now. I don't like it. Too hard to kiss a man with fuzzies on his face. You're right about the covers. I don't think I'd pick up a book with a bearded model. Not that there's anything wrong with that *wink, wink*
Krissy Daniels
2. Cate
Where have the bearded cover models gone ? Well ... they've moved to Austria, changed their name to Conchita, and just won the Eurovision Song Contest ! :)
Tera Shanley
3. TeraShanley
Krissy, maybe some of the Seattle-ites would like some of the "Hot & Hairy Fiction" then ;) and I'm with you. I would (and have) definitely picked up a cover with some fantastic scruff, but not full beards. But then again, I haven't been able to track many down!
Tera Shanley
4. TeraShanley
Cate, maybe she'll inspire a beard revival ;) Wild West style, pew pew.
Krissy Daniels
5. Joanne Wadsworth
This post was so funny. And come to think of it, I haven't seen a bearded man even walking down the street in a long time. I'm glad though. I like them clean-shaven or with a touch of stubble. Not that I go kissing said bearded me as they walk down the street. That was just an observation. LOL.
Tera Shanley
6. TeraShanley
haha, so true, Joanne! I don't see many either where I live! and I just got a lovely visual of bearded men running from droves of women in the parking lot of the local grocery store, haha.

I read about a study that explains women are instinctively attracted to men who can grow thick facial hair over men who don't. Crazy!

Kristina Mathews
7. Kristina Mathews
I like a well trimmed beard, in real life and on some of the baseball players I watch. I'm not a big fan of pitcher Tim Lincecum's mustache, though. I kind of feel bad because he looks like he can't quite grow one. Teammate Madison Bumgarner shaved his beard but then grew it back in about three days. I don't care for the soul patch, it looks like they're dribbling chew spit or something down their chin. And the full on Duck Dynasty mass is too much.

I have mixed feelings about the hairless models on book covers. On the one hand, I love the guys on my first two books. They're pretty hot, but they'd be even hotter with a sprinkling of masculine hair.
Tera Shanley
8. TeraShanley
Ewey yeah! Baseball players can grow some awesome facial hair! Now that I think about it, NFL players have some great facial scruff too.

I actually like a little masculine hair too. trimmed of course, not long and curly and springy ;) I haven't had a book with a shirtless man on it yet, but I wonder what my publisher's cover artist would say if I put "chest hair" in the comments section of the cover art forms, haha.
Krissy Daniels
9. Gemma Brocato
I think facial hair is a fine art and I agree 100% on Ryan Reynolds. I'm not a huge facial hair kind of women. Although I did have a boyfriend once who sported a full beard and made that cover model for Bearotica look nearly hairless. Didn't care though, because that man could kiss.
Tera Shanley
10. TeraShanley
Who would've even thought Ryan Reynolds could grow and epic beard like that?!!


and whoooo, Gemma! You have me all curious about this bearded schmexykissin' ex of yours ;)
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