You, dear reader, most definitely recognize the name and are conjuring up the flowing hair, the square jaw, and the open shirt displaying a musculature only rivaled by Arnie’s. But Fabio hit his stride in the ‘80s and ‘90s, years of Dynasty and Dallas, big hair and big shoulders, and, apparently, big men. Now pushing sixty, Fabio has long been in retirement, but his wannabes roll on, it seems. Jimmy Thomas, now thirty-five and weighing in at 220, claims he has graced more than eight thousand romance covers. Somewhat in the Fabio mold, his bared broad shoulders and come-hither eyes have been a huge success. But is this what women really want? Maybe we want the eyes concentrating on only us, the longing that’s been made evident there, but is that really the body we long for in our beds?
For me, it’s a definite ‘no.’ The thought of some well-oiled muscular body in my bed is not at all enticing. For openers, doesn’t all that breadth of thigh and chest make the part of the anatomy that really matters look incredibly small? Lost even? And do I want someone with longer hair than mine, hanging in my face as he lies above me, wisps finding their way into my mouth? I think not. No, I don’t want flab and I don’t want someone thinner than my good self, but neither do I want to find myself in bed with Robo-man, some cartoon character or washboard/six pack combo who I’m afraid might smother me should the idea strike—and whose brain is, in ratio, smaller than his abs. I ask you, what is the attraction?
To research this post, I checked in at http://popkittybookreviews.com/top-ten-10-hottest-romance-cover-models/ Top 10 Hottest Cover Models? Well, there was one I was actually attracted to: Hollis Chambers. Looks like my kinda guy: buff, handsome, athletic, but not overly muscled. I’d have him in a Stetson—and my bed—any day of the week. The same could be said of man of the moment, Jason Baca, who graces the cover of Come Love a Cowboy. Fit. Nice looking. Not overly large. So is my aversion to the Mr. World, Atlas kind of guy an unusual repugnance—am I alone, or have I got cohorts in this apparent peculiarity? Do women want Fabio back in the picture or was that a passing fashion just as Jean Harlow and Mae West gave way to Jane Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe and they, in turn, have given way to the anorexic coat-hangers of today. For the answer, I turned to my fellow authors in the anthology, Come Love a Cowboy. And there seems to be something strange going on here.
Best-selling author Keta Diablo seems to agree with me; she tells me she’s “never gravitated toward body-builders or muscular men. Seems I've always been attracted to lean men of average height or somewhat taller. They can have muscle, but not the ones you see with huge biceps and massive chests.” Best-selling author of ‘The Snowbird Series,’ Hebby Roman, says the same: “My body type for a guy is muscular but not muscle-bound.” And Patti Sherry-Crews is of like mind: “I don't go for the big muscular guy, and whenever I see a character described as having "thick thighs" it's a turn-off for me, but I believe I am in the minority on this since I see it so often as a turn-on. So, yeah, in choosing a cover I might go with bulky-muscled guy since that seems to be what the reader wants.” Is it what the reader wants? Award-winning author Julie A. D’Arcy seems to think so, although, again, that sort of man is not her type. She says, “I married an average height, rugged looking, muscly shouldered, football player with a good sense of humor.…I am not that wrapped in seeing half naked muscle bound guys on covers, but they seen to appeal to a lot of women that buy romance novels.” Kathleen Ball, author of numerous best-selling western romance novels, also sees this dichotomy—“In real life I love a fit well groomed man. On my covers I love 6 pack abs. A big smile and a cowboy hat…"
Other authors seem to prefer—no surprise here!—the same man they married, or would date. Best-selling and award-winning author Caroline Clemmons says, “I like clean shaven, clothed even if the shirt is partially unbuttoned, dark hair, blue eyes, nice shoulders. That is the type that also appeals to me individually (my husband).” But perhaps it was Margo Bond-Collins who had her finger on the pulse. Margo told me, “I adore the hard-bodied men on the cover of many romance novels--at least in an abstract, appreciating-the-aesthetics kind of way. I think they're lovely to look at. And hot bodies and hard muscles are great in fiction. In my own life, I don't care what people look like. I am attracted to kindness, to generosity, to intelligence, to wit, and to strength of character. I find that the people I love become beautiful to me, regardless of whether they fit into any culturally approved standard of beauty.”
So perhaps the answer is that we, as authors, are selling fantasy and the fantasy is that the muscles, broad shoulders and Greek god looks personify the strengths we seek in a partner. We wouldn’t necessarily seek out a man who looked like that, but those attributes are symbols, on a book cover, of the inner strengths, care, protectiveness, love and attention that we do want in our men.
Eight stand-alone Contemporary Western Romance novellas from Bestselling and Award Winning Authors.
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Luke’s Fate by Kathleen Ball
Meg O’Brien hoped never to lay eyes on the one man who broke her heart. To her dismay, Luke Kelly arrives at her ranch a much different and broken man. Can Meg ever forgive his callous treatment of her and help Luke become the man he used to be?
Grant Me The Moon by Caroline Clemmons
All Tory Fraser intended was to show her high school history club students a local archeology dig. How could she know the excursion would involve a murder?
Three for The Win by Keta Diablo
Hollis should have known better than to fall for a bone-melting man like Stede. He’s gone now and Eli is left to pick up the broken pieces of her life.
Border Affair by Hebby Roman
When his partners’ daughter is kidnapped in México, a self-made millionaire must confront his feelings about their affair and the future of their relationship.
Leaving Necessity by Margo Bond Collins
Mac has one week to convince his ex-girlfriend Clara not to sell his oil company. In this high-pressure reunion, can they strike love again?
The Shape of Destiny by Julie A. D’Arcy
A young male shape shifter. A beautiful female ranch owner. Can love be born in a web of deceit?
Bad Boy, Big Heart by Andrea Downing
She’s a New Yorker escaping her parents. He’s a Wyoming cowboy supporting his dad. One summer, two young people—three months to find love.
Desert Heat by Patti Sherry-Crews
A single mother struggling to keep her guest ranch puts her own desires on hold. When a handsome and persistent fireman sets his sights on her, she must decide how much she’s willing to give.