Note: I am reposting this from xanwest.wordpress.com. It was written and posted in February 2017.
It’s hard to find a good m/f romance centering a fat heroine. Mostly what I find is characters with lots of self-loathing, who diet continuously, cover up immediately after sex, and assume that the hero doesn’t really want them or that a thin woman is going to steal him. Sometimes, if I get lucky, the sex is really hot. Sometimes they learn to accept their size through the love of a good man (or in at least one case, men). Sometimes they get bullied or harassed for being fat, often to rescued by the hero. Sometimes they lose weight. I think of these as fat negative romances. Despite the happy endings, they reinforce fatphobia. Sure she may learn to trust he actually wants her by the end, but the bulk of the story is mired in fatphobia.
I’m going to talk about three m/f romances centering fat heroines that I particularly appreciate. They all have something in common: they are funny, lighthearted fluff. Which frankly I really need in my reading life these days.
I fell hard for Bet Me, by Jennifer Crusie, years ago, and reread it about once a year. It’s hilarious, and charming, and extremely well written. The fat heroine is smart, angry, sexy, and complicated. The hero is a complex, nuanced character and she sees right through his charm. The dialogue is zingy like a 30s romantic comedy directed by Howard Hawks, and the sex is really hot. There’s this great chosen family. It’s a fun retelling of the Cinderella story. And there’s a scene with a donut that I won’t spoil for you, but it’s wonderful.
There’s just one big problem: fatphobia. The fat heroine has a pretty intense amount of self-loathing around being fat. And she’s constantly dieting. Plus she has a mother who is emotionally abusive in intensely fatphobic ways. Sure, she eventually stops dieting and learns to love her body and know she’s sexy (because the hero shows her how). Plus the scenes where Min actually eats and enjoys food are pretty damn satisfying. And the scenes where she stands up to her mom are great. But you have to slog through all that fatphobia to get there.
It’s a cut above most fat negative romances. The story doesn’t buy into dieting at all, it counters it. It doesn’t buy into her self-loathing, but challenges it frequently. She gets described as sexy and fat over and over, in luscious detail, but not in a fetishizing way. You get to see her enjoy eating. You get to see her triumph over her mother’s fatphobia. The story is complex and not mostly focused on her self-loathing around being fat. But still…the fatphobia is rampant and everywhere in Bet Me, and is fixed by love, and that makes for a difficult reading experience.
There are a few romances with chubby heroines where her size is mentioned occasionally, usually using euphemisms, and mostly just isn’t a thing. I enjoy those. The heroines aren’t on diets or trying to lose weight, they don’t hate their bodies, or learn to love them. They fall in love, and have hot sex, and get happy endings, and their size isn’t really part of the story much at all. I think of these as fat neutral romances. They challenge fatphobia indirectly, by not including it as part of the story, and through creating the same kind of happy endings for fat heroines that are generally given to thin heroines. I value these romances a lot; they are a balm in so many ways.
So Sweet by Rebekah Weatherspoon is my favorite of this sort of romance. It’s sweet, and funny, and the heroine is fabulous. I really love Kayla’s voice; her humor and her thought process are wonderful to witness, and the way she phrases things cracked me up and tugged at my heart. There are small references to her size throughout the story, usually using euphemisms like plus sized, thick, chunky, and curvaceous. I love the way Kayla’s not at all self-conscious about her size, and how clearly she knows she’s hot. She’s blunt about the ways that fatphobia and racism might mean that she wouldn’t be successful as a sugar baby, but it’s never from a place of self-loathing, just realism. This story doesn’t celebrate her size, or treat it like a problem, it’s just her reality. It’s written in first person from her point of view, but there are a few moments where you get to see how hot the hero is for her, and how attractive he finds her. Mostly her size is not made into a big thing, for anyone.
This is the first in a trilogy, and it’s a charming, light hearted billionaire romance novella. It centers a heroine who is doing sex work for the first time, out of economic need, and while it has an arc of her falling in love with a client, it doesn’t do that in a way that is judgmental or negative about sex work. (Weatherspoon has another sex worker heroine, in her butch/femme f/f romance Treasure, and I found that portrayal respectful as well.) Kayla is bisexual, and has mostly queer friends, and that’s just casually included and dropped into the story. I love m/f stories where one or more of the main characters are queer. (Weatherspoon also has another one of these, Sated, which is my favorite book of hers, centers two switches, and has a bisexual hero.) You really get to see Kayla’s desire for Michael, and I adore that about this book, especially because honoring the desire of fat characters is rather rare. The sex scenes manage to be both hot, and also quite funny, something this author is very good at doing. There is priceless (and hilarious) dialogue in this book, and it’s one of the main ways characters and conflicts get revealed. This is a hallmark of Weatherspoon’s books, in my experience, along with strong compelling voices and heroines I want to be friends with.
I really like fat neutral romances like this; they are safe and lovely reading experiences that feel like warmth and comfort, and I want there to be an abundance of them, especially funny ones like So Sweet.
And I yearn for more.
I want romances that describe fat heroines as beautiful and sexy, in luscious detail. I want romances that don’t shy away from using the word fat to describe the heroine’s body. I want to read about love interests that are full of desire for the fat heroine, including desire for her body, not despite it, and I want to see that from their point of view. I want to see heroines that openly acknowledge their own size and are not even thinking about losing weight. I want fat heroines having gloriously hot sex and honoring their own desires. I want complex characters in complex stories that aren’t focused on the heroine’s fatness but don’t mostly ignore it. Basically, I want the best of Bet Me combined with the best of So Sweet. I want fat positive romance.
It’s hard sometimes, to dream of something more, especially when there are no models for it. Especially when you are so hungry that you will take crumbs and savor them. So, I am incredibly happy to tell you about a new romance coming out this month, that is full-on fat positive romance: The King of Bourbon Street, by Thea de Salle. And I’m going to gush.
This book is incredibly hot, so damn hilarious, and is exactly the kind of fat positive romance I want to see much, much more of. The writing is so damn good. The dialogue in particular cracked me up, and I loved being inside both of their heads. Rain made me laugh out loud, many times.
This is another m/f romance with a bisexual main character, in this case the hero, Sol, who is quite open about it, with little fanfare, in a way I really appreciated. He also has other queer folks in his life, including his ex-wife Maddy (who is getting her own book soon). Sol’s a switch, topping for the first time, and there are some really lovely moments of him reflecting on that, and having new top nerves. The kink is ferociously hot: D/s with some pain play, a lot of orgasm control, a light thread of objectification, possessiveness and sexual service, and these wonderful hints of feral play. This is most definitely an erotic romance, and it is deeply and persistently kinky. Rain’s desire is so clear and central, and so is Sol’s, and the BDSM is both realistic and careful.
Rain is described as fat. The book uses that word. Not just once, but repeatedly! And her fat body is described as beautiful and sexy in delectable detail. The text really lingers on these descriptions, especially from the hero’s point of view. But not in a creepy or fetishizing way. Just in this way where you get to savor how hot the hero thinks she is. It’s continual, throughout the story, this lovely thread of fat positivity. I’m going to share a longish quote that meant a lot to me.
So, there’s this thing that often happens in romances with fat heroines. If they take off all their clothes, it rarely works like a reveal that’s appreciated by their love interest. It’s rushed through, or not discussed. You don’t get to pause in the moment of first nakedness, the way you often do in romances with thin heroines. And after sex, the fat heroine generally is very uncomfortable being naked and covers up immediately (something that makes me so uncomfortable that I wrote a whole blog post about it). In The King of Bourbon Street, we get to linger in the first moment Sol sees Rain naked, and we get to see it from his point of view. It’s wonderful, and detailed, and raunchy, and deeply fat positive, and I just paused and breathed for a bit after I read it.
“It was a moment that seared into his memory. She was short in stature, yes, but solid, broad across the shoulders with heavy breasts, rosy nipples dark against her creamy skin. A wasp waist over hips to die for. So much hip, so much ass curving down to thick thighs that had looked amazing next to his ears. A golden triangle of hair pointed the way to her plump, pink lips—they glistened already, and he wanted to dive between them, but not yet. He was still looking at her, appreciating her. Little hands, little feet, a mane of wavy golden hair, and dainty, doll-like features. She was a Disney princess compacted to barely more than five feet tall with a killer set of curves.”
You get to see Rain through Sol’s eyes a lot, and he constantly thinks of her as gorgeous, as sexy, as delectable. It’s just lovely. He also sees her very much from a dominant’s point of view, and that resonated so deeply for me. The scene in that chapter ends like this:
“He reached for her hair, fisting it at the nape and pulling her head to the side so he could see her beautiful face. She was ecstatic; her lips parted with her screams, her nostrils flared, her tears slid down her flushed cheeks. She’s mine. She’s gorgeous. And she’s all mine.”
I love this moment, have been in a similar dominant place myself. One of the things I most enjoyed about this book was how it really let me spend time in the dominant’s point of view during play. That’s quite rare, and it definitely raised the heat level for me as a reader.
In so many ways, this book is right up my alley. I wanted to mention a couple things that might be hard for some fat readers.
First, this book is in disguise. By looking at the cover or reading the blurb, you would have no clue that this book centers a fat heroine, and is fat positive. Of course, this was not the author’s choice. It is something worth noting both because I think it might be hard for some fat readers, and also because I think fat readers might be less likely to find the book because of that. (I’m hoping this post helps point people to it!)
Second, Sol often thinks of Rain as sweet things like cupcake or pastry, partly to evoke that he finds her delectable and wants to devour her, but also because he thinks she’s adorable. I personally liked it, because I found it a combination of endearing and a bit predatory in a kinky feral way, but I did want to mention it, as other fat readers might feel differently.
The King of Bourbon Street is my new favorite romance centering a fat heroine, and I am so glad it is going to be out in the world soon! It is by far the most fat positive romance I have ever read, and it’s also just a really good read: well written, hilarious, and so damn hot.