One of the criticisms the romance genre regularly faces is how "perfect," physically speaking, its characters are — how even the self-conscious characters turn out to be beautiful. I'm calling foul on this complaint, and here's why:
In romance, our characters fall in love with each other. It's a somewhat obvious statement, but an important one. Often, our characters' physical descriptions are shared with readers through the eyes of their romantic match. In other words, through the eyes of someone who is attracted to that character — who by definition finds him/her attractive.
When we fall in love, we focus on those attractive characteristics: the twinkle in his eyes, or the elegance of her hand; the breadth of his shoulders, or the lush curves of her lips, etc. We don't look at the person inspiring these feelings and judge him/her by the contemporary commercial standards of beauty. So you probably won't hear the hero in a romance complaining about his love's waistline, or the heroine about lack of muscular tone. These characters are seeing the best in their intended partners, and in their eyes, their match is beautiful. Perfect.
Of course, there are also some authors who only write to contemporary standards of beauty, describing a physique that is nearly unattainable for us mere mortals (paranormal romance sort of gets a pass here!). Many of us, though, know that one's ability to find love isn't conditional on an arbitrary definition of the "perfect" body, but rather on a deeper and much more personal connection between our characters. We write about real people, of all shapes (yes, including those matching commercial standards — they deserve love too!) finding the love of their life.
While you almost certainly won't see our characters picking apart the physique of their match, you will absolutely see them praise the attributes they find to their liking. That heartfelt appreciation, and attraction, is precisely why characters in romance novels almost always come across as beautiful.
This post originally went up as part of the My Crazy Corner 2015 Romance Blogfest.