Torsos. Bare, naked, hairless. Muscular – shall I go on? You’ve got the image already – right? But are you slightly irked by the fact that the one in your mind is hairless? Would you really prefer I had instructed you to think of a dusting or even a carpet of dark, springy chest hair that you could run your fingers through as you absorbed the curves and plains of the firm pecs? And that as your fingers trailed the flat male nipples, they were fully encircled by a dark ring of hair that ticked your lips as you kissed then flicked your tongue across them, hardening them, emboldening you, as you heard a deep male groan of satisfaction….
In other words, does your mind candy extend to the seventies, Blue Stratos Man? Or are you more of a twenty first century ‘buff and toned and oiled’ gal?
As I was dancing the night away at the Harlequin Black and White Ball in the world famous Waldorf Astoria Starlit Lounge last Friday (I know, life can be incredibly hard sometimes) I watched a slideshow of the covers from some of our most beloved romantic fiction authors. Apart from making me incredibly wistful for my own man’s torso, I realised that there doesn’t seem to be much of a market for a chest rug these days. But are our readers getting what they want from the art directors? Or are we being presented with what we are supposed to like rather than what we actually like?
A quick straw poll of girlfriends, gay friends, daughter and niece reveals that – we like smooth and we like a little. And some of us like a lot. It all depends on the man. We like a man who looks after himself, but is not a narcissist. We like muscle built by work, not steroids. We like definition. We like pecs and abs and we love, love, love to run our fingers over those ridges until we get to the dusting of hair that encircles the navel and leads…right…on…down…to where we all want to go next. Phew. Well I do!
Ultimately, it’s the man we love, not the trope. Which means we can adjust our ideals.
So when I’m creating a hero, like Rocco from my current book, The Playboy of Argentina, I’ll know from who he is and what he does, the type of torso he’ll have. Rocco’s very darkly male – a street child who made it. He’s a fighter and a lover. He keeps himself fit and doesn’t waste time with nonsense. I certainly couldn’t see him going for a back wax. Or the rest…J. He has a little bit of body hair that merely enhances rather than obscures his incredible physique. But its Rocco that Frankie loves. His mind, his heart and his body: muscle, hair, battle scars and pure, hard maleness.
And there’s absolutely no truth in the rumour that my own fantasies of smooth, golden skinned, muscled perfection are emerging in Rocco’s step-brother, Dante, in my current work-in-progress, just because I’ve been so deprived of the real thing this past month. Harlequin Balls in the Waldorf are all very well, but they do have their downside!
How do you feel about heroic tropes? Join the discussion in the comments!
Bella's latest book, The Playboy of Argentina, is out now:
Polo-playing legend Rocco Hermida once blazed through Francesca Ryan’s life like a hurricane, leaving behind a trail of emotional devastation and unfulfilled desire. Meeting him again, Frankie’s horrified to discover that the passion Rocco ignited is still simmering… and one scorching kiss drives it to boiling point!
Rocco has always seen Frankie as unfinished business, so a brief fling at his luxurious Argentinian villa seems the perfect solution! Seduction is easy for Rocco – but then one night with Frankie isn’t enough…
Can he risk letting her in on the dark secrets he hides – his toughest challenge yet?