Guest Post~Debut Author Jennifer McQuiston ~ Giveaway

Look who's visiting Forever Book Lover today, none other than Jennifer McQuiston, the debut author of What Happens in Scotland.  I absolutely loved her debut book and couldn't wait to ask Jennifer to visit.  Jennifer's stopping by to discuss beards, you heard me, beards.

Beards in Historical Romance: Where is the Love?
By Debut Romance Author Jennifer McQuiston, 
What Happens in Scotland

Thank you so much for having me on today! And I am especially excited to be here talking about what just might be the most undiscussed topic in historical romance: Beards.

Or rather, the lack thereof.

During my formative years—let’s generously call them the eighties and early nineties—beards weren’t cool. That doesn’t mean they aren’t cool now. Today’s hipster generation, with their “in your face” profusion of facial hair, is a notable indication the beard is becoming more mainstream, at least in educated and artistic cultures.

And yet… my forty-year-old cougar tendencies aside… I am still not sure about them.

Don’t get me wrong—I don’t dislike beards. I would characterize my reaction to beards as ambivalent, more than anything else. But, like many of us, I cut my teeth on historical romance, and this genre of fiction clearly establishes the following as an irrefutable rule: Romance heroes do not have beards.
Let me repeat that.

Romance heroes. Do NOT. Have beards.

Don’t believe me? Pull twenty random historical romances off your keeper shelf and thumb through them until you come to the description of the hero. Black-haired or blond, tall or muscular, I would wager good money that 9 times out of 10, the hero is clean-shaven, despite the fact that (at least for the Victorian era in which I write), men very often had facial hair: copious, hysterical, unhygienic amounts of it.
Nope! No Beards Here!
That isn’t to say these romance heroes couldn’t grow a beard. Many of the heroes in my “keeper” books display five-o-clock shadows that cry out for the ministrations of a valet or barber, suggesting they at least possess the capacity to have a beard. And the scientist in me argues that the lack of beards in historical romance is counter-intuitive. Biology suggests that this secondary sexual characteristic is one evolutionary trait that promotes attractiveness, as it is an outward sign of fitness as a mate.

What’s Not to Love Ladies? Victorian Hotties had beards!
Unfortunately, despite the recommendation of science, romance heroines do not seem interested in Darwinian theories of mate selection (and it should be noted that the decidedly unromantic Darwin sported a beard that would have put my grandfather to shame.)

Perhaps an Argument Against Beards…

No, romance heroines apparently want heroes who are simultaneously sympathetic and strong, nurturing and powerful. 

In short: they want a man who CAN grow a beard, but who chooses not to.

In Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (Act II), the shrewish Beatrice says:  “Lord, I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face: I had rather lie in the woolen…”  When Leonato suggests that perhaps she could find a husband without a beard, she then goes on to admit she is a tad conflicted about the whole thing: What should I do with him? Dress him in my apparel and make him my waiting-gentlewoman? He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man: and he that is more than a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him.”

Which really brings us ‘round full circle.

Beards: you either hate them…or you don’t yet realize you want them.

When I penned my debut historical romance, What Happens in Scotland, I really didn’t think much about the fact I gave my hero a beard. After all, I had also given James Mackenzie a legitimate reason to have his beard: he is the historical equivalent of a hipster, a self-made man who eschews the customs of his aristocratic father. The beard is but an outward example of his inward angst.

Like all good romance heroines, Lady Georgette Thorold isn’t too sure about her first glimpse of James’s beard either. Of course, given that she can’t remember a thing she did last night, her lack of appreciation for the naked, bearded man in her bed could perhaps be understood!

Evidence of her bed partner’s own state of disarray peeked out from beneath the covers, hinting at their interactions of the previous evening. A muscled calf, scattered with a dusting of dark hair, flexed alarmingly. The sheets shifted as he turned over, revealing a head of brown hair. He sported a full beard that no young man in London would have suffered without a wager first being laid down, but it did not hide the Patrician slope of his nose or the sensual slide of his lips. In sleep, his face looked peaceful. Appealing in a masculine sort of way.
And terrifyingly unfamiliar.
“Dear God, what have I done?” she whispered. Clasping the shirt tighter against her body, she picked her way closer and studied his features, trying to jog her memory for some hint of what he meant to her, or she to him. He looked to be in his early thirties. His hair showed a tendency to curl at the edges, and the brightening light of dawn caught the glint of red in his dark beard. His eyelashes lay like a smudge against his lightly weathered cheek, making Georgette’s pale, pampered skin feel insipid by comparison. No slice of recognition accompanied her perusal, though standing this close to him brought a rush of heat to her limbs.  
“Please, please, at least be a gentleman,” she muttered, trying to decide if the sleeping man looked more like a footman or a peer. The shirt she held against her was of fine cotton lawn. But most gentlemen of her acquaintance weren’t quite so… muscled.

Of course, one would never know from looking at my stepback art that James Mackenzie has a beard. (Not that I object to the choice of cover model… wow!) But wouldn’t he look just as manly with a little bit of a beard? Or even a 3-day stubble?

Now that you’ve seen Georgette’s initial reaction to her hero’s beard, I would love to hear reader’s thoughts on the subject. Love them? Hate them?


I suspect many of us fall in that third category.

And that is just the way we like it.

Jennifer McQuiston writes lively historical romance set in the decidedly beard-friendly Victorian era. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her beardless husband and two children. A scientist by training (and, in fact, married to an evolutionary biologist) Jennifer admits she is a fan of Darwin’s theories, even if she is not a fan of the man’s atrocious beard.
To celebrate her debut release, Jennifer will be giving away either a hard or e-reader copy of What Happens in Scotland to one random commenter. .   Good luck and thanks for stopping by!!

Tell us, do you prefer a man with facial hair:mustache or beard or not?

Please remember to leave your email or we don't have a way of getting in touch with you.

And for those of you who find themselves haggis-curious, she will throw in a bag of these Haggis-flavored potato crisps, in celebration of all things Scottish!  


Ashlyn Macnamara said... Best Blogger Tips

Hmmm... I honestly prefer a clean-shaven man. Or a bit of stubble. I can deal with that. That said, though, I did once date a man with a full beard. It was nice and soft, though, so kissing him wasn't too scratchy.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

I do not like moustache or beard at all. Too messy!lol I prefer a beautiful shaved face! And I prefer men with dark hair! I would love to read Jennifer's new book. I love historical romance. the book cover is gorgeous! thank you for the nice giveaway!

Diana Quincy said... Best Blogger Tips

I prefer a man without one. With a beard, how would we see a man's strong jaw line? Now, if he has a weak chin, I'm all for a beard to hide that flaw!

Jennifer McQuiston said... Best Blogger Tips

See, I was really in the same camp! All those years... and then my very first published hero has a beard. The very definition of irony.

And now I can't stop looking at all these yummy men with beards... it seems like I am surrounded!

Romily Bernard said... Best Blogger Tips

Nope! No beards for me!! I do like a five o'clock shadow, but anything else looks alternately disgusting or cartoon-y to me.

hope said... Best Blogger Tips

I actually like both. Because I love highlander novels also...the beards never bothered me....
As for you Ms Jennifer...I LOVE THE BOOK!!!! Found out about you from PJ and Sarah Maclean and a few others and thought, I am going to download this it in one night....and LOVED it.
You are amazing talent...congrats and yes, I cannot wait for the next book! (seriously a selfish reader)

Leigh LaValle said... Best Blogger Tips

My husband has a beard- the length varies and he does shave it off at times. I love the 10 o'clock shadow the best :)

Diana Belchase said... Best Blogger Tips

No beard. Food gets caught in them, they tickle or they pinch, and they turn colors other than what is on top of a man's head. Off with the beard!



B Snow said... Best Blogger Tips

I *like* men with beards. (Maybe I'm a Darwinian throwback. :D) In fact, I get a little sad when my husband shaves his off periodically. :D

I'd love to read the book (which, btw, congratulations!), but as a vegetarian, I'll pass on the haggis-flavored chips (even if they are artificially flavored :P). bsnow dot writer at gmail dot com.

Jennifer McQuiston said... Best Blogger Tips

Love the ongoing debate... and will also say there is NO FOOD STUCK IN MY HERO'S BEARD!!! And those of you who prefer cleanshaven *might* get your wish near the end. :)

Proserpine said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi! Thanks for this chance! I saw this book on another blog last week and I want to read it so bad! I saw you had the chance to read it too! I will have to wait until it's release! BTW No beard for me! I love man with early beard but that's all for me and if you want to do some .... things.... I liked it when it's softer! LOL

Proserpine said... Best Blogger Tips

@Proserpine forget my email : proserpinecravedfor(at)hotmail(dot)com

Terri Osburn said... Best Blogger Tips

I'd never given it much thought, but skirting through my memory banks (I've been single way too long) I seem to be an equal opportunity beard-person. My past has included both, and I don't really have a preference, though the men with a beard are more fondly remembered.

Hmmm...this could take more cogitating. As to hero's on the page, didn't one of Nora's hero's in the Chesapeake Bay series have one? Was Ethan his name? That's the only one I can think of.

Now I want to write a hero with a beard. Thanks for the inspiration! (And holy crap is that excerpt awesome.)

Lady Milano said... Best Blogger Tips

I prefer the "not" one, but it depends on the guy. SOmetimes I love to see a guy with the sexy look, thin layer of beard/mustache :D

Martha Lawson said... Best Blogger Tips

I don't mind a beard as long as it is well groomed, my husband had a beard for years! You book sounds amazing and I can't wait to read it. I just found out about you today from the avon authors newsletter. I'm putting this one on the wish list in case I'm not lucky enough to win!! Thanks for the chance and congratulations on the release.

Ash Krafton | @ashkrafton said... Best Blogger Tips

I LOVE beards. My husband does well to keep me happy, too. :) We had a great time with No Shave November. I actually got to comb his face. lol

I've never known him without a t least a mustache; nor do I ever want to.

Lisa Wolff said... Best Blogger Tips

I don't like full beards. Hubby has a small goatee which is about all I can handle. He has to shave the rest :) That is really interesting how clean shaven all historical heroes seem to be, I never really thought about it before!

LilMissMolly said... Best Blogger Tips

I prefer no facial hair at all. Nice and smooth for me!

Linda said... Best Blogger Tips

I much prefer a clean shaven man. Except if it's Richard Armitage as Thorin in The Hobbig (he was like OMG!!)

Mary Preston said... Best Blogger Tips

Clean shaven all the way for me thank you.


Jennifer McQuiston said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh, you lovely readers... maybe you just need to give them a TRY!! (as in, my hero. Ahem). Loving the opinions!

Na said... Best Blogger Tips

I would prefer a man without a beard but some facial moustache like a five o'clock shadow is appealing. It depends some men can pull off both. As long as they are comfortable it works for me.

Raffle name: Fiery Na

Melissas Midnight Musings said... Best Blogger Tips

I'd never thought about the fact that men in historical romance novels usually don't have beards until now.

As for where I stand on the issue, I'm in the in between camp. I prefer when my boyfriend is clean shaven for the fact that kisses are more comfortable, but, I also like the way he looks with his goatee. I'm definitely not a fan of mustaches.

Cerian Halford said... Best Blogger Tips

I prefer clean shaven or a bit stubbley. But if there's going to be beard, I think you've got to go for the all over look kept trimmed. Like Ben Affleck as he appeared at the Oscars, he works that beard lol

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