I was wondering if there is a certain requirement for romance novels that the two main protagonists have to be incredibly good-looking, thin, and sexy. What if I were to write about a romance between a girl who isn't the best-looking one of the bunch, maybe even a bit chunky, and a man whose ears stick out and who's going bald? It's not currently in my plans for the future, but I was just wondering. I don't read romance on the whole, but whenever I have, I couldn't help but notice how physically perfect the protagonists were. Maybe it's just me, maybe I just notice it because I'm not exactly model-thin or model-pretty. Do you think anybody besides me would go for a romance between "average-looking" characters, or have such books tried and failed, because everybody wants to live vicariously when reading, so that they can experience what it's like to be thin and beautiful, and get the best-looking guy?
I have to admit, I'm not the definitive voice on romances. I don't read romance for fun (only profit). When one comes across my desk, I always make sure I get a second opinion from someone who loves the genre.
My guess is that romance readers want to imagine themselves in the role of the heroine--flowing tresses, lithesome figures, and all. If the heroine is too much like the average reader then what's the point? But I could be wrong.
I do read romantic mystery novels, but they have a little more leeway in the area of required physical beauty. A national series that comes immediately to mind is the one by Diana Mott Davidson--the caterer turned murder mystery sleuth. She describes herself as plump and plain. Now, it's more mystery than romance so maybe it doesn't count.
An LDS example is Walker's Gold by Shirley Bahlmann. The heroine describes herself as plain, clumsy and overweight. Again, that's a romantic mystery, so romance rules may not apply.
I'm sorry I can't give you a better answer. Maybe a reader who knows romance well can chime in here and let us know if there are any memorable romantic "anti-heroes."