07/03/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
Looking for a light read? Don't try this one on for size: Full-figured girl gets trapped in airplane lavatory. Boy rescues girl. They fall in love and live happily ever after.
Not quite the stuff of the Bard, perhaps, but so goes the plot of "Stuck," a short story from one of 13 hot and very heavy titles published by Rubenesque Romances, an imprint begun by 60-year-old grandmother of three Joanne Morse of Hampton, Va. "I got sick of reading romances with these perfect, blonde, skinny heroines," says Morse, a Hampton University pharmacology professor who, at 5'6", weighs in at just over 200 lbs. "How am I supposed to identify with that?"
So in 1994, Morse, who professes a love for "fried chicken, biscuits and whipped cream on anything," began churning out her steamy escapist fare for plus-size women. The books follow simple guidelines:
(1) The heroine must be significantly overweight.
(2) Her weight must be an obstacle to the romance, even if only in the woman's mind.
(3) The book must end happily, but not because the heroine has lost weight. Bound by hand with the help of Morse's daughter Laurie Mitchell, 37, and two of Mitchell's three daughters, the books have proven a modest hit online (they're sold at www.rubenesqueromances.com and at Amazon.com). Says Rubenesque editor Cynthia MacGregor: "Joanne fills a niche for the plus-size woman who wants to know where her Prince Charming is."
And while the twice-divorced Morse has been unlucky in real-life romance so far, she hasn't given up on finding her prince yet. "Lots of fat women really do find true love," she says. "People need to know they can be loved for who they are, not just what they look like."