Romantic Heroes: Alpha or Beta?

Recently I asked some Facebook friends (quite a few of whom write romance) which kind of hero they prefer: Alpha or Beta? A lot of romance publishers are calling for Alpha heroes right now, a trend I’m not sure I totally agree with, but which I thought might make a fairly interesting blog post.

So, Alpha heroes. These are men of power and confidence. Usually arrogant and abrasive. Classically handsome, Chippendale-worthy, even. Businessmen make good alpha heroes. Military men, firemen, police officers, doctors and other “manly” (read in a deep voice) professions work well, too. Alpha heroes usually have secrets or a dark past, and they’ve always got a wall around their heart that the heroines must break down before they have a chance at a real relationship. The closest thing I’ve ever written to a pure alpha hero was Dan Mason in SECRETS OF THE LOTUS. And yeah, he followed the typical arc of abrasive billionaire playboy to tamed and devoted lover of Josie, my heroine. Dan was fun to write. I enjoyed trying to get inside the head of a man (albeit an imaginary one) and figure out what it would take to bring him to the point of loving one woman.

Beta heroes are fun, too, though. Funny, still good-looking although maybe not in the classic way (think Johnny Depp or even Adam Sandler), Beta heroes are men with hidden strength. And when they find a woman in need, they are more than willing to spend that strength on taking care of her. They’re not good at keeping secrets from the woman they love, even if they have a painful past. In WHERE THE HEART LIES, my hero Liam Addison is definitely a beta hero. He has a secret that tortures him, but he keeps it because he doesn’t want to hurt his heroine Alicia. I may have enjoyed writing Liam more than any other hero. A recovering alcoholic who’d made more than his share of mistakes in the past, Liam was deeply flawed and yet so loveable, I couldn’t blame Alicia for falling for him.

With all that said, I want to salute the real heroes in our real lives.

Real men are not romantic heroes, but let’s face it. If we found a real romantic hero (alpha or beta), we wouldn’t be very comfortable with him. The heroes and heroines of romance novels, regardless of their problems, are perfect people living in a perfect world. We’re real people with real problems who live in a world on the brink of blowing itself up most of the time. We battle our weight, worry about North Korea and terrorism and our kids, are too tired to even think about sex a lot of the time and our nine-to-five is often more like six-to-six-thirty. Or later. Men, all you really have to do to be our heroes is go to that job and hug our kids and let us lean on your shoulder every now and then. That’s a real hero, and he’s worth a thousand romantic heroes.