Alpha vs. Beta vs. Who Cares?

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Who is the perfect hero? Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you’ve been reading my blog or my books for very long, you know I have concerns about both the past and the future of the romance genre. I don’t like where romance is now. I think in today’s world we as romance authors need to be promoting more positive themes than are all too often featured in many of today’s romances. We need to move away from tropes that can be harmful to women, refuse to romanticize what shouldn’t be glorified. Today’s woman grows ever stronger and more independent. Our literature should reflect that.

With that in mind, and with a thank you to fellow writer Jennifer Macaire for inspiring this column with a Facebook discussion, I want to address the heroes of our romances. We insist on calling them alpha or beta. But is that really fair, either? Have you ever really met a truly alpha male? I imagine he’d be built like 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger, have the grooming habits of Bradley Cooper (uh-huh, sounding good, right?)…and the attitude of Donald Trump (that went bad real fast). He’d fool around without care for your feelings. He’d take what he wanted (or what he could get) and figure you liked it. The entire world would center around him.

Now tell me you wouldn’t punch that guy in the face rather than look at him.

So alphas are out. They suck. Other than their confidence and good looks, anyway. Which leaves us with betas. Now beta males, they’re something special. They are sweet and kind and considerate. They commit wholeheartedly to their relationships. They bring you flowers and write you poetry. They can be good-looking and nicely groomed, too, but they’re not as concerned about appearances. They have a great sense of humor. A full-on beta male would be a total dreamboat, right? Except maybe a little too attached to his mom. And his sister. Because beta males usually have very strong women in their lives, and they might not be able to do anything without the approval of those females.

Add that to the protective attitudes mom and sis have for their boy and you might not want to stick it out. Even if the poetry is good.

My point is, a full alpha or a full beta male is not going to be super attractive, at least not in the long run. And romance is about happily-ever-after, right? So a really good romance hero tends to be a mix of the two. Alpha confidence and looks, beta manners and kindness. And looks. This is fantasy, after all. You might as well have the whole package.

Thoughts and Reviews

I do a lot of thinking. Some might say too much. I’ve been thinking a lot recently in light of the Time’s Up movement in Hollywood and around the nation about how my genre of writing needs to evolve—if at all.

I’m a romantic who’s been blessed in the love and family department. It’s not always easy to see life from the viewpoint of the victimized when you live in a safe bubble. I’ve never really needed to be feminist, though I’ve had my own small #metoo moments. Still, I’ve been wondering…how do I as a romance writer make this situation better? How can I write about the flirtation and romance between men and women when so much negativity is associated with such flirtation and romance crossing a line into something much darker?

I’ve always tried to write strong female characters and caring male characters, but I’ve never considered how their romantic interactions could read to someone who has been victimized. Consider the pirate scene in Movie Magic, for instance. Or the scene in Secrets of the Lotus where the rich guy just chooses a woman at random to kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve. In Winter Solstice, the two main characters are co-workers. Island Magic is basically about a kidnapping—a good-natured and necessary one, but still. In almost every one of my books, looking back, there is something that might be frowned upon by a feminist or trigger a victim. The only one of my books with a real feminist as a heroine is Escape Magic, which I wrote in response to my disgust over 50 Shades of Grey.

I haven’t solved this romance/feminism quandary, by the way. I’m keeping it in mind in my writing, however, so it’s most likely going to show up eventually.

On to better news. Today, in spite of its possible problematic elements, Movie Magic received TWO great reviews. See below for details and stop by to give my reviewers some love and for your last chance to enter to win a $50 Amazon gift card:

“A sudden storm brings the characters together, and very much like the Shakespearean play, “The Tempest”, the characters are introduced and the story unfolds against a background of nature, the elements, and magic. Movie Magic is a charming romance!” —Jennifer Macaire

“…for the most part I really did enjoy Mrs. Flye’s writing style as she was superior on detail.  She carefully thought-out certain passages that when I read them I wasn’t reading them – I was seeing them!  Perhaps like my own little movie magic occurring!” —Fabulous and Brunette