The Alpha and the Beta

July 28, 2011 at 12:49 am 6 comments

Just a little something I want...

My newest and dearest friend Courtney asked me the other day what the secret is to writing a good romance novel. Is it the sex? The characters? The dialogue? The plot? What makes one romance novel good or even great and the other so bad that it makes you want to twirl the heroine around your head like a lasso and let go, thus ensuring she will never return?

Well, obviously there’s no set secret or key ingredient for a kick-ass romance. And hypnotically speaking? If there was, and I told you, then I’d have to kill you, and since y’all are primarily my friends and family, I think that would be very sad indeed. But, I can tell you that for me, there is ONE thing that can make or break my romance novel: the hero.

Oh that hunky, hunky piece of man-flesh. The hero is like 40% of the romance equation with the heroine making the other 40, the setting being 5 and the plot being 2. Which I don’t think makes a whole 100% but math has never been my strong point and there are other miscellaneous things that also contribute to romance gold like author and writing and for me HISTORICAL ACCURACY. But the hero, he’s really at the heart of the story.

See the hero needs to be someone you, the reader, can see yourself falling in love with (or for you strangling dudes out there who are reading this, he needs to be someone who represents an ideal, romanticized, yet totally realistic version of you).  When Courtney asked me what makes a good romance, I told her the hero needed to be Alpha. I know it’s a controversial stance. But for me, the hero has to be an Alpha Hero, preferably with a military/criminal background, the ability to fire a gun/beat someone up if he has to, or some mildly dominant/aggressive figure.  He also needs to be sensitive and caring and understanding, acknowledging that our heroine can take care of herself. Make sense?

Chose Wisely!

Some sites on the internet like to argue that there are many types of heroes blah blah blah. But in my mind there are two: the Alpha and the Beta. One I love. The other I loath.

Popular romance writer Jayne Ann Krentz defines the Alpha saying:

‘Alpha Male’ was a term coined by romance writers a few years back to try to explain the essential qualities of the most popular heroes in romance novels. It has come to stand for the hero endowed with the classic heroic virtues: honor, courage, determination – a man who may be rough around the edges but who is capable of learning how to love. Beta males just aren’t nearly as interesting, for some strange reason.

And I agree.  Beta males are the heroes who let the woman take the lead. I see them as the Ray Romano character on Everybody Loves Raymond (which newsflash: no one in that family really seems to love Raymond!). The Beta is more of a lover not a fighter. The site All About Romance, defines them as:

These romances have kinder, gentler heroes, the kind of men who will change your flat tire, open doors for you, help your kid with his homework, and bring you soup when you are sick. They are the anti-thesis of the testosterone-filled chest beaters found in the earlier bodice-ripper romances. These are the guys we all want to find in real life.

But really? Women love their Alphas (there are who blogs devoted to them like the aptly named Alpha Heroes). And yes, all that sensitive bullshit is nice, but where’s the passion? For me, Alphas have all that nice stuff and chivalry–it’s just under their super masculine exterior. Like in Linda Howard’s Mr. Perfect, hero Sam is not a Beta. He’s a tough, grouchy, sexy-as-sin cop who argues with Jaine, can shoot his gun, and is ever so mildly possessive. Yet, he also cares for his elderly neighbors, opens Jaine’s door, and washes her car.  Sam is testosterone meets sensitivity. Perfect Alpha (although some will argue he’s a gamma but really that’s just confusing).

The Alpha can be protective and aggressive because his heroine is just as spirited. If you have a Beta hero and a spitfire heroine, she seems too brash and domineering, but when you get the combo of the Alpha hero and spitfire heroine? Romance magic. Come on y’all this is a fantasy and no one really fantasizes about being a weakling!

Romantic Question: How do you weigh in? Are you an Alpha or a Beta fan? And what are your fav hunky heroes?



Entry filed under: Ramblings on Romance, Suggest Me Something: Lists. Tags: , , , , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Spencer A. Freeman  |  July 28, 2011 at 7:22 am

    You know I’ll give any type of hero a shot, as long as he’s yummy but I do admit to have more than just a soft spot (no pun intended!) for the Alphas. There’s just something so sexy about a guy who wields a gun (or hammer, or any type of masculine tool), but then turns around and cooks you the perfect pancakes for breakfast in bed. He keeps you guessing, which feeds into the whole thrill of the chase. Gah! Thinking about it now just solidifies my love for romances! I’m off to find another Alpha hero! 🙂

  • 2. jennifer121  |  July 28, 2011 at 10:26 am

    OH, my, I adore my alphas! I’m married to a beta thank god, but get me in a romance novel and I love a difficult, headstrong, sexy, commanding man to grab my attention! Really loved the post – and the hero has always been my favorite part of the book.

  • 3. Nicola O.  |  August 8, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Hey, thanks for the shout-out! I didn’t realize until my blog had been up for awhile that it might make people think that it’s *only* about Alpha Heroes; it’s really all kinds of romance.

    As you might expect, my favorite fictional heroes lean more alphas. But there’s a thin line between Alpha and a$$hole… and the line is *different* in real life than it is in fiction. So I might swoon over a take-charge bossy dominant fictional character, but in real life I’d probably tell him to take a hike. 😉

    ANNNND there are some really good beta heroes out there too, though I’m hard pressed to name any specific ones. (One that comes to mind was a contemporary trilogy set in New Orleans, and the beta-est hero was really just sooooooooo charming and funny and persuasive you had to love him). Beta doesn’t mean “roll over,” either.

    • 4. Lizzie  |  August 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm

      I would kill an Alpha male in real life. I mean some dude trying to tell me what to do? Would not work at all. But for some reason, I do have a soft spot for the Alpha in books. I think I could like a Beta–Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Bingley is pretty beta and I love him–but I forget the Beta characters for some reason. Maybe it’s because I’m take charge in real life that I want to read about the opposite? Who knows, but I do have a bias and am surely willing to admit it!

  • 5. Nicola O.  |  August 11, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Maybe it’s because I’m take charge in real life that I want to read about the opposite?

    I don’t recognize that at all. Nope.

  • 6. I’m Addicted to Love « Reading Romantically  |  September 2, 2011 at 9:14 am

    […] searing, possessive, passionate, steamy, uncontrollable, shudder-inducing romance between dangerous Alpha hero Nicholas and determined […]


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