Guest: Seleste deLaney - Does the World Need Another Alpha?

Okay, I admit it—I love a strong, take-charge guy as much as the next girl. Especially when he’s fictional. Alpha males, fictional or not, fulfill that evolutionary desire for a mate that will protect and provide. You know, that desire modern women aren’t supposed to admit to having. Shhh…it’s our little secret and one reason that type of man is so popular in romance novels.

I mean, when they aren’t our men, they’re sexy as hell. They swoop in to rescue the girl. They’re crazy good in bed. More often than not, they’re rich (or at least have a decent job). They probably even want kids (you know to keep those amazing genes of theirs going into the next generation). Who cares if they’re gruff, sometimes violent without cause, and likely to have periods where they try to brush off the heroine because it wouldn’t be manly to want her as much as she wants him.


Now, like I said, this isn’t really a dissing of alpha heroes because I do love them. I use them in some of my work. However, not every world needs an alpha hero, and certainly not every heroine wants one.

A recent review of Badlands commented on the fact that Spencer isn’t an alpha hero and that the reviewer found it refreshing. I mean, poor Spencer starts out in debt and struggling to just get by. But he’s a good guy and a great leader…just not a physical one. He’s the type who doesn’t go looking for a fight, but he knows how to use weapons if he’s forced to.

In short, he’s the only kind of man who could win the heart of an alpha heroine. Badlands is a lot about role reversal. Ever is a warrior woman with no time or tolerance for love. Sex sure, but love? Uh uh. She comes from a land ruled by women where a good portion of the men are criminals (or rehabilitated criminals). She’d rather fight than talk, and doesn’t put a lot of stock in girly things.

Put an alpha male with her and sure, sparks might fly, but they aren’t going to start a fire. It’d be like banging two rocks together with nothing to hold the flame. So, for that story in that world…an alpha hero would have been all fighting and sex with no room for romance.

That isn’t to say there will never be alpha heroes for any of the women in the Badlands, just not for Ever. And to me, that’s a better reflection of reality. Strong women and strong men are well suited for each other, but they don’t need to be strong in the same ways. Considering the next heroine in line uses her brain more than her brawn, she’s in for one hell of a time when she meets her man.

I’m curious, what do you think? Is the alpha hero the only way to go? Is he becoming a genre cliché? Or is there room in romance for all kinds of heroes?

Seleste deLaney is a writer of speculative romance. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.


Carly Carson said...

In real life, today's top dogs are not the typical alpha heroes of romance novels. Think Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, even Warren Buffet. Seriously, if the Martians were coming and I needed protection, would I run to Zuckerberg? I'm sure they are alpha in many ways, but not in the cliched way. At least 2 of them appear to be devoted husbands, so maybe they are more like your hero? Guess I'll have to read the book and find out!

Falcata Times said...

Another great post, its always interesting to see different points of view about things and to be honest with you the muscle bound alpha is becoming a little too predictable. I like a character that can think their way out of problems and whilst they can still use force its a delicate piece of surgery rather than the smash the hell out of it and hope for the best which is many an alpha's cliche.

People have evolved (well some of us at least) and characters in novels have to as well to keep them relevant. We always remember those who struck out on thier own first but those who followed we tend to forget. Everyone can name Neil Armstrong as the first man on the moon and his crew but how many can name the last guy to walk on the moon without Wiki'ing the answer?

Its this sort of example which proves that characters have to develop and make something unique in thier own world as if they don't the book will soon be lost to the mundane.

Clancy said...

Thank you. The heroes in the first two books of my series are not alpha types and some seem to have a propblem with that, but it's just who they are. They are both good looking, smart, have good jobs, are athletic, romantic, thoughtful, and fighting to save the environment in different ways. While both could kick ass if they needed to, neither will choose that route first. I love beta heroes and less than brute alphas. I love the brute alpha too, but I think there's room for more out there. Thanks for a great post.

Jessica Peter said...

I am a bit sick of alphas myself, particularly in supernatural. Give me someone tender and flawed! But in my historical (Regency) realms, I love a rake. Though rakes aren't always ACTUALLY the alpha type. . .

Kathleen Dienne said...

The best reviewed of my books so far had a beta hero - I wonder if Carly isn't on to something with the real life thing. They say art reflects real life, and maybe our society is starting to see the value in men that don't risk death from testosterone poisoning every day.

Seleste said...

Hi Everyone! Sorry I didn't get to respond yesterday, life got kind of crazy.

Carly, I think you're right. The stereotypical alpha isn't as valued in modern society as they were in the past, so it makes sense that we want some of the stories we read to reflect that.

Gareth, so does that mean you are or aren't a John McClane fan ;-) In a lot of ways, he was the perfect alpha hero to me because he had the strength, but he used his head as much as his muscle (and at least in the case of the first two movies) it was all about his love for his wife. <3 That's it, my next hero is going to be John McClane. (er...sorry...I got a little side-tracked there)

Clancy, first I have to say I love your name :) It's a shame that you're getting negative feedback about your heroes. I really like variety, and I think the tide is shifting in favor of that. Hunger Games is a good example (SPOILER COMING!). When you compare Peeta and Gale, Gale is definitely the more stereotypical alpha, and Peeta was more beta. Fight if necessary, not by choice. To me, it made every time he was willing to sacrifice himself for Katniss mean so much more.

Jess, I do love a rake (even though I don't read that many historicals). The funny thing is if you take that same type of hero and put him in a contemporary, fantasy, or sci-fi setting, most people think he's a cliche (you know, because every woman's fantasy is to be the one who tames the a guy like that. So if it's not historical, it's not okay. *eye roll*).

Kathleen, testosterone poisoning! LOVE that :) I agree about what Carly said though. We want more than just brawn these days (brawn is nice, don't get me wrong, but if that's all a guy has to offer...).

Thanks everyone for stopping by and thanks for having me here :)