What Makes A Hero Heroic? Alpha and Beta Heroes

Last month I had a fun convo on twitter about alpha and beta heroes. I’ve written both of course – three of my four Chase boys are beta with Shane the alpha of the bunch. Conall from Reading Between the Lines is also a beta hero. But beta heroes are often misunderstood as somehow weak or not masculine enough, when really, that’s not the case at all. Beta is not interchangeable with weak.

Here’s my basic description – a beta hero is a strong, smart man who would do anything to help his woman. But he’s more easygoing and laid back. He’s the good guy. The guy who handles problems calmly. He’s often very smart and prefers to use that intelligence and his personality to make things happen. He’s also a champion at the woo, because what woman can resist the romantic intentions of a guy like Andrew Copeland or Matt Chase?

I think Jenny Crusie’s Phin Tucker from Welcome to Temptation is a perfect example of beta hero. I adore him! Sexy. A great dad and as the story progresses, he manages all the craziness around him and generally respects Sophie for who she is. He’s smart and he uses those smarts to get out of trouble (though he’s not allergic to using his fists if and when he has to). She’s also got Davy (Faking It and Welcome to Temptation). Rachel Gibson and Susan Andersen write some great beta heroes and also have strong alphas too. I think many SEP heroes are also beta heroes (Colin in Ain’t She Sweet) as well as some pretty fab alphas like Heath from Match Me if You can

Then we’ve got alphas and I love to write em too! Alpha males are bossy, pushy, tend to like to be in charge of everything. They frequently get in trouble when they do things for the heroine – all for her own good – usually without her permission. An alpha is NOT an asshole! A man who calls his woman a whore, or accuses her of carrying another man’s baby to harm him is not an alpha, he’s an asshole. Alphas might be pushy but they use their energy to protect the heroine. The best part of a book when an alpha goes too far is the grovel. Oh the grovel is the book’s way of smoothing that alpha and keeping him away from jerk territory. His grovel must be believable and it has to be thorough. If not, he only patronizes and that bugs heroines and readers.

An alpha might be hard as nails and arrogant, but when it comes to her, he softens. THAT is what appeals to me about my own alpha male and the ones in fiction too. That soft underbelly she gives him. that deliberate vulnerability. I love it. I love that Sera brings out Ash’s gentle side, or when Shane takes it so very slow the first time he and Cassie are together.

Some of my favorite authors when it comes to alphas who push the limits and still stay on the alpha side of the line: Anne Stuart, who is pretty much a country unto herself when it comes to writing alpha males. No one can do it like she does and leave me wanting more instead of shoving the book down the garbage disposal while I curse the hero. Her Ice Books are pretty envelope pushing and I really adore them.

Old school Elizabeth Lowell (Granite Man, Chain Lightning are two examples). Linda Howard – After the Night – Gray is probably one of my favorite all time alpha males and wow can he be a jerk, but he makes her swoon, he makes me swoon watching it and in the end, he’s rough around the edges and lacking some good social filters, but he is all about his family and Faith, though he’s not sure how to reconcile the two. (I’ll add All the Queen’s Men and the uber-delicious John Medina to that list of hotness along with Sam from Mr. Perfect)

Essentially, beta, alpha, whatever – a hero has to be heroic. He’s got to be strong and loyal, protective, courageous, intelligent, funny, etc. Without these core ideals, he’s just another jerk in romance novel clothing and if you don’t think he’s a hero, how can you respect the woman who chooses him?

DO you all have any favorite alpha or beta heroes?

Next time I want to talk about those heroes who blur the lines a little – the mysterious bad boy like Alison Kent’s Sebastian Gallo…

3 comments to “What Makes A Hero Heroic? Alpha and Beta Heroes”

  1. cassandravert
    March 8th, 2011 at 5:17 pm · Link

    When I think of alphas, I think of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Much as I love that series, I prefer betas overall–or more specifically, I prefer a relationship where each person is good at different important things so that they complement each other nicely.

  2. Mary
    March 8th, 2011 at 5:23 pm · Link

    While I love to read about alpha’s and do my fair share of swooning I think I would in the end marry the Beta. So I guess I am saying shag the alpha but marry the beta. LOL

  3. Lillie
    March 8th, 2011 at 5:31 pm · Link

    My favorite all time alpha is MacBain from Saving Grace by Garwood. Tough, more than a little mean but totally gentle with his heroine who had been abused. And he was ready to go to war with England to keep her safe. *happy sigh* Now I need to reread.

    My favorite beta is your Ben. He just makes me melt.

    What do you think about Roarke? I was talking about him with a find and she says alpha, I say line blurer. (I also called him a geek and offend her to her toes 😀 )