Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Alpha Males: A Little Goes a Long Way aka Get Out the Shovel!

Let's face it, most women like the fantasy of a take-charge man. Even if some of us (like me) wouldn't go near that guy in real life with a 10 foot pole. That man of the hour is the alpha male.
What defines an alpha male? I define an alpha male as possessing the following traits:

  • Tends to take charge in most situations
  • Very protective of women and children
  • Possessive of his heroine
  • Can be bossy and domineering towards the heroine
  • Doesn't easily open up about his feelings
  • Has a high sex drive and is very dominant in sexual interactions (this causes some to be ladykillers)
  • Likely to be employed in a dangerous or risky occupation

If you didn't clearly know what an alpha male was before, you can test a character according to these traits. I am sure that you can probably list more traits.

So these traits don't sound too bad, at least in moderation. But when the character is excessive about any and all of these traits, then you have the uber-alpha male. This dude has serious testosterone toxicity. He is so macho that you want to bring out the shovel and bash him over the head with it repeatedly, as you read the book. This is especially obnoxious if he is paired with heroine who cannot stand up to him.

Which authors do a great job writing alpha males?

  • Sherrilyn Kenyon/Kinley MacGregor: I think that she is particularly good at writing alphas because she always gives them a fatal flaw so that they don't come off as being adamantine and unapproachable. Also she is very humorous, which dispells any tension from the testosterone fumes. Also her heroes have beta traits as well (see next post). You just want to heal them and love them so that their hearts aren't so sad.
  • JR Ward: Her heroes are tortured and very sexy. They are also very sensitive in some ways, and display affection towards their women and their friends. I love these guys, but I admit I would run from them if I saw them coming down the street towards me in real life.
  • Lisa Kleypas: Writes sexy, confident, but loving heroes who would do almost anything to take care of their heroines and keep them happy. In short, they become irresistible. She shows alpha heroes in their very best light.
  • Connie Brockway: Writes intelligent, take charge, sexy heroes who are very demonstrative in their love for the heroines. They often have flaws that chip away at the stone facades of their composure.
  • Gena Showalter: Like SK/KM, her characters are often deeply troubled, flawed heroes in need of saving by the heroine.
  • Kresley Cole: Sexy, sexy heroes with marshmallow hearts. They are totally bonded to their heroines almost always early on in the books.
  • Susan Napier: These guys are brimming over with sex appeal, but they are often self-deprecating and funny. They fall head over heels for their often pretty normal heroines.
  • Jodi Thomas: Hard and desperate men of the west, who will always do what they can to protect the oneswho are unable to protect themselves and their women.
  • Loretta Chase: She is great at writing sexy heroes who are often so funny you can't help but laugh at their macho facades. They are often tortured heroes or have some sort of damage or trauma. If you aren't sure what I mean, read Lord of Scoundrels.
  • Christina Dodd: Her guys are seriously macho but you can't help but love them because they are so in love with their heroines. Also because they make you laugh.
  • Anne Stuart: You never know if this guy is going to kill you or make love to you. You are sucked into the mystery and the danger of these guys. Once they are won over, their heart belongs completely to their heroines and they will do anyting to keep them safe.
  • Carolyn Davidson: Very protective and loving, but often are not good at opening up. They are usually dragging the heroine to the altar instead of the other way around.
  • Jillian Hart: Troubled and tortured. Very protective and loving. They typically are not too commitment shy.
  • Celeste Bradley: A great mix of humor, tortured heroes, and madcap adventure.
  • Jennifer Ashley: Can you say thud! These guys will sexify you at first read.
  • Catherine Anderson: Her heroes are the ultimate protectors.
  • Melody Thomas/Laura Renken: Sexbombs on legs!
  • Nalini Singh: Women, children, any in need of protection, fear not. Well, the women must fear for their hearts.
  • Jillian Hunter: Very large, sexy heroes who often seem to be a source of humor in the books.
  • Jillian Hart: Writes strong, protective men.

Below are some great authors that I love, but often I have trouble with their heroes because they tend to be uber-alpha heroes (In other words, when I read them, I keep the shovel handy).

  • Diana Palmer: These guys cannot open their hearts to love. You need a can opener and a suit of armor if you are the women who want their love.
  • Linda Howard: They are fine if you like being dominated completely. In and out of bed. I had to draw the line at the hero with the gun rack on his truck. Sorry I just can't go there.
  • Beverly Barton: See above for Linda Howard.
  • Susan Fox: Pretty similar to Diana Palmer but you can usually get these guys to the altar without much fuss.
  • Honorable mention to pretty much all the Harlequin Presents authors: Why must you be so alpha? These guys have terminal testosterone toxicity. It clouds their thinking and they cannot seem to tell the difference between the wicked man-eating, lying ex-mistress and the sweet, innocent, current flame or wife-of-convenience. A good bash upside the head with my shovel hopefully will fix this problem, or so I hope.
  • Brenda Jackson: I have a love/hate for her heroes. They are almost always players. I hate players, but I think she tells a great romance story. My favorite hero by her is Sterling from One Special Moment (sigh)!
  • Lynne Graham: Why must you be such a prick! Why does she love you so much when I just want to kill you!
  • Stephanie Laurens: Sexy heroes but sometimes I don't know why they don't just put a collar and a leash on the heroine and get it over with.

The in-betweener. The romance author who can write a great alpha hero, or one that is completely shovel-worthy.

  • Johanna Lindsey: Great alpha hero: Lachlan McGregor. Bad alpha hero: Bradford Maitland.
  • Fiona Brand: Writes in the style of Linda Howard. Generally I like her alphas, but they are a bit too dominant for me at times.
  • Kathryn Smith: Really sexy alphas but sometimes they just don't get it.
  • Jude Deveraux: Bad alpha hero (I wanted to beat him to death with said shovel): Gavin Montgomery from The Velvet Promise (the only Montgomery I absolutely hate). Oh-so good alpha hero: J.T. Montgomery from The Princess.
  • Beverly Jenkins: Great alpha hero: Galen Vachon from Indigo (I love this guy). Annoying alpha: Chase Jefferson from Night Song(get out the shovel). I liked the book anyway though.

I think that alpha heroes are like any theme in romance. You pull out these books when you want to have the romance and drama of an alpha male. And when you finish the book, you may sigh and say, wow these guys are awesome. But perhaps you may also sigh in relief that they exist best between the pages of romance novel, where you are safe from them and their excess of male hormones, and they are safe from your shovel.

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