Is Beta the new Alpha?
I have a confession to make. Up until two weeks ago, my love for all things romance was of the ‘PG to rated R only’ variety. But then I went to that hotbed of iniquity (aka the RNA) and courtesy of an absorbing talk by the founder of Xcite Books, graduated onto my first x-rated erotic romance. Which I promptly read on the train home – all in the name of research, obviously! – and wow, was it an eye-opener. I kept stopping to read extracts aloud to Anna, which kept both us (and the other occupants of the carriage) fascinated and giggling all the way back to London.
What’s the point of this potentially quite embarrassing anecdote? Well, from a romance-reader’s perspective, the erotica’s most fascinating aspect was that it featured a hero who managed to be both strong and sexually submissive. It’s also not just erotica that explores this fantasy successfully - if anyone’s a fan of Suzanne Brockmann’s excellent Troubleshooters series and has made it to Decker’s story…well, be still my beating heart. Here’s a hero who is SO Alpha and tortured by his experiences as a top military operative that the only way he can get outside of his own head and unleash his sex drive is by having his heroine order him to. Trust me, it’s hot.
All this has got me opening the whole what-exactly-does-‘Alpha’-mean can of worms!
It’s an often-asked question: can a hero be Alpha if he also exhibits what some might think of as ‘beta’ qualities - caring/ socially awkward/ sexually inexperienced? And, as last week’s blog hopefully proved, of course he can! The precise details of a perfect Alpha male fantasy are flexible and personal to the reader’s own tastes. The universal appeal lies in establishing that the hero can sweep the heroine off her feet and can give her the life and love she deserves - be he a tycoon or teacher, stud or virgin. Personally, give me a hero who can be made to blush (especially if they’re mortified by it) and I’m half-way in love with him already.
The Alpha male fantasy is timeless – but moving with the times has broadened the definition. For example, we’re seeing more and more heroes on the horizon working in what could potentially be described as ‘geeky’ industries, particularly techno-based ones. Now, from my obsession with the CSI franchise, I am very aware that techno-geekiness can equal hotness. Clearly, competence is key – as with all heroes, it’s important they’re good at what they do. No-one wants to read about an averagely talented hacker, but a hero who uses his techie skills to save the day…well, where do I sign up?
But as ever, what I really want to know about this week is your opinion. Basically, what do you want to read about? Are you a reader who loves a geeky or awkward hero? If so, what do you find sexy and appealing about this twist on the Alpha fantasy? Alternatively, perhaps this discussion topic fills you with complete horror – do you like your heroes so Alpha there’s no room for anything remotely resembling so-called ‘beta’ qualities?!
Would love love love to know your thoughts, so get in touch!