The first thing you should know is that I agonized over the title for this post, and then finally decided that was silly, so I wrote down the first ridiculous title that came to my head.
Still, it fits the topic of this blog post!
The second is that this is just my own opinion, not targeted at any one book, but a frustration that has built over a LOT of reading.
If you’ve read my work, you know that with maybe the exception of Aram (Haunted) (and that’s a big, BIG maybe) the hero in a CCJ novel isn’t going to be your typical alpha male. Traditionally manly, maybe, but none of the aggressive asshole tendencies that seem to be the hallmark of an “alpha” hero.
And i’m okay with that.
I write heroes who wont stalk the heroine if she asks to be left alone. Who won’t “take the pussy”. Who won’t engage in sex without clear, enthusiastic consent. Who respects the heroine’s wishes for her body, life, personal space, etc etc, because he understands that she is an adult, and capable of making her own decisions.
I don’t think that less aggression (with his partner), more expression of emotion, more willingness to settle things in a less caveman, grab you by the hair and drag you home manner, makes a man in real life any less manly… so why would that be the case in my writing?
In a recent (favorable) review, I was docked “alpha male” points because my hero used the term “throat chop” (because men don’t say this…even though i’ve heard my big manly husband and his big manly friends use it) and because one of the characters “allows” his future wife the use of a hyphenated name. That was that reviewers opinion, which is completely fine, and I appreciate the input, but…. I don’t write alpha men. If those items are representative of the standard, CCJ heroes will never fit into that box.
Again, i’m okay with that.
I’ve tried to write the stereotypical “alpha” male, with no real success. First of all, he ended up being a character with no real swag of his own, because I was trying to make him into something he wasn’t. I like to write characters as they come to me, and I really think that because of my personal sensibilities… maybe “alpha” men just don’t come to me. Maybe all the alphas get to the edge of my conscience, and say uh-uh, not this bitch, no thanks, leaving room for the men who don’t fit into that mold to come to me.
This is certainly not to say that those types of heroes can’t be charming, and magnetically sexy, because they usually are… in books. In books, these men don’t intend any harm to the heroine, would protect her through anything, put his life on the line. There’s a fantasy in there, of a strong, fearless protector, and I’ve read romances with this type of hero that I honestly enjoyed.
In real life, a man that decides you “need” sex even though you say no, forces you to engage in humiliating sex acts against your will, won’t leave you alone, won’t let you leave the house, thinks they know best for your life, etc… that’s a fucking criminal. There is no “best case scenario” like there is in books, that’s the type of man that will kill your ass, and everybody will swear they “never would have thought, because he loved you so much, and seemed like such a nice guy.”
And I have a hard time separating that reality from fiction sometimes. I get disgusted, and the fantasy is over for me, because in real life, a man like that would disgust me.
It’s really important to me to show this in my books. Maybe my execution isn’t perfect, or the message doesn’t come through, but I try. If I can subliminally put the message in ONE woman’s head that a man should wait for clear consent before touching you, that saying “leave me alone” should be enough to not be harassed, that she should be respected and protected, etc… i’m thrilled!
I like the men who may not react perfectly, and who mess up, and sometimes give up sooner than they should, and then sincerely approach the heroine to make it right. I like men who are mostly sure of themselves, but sometimes not, and man enough to admit (even if just to himself or his homeboys, but especially to the heroine) that he doesn’t have all the answers, but will do his damnedest to get them. He can be rough in his speech, talk dirty, curse. He can throw punches to protect himself and what/who he loves. He works to pull his weight, contribute to the team, help ensure the best possible life for his friends and family. I like a hero who can be the man, with all his intricacies and hangups and flaws, who can be uniquely himself.
No “alpha” tag required.
I want to be completely clear that not every romance I’ve read that promoted an “alpha” male character that promoted the worst of that trope. There are plenty where the man is one after my own heart — a very strong, commanding personality and presence, self-assured enough and respectful enough of his heroine that his “alpha-ness” comes across in the protection of the heroine and in handling himself, rather than controlling or dominating her. And I swooned over every.single.page. This is the kind of “alpha” I can get with (and imo, the kind of man I write.)
I’ve read the other type of alpha too, in a redemption type of story, and that was good too. What I don’t (personally) buy — or sell — is the controlling, ridiculously macho, asshole-jerk “alpha” that I seem to keep running across in my search for new romance.
What about you? What do you consider an “alpha” male? Does the hero have to be an “alpha” to be sexy to you?