The Alpha Male in Romance Fiction
No one likes to be put in a category these days – it’s so last century! If you’ve been called a ball-buster, bitch, slut or a tease or if you’ve been pigeon-holed as a feminist, liberal, conservative, tea-partier, or soccer mom you probably didn’t appreciate it. But those of us who write romance fiction are very well-acquainted with the category of the Alpha Male, the guy who walks into the room and just oooozes sexual attraction.
So what are the characteristics of this mythical creature? He’s usually the leader in the story’s backdrop, the guy who owns the business, commands the unit or guides the other characters to make good choices. And he’s not an asshat about it, ordering people around or building himself up He just works hard, assumes responsibility, and stays calm in emergencies. He may sometimes act like a jerk but he knows how to say “I’m sorry” when he realizes the error of his ways. Self-confident and great in bed, he makes up for the occasional insecurity and lack of confidence of the romance heroine. He respects everyone unless they prove they don't deserve it but he knows that trust must be earned. Physically, of course, he’s HOT, staying fit from hard labor or regular workouts but largely unaware of his appearance.
These fictional fellows attract a lot of female attention and that’s one of their charms. I mean, there’s not a lot of drama without competition and risk, is there? And we need lots of drama to fill those pages with interaction, angst and a sense that the relationship is going somewhere, whether forward or straight to hell! When we see that Alpha Male walk into the story, we know he possesses a certain crazy-making power over women. He’s going to make our heroine want to do things that she knows she shouldn’t do and she’s going to put her armor on, wary of the emotional turmoil that will follow if she succumbs to that beautiful, dangerous man. Many women reject romance fiction because of the Alpha Male, saying that his focused, relentless pursuit of the heroine is actually creepy, stalker-ish and borderline abusive.
The rest of us really, really like the way our Alpha Hero makes the heroine feel like she’s the only woman on earth. We realize as we read that this has seldom (if ever) happened to us and it’s one of the most important parts of the fantasy. He takes care of everything about himself and his profession and wants to take care of his woman (who is of course a stand-in for us, for our best selves.) It gives us a break from our real lives of caring for other people when Mr. Alpha forsakes all others and pitches in to build a life with our plucky heroine.
Which brings me to this satirical little list I made of Alphas in Genre Romance:
-Historical Romance -- The Duke of Dirty realizes he's tired of sexy harlots and finds true love when he meets our plucky heroine.
-Inspirational Romance -- Single dad Victor Values is tired of the jaded women he meets in Everyville and finds true love when he meets our plucky heroine.
-Paranormal Romance -- Shapeshifter Ren Zen mates with every evil temptress in the universe but finds true love when he meets our plucky heroine.
-Romantic Suspense -- Special Forces veteran Dirk Dirkly loves 'em and leaves 'em as he fights worldwide bad guys until finding true love when he meets our plucky heroine.
-Young Adult Romance -- Football hero Luke Hottie realizes cute cheerleaders will cheat on him but meets a quiet girl in the library, finding true love with our plucky heroine.
-Contemporary Romance -- Up-and-coming executive Zack Sharp thinks he has the perfect life until he finds true love with our plucky heroine.
-Contemporary Erotic Romance -- Billionaire Zack Sharp has many women who'll fulfill his dark desires but he is finally free when he finds true love with our plucky heroine.