Yesterday I received contest feedback on one of my manuscripts that my hero may not be Alpha enough. Having been a contest judge myself, I know it is hard to make a call with the limited amount of information provided. Still, first impressions are very important in this business. I won’t toss this observation aside without giving it some consideration.
Nevertheless, I wasn’t exactly sure how to interpret the comment. It seems there are different ideas of what it means to be an alpha male. According to Leigh Michaels in her book “On Writing Romance”, an alpha male is “powerful, driven, assertive, masterful, dominant, superior, successful and charming.” Yet, I often read historical romance novels where the hero is an overbearing, demanding, unyielding, unprincipled, womanizing jerk. In comparison, my hero is atypical.
He’s been in love with the same woman for years and only wants her even though there have been many roadblocks and still more to overcome. He respects his mother and has a close relationship with his younger sister. He’s also intelligent, and he’s built a nice nest egg from investments rather than squandering his yearly income. He’s protective of the women in his life, and he’s physically strong. In a nutshell, he’s not a bad boy needing salvation via the heroine’s love. He’s that great guy next door who will help the heroine escape her troubled past, or move her couch when she buys the condo of her dreams.
I find him refreshing. He’s the kind of guy I’d fall in love with in real life, which got me thinking. Is there some rule that says all romance readers are supposed to like the same kind of guy? I realize there are certain trends in what sells, but I know several women who don’t read romance because the macho hero of the 80s who ruled the heroine with an iron fist, behaved like an all-around jerk and then thought an apology led to a happily-ever-after ending turned them off.
In fact, I recently stopped reading two books written in this decade because the heroes literally made me feel sick to my stomach. Their attitudes toward women disgusted me. Now, I’m not making any judgments about readers who enjoy these types of heroes. I’m simply asking the question, “Isn’t there room in the market for the kind of guys I like?”
What qualities do you look for in a hero?