Being a historical romance author is interesting. It’s taken me a while to admit it thanks to the now-expected snickers and leading questions, but yes, I am a romance author. But, my romance is of the traditional line, in terms of Jane Austen, Ann Rinaldi, Grace Livingston Hill, and Cheryl Zach (all of which are excellent writers). Thus, I’m finding that my reader demographic is the young adult female–anywhere from thirteen years old to eighteen, and those adult women who wish they could read more of the romances they used to when they were younger.
As such, I sometimes find it hard to read the popular historical romance that is out on the stands today. Take, for instance, the love interest. In your everyday historical romance, the hero is an Alpha Male. He takes charge, he’s depressingly sexy, and he makes you jealous of the heroine because she gets to touch those perfectly scuplted pecs. Don’t get me wrong, they certainly are fun to read. But my stories usually feature the Beta Male. What does that even mean, the Beta Male? Doesn’t that mean he’s a wimp? That’s he’s almost…too pretty to be a man? No, I don’t think so. (I am, admittedly, a little biased.) Michele R. Bardsley says the following:
Who wants to read about those wimps? I do. So do you. Romantic comedies just don’t work without him because his personality is more capable of handling crazy circumstances and outrageous events. The difference between a beta hero and an alpha hero in a romantic comedy is that the beta hero will laugh at himself and the situation; the alpha hero won’t. In other words, the reader laughs with the beta hero and laughs at the alpha hero.
Beta heroes don’t have cool-guy reputations, but they are sexy, funny and protective. No, they’re not risk-takers with short tempers, and you won’t find ’em romping around as Navy SEALs, undercover cops or bomb technicians. But a beta hero makes a great sudden daddy. Women think he’s sweet, kids know he’ll play catch or tea party, bosses know they can rely on him to get last-minute projects completed and men know they can trust him with their girlfriends.
The Beta Male is, in other words, the one we look to marry in real life (if marriage is what we’re looking for). This isn’t to say Mr Beta Male is perfect. He is a man, and human after all, so he should learn a couple things by the end of the story. In terms of traditional romance, Mr Beta Male just seems to fit better to me, and I’m horribly loyal to him. And that is what works for me. The important thing is that you, as a writer, realize just who you want to write about, and who you are writing for, and whether they are appropriate together.
I’ll leave you with an amusing quiz Bardsley wrote about whether you know your Beta Male; it made me smile. To see Bardsley’s workshop for creating the Beta Hero, click [here].
1. Beta heroes are:
B. Shy, silent and/or sweet.
C. Easygoing but not pushovers.
ANSWERS: A. 0 B. 1 C. 2
2. If a heroine starts crying, a beta hero will:
A. Immediately offer comfort.
B. Awkwardly offer to fix the problem.
C. Cry with her.
ANSWERS: A. 2 B. 1 C. 0
3. If the heroine asks, “What are you thinking?” The beta hero replies:
B. “How beautiful you are.”
C. “What kind of beer goes good with Cheetos.”
ANSWERS: A. 2 B. 2 C. 2
(The beta hero is a guy, after all. Any of these are his potential answers.)
4. A beta hero”s home looks like:
A. The cover of House Beautiful.
B. The inside of a Hooters restaurant.
C. Dusty but tidy, with garage-sale furniture and a state-of-the-art entertainment center.
ANSWERS: A. 0 B. 1 C. 2
5. A beta hero handles emotional pain by:
A. Using physical activity to exhaust himself so he doesn”t have to think.
B. Using humor to deflect how he”s really feeling.
C. Discussing his feelings with his best friend or his dad.
ANSWERS: A. 1 B. 2 C. 0
Add your score:
10 points: Beta Babe!
9 to 7 points: Beta-rific.
6 to 4 points: For beta or worse.
3 to 0 points: Needs Beta 101.
Feb 2008 Update
The ECPI Editors at Redlines and Deadlines wrote a wonderful blog entry about Beta males that you should really check out.