Jayne_Denker~ By Jayne Denker

Powerful billionaires. Bad-boy bikers. Commanding Navy SEALs. Ah, the take-charge alpha hero of romance novels, the kind of guy who’ll tell a heroine what she wants, and will tell her that she likes it, driving the point home with so much testosterone she can’t help but say yes as she collapses into his (always hugely muscled) arms, and ends up pressed against his (always ripped) abs.

This blog post…is not about them. Sorry!

Okay, not sorry, actually. I’ve never been a fan of alpha-male-heroes in romances. My heroes have always been betas. I know! I know! What is wrong with me? What can possibly be desirable or sexy about a wimp, a weenie, a soft-spoken guy who doesn’t brandish his club about (so to speak)? After all, an alpha’s confidence, his overwhelming presence, even his perceived brutality—that’s sexy!

I guess that raises the question of “what is sexy?” For an alpha hero, it’s overt strength that shows his leadership tendencies. And let’s face it, haven’t we got it in our DNA to be attracted to the strongest caveman who can protect us against the invading tribe or the saber-tooth tiger? That show of power and confidence can imply the alpha will be loyal as well—standing by his love interest, standing up for her (or him), being strong when s/he can’t manage it.

But are those traits reserved only for alphas? Is it only the tough guy who gets respect and gets his intended to swoon? What if sexy is not a forceful personality, but different manifestations of confidence and strength? What if “beta” doesn’t equal “wimp,” but instead means someone possessing a quiet grace, an understated power? A beta hero steps up when stepping up is required and handles things modestly. He pitches in when needed, sometimes behind the scenes, without needing acknowledgment of it. He doesn’t threaten (unless pushed, and then look out). Without shouting out a demand for respect, he gets that respect all the same. That, I adore.

Ah, I know what you’re thinking! We’re talking romances, here. Fiction, not reality. What’s the harm in fantasizing about a “man’s man” taking you in hand and rendering you helpless? Fair question, as long as it’s a brief fling. Don’t give me a happy ending that asks me to imagine a long-term relationship with the guy, because reality intrudes, and I start thinking that eventually “taking you in hand” turns into “make me a ham sammich.”

But, you might ask, what about the implication that there’s an enticing package (the emotional one! get your mind out of the gutter!) buried deep within the hero, under the crusty exterior? What about the whole delicious drama wherein the heroine thinks he’s a jerk, but in time, with enough persistence, manages to uncover the gem underneath, reserved just for her?

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Maybe it’s because I’m old—older! ahem!—but I can’t help but think that no woman should have to work that hard to find the nice in a guy. I know, from experience, that it’s quite rare that you do all that digging and actually come up with a gem. I’ve been around long enough to have learned first hand that in reality most surly, tough guys aren’t diamonds in the rough; they’re just lumps of coal through and through. If he is of two minds, an arrogant jerk out in the real world but a sweetie behind closed doors, that doesn’t make me think he’s keeping his true self just for the heroine, but instead has a freakin’ split personality.

So yeah, I’ve always preferred the mild-mannered ones. (“I prefer” are the operative words here, of course. This is my personal preference. I’m not saying that one is right and the other wrong. Different strokes and all that.) The heroes in my contemporary romantic comedies are indeed quietly strong—perhaps not men you’d notice right away (despite their good looks), but ones who emerge as intelligent, sensitive, powerful in their own way and, yes, leaders. Men who can take charge without bringing down any nearby structures in the process, men who can be physically threatening but prefer not to be, men who can also take charge for the heroine—and of the heroine (wink)—when necessary.

For example, Mason, the hero of my second book, Unscripted, is a community college professor. Not the type of guy you’d think of as swoonworthy (unless you have a thing for three-day beards and tweed jackets with patches on the elbows), but he has his own strengths. He is patient when the heroine, Faith, is doing too much navel gazing, takes care of her when she’s sick, and helps her sort out her messy relationship with her mother. At the same time, he doesn’t let her run roughshod over his feelings and is fiercely protective of his students—even when it’s Faith who inadvertently nearly destroys their hopes and dreams. And he has phenomenal hair.

Betas are not always weak, and alphas are not always strong. What might be best, then, is an eradication of the classifications. Just make the hero a good man, and I’m sold on the romance.

Jayne Denker is the author of three contemporary romantic comedies – By Design and Unscripted are available in all ebook formats, and Down on Love will be released on November 21. She is hard at work on a fourth, a second small-town romance that’s a follow-up to Down on Love, which will be published in July 2014.

She lives in a small town in western New York with her husband, son, and one very sweet senior-citizen basement kitteh who loves nothing more than going outside, where she sits on the front walk and wonders why she begged to go outside. When Jayne’s not hard at work on another novel (or, rather, when she should be hard at work on another novel), she can usually be found frittering away stupid amounts of time online.

Blog: http://jaynedenker.comFacebook: Jayne Denker AuthorTwitter: @JDenkerAuthor

16 comments to “My Heroes Have Always Been Betas”

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  1. Meda White - October 21, 2013 Reply

    I’m with you, Jayne. Give me a good beta man any day. Great post!

  2. Heather Ashby - October 21, 2013 Reply

    Thank you SO MUCH for writing about Beta Heroes! There simply are not enough of them in romance novels. (I’m off to buy your books!) and quite honestly nice guys often make the best husbands, so why not have them in the Happily Ever After books??? I LOVE “no woman should have to work that hard to find the nice in a guy.” THank you for singing the praises of nice guys!

    • Jayne Denker - October 21, 2013 Reply

      Hi Heather! Oooh, it’s so nice to hear that other readers out there like beta heroes too! I was *sob* feeling so alone there for a while! 🙂

  3. Valerie Douglas - October 21, 2013 Reply

    I LOVE ‘beta’ heroes – or rather real men! I got so tired of the Alpha males, I wrote some betas of my own.

    • Jayne Denker - October 21, 2013 Reply

      Whoo we got us a beta hero convoy now! Yaaayyy! 🙂 What do you love about your beta heroes, Valerie?

  4. Jim Cangany - October 21, 2013 Reply

    As a romance author who is a Beta at best in real life, I loved this! I strive to keep my heroes and heroines a little more down to earth in my stories. I always say I want my characters to be like people you’d want to hang out with over a beer or glass of wine. Best wishes for Down on Love!

    • Jayne Denker - October 21, 2013 Reply

      A romance author AND a real-life beta! Jim, you’d better watch out–you’re going to have all sorts of women chasing you! (Your novel sounds great–I’m going to check it out!)

  5. Jennifer Lane - October 21, 2013 Reply

    What if “beta” doesn’t equal “wimp,” but instead means someone possessing a quiet grace, an understated power?

    YES! I love betas for their gracefulness and humility.

    I’m a psychologist so I see how men truly are when they don’t need to impress their bros. They can be warmly vulnerable, and sometimes they even *gasps* cry!

    • Jayne Denker - October 22, 2013 Reply

      Ooh the science of betas! Love it! Thanks, Jennifer! 🙂

  6. Kristina Mathews - October 21, 2013 Reply

    I love Betas. In fiction and in real life. Not that there is anything wimpy about them. They just don’t have to shout and pound their chests to tell you how strong they are. They can have weaknesses, and they even acknowledge that they don’t know everything. But they will fight for what is right and for the woman they love.

    • Jayne Denker - October 22, 2013 Reply

      Good point, Kristina–“they even acknowledge that they don’t know everything.” And it doesn’t threaten their identity/masculinity/whatevs.

  7. Kelly - October 25, 2013 Reply

    Great post! I love beta heroes, too. 🙂

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