10 May 2016

IN PRAISE OF BETA HEROES


My Tuesday Talk Guest: Kerryn Reid


Last fall, when I found out Learning to Waltz had been chosen best Regency romance for 2014 by Chanticleer Book Reviews, Helen invited me to her blog to share my excitement. (See that post here.) 

She’s been kind enough to ask me back, because at long last I have received my prize: A free Chanticleer review. Five stars! I’d say it was worth the wait.

Reid’s focus is on her richly developed characters… She has filled her well-conceived saga with a complex and compelling cast.” 

Yes, I’ll take that, because a novel without memorable characters isn’t worth reading. And beyond memorable, there has to be at least one I really like and can root for, however flawed he or she might be.
(Read the complete review here.) 

I do wonder if the reviewer loved Evan as much as I do. There may be many readers who would feel the same way. Certainly, it’s hard to find a romance editor whose “wish list” doesn’t specify feisty, independent heroines and alpha heroes. They insist that’s what readers want, despite the fact that independent women were few and far between during the Regency.

There have always been alpha men, however – alpha dukes, even! – and let me say up front, thank God for that. My life would be poorer without the Marquis of Vidal (Georgette Heyer’s Devil’s Cub), the heroes of Anne Stuart’s Ice series, and others too numerous to name. They’re dark, they’re difficult, they’re hot. No argument. A marine, a cop, a pirate like Helen’s fabulous Jesemiah Acorne… Yes, ma’am! I have a short story coming out this summer featuring an alpha cop, so I’ll even create one on occasion.

But to reach my heart, he has to be smart, not just a smart-ass. Alpha heroes tend to be controlling, manipulative, and sometimes downright mean. Those are not traits I admire in a man. Yes, I know it’s fantasy – that doesn’t mean I have to throw off all my smarts and values, like a teenage girl who’s only interested in the “bad boys.” That’s not my fantasy.

There are plenty of dark, difficult, hot beta heroes, and they too need the love of a good woman: preferably ME! Everyone who reads historicals – including those aforementioned editors – professes to adore Jane Austen. But Jane did not do alpha heroes. Wickham, Willoughby, Frank Churchill – these are Jane’s alpha men, and they are not heroes. Her heroes are not always wise, not always right, but they are civilized, reasonable, thinking men.

Of course, even a beta hero must have a steel core. Two of my favorite Mary Stewart heroes come to mind. These are eminently civilized men, who ordinarily would not dream of doing the ugly things they end up doing. But in circumstances far from ordinary, they find the strength they need to protect – or avenge – their loved ones.

My own Evan Haverfield, hero of Learning to Waltz, does not need to defeat Nazi thugs (like Richard Byron in Madam, Will You Talk?) or kill a Greek bandito in bare-handed combat (Simon Lester in My Brother Michael). I believe he could, if I demanded it of him, but my stories take place on a small stage. Evan’s adversaries are his mother, and the woman he loves; his weapons are words and persistence. After being twice rejected by his would-be bride, he confronts her one last time:

Just one more thing. I don’t know if I’ve said… do you know how much I love you? I cannot imagine life without you. And I won’t give you up easily. You’ll have to go a lot farther than Whately if you want to get away from me. Japan might do, perhaps, if they’ll let you in—I believe they’re very restrictive. But I don’t think Julian would much like it there. And the voyage would be very hard on your mother.
If he’d hoped to lighten the mood, he failed dismally. He could have spoken the words lightly—had meant to do so!—except that he was so damnably frustrated. Strange to think that six months ago he had been appalled at the thought of marriage. Now the only thing he could think about was getting the knot tied, binding her safe to his side."

The hero of my next novel is beta, too. More so, in fact, because at 22, he’s still digging out from his youth as a despised younger son and brother. He has not yet attained Evan’s self-confidence. The events of the book, of course, bring him to an understanding of his own worth.

I can dig alpha men. Heck, I’ve been married to one for forty years. He’s the love of my life, but I do sometimes wonder if I’d have been better suited to someone more like Evan. We would read to each other in the evenings, amble along the country lanes – and nothing would ever get done around here!



Learning to Waltz -- from Hartwood Publishing

Deborah Moore has learned her lessons well–feel nothing, reveal less, and trust no one. Now widowed with a child of her own, she leads a lonely, cloistered existence, counting her farthings and thinking she is safe. When five-year-old Julian is lost one bitter December day, she discovers how tenuous that safety is.

Evan Haverfield has lived thirty carefree years, hunting, laughing, and dancing among London’s high society. His biggest problem has been finding excuses not to marry. But his life changes when he finds Julian Moore half-frozen under a hedge and carries him home to his mother. The young widow hides behind a mask, hard and reserved, but Evan sees glimpses of another woman, wistful, intelligent, and passionate. She’s vulnerable, desirable—and completely unsuitable for the heir to Northridge.

Alone in the earliest hours of a new year, Evan teaches Deborah to waltz. Can he teach her joy and laughter? Will love sweep away the shadows of her past and reveal the luminous woman she could be?"

Do you know of a beta hero Kerryn or Helen would love?
Post a comment or send them an email!


Twitter: https://twitter.com/kerryn_reid  @Kerryn_Reid


25 comments:

  1. Thank you for inviting me, Helen! (Or did I invite myself?) Maybe we can do it again sometime!

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    1. No matter who invited whom - you're very welcome! :-)

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  2. Great post - I enjoyed reading about Evan. I didn't realise it, but I think I probably prefer the Beta hero.

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    1. I think I agree with you Annie (without realising it until reading this.) Is my Jesamiah Alpha or Beta? Well he's tough, he's determined, he's courageous - but he isn't controlling (well not beyond his role as Captain of a ship). He gets things wrong, he gets into scrapes (and scraps) - he can be mean (as mean as a pirate) but he also has a soft side. (I haven't had him rescuing a kitten yet - but he probably will! LOL)

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  3. Thanks for your comment, Annie - I've achieved my objective! Helen, I always thought of "pirate" and "beta" as mutually exclusive terms, but of course there's a lot of gray area. We all have some of both types, in different proportions.

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  4. Wonderful post! Dierks Bentley has a country song out called I'm a Riser". It's about a man who, if necessary, can rise to whatever is needed to protect who and what he loves --even though that's not intrinsically who he is. The beta man. I think he's what we all want --at least some of the time!

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    1. How interesting, Lynnette thanks! Mind you, being honest, all I want is a man who helps with the dishes, remembers to turn the TV off when he's not watching it, and closes the loo seat after he's been to the bathroom! LOL

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    2. So he "rises" to the occasion, is that the idea? Plenty of meanings for that! ;-) The alpha guy's a lot of fun, but maybe beta's more reliable long-term? I don't know which one's better at closing the loo, Helen!

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  5. "Thunk!" That's the sound of yet another book landing on my TBR! And as to alpha and beta, aren't most men a mix of both? Alpha in some situations, beta in others? Jesamiah, bless his heart, is not exactly an alpha in some of his more heated discussions with his lady wife :)

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    1. I agree with you Anna for 'real' men - but is that the case for some fictional characters I wonder?

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    2. Aw, that's sweet, Anna. I think we're ALL a mix of both. And maybe it's best NOT to combine two strong alphas. My upcoming short story/novella pairs a Type A cop with a Type Z!

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  6. Great post. Loved your Beta Hero and I can't wait to read your next book.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by Kim!

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    2. I am working on it, Kim, really! Thanks so much for coming!

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  7. Perhaps alpha heroes are the ones we sigh over and lust after but beta heroes are the steady ones we marry. I've always had a thing for Colonel Brandon (esp played by Alan Rickman).

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    1. I'll sigh over Colonel Brandon anytime! (RIP Alan.) But it's true that when I first read it as a teenager, I found him pretty dull. Guess it's that teenage girl/bad boy thing. Thanks for stopping by, Alison!

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  8. I do love a beta hero! The reliable guy who will support the alpha (when he's right), but step up to command if he has to. A is for alpha, but far too often it also stands for a-hole. I wrote a blog post on the different types, and I found a useful chart (from organisational psychology) of how alphas can be a liability. http://judeknightauthor.com/2015/04/12/alpha-and-omega/

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    1. thanks for that Jude - I'll go take a look.....

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    2. Thank you for that scientific angle, Jude. It's helpful, I think, and goes to show that all virtues can become liabilities when taken to extremes. A useful tool for developing one's characters, as you say!

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  9. Chanelling Mrs Patrick Campbell: Maybe the Beta is for the 'deep, deep peace of the double bed' and the Alpha is for 'the hurly burly of the chaise longue'?

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    1. You might be right there Susan!

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    2. I needed that, Susan! :-) Thanks for coming!

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  10. Such an elegantly written post, Kerryn. I enjoyed every word as much as I enjoyed Learning to Waltz

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    1. Thanks Jean - an elegant piece for an elegant waltz!

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    2. Aw, you're sweet, Jean. Thank you so much!

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