Oftentimes, when I'm between projects and life is crazy-busy, I take a hiatus from writing. I knew my life would be crazy this past month with increased time and responsibilities required at the day job plus the added stress of getting my teenage sons to practices/games/social events/writing those college essays. So I did what any respectable romance reader-writer-mom would do, I fell into a heap of romance novels to get me through it.
For the writers among us, we know reading is essential to our craft. We need to know what’s out there, what other writers who are currently defining our genre are writing, and what readers are reading. We need to look at best-selling authors’ work to try to dissect it to understand why readers are reading it and what they’re looking for in a good story.
Two books I read made me pause to reassess my heroes. The first was an older Jill Shalvis book that was re-released last year, Her Sexiest Mistake, and the second was Katy Evans’ Real. These two books hit me right in the gut. So I had to look at them closely and figure out why the hero in each of these books took my breath away and why I fell so hard for them as I read the books . . . because I want to do the same thing to my readers. I want to give them a sexy Alpha hero who takes their breath away and makes them fall in love all over again.
So here’s what I discovered about writing a sexy Alpha hero who doesn’t come across as a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, but someone who is worthy of the fiesty heroine in my stories.
1. She perceives him as a sexy bad boy, even if he’s not totally a bad boy in reality. He might have the trappings (look like a tough bad boy, but he’s got a soft, good heart).
2. His actions are unapologetic and he’s got a take-charge attitude all the times.
3. He uses his power and strength for good. Always.
4. He’s comfortable in his own skin.
5. He’s unapologetic about what he wants--and what he mainly wants is her. He goes after what he wants, even if he’s misguided at times. He’s not wishy-washy.
6. He’s competent at what he does, whether he’s a high school chemistry teacher or a underground boxer.
7. Even though he’s tough, he’s got a softer side where we see his protectiveness and compassion for his family members, kids who populate his life, pets, the people he’s claimed as family.
8. He pokes gently at her flaws and doesn’t let her remain stuck or run away from them.
9. He serves her and takes care of her at times (makes her a meal, fixes something for her, takes care of a task that is more difficult for her).
10. He sees her--really sees her--deep down. As Michael Hague says, he sees her essence, not just the façade she puts on for the world to see.
11. He’s not afraid to show both his affection or his attraction, no matter how edgy and passion-filled it can be at times. He’s hungry for her, yet he genuinely likes her as a person, too. Her strength, her personality, her quirks. He’s attracted to everything about her, not just her body.
12. Sometimes, he’s a pissed off Alpha male, but he’s always in control of his anger.
13. He’s on to her tricks when she’s trying to pull one over on him.
14. He’s a Saint & a Sinner.
15. When she pokes at him, he doesn’t back down. He stands his ground calmly.
16. He grows and learns about himself just as much from the heroine as from the lessons life throws at him. He’s different with her and for her. He wants to be a better man because of her.
17. He’s a Protector & Provider.
18. She feels totally safe with him, for good reason. He’s proven to her he won’t let anyone hurt her.
19. He’s intense.
20. He desires her above all else--he’s cut her from the pack; and whether he knows it yet or not, she’s the only one for him. Period.
So, there you have it ... my Alpha male theory, based on two books that I recently adored. How about you? What have you noticed you love about the heroes in the romance novels you've been reading? Those Alpha guys who took you by surprise, body-slammed you, and took your breath away? I’d love to hear your list!