Love and the Alpha Male

321111_bsilhouette-of-cowboy-at-sunset-posters.jpgAgain and again I hear this from editors—give us an alpha male hero! That’s what everybody wants these days!  Ok.  I’ll give it a shot.  Just give me some time to figure out what an alpha male is.         

In the animal world the alpha male is the wolf, hippo, baboon, elephant seal, etc.  who can beat off all the other males, get the females and become the head of the pack.  Apply that to the human race and things get a little more complicated.          

For help I turned to an article I found on line (credit to Mary Carmichael, Newsweek Web Exclusive, March 12).  The article started out to be about Elliot Spitzer,  certainly not my type.  But it went on to make some interesting points about alpha males—referred to here as “sensation seekers.”    

According to the author, “Sensation seekers crave novel and intense experiences more than other people do, and, as part of that, they tend to have many sexual partners. They get a bigger kick out of things….Sensation seekers don’t just lust after things–they take them, often disregarding the risks that block their way.  When you’re dealing with these high-level, in-your-face, go-for-everything guys, you’re dealing with people who take a lot of risks… For these types, the risk itself is part of the reward.  Breaking rules is a thrill for them…Alpha males are high on testosterone, the hormone that underlies almost all the typical traits of the politico-sexual animal: high levels of testosterone make for a high sex drive, a love of risks, aggressiveness and competitiveness. These people have a strong need to win at games, which is obviously important in power politics.  Success sends their testosterone spiraling up, while a loss brings the levels down—a phenomenon that’s been documented in the lab as well as in athletes and chess champions.”         

Sound like anyone you know?         

Alpha heroes can be compelling.  Think James Bond or Rambo.  Think of the characters John Wayne has played—pair him up with a little spitfire like Maureen O’Hara and you have pure magic.  There’s Darcy in P & P—a quiet alpha but definitely an alpha.  Matt Dillon, another quiet alpha.  Earnest Hemingway—an alpha all the way, and not always a nice one.         

I have mixed feelings about alpha men.  They’re exciting, but I don’t know how long I could live with one.   An all-out alpha man could get wearing after a while.  Kind of like having a wild stallion in the house.  After a while you’d get tired of cleaning up the mess.         

For the record, my all-time fictional dream man is Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Steadfast, tender, compassionate, a man of absolute integrity and courage.  Alpha?  Hmmm.  Depends on your definition.  

What’s your take on alpha-heroes?  Who’s your favorite alpha hero from books or movies?  Is your sweetie an alpha?  I’d love to hear.

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I'm an internationally published romance author, coming up on 40 novels and novellas. Most of my stories have been Westerns for Harlequin Historicals, but I set stories in other times and places as well. I'll also be writing contemporary stories for Harlequin Desire, with the first release in January 2013. You can learn more on my web site.

22 thoughts on “Love and the Alpha Male”

  1. Cheers and congratulations to two of our very own fillies who’ve been nominated for the prestigious RWA Rita awards (for those who don’t know, this is the Romance Writers’ equivalent of the Oscars).
    Cheryl St. John and Pat Potter are our shining stars! We are so proud of them!

  2. I love alpha males and I’m married to one…you might have something with that ‘stallion’ analogy.
    I wrote a book once I called my Alpha Female/Beta Male book, deliberately turning the characters on their heads…although most romance heroines these days are alpha too, not so much with the damsel in distres anymore. Or maybe an Alpha damsel in distress.
    She’s a cop. He’s a soft hearted veterinarian. Somebody’s trying to kill her, he, the good samaritan, gets in the middle to save her and now the killer’s after them both.
    Weird thing was, in the end, my hero went all alpha on me.
    But he kept saying things to the heroine line, “yes I was the sharpshooting champion on my marine base four years in a row, but it’s not a part of myself I’m proud of.

  3. I think I’d enjoy your book Mary! I have a soft spot for males with a gentle side, even though my editors are demanding Alpha! Alpha! Alpha! Thanks for your insight.

  4. Hi Elizabeth — I think Alpha males are strong, capable, clearly like to be in control and often times extremely successful. I’ve gotten to know the Alpha male since I write Desires now. And believe me, if I write something that isn’t Alpha, I hear it from my editor. For instance, an Alpha male doesn’t storm out of a room in a fury. An Alpha male stays in control and makes sure his opponent is the one who does the storming out. 🙂

    But at times, I need a change of pace, and I wrote a more Beta than Alpha man in my May anthology. It was a breath of fresh air for me. I do enjoy an appealing man who doesn’t have it all figured out at times.

    I married an Alpha/Beta man and it’s the best of both worlds. He’s strong and capable yet very tender and sweet at the same time. I consider myself lucky.

    Great topic!

  5. You are indeed a lucky lady, Charlene. And as a writer presently submitting to Desire (that could be read two ways but never mind), I know what you’re saying. In fact, that’s what inspired this blog!
    🙂

  6. Elizabeth, excellent subject! I’m glad that editors are wanting alpha males because I love to write them. Two of my books feature alpha heroes. They’re tough and determined. They know what they want and they go for it full out.

    But in real life, I married a beta man. He was kind and gentle and loving. Although he could be strong when the circumstances warranted. He just didn’t know the trouble he’d have when he married a stubborn Taurus, but boy did he learn! 🙂

    I wish you a wonderful, inspirational day.

  7. Thanks, Linda. My daughter is a stubborn Taurus, her husband a princely beta, and they’re great together. And I’m learning lots about alpha men in this blog, which is what I need.
    And you have a lovely day, too.

  8. Hi, Elizabeth!

    Put me down as a lover of Alpha heroes–but I am SO married to a beta. If anything, I’m the Alpha one in the family.

    Why do opposites have to attract?

    Now my dad was all Alpha. A full-blooded Italian who always wore the pants in the family. I don’t remember ever seeing him change any diapers–and there were seven of us. My mom did all the housewife things, and he was the family Protector. Sometimes, since I was the oldest and a female, *too* protective. But that’s another story, too.

    So, Elizabeth. You’re submitting to Desire?

  9. I agree that Alphas might be difficult to live with,
    especially for me. I’ve been married for almost 47
    years to a quiet, kind, caring, considerate man to
    whom family comes first. At this point, I wouldn’t
    be able to live with an Alpha. We would be clashing
    constantly!!

    Pat Cochran

  10. Back after a a 3-hour break. Really interesting observations here. My ex was a sort of pseudo-alpha, but I won’t go there. I agree that betas are easier to live with. But in the realm of fantasy lovers…alphas can be so exciting. Maybe that’s why they work so well in fiction. The story ends when the heroine brings them to heel.

  11. And yes, Pam, I am submitting to Desire. I’ll never give up historicals but some variety would be nice. My new editor is actually a Desire editor, so I figure the timing is good, and she’s been very helpful. FWIW my proposed trilogy has a western setting. Wish me luck.

  12. Adding my CHEERS for Pat and Cheryl! Wooohoo!!! Congratulations, ladies 🙂

    What a fun post, Elizabeth!! My first two books have very different heroes…a fun-loving Beta hero who likes to enjoy life but has enough Alpha in him to get the job done is Tucker in MUSTANG WILD and Jed, who’s Alpha all the way in BRIDE. I was very surprised by the very different receptions these guys received from reviewers. The alpha was definitely the favorite. Personally, Tucker is my favoirte *ggg*

    But I like alpha heroes, so long as “alpha” isn’t code for “abusive”. I’ve toss many books against the wall because I won’t forgive an alpha jerk who abuses his lady—don’t care how wounded he is. A couple of my favorite alpha heroes are from Elizabeth Lowell’s ONLY series, Whip Moran and Caleb Black. A favorite Beta/Alpha is the Luke Shardlow in LL Miller’s ONE WISH. I guess I like a variety 😀

  13. Some good points here, Stacey. I probably put too much beta into my heroes because I like beta men in real life. But alphas do tend to win with readers.
    As for the abuse factor–absolutely. But from my experience, abusers tend to have low self-confidence and low self-esteem. A true alpha, in the good sense, would be so sure of himself that abuse wouldn’t be a part of his behavior.

  14. I love alpha males…but those with a tender heart underneath the rough and tough exterior.

    Strong yet gentle, tough yet tender…and those with soft spots for women, children and animals.

    Those who will fight when they have to but walk away when they can.

    And of course, being sexy doesn’t hurt LOL!

    PamT

  15. Love the Alpha Males!!! Congradulations Cheryl and Pat!! Very informative post as always, Do love this peticular topic!!

  16. Y’know, therapydoc, I agree with you and quoted the article mainly as a basis for discussion. It’s been great fun. Thanks for your input. We wouldn’t love alpha heroes if they had hearts of stone.

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