During my last revision phase, Mr. FabAgentMan told me to ratchet up the romance. This posed a slight problem for me as I am the most unromantic person in the world. Da Man is more romantic than I am. In fact he'll do strange and wonderfully romantic things for me, like fly me out to a romantic destination without telling me where we are going, or leaving me hidden presents that I might not find until much later just because. And I always say "Aw, how romantic. DON'T DO THAT AGAIN!" I am a killjoy. I have no romance in my soul. What other people find romantic usually makes me vomit in my mouth.
So the edict about ratcheting up the romance made me nervous. But like all things I am unfamiliar with, I decided to attack it via research. Being a good researcher, I went to my local library and borrowed a whole host of romance novels, including historical bodice rippers since my book is historical. When I went to check them out, the librarian, who knows me, raised both eyebrows, smirked and said "Escapist literature?" I said "Don't judge me." Seriously, some of these books have covers that make you want to cringe in embarrassment.
Speaking of bad covers, this website cracked me up with their retitling of bad romance covers. I think my favorite was Lord of the Hissy Fit.
Here's the thing about romance novels. Some I really enjoyed. Some I really despised. But all had one thing in common. Unrealistic alpha males. These men only reside on the pages of a romance novel. They are as real as the Tooth Fairy but every single romance novel I read had one.
So what is the appeal of the alpha male? Well, going by the heroes of the bunch of romance novels I've recently read I'd like to list their seven key characteristics:
1. Handsome - They are always incredibly handsome and incredibly sexy. Women throw themselves at an alpha male like fleas on a dirty dog.
2. Endowments - Neigh. Snort. Yowzers!
3. Lover - See 2 above. They don’t need no stinking Viagra.
4. Successful - They are usually the best at whatever it is they do—usually something dangerous, violent, heroic, or financial. Or a fine combination of all of this- a playboy CEO cowboy volunteer firefighter Black ops Tae kwon do master gourmet chef that gives foot massages.
5. Strength - They are physically very strong because they must either fight a bad guy, climb cliffs with their bare hands, rip open car doors, all while carrying the fainting heroine in their brawny arms. If they are injured, no matter how badly, all they will do is grit their teeth and be stoic. It's like the Black Knight from Monty Python's Holy Grail, saying "it's just a flesh wound."
6. Arrogant - See all of the above traits which is why they are so arrogant.
7. Opinionated – Their opinions are the only ones that really matter because they are the top dog.
These 7 characteristics form the key to understanding the Alpha Male - or ASSHOLE. Not to be confused with Mercedes drivers who are referred to as Asshole, not all caps. But if an Alpha Male also drives a Mercedes, then they can be referred to as an ASSHOLE Asshole, all cap designation always having first priority.
The ASSHOLE designation might lead readers to believe that they are not unrealistic, yet I urge you to look beyond the superficial similarities to many males you might know and focus on why the Romance Alpha Male is unrealistic. For example:
1. Ever notice that Alpha Males in romance novels never fart or belch? They never pull the bedcovers over the heroine's head and trap them in a fart cave? They don't blow doritos tainted belches instead of kisses? They don't leave large drool stains on your pillow?
2. A true romantic Alpha has a high tolerance for pain. They don't whine and moan and act like the biggest baby over a paper cut. They don't sulk when you ignore their bruises. That's why they are not real. Most men act like the world is ending when they get sick. Babies with colic whine less than a man with a bad cold.
3. A real man might work out and flex their muscles in front of the mirror, but if you ask for a piggy back ride they act like you're a 400 lb gorilla trying to break their back. Ok that might just be a personal issue I have...
4. Several of the romance novels I read had romantic scenes that went on and on and on and on for pages and pages. They'd stop and then start up again in the next chapter and the next. Every single night! I was tired just reading about it. The Romantic Alpha Male is like the Energizer Bunny Rabbit, he keeps going and going and going...
5. And going and going and going...
6. Seriously, after 4 and 5, need I say more?
I understand that romance writers are providing escapism by giving their readers a romantic alpha male that makes them swoon and sigh and wish for an ASSHOLE of their very own. But I say lets have some more realism in our romantic leads. If they're handsome, give them a receding hairline. If they're strong, give them a beer belly. If they're smart, make them a little insecure. Anything that makes them less of a caricature, a stereotype of what a woman is supposed to want. Cause when all is said and done, I would rather have my grouchy, whiny, drooling hubby who refuses to give me piggy back rides than the sexiest, dreamiest, romantic alpha male that graces the pages of the best romance book in the world. Because even though he won't give me foot massages and scratches my back like he's scraping barnacles off the hull of a boat, he respects me for being a strong woman who can take care of herself and her family. And that is sexier than anything else in the world.