We’re having a little discussion on the Pink Petal Books Reader Group about heroes, Alpha, Beta, Omega, Cowboy, Cop, Construction Worker, Corporate Giant… It got me to thinking, who ARE my heroes? What are they? Do they fit neatly into the Greek alphabet or do they cross the lines? I do, after all, love to blur the lines of sterotypes.
If I break it down by book, the most obvious Alpha hero I have is Roul Verlaine in Mating. Roul is the quintessential Alpha. He’s a werewolf who leads his pack. He’s an action man, a decision maker, and within his world he’s a force of nature. When he meets his mate, the fact that she too is Alpha, totally turns him on and makes him even more eager to pounce on her, take her, and make her his own. He’s a tad bit chauvinistic, but then again, that seems to be an overriding Alpha trait. They always want to be the top of the heap and that means commanding their women too even if the women are Alpha. However, like a good marriage, compromise becomes the key and a smart Alpha will learn to work in tandem with his Alpha mate. Despite the fact that within an hour of meeting Morgan, Roul has her beneath him in bed, he does learn to compromise.
Now, Roul’s twin Ranulf is the Beta. In Runaways, Ran meets a woman on a train and instantly wants her. However, he doesn’t get up from his table in the dining car and approach her. It’s not until some Goth kids push him into her that he takes the opportunity to hit on her. And Dante is the one who invites Ran to her sleeper cabin, not the other way around. It’s not that Ran can’t take charge because he can. And he does, the instant he has a naked Dante all over him.
Ran’s used to being Roul’s right hand and dealing with pack business in an aggressive manner. But personally, he lacks that instantaneous urge to dominate that his older twin has. Where Roul made the decision in moments to pounce on Morgan, Ran let Dante come to him and then he took control. The Beta therefore has slightly less strong instincts to possess and has a bit more finesse when it comes to dealing with their mates. Think of it as the Cro Magnon man compared to the Neandertal.
My quintessential Beta has always been Weylyn Randall. But in Common Ground, you don’t necessarily get the impression that Weylyn is Beta. Set beside Marius, you wonder about both men. Marius has a lot of confusion about his mate for an Alpha. Fortunately, I give the reasons for it. When Colin ogles Marius’s mate, the Alpha surfaces and Marius takes his younger brother to task for it. Colin, who is also Alpha, but often doesn’t come off that way (see the beginning of Hot Water where Eden thinks Colin is Beta because he’s so laid back), does back off. For one, Marius is his older brother and for another, he already has a mate. Had Colin not been mated, he might not have backed down so easily.
As for Weylyn, you discover that he has an Alpha, a female Alpha whom he respects and would do anything for. You see that Weylyn is the laid back type who often lets his mate take charge. But like any good Beta, when needed to bring a situation or a person to heel, he can bring some major force to bear. Reading Weylyn you’ll find that he shares a lot of the same qualities of Ranulf. If there’s no Alpha to take charge, they will automatically rise to the challenge. Betas are not weak. In many ways, they have far more strength than an Alpha because they must always hold themselves ready to support the Alpha. Second in command is often a tougher job than leading because not only do the lower ranks look up to you, the leader himself looks to you for support. So it’s no surprise that Weylyn Randall doesn’t come off as weak beside the Alpha, Marius Granville.
In the Pixie Prince, Max doesn’t come off as Alpha when sharing the page with Alexa, his snapping, growling, take charge vampire best friend. Yet, with his mate Bliss, it becomes much more obvious. The fact that Max is a nice guy tempers his aggressive tendencies. And besides, the fae aren’t as territorial as werewolves and vampires anyway.
The obvious Alphas in my books are the ones who are Doms. Ride the Lightning‘s Vahid Delrey may brown nose his boss Sean Antaeus (the most Alpha of Alphas in the Tales series) but in his own domain, his own dungeon, Vahid is a Dom. He controls his mate Emily sexually. The submissive Emily comes off as Alpha while at work because she is in charge of the finances of a multi-billion dollar empire. At home, she has a penchant for pain and submitting to Vahid is what makes her happy. Readers may have thought she was Alpha, but she is not. They may have thought Vahid was Beta, but he is not.
In their case, it’s a question of business versus sex. Just because you are an Alpha doesn’t mean your job lets you be one while on the clock and vice versa. However, at home, their true natures are obvious as Vahid takes control and Emily revels in it.
My other Dom is Aric Calderwood in Insolence. Aric is a total Alpha male and his best friend Ainsley Connor is Alpha too. All Aric has ever known of Ainsley is her strong personality and her need to lead. As children, their similar personalities are what made them best friends. As adults, Aric doesn’t want Ainsley on his turf – his BDSM club Insolence – because he can’t bear the thought of watching her with another man, even if it’s a Beta or Omega.
For Ainsley, her love for Aric is so strong that she would do anything to have him, including shoving her Alpha into a box and nailing it shut so she can sub for her best friend. The very fact that she has the strength of will to subdue her Alpha tendencies for Aric tells you what she is. And for these two, life has a dividing line similar to Ride the Lightning’s. Sexually, Aric has control. He is the Alpha in the relationship. Outside the bedroom, the two resume the give and take they have known all their lives and Ainsley’s Alpha has free rein.
Over all, my heroes tend to be Alphas, but often my heroines are as well. And my Beta heroes are strong while some of my Alphas must bow to other Alphas. There’s Garret and Holden in Fire Season who must learn to work together despite both of them being Alpha. And in the office, Garret answers to Emily while Holden looks to his older brother Sean. Both of these Alphas have had to learn to compromise in business and in their private lives, but they make it work.
The same holds true of Declan Antaeus who also answers to his brother Sean. But in Shifting Winds, we also learn that an Alpha who gives control over to the woman he loves can be hotter than the Mojave Desert in August. When Declan lets Elysia fuck him with a vibrator…well, it’s not exactly a very Alpha thing to do. Or is it? Declan still controls the situation. He’s asking her to do this, giving her the toys to use, the whole scene is orchestrated by him very subtly but still. He may be the one being fucked, but it’s what he asks for in order to achieve a certain level of pleasure. He’s definitely still in control.
With the M/M dynamic, you have to be a little more subtle about things when you have a pair of Alphas. Of course, it would be a lot easier to write if one was Alpha and the other not. I don’t tend to take the easy way out of emotions when writing though. In Where There’s Smoke, Zander is clearly Alpha with the aggression to prove it. His mate Voth is Alpha too, but Voth is a bit less aggressive, a little bit more cerebral, and his emotions aren’t as Neandertal as Zander’s. Of course, Voth was raised in a very different culture than Zander and his future was always destined, not something he’d have to fight for. The very fact that Zander’s spent his life fighting makes him appear more Alpha than Voth. They are essentially equals, but it manifests itself in different ways. When Voth gives in to Zander, it’s because intellectually, logically, it’s the thing to do. Or in the case of sex, he just wants to cause he knows his turn is coming. 😉
So where does all this leave us with regard to the Greek alphabet? I’m not sure. A character like Roul Verlaine is obvious to a reader. A character like Declan Antaeus or Weylyn Randall may not be. There are subtleties to these characters and things that they may have to do to survive in their world that may not fall strongly under the label of Alpha or Beta. Personally, I think the blurring of these Greek lines is what gives a character depth and endears them to readers. But what do I know? In the end, it’s all Greek to me.