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Mary Balogh | The Appeal Of The Beta Male Hero

July 31, 2012

Mary BaloghA SECRET MISTRESSEveryone loves the alpha male heroes with which romance novels abound, those men with perfect physiques, perfect good looks, sex appeal to spare, and the aggressive swagger that makes them such a challenge to any woman hoping to persuade them to settle down and fall in love. They are fun to read about, fun to write about, and great to dream about. And of course, they always do fall in love and settle into a monogamous relationship with the heroine. Happily-ever-after is always safe in their hands at the end, and we can all sigh with satisfaction.

But what about the poor betas? Is any man without swagger or perfect looks or charisma doomed to the secondary roles in our romances and to the secondary female characters? Can they never be heroes the heroine and an army or readers can sigh over and pull for and–yes–fall in love with? Can they be fun to read about and fun to create and convincing as heroes? Can they be memorable?

I think they can, and I have created my fair share of them in my almost 100 books. There is Hartley Wade, Marquess of Carew, for example, of LORD CAREW’S BRIDE, who is sweet and unassuming and not particularly handsome and who has a withered arm as the result of something the villain did to him as a boy. But he loves the heroine with quiet devotion and, when it becomes necessary to defend her honour by fighting the villain and the duel looks like being a certain massacre, he invents kick-boxing a few centuries early and wins the day–and the lady! And there is Sir Gerald Stapleton in A PRECIOUS JEWEL, who again is not particularly handsome or self-confident or bright, and when he falls in love it is with a prostitute he has made into his mistress. But he is also lovable and loving, and when he realizes several months after Priss has left him that she is pregnant, he moves heaven and earth to find her and then convince her that he came, not just because of the baby, but because he loves her and cannot bear the prospect of living the rest of his life without her.

Oh, I fall in love with those beta heroes of mine just as surely as I fall for the rakes and the rogues. I feel a tenderness for them, ordinary men coping with the advent of love in their lives. And now, in my latest paperback book, THE SECRET MISTRESS, there is another beta hero in the person of Edward Ailsbury, Earl of Heyward. Serious and sober, taking his responsibilities to his family and position seriously because his brother who went before him assuredly did not, Edward is quite willing to admit that he is an old sobersides. And when that rake, the Duke of Tresham (hero of MORE THAN A MISTRESS), calls him a dry old stick, he does not deny the charge. And yet, poor man, he is destined to fall in love with Tresham’s sister, Lady Angeline Dudley, who is flamboyant and talks a mile a minute and has the most atrocious and garish dress sense especially when it comes to hats. As a writer and his creator, I can only honor and admire Edward–oh, and love him too.

How do you feel about having a beta male as the hero of one of the romances you have picked up to read? Leave a comment to win a copy of the new paperback edition of Mary Balogh’s THE SECRET MISTRESS

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