Jul 25 2013 3:30pm

Kinder Doesn’t Mean Less Sexy: Best Beta Heroes in Romance

Sarah's Child by Linda HowardDo you think that everyone falls in love with Alpha heroes? I know that when I first starting reading romance, I had a compulsive need for stories featuring heroes who just oozed machismo and dominance. It didn’t matter if they were the strong, silent type, or a charismatic ladies’ man, they still pretty much called the shots, and more often than not in the 1980s and 1990s books, the heroines suffered a bit for love, like Sarah did in Sarah's Child by Linda Howard.

Not that it's not thrilling for a story to have the hero take one look at the heroine and say “mine,” and doesn’t let anything stand in his way, but I think at some point the pendulum swung off the charts with the hero’s Neanderthal tendencies, and so there had to be some adjustments, in my reading, at least. That's when I discovered a whole different type of hero—heroes like Joe Brigham in Don’t Forget to Smile by Kathleen Gilles Seidel.

At this point, I didn’t know that they had a classification. To me they just seemed like nice guys—maybe even the boy next door. They treated women the way I would want to be treated, with consideration and tenderness. However, they weren’t doormats either. Beta men are not emasculated men. The author just chooses to showcase a different view of masculinity—focusing more on the hero putting the heroine or other people first, rather than his own wants and desires.

Soon I discovered that books with these type of heroes were the ones that I raved about and saved to re-read over and over again. Life is too short to put up with being treated badly. And the 1990’s had some memorable books with great heroes like C.L. Sturgis from Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie, Charlie Cochran from Bad for Each Other by Kate Hathaway, Ethan Quinn from Rising Tides by Nora Roberts, Alec Cameron from Again and Jack Wells from Summers’ End, both by Kathleen Gilles Seidel, Jeff Berenger from Finding Mr. Right by Emily Carmichael, and Johnny Becenti from Mother To Be by Cheryl Reavis.

I fell in love again with Nora Roberts’ storytelling with sweet, adorable Carter Maguire in Vision in White. Who can forget Carter’s awkward, almost vulnerable phone call? No game playing with him — he isn’t afraid to let Mackensie Elliot know that he likes her, he really likes her:

Uh, it’s Carter again. Is this annoying. I hope it’s not annoying. I happened to check my messages at home on my lunch break. Actually I made a point to check them in case you called me back. Which you did. I’m afraid I have a faculty dinner to attend Friday. I’d invite you but if you accepted and attended you’d never go out with me again. I’d rather not risk it. If another night would do even-ha ha – a school night, I’d like very much to take you out.

While Carter is delightful in his bumbling, John “Preacher” Middleton from Shelter Mountain by Robyn Carr is both fierce and intense but kind and gentle.

Who you got there he asked, nodding toward the stuffed toy.

“Bear,” Christopher said. He reached his hand toward the cookie.
Preacher said, “Make sure it’s not too hot for your mouth. So—his name’s just Bear?” Christopher nodded.

“Seems like maybe he’s missing a leg, there.”

Again the boy nodded. “Doesn’t hurt him, though.”

“That’s a break. He ought to have one, anyway. I mean, it wouldn’t be the same as his own, but it would help him get by. When he has to go for a long walk.”

Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsBeta heroes are often everyday average Joes, but sometimes they do have it all – stunning looks, charm, success and wealth but retain that inner core of goodness—like Dean Robillard from Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips:

Dean went down on one knee. Where did you come from, big guy?”

The yipping stopped, and the dog regarded him suspiciously. Dean held out his hand, palm up. “It’s a wonder you haven’t been eaten up by a coyote.”

“Not exactly your typical farm dog” Blue said.

“I’ll bet somebody abandoned him. Tossed him out of a car and drove away.”

He poked around in the grubby fur. “No collar. Is that what happened killer?”

He ran his hands along the dog’s side. “His ribs are poking through. How long since you’re eaten? I’d like five minutes in an alley with whoever dumped you off. . . “

“Come on killer. Let’s get you something to eat.” With a last pat, he rose to his feet.

Blue set off after the two of them. “Once you feed a dog, it’s yours.”

“So what? Farms need dogs.”

“Shepherds and border collies. That is not a country dog.”

”Kindly Farmer Dean believes everyone deserves a chance.”

Many times, the hero only needs to meet the right girl, to bring out his beta tendency, turning a somewhat insensitive womanizer into thoughtful and caring human being. That what happened to Harry Porter from Suddenly You by Sarah Mayberry:

“Finally, relief hit, so profound, so all –encompassing there was no room for anything else and she clenched her jaw to stop an instinctive, deeply pathetic sob from escaping. She curled her fingers around the keys, squeezing them tight, trying very, very hard not to cry with gratitude and relief. She blinked repeatedly but wasn’t entirely successful in vanquishing the tears.

“I don’t know what to say. You shouldn’t have. It’s too much. It’s amazing—but it too much, Harry”

“It was a couple of hours work, and Dad let me use his shop. Like I said, not a big deal.”

Pippa took in his tired eyes, five-o’clock shadow and fingernails still dark with grease. She knew from her inquiries that replacing a head gasket in a standard, four cylinder car was an eight –hour job, minimum. He must have worked around the clock after hours to do this for her.

Grace Grows by Shelle SumnersIf you are fond of Beta heroes, then you have probably either heard of these books or read them. Some of you are probably thinking what about more current books? I have mentioned Grace Grows by Shelle Sumner published in 2012 several times however, Tyler Wilke is so swoon worthy and persistent, you just don’t want to miss him. Wyatt Keller from Ladies’ Night by Mary Kay Andrews and Sam Grady from Carolina Girl by Virginia Kantra are not afraid to show their softer side. Robyn Carr’s new series, Thunder Point, has several Beta heroes, especially “Mac” McCain, and you can read more about him in The Newcomer out June 25.

I am always up for reading new to me authors that have perfected the thoughtful, compassionate hero? Did I fail to mention your favorite book or author? What are your favorite past releases? What recent books have you read with a Beta Hero?

While I can’t say for sure that these future books will feature a Beta hero, based on the authors’ history, I am betting they will. So I am already planning to read Her Favorite Rival by Sarah Mayberry, and Love in Plain Sight by Jeanie London, and Love Overdue by Pamela Morsi, all due to be released around the first of September. There has to be more? What future books are you planning on buying?

Leigh Davis, Blogger

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Gisele Melo
1. Gisele Melo
I'm a big fan of alphas, but I loved your article and I do appreciate Beta heros, you see, I read Suddenly You too, and loved Harry's silent strength. I think it doesn't matter if the hero is alpha, beta or gamma, if they really care about the girl and show it through their actions, I think is good enough. :)
Maggie Boyd
2. maggieboyd66
I like any kind of hero so long as I feel the author is telling a genuine love story. I just want to see chemistry between the h/h - is he right for his heroine? Also, I've seen authors ruin perfectly good betas with by giving him passive/agressive behaviors. I can't stand that.
Lee Brewer
3. LeeB.
I like Betas too and have read quite a few of the books you've named.
4. wsl0612
All of the books you've named seem to be contemporary, aren't there any beta heroes in the other romance categories?
Gisele Melo
6. Scarlettleigh
@Gisele Melo - I have a soft spot for Harry too. @ wsl0612 I guess I should put a caveat on my blogs - I read mainly contemporary books, so I am not as familar with historicals. @Maggieboyd66 - I am with you on the passive agressive behavior. @Lee B - sounds like we have similar taste!
7. carmenlire
I'm recently discovering that Betas are just as great too. I didn't know they had a name in the romance world until I came to this H&H. I loved Carter! Nora Roberts is great at writing heroes who don't dominate the heroines.
Gisele Melo
8. goddessani
Thanks so much for mentioning Ethan Quinn from Inner Harbor (Nora Roberts). For me, Ethan is IT. Others have shared my affection but I always go back to him as MY hero.

Which is funny because in real life we wouldn't get along at all. He smokes cigars on occasion. I think occasionally is still too frequent. He makes his living as a crab fisherman. I don't eat shellfish due to religious reasons. He doesn't talk. That would drive me crazy!!

But he does clean up after his messy dog and he has a heart as big as the sky!

If you haven't read his story yet, please do so. But remember he is MINE!!
Gisele Melo
9. 12Jade
Love alphas, but some betas are just unforgettable: Carter McKoy from The Texan's wager, Houston Leigh from Texas Destiny, and Peeta from The Hunger Games.
Gisele Melo
10. Sheryl Lee
I never had an issue with alpha male heroes but lately I am getting really annoyed with how some alphas in R. Novels are beeing portrayed. I mean they are ridiculously possessive, bossy, and inconsiderate that I cannot stand to finish reading the novel. After reading the Enchanted series by Shanna Swendson I realized my heart is set on beta male characters. My ideal guy has always been the sweet, quiet, and gentle guy but I admit I got carried away with the bad boy image craze for awhile (I still am... a little bit, and I recommend Golden Dynasty by Kristen Ashley) but thankfully I finally grew out of it. So im just saying, sure the badboy image makes an exciting and cool read but a gentle and sweet hero is the one that really draws me in and makes a lasting impression on me.
11. Scarlettleigh
@Sheryl Lee -- completely agree -- gentle and sweet heroes do make a lasting impression. Kindness and consideration are underrated.
Jami Gold
12. jamigold
I've vented several times about beta heroes and how I don't like the expectation of alphaholes--especially in paranormal romance. (I was once told in a workshop by a NYT bestseller that PNR heroes *have* to be alphaholes. Ugh.)

Eh, whatever. That just leaves room in the genre for my stories. :) I write beta-ish heroes and couldn't write an alphahole to save my life. That works for me. LOL!
13. Scarlettleigh
@ jamisgold -- don't you hate it when people tell you something has to be a certain way? Some of the best books out there are when authors broke the rules.
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