Jan 21 2014 10:30am

Hot and Wanting: Taking Control of Beta Heroes

Control by Charlotte SteinToday we're pleased to welcome author Charlotte Stein to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Charlotte has several new releases, including Control (just released in paperback), and Almost Real, with Telling Tales seeing its paperback release next month. Many of Charlotte's heroes are both hot and beta, and she's here to talk about writing and loving the beta hero.

The thing I love most about writing and reading about beta heroes is the knowledge that if I met them in real life, I would more than likely like them. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love an alpha-type hero too. Sometimes you just want Wolverine smashing up your lady business with his insane facial hair and genuinely scary muscles. But if I met Wolverine in real life, would I want to date him?

Okay, the answer is still probably yes. But the thing is, I think it’s Wolverine’s beta qualities that would actually seal the deal. You know when he’s all nice to Rogue? And all sad that he doesn’t fit in with the other X-Men? And then that time when he’s confused and naked because they did experiments on him?

I like that Wolverine. I can fully imagine myself finding him in the woods completely naked, then taking him in and soothing his troubled soul while a saxophone bleats sadly in the background. And it’s pretty much the same for most heroes I love. Even if they’re alpha, I find the real me more drawn to the things in them that could be seen as beta.

Take Captain Hook from Once Upon a Time as another example. My favorite moments of his are the ones where he’s all confused, beaten up and tied to a tree. I have whole elaborate fantasies about what it would have been like if he had forgotten his memories too—you know back in season one when everyone thought they were called Greg and Anne and what have you? I absolutely love the idea of him being a mild-mannered librarian in a cardigan.

I call him Gerald in my head.

And I honestly don’t know if that is just me having a wild flight of completely out of character fantasy, or if those traits really are in him somewhere. What did I see in a hero that makes me think beta? Is it something actually there or am I just making it up because that’s what I prefer? I’m not really sure, but I do know this:

I love writing about that mild-mannered cardigan wearing librarian. Maybe it’s because I like a challenge—the world generally doesn’t view a truly beta hero as any kind of sex symbol. They might look at characters like Sherlock and think wow I’m really veering out of alpha territory here, but when you think about it…is Sherlock really a beta hero?

I don’t think he is. I think he’s an alpha in beta clothing. He’s still aggressive, decisive, dismissive of people he thinks are beneath him. He often gets into brawls and the only woman he has any feelings for felt she had to show off her naked body to him on their first meeting.

He’s not really a beta at all. No, a true beta for me is someone more like Gabriel Gray from Heroes—in fact that’s who I based the character of Gabriel on in my book Control. The one I’m supposed to mention since I’m trying to promote it but don’t really want to because I’m talking about this instead. I’m talking about men who are reserved, gentle, even repressed.

Men who aren’t always sure of themselves and whose first instinct is to be kind. And I think I like this because I love kindness. Above all other qualities, kindness for me is the best one to find in a man, because it’s so unusual. Men are not encouraged to be kind. They’re encouraged to be angry and direct and competitive. Kindness doesn’t fit in with any of those qualities, so is often sneered at as a trait for a man to have.

But I still think it’s sexy. In fact, I think more woman find it sexy than we’re often given credit for. We’re told we like bad boys, yet even when we see a bad boy hero, it’s often the little kind things he does that make us swoon. All you have to do is look as far Mr. Darcy to see that. He’s rude and mean and snooty and a bit of an asshole. We shouldn’t love him, yet we do. We love him because he helped Elizabeth’s sister without saying anything.

That one act of kindness forever sealed him in our hearts as a top ten romantic hero of all time. Without it, would he have been so compelling? I don’t think he would. It’s the beta at the heart of the alpha hero, who really draws us in.

Learn more or order a copy of Control by Charlotte Stein, out now:

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Charlotte Stein has written over thirty short stories, novellas and novels, including entries in The Mammoth Book of Hot Romance and Best New Erotica 10. Her collection of short stories was named one of the best erotic romances of 2009 by Michelle Buonfiglio, and her first novel, Control, was recently called “...a non-stop crazy hot sex book”. When not writing non-stop crazy hot sex books, she can be found eating jelly turtles, watching terrible sitcoms and occasionally lusting after hunks. She lives in West Yorkshire with her husband and their imaginary dog, and can be found here: http://charlottestein.net/

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Teri Anne Stanley
1. Teri Anne Stanley
Ah, I love your Gabriel.

I totally love both a beta hero, and an "alpha" hero when we see that he's maybe an asshole because he's such a softie underneath--that moment when he takes off the alpha mantle because he can let the heroine see who he really is under all that scaly cranky bristly stuf f(sexy imagery, no?).
Jennifer Proffitt
2. JenniferProffitt
I love this post so much. I love alpha heroes, but you're right. It's never their alpha qualities that make me LOVE them--sure the "do me against the wall" moments are awesome, but it's the softer side that makes me truly invested in those characters, because otherwise they're just assholes.
Heather Waters
3. HeatherWaters
Even if they’re alpha, I find the real me more drawn to the things in them that could be seen as beta.

Yes! My favorite kind of hero, I think, is a mix (the right mix) of alpha and beta qualities. I like a guy who can take charge and get shit done, but like you said, kindness is very very important so he has to have that balance.

Great post!
Julia Broadbooks
4. juliabroadbooks
@jenniferproffitt Yaasss!!!!

I'm all for up against the wall. Absolutley. But the things that stay with me are those kindnesses. Darcy's sacrifice to save the selfish Lydia for Lizzie's sake. Wolverine offering to run off with the frightened Rogue. Captain Wentworth reading poems to Marianne.

Those are the things I really want in a hero. Those are the things I really remember.
Teri Anne Stanley
6. RedIza
Sherlock is not a beta, I do agree ! I discovered Charlotte Stein through her novel "Deep desires" which I absolutely adored... and now, I have some more books by her waiting on my Kindle - the more you wait to read them, the better you savor them.
(Hem, and I wish to stress : cardigans and librarians ? Old image ! Many of us are actually a lot sexier thant that ;) )
Mary Lynne Nielsen
8. emmel
Alphas think they rule. Betas DO rule.

Fantastic post, Charlotte!
Teri Anne Stanley
9. CharlotteStein
Teri - oh yes that's my fave type of alpha! Any time a tough guy reveals anything soft, vulnerable or gentle underneath the crusty exterior!

Jennifer - yes! You need something besides argh rargh rargh to hang your heart on. The combination of wall pinning and tenderness is what grabs me.

Redline - precisely! I also love that quality of getting stuff done in an alpha.

Julia - the poems argh omg melting. bungluna- *high fives* RedIza - I completely agree, having been a librarian myself! That being said...is it bad if I actually do find the cardigan sexy?

Shark - Thank you!

Emmel - Could not have said it better myself. And thanks!
Jennifer Meriwether
10. JenM
These days, it seems like all it takes to get me to buy a book is to mention that the hero is a beta. I love it when they are kind and caring and just want to take care of the heroine. I just finished The Duchess War by Courtney Milan and the hero was so wonderful, I just wanted to hug him the whole time I was reading.
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