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HERO UP

If we were to take a poll of everyone’s idea of the perfect hero, the words alpha male would echo around the world, gaining momentum like a wave at the World Series. Me, my heroes have always been—nerds. Yes, I said it.

Okay, alpha nerd.

Dude. You want to impress me, change the oil in my car. Mow my lawn. Rewire my house. Fix my computer after I get some sexually transmitted virus from the dodgy websites I visit (for research).

Okay, yes—if—I say if—I’m being pursued by interplanetary space cops who mistakenly think I murdered the leader of planet Zebulon12 in the Delta galaxy (I was framed BTW), then sure, I’d probably turn to a lazar-toting, trash-talking, alpha male space pirate for a little protection and one last intergalactic, zero-gravity romp (just in case it’s my last chance for romping).

That is not my life. Nor did I witness a mob hit and find myself in need of 24/7 protection from an emotionally closed off FBI agent with a drinking problem, a chip on his shoulder and psychological demons to wrestle because of the serial killer who murdered his wife and child, and the serial killer in question has now set his sights on me.

  • Speaking of demons—what makes them so dang hot? Is it because they come from Hell?
  • How many real life cowboys do you know? I can’t even remember the last time I saw a cow that wasn’t between a bun.
  • I’ve never met a billionaire CEO playboy—that I know of.
  • Bikers? I’ll give you that one. Me like tattoos. And Harley’s. And leather. And…
  • Vampires versus werewolves? I’m a dog lover. Don’t care for pale guys or parting with my blood.
  • Military heroes? I’m in a town crawling with men in uniform. They don’t all look like your typical romance novel hero, but they are heroes none-the-less.

Some examples of my heroes, and possibly the reason no one is foaming at the mouth to buy my books, are Deputy Tobias Dodd in Lily in Wonderland. He’s got the tall, dark and handsome thing going on—no doubt about it. He’s also a bit of a Boy Scout—honest, loyal and moral to a fault. Malcolm Manchester in This Side of Dead—a lawyer who’s somewhat nerdish. He’s also a good guy who will risk his life for the right cause or the right gal. My hero, from Dodging Cupid Del—short for Delbert. He may ride a Harley and wear a leather jacket, but he is anything but a bad boy.

Help me out here. Can the average Joe compete with the romance novel hero? Should he even try? Does the romance novel hero make our actual mates look bad in comparison, or is Jake the steely-chested Navy Seal with a painful past and a five-o’clock shadow merely a tool like WD-40 for our love lives? I hate me a squeaky love life.

41 responses to “HERO UP”

  1. Hmm. This reminds me of the guest post I did for you guys last spring, in which I proclaimed my love for the Average Joe. Not “Average Joe” the reality show, but guys who — while they might be a little above average in the looks department — are real … the kind of guy I’d like to have dinner with.

    I can see where romance novel heroes make real-life men look bad, though. I’m always telling the Boyfriend he’s not romantic — at least not in the ways the heroes of my MSs are. He does, however, make sure my car’s safe to drive. He insisted I have the braked checked this weekend — and they needed replacing.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Yes, definitely…a guy who makes sure the car you drive is safe truly loves you!

      My mom used to complain my dad wasn’t romantic, but if he realized her car was low on gas, he’d go out at midnight and fill it for her so she wouldn’t get stranded on her way to work in the morning. It wasn’t quite fending off a saber-tooth tiger with a wooden club, but it was a gesture of love.

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    • Kelly Fitzpatrick says:

      I knew it was a good idea, Arlene. And my husband insists on detailing my car, like that will show other Alpha Nerds that he’s taking care of his woman. I insist he puts gas in my car because, well, yuk.

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  2. My guess is that most of us sit across the table from Average, eat with Average, sleep with Average, and pick up shorts Average left on the bathroom floor. Waaaayyyyy too much Average. So, when we read, we something well above Average.

    Let’s face it; in the real world, most of us would shot a truly alpha male once the novelty grew thin. In a fantasy, however, being swept from our feet by a man who wants us more than he wants his next breath is quite wonderful. It’s also quite a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening once in a while. *G*

    Okay, time to think of something else. Nostalgia is killer sometimes.

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    • liz talley says:

      This is how I feel…though I do think my guy is above average. I’m more the average one in our relationship, but I make a mean meatloaf and put up with a lot of crap from my pretty much Alpha (or maybe traditionally Southern, aka, bassackwards) man. So I’m more of a neutralizer. LOL.

      I like sexy heroes. I like sexy heroes that can kick some ass, but tenderly cup the heroines face and brush his lips against hers before whispering sweet nothings in her ear. I will claim that hero even if he doesn’t exist but in a book.

      But as much as I love smart men, I don’t do nerdy. If their hands are more delicate than mine and they have Star Wars posters in their rooms and play fantasies games on the computer with their friends? Un-uh. No way.

      But I do like depth…so I’m more a Gamma type of girl. Is the gamma a cross? I can’t remember.

      Fun topic, Kelly!

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      • C.J. Chase says:

        Oh, LiZ! I’m a hand girl too. Nothing turns me off a guy faster than soft, whimpy hands. Ewww.

        My dh has a couple degrees in engineering and works in IT, but he knows his way around power tools. Last weekend, he and son #1 repaired the chicken coop (replacing the nesting boxes, new roof, etc.). I like smart guys, but I want them to do some traditional guy things too.

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      • Kelly Fitzpatrick says:

        When I went on the hunt for a nerd photo, they were all unacceptable. The one I ended up with was of a business man, but I thought he at least looked smart.

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    • Kelly Fitzpatrick says:

      Right, but what’s the poor guy going to do for the rest of the HEA? He can’t save her life everyday. Can he? I’m picturing the hero shoving the heroine in the path of a bus just so he can save her.

      I do know why women love the alpha male. I’m guilty myself.

      I just finished a western historical and on the first page the hero has already established that he pays prostitutes for sex (but does not need to cuz he’s *awsome* in bed, you know, from all the sex he’s had). Oh, and he’s agreed to seduce the heroine, humiliate her, and run her out of town for money. So from page one he had to redeem himself in my eyes, and he never quite did. And by God he did rip her bodice off, which I have heard is nearly impossible to do.

      I’d like to think that the romance genre as a whole is moving towards a kinder and gentler hero. At least I am. And that is why I am an impoverished writer.

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  3. Elisa Beatty says:

    I enjoy alpha heroes, but I definitely like beta guys, too…some of my favorite romance heroes of all time are Mary Balogh’s ordinary, not-toweringly-tall, deeply honorable heroes from her old traditional Regencies. They were men you could REALLY imagine falling in love with (and not feel tempted to shoot after the novelty wears off…LOL, Gwynlyn!!)

    And FYI, I loved Deputy Dodd in LILY IN WONDERLAND….a very manly (and hot!) guy in my opinion, but with depth and decency. A terrific love story!!

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  4. Laurie Kellogg says:

    I tend to write more Gamma heroes than Alpha–although they have some serious Alpha going on in between their Beta moments. My heroes are romantic and tender and love kids. Of course, I write contemporary Home & Family plots, so naturally my heroes tend more toward the AVERAGE. I don’t think too many true Alpha males exist today, which is why a lot of women love historical romance. Our society has forced men to become more Gamma.

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    • Kelly Fitzpatrick says:

      I think that’s a good thing, Laurie. My heart goes pitter patter when I see a guy with his kids (you know, unless he’s yelling at them). I’m charmed when I see a couple grocery shopping together. I’m always Tweeting about the sweet things my hubby does for me, when I’m not Tweeting about the stupid stuff he does.

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  5. Hope Ramsay says:

    Kelly,

    Toby Dodd was one of the best heros I’ve read in a long, long time. I justed loved that guy. And I loved LILY IN WONDERLAND. (I have to admit I’m probaby the last Ruby Sister to have gotten around to reading it, but man, I could not put that book down.) And it was not because your heroine was wonderfully misguided and trash talkin’. It was your hero who sucked me in.

    I recently had a long convesation (argument) with a friend over modern movie heroes. She likes all those blood-sucking, gun toting, trash talking hulks. Me — I’ll take Gary Cooper in High Noon, thank you very much. He spoke softly, did’t want to fight, tried to talk his way out of the fight, but kicked butt when he was required to. And, as I’ve said before, I still believe that the quintessential American hero is Atticus Finch from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

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  6. Hope Ramsay says:

    Kelly,

    Toby Dodd was one of the best heroes I’ve read in a long, long time. I justed loved that guy. And I loved LILY IN WONDERLAND. (I have to admit I’m probaby the last Ruby Sister to have gotten around to reading it, but man, I could not put that book down.) And it was not because your heroine was wonderfully misguided and trash talkin’. It was your hero who sucked me in.

    I recently had a long convesation (argument) with a friend over modern movie heroes. She likes all those blood-sucking, gun toting, trash talking hulks. Me — I’ll take Gary Cooper in High Noon, thank you very much. He spoke softly, did’t want to fight, tried to use workds instead of fists, but kicked butt when he was required to. Or take both Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne in THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALENCE. Now there is a study between an alpha and a beta if ever I saw one.

    And, as I’ve said before, I still believe that the quintessential American hero is Atticus Finch from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. He was a good father, a good lawyer, smart, wore glasses, and stood up to a mob with only his courage, his words, and his faith in justice as weapons. Man, give me a guy like that. (And it would help if he could fix a car and a computer too) 🙂

    Great post!

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    • Kelly Fitzpatrick says:

      I love the bumbling, tongue-tied guys who are so in love with a gal they just can’t think straight or even approach them. But they have to “man up” or lose her. Now that’s bravery.

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  7. Elise Hayes says:

    I write medievals, so obviously I go for the alpha males–at least in my writing and reading. In real life? I’d bop them over the head in about 3 minutes.

    Although I will say my mom had an old school friend with twin boys just a year older than me. They were 6’5 and 6’4, both serious athletes, and they’d flank me as we walked down city streets together. Trust me when I say that I got a LOT of envious looks from every woman under 30 who passed me. Those guys were HOT–and very confident, very protective, and very Alpha. Which, when I was 16 and only saw them once a year, was a totally fun experience.

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    • Kelly Fitzpatrick says:

      Good thing it was only once a year because it sounds like they’d be potential boyfriend repellant.

      I do like a tall, dark, and handsome man. All my heroes are of the TD&H variety. With that said, my hubby is only 5foot9. But he assures me that he is a trained killer should I need one. Since he was a Navy cook on a submarine, he might do his killing with a meat clever, but killing is killing.

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      • Elise Hayes says:

        I did always think it was lucky they didn’t have a younger sister. She never, ever, would have been allowed to date. They did have an older sister, but she was 4 years older, so she’d already had boyfriends by the time they were big and old enough to have an opinion on the subject 🙂

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  8. Rita Henuber says:

    I guess I like a guy who may be fighting evils doers one week and the next week is sitting on the sofa reading the sports page to his infant son like it was a story book. The conversation of romance books ruining women for real love has been going on awhile. Sometime this year in the UK, in the guardian I think, the blame for failing marriages was placed on unrealistic romance books. Heroes come in every size and shape. They save us from ourselves and each other. The absolute beauty of romance books is there are all kinds of heroes out there for us. On day a soft cuddly one, the next day a biker, the next a demon. Yippee for romance!

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  9. Vivi Andrews says:

    Dude. Kelly, I love you so hard right now.

    I love me a nerd – alpha or otherwise. And while I don’t mind a chest-banging hero as long as the chica is woman enough to hold her ground against him (and I love watching that battle), I’m much more likely to turn to goo for a man who would feel right at home debating the finer points of WoW or Magic: The Gathering. And Trekkies? Be still my heart.

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    • Kelly Fitzpatrick says:

      Love a man in uniform, even if it’s a starfleet uniform and he’s speaking Klingon instead of French.

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  10. In real life, I like nice guys. I like braniacs. I like guys who can remove malware from my computer.

    But I have to say… when my nice-guy-brainiac-techy hubby straps on a tool belt and starts doing manly stuff around the house — *oooh yeah* — I get all swoony.

    And I do think that some of my tastes have changed now that I’m 40-something. I no longer find 17 year old heroines appealing, and the grab-you-buy-the-hair alphas often turn me off as well.

    But, if he’s smart, drawn to doing right by people, yet feels unloved/unloveable, and he has good reason for feeling that way? I’m there.

    I’m SO there!

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    • Kelly Fitzpatrick says:

      My hubby has the tool belt, and sometimes has to wear the hardhat too for work. Hot. The orange vest – not so much.

      I’m finding myself turning to women’s fiction with romantic elements in my old age. But I love the scenes with the hero and heroine together more so than anything else. So my heart still belongs to romance.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Oh, get that Earl written, Miz Eileen!!!!!

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  11. I love nerds! Especially nerds with a sense of humor. And nerds who are a bit like MacGyver and can fix things around the house. Must be why I married one. 😉

    Great post!

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    • Kelly Fitzpatrick says:

      I married one too, except sometimes we have to call in a professional after my husband bungles it up.

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  12. I firmly believe in the existence of classic, real-life heroes. Strapping, brave, selfless. They’re not around so much these days because so many thousands of them are off fighting our wars for us, but there are still many to be found, largely in public service occupations or recuperating in our military hospitals.

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    • Kelly Fitzpatrick says:

      That’s so true. Out of uniform they look just like the rest of us and don’t think of themselves as heroes. My husband always says his worst day as a civillian is better than his best day as a soldier (mostly because he met me right before getting out). But he’s super proud of his years of service and loves to talk about it to anyone who will listen. But mostly the funny stuff.

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  13. Sally Eggert says:

    Great topic, Kelly–thanks for writing about it! This is something I think about a lot, and the reason I struggle with calling the guys I write “heroes” in the first place. I think what I respond to about the men in love stories isn’t heroism as such. It’s the way they struggle with, suffer for, and ultimately surrender to the love they feel for the heroine–a love so powerful it moves them to do things they never thought they would or even could. That has it’s own kind of bravery about it, I think. And it can happen to any kind of guy.

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    • Kelly Fitzpatrick says:

      Most of my heroes are head-over-heels in love and it’s the heroine who needs some convincing. I like my men all-in and wooing my heroine, wearing her down until she gives up and gives in.

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  14. LOL, this post is fantastic.

    I admit it, I’m all for the alphas, but I like the average joe just as well. I have a CP who writes the most amazing heroes and none of them are what I would call alphas. Yet they are so endearing and heroic and they stick with me for a long, long time.

    I have honestly asked myself why I don’t create more heroes like hers, but she does it SOOOOOO well! I do alphas well, I guess. IDK. I love the struggle between an alpha and a strong heroine. I love that tug of war. Then again, I love me some nerds!

    I think I just like men in general. 🙂

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