Interestingly enough, the modern romance novel is not Romantic in the proper sense of the word.
Much like the word Liberal, the word Romance has decayed from its original meaning to encompass something virtually anathemic to its originators.
The Romantic movement is the idealization of emotion, desire, and freedom from constraint. It places an extraordinary value on the world we live in, and most importantly our reactions to that world. This is embodied in a love of nature, a love of passion, a love of love. On the surface, this could really seem to indicate a commonality. After all, aren’t romance novels about love?
The problem is, romance novels aren’t at all about freedom from constraint, but a surrender to it. The most important literary figure of the romantic movement is the Byronic Hero. The Byronic Hero is a flawed, chaotic being, a sort of fatal force that compels people toward the reckless, the freeing. By his very definition the Byronic Hero is also doomed, unable to change or redeem himself from his most fundamental flaws. This is what makes him Romantic, the ability to be himself despite all surrounding impulse, good or bad. There can be no happily ever after for the Byronic Hero, and yet that’s what the modern romance novel demands of him.
The modern romance is about taming the wild heart. Pick up any romance book with some sort of warrior on the cover, and see how soon it asks ‘can she tame him’ or something of like mind. Next, go to any publisher of romantic books, and see how long you can go until they insist on a HEA (happily ever after) or at the very least a HFN (happy for now).
Of course language changes over time, and I don’t begrudge it. But all the same, there is a value in remembering where our words have come from. So next time you consider picking up a romance novel, perhaps consider also finding a good Romantic one.
Today I thought I’d talk about the different types of men that we find in our romance novels. Basically, there are three types – the Alpha, the Beta, and the Omega – and what type the hero is definitely sets the tone of the story. That said, let’s dive in and see who our heroes are.
The Alpha Male
The alpha man is confident in his abilities. He’s powerful, assertive, masterful, and superior. This man is somewhat ruthless, and perhaps a touch dangerous; he is a bad boy and loves it. There is no soft side to this kind of man, making him the quintessential male character in romance writing. Pirates, rogues, and historical characters are usually alphas.
The Omega Man
If the alpha male is the toughest and strongest, then the omega male is his less rough-around-the-edges version. He knows he’s all the things that makes an alpha but in a quiet, more subtle way. Omega men have no desire to belong to a group or to be a leader of a group. He does need support occasionally, but he has only one or two good friends that he will call upon for that help. Omega men tend to shun shallow acquaintances, and quietly seek out who and what they want in life.
The Beta Male
A beta male is good looking, charming, afable, and a family type of guy who has lots of friends (think Ashley Wilkes of “Gone with the Wind”). Betas don’t enjoy confrontation, but won’t back down from one either. An Alpha would relish a confrontation while this man would meet the challenge head on with an even temper. He is also considered practical, down to Earth, and has a great sense of humor.
Now let’s have some fun. Name your very favorite book and tell me if the hero is alpha, beta, or omega and why you fell in love with him.