Friday, November 2, 2007

But, Ya Gotta Have Fr-ie-ie-ie-nds

(Damn, I just gave myself an earworm with that title)

In Shelly Laurenston’s The Mane Event (see my TGTBTU review), three of the male leads are alpha-shifters and two of those are also former Navy Seals. But instead of writing them as predictably humorless and overbearing, Laurenston made them fun and playful- even in the bedroom! Totally unexpected and it set me to thinking about some recent romance books that also had less intense heroes.

In Shiloh Walker’s Hunter’s Salvation (see previous commentary), Vax doesn’t even WANT to get involved and be a hero. Nic, from Hunting the Demon by Jaci Burton (see previous commentary) is pretty laid back and has no problems letting Shay be the heroine. In Burton’s Wild, Wicked, and Wanton (see previous commentary), Abby felt a stronger connection to Seth because they had spent the previous year laughing and joking together. In Annie Dean’s Your Alibi (see previous commentary), the male lead, Sean, never realized sex could be so fun until he met Addie.

The brothers in Jean Johnson’s Sons of Destiny series (see previous commentaries), may THINK of themselves as manly men (despite all their quirks), but they really are marshmallows when it comes to their women. Luc, in Shayla Black’s Decadent (see TGTBTU review), was far more swoon worthy than the lead male character because he develops a friendship with Kimber outside of the bedroom (the fact that he was gorgeous and a gourmet cook didn‘t hurt either).

Throughout Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Underworld series, Jeremy has been the stoic alpha wolf, but in No Humans Involved (see previous commentary), she let us see the softer, more “human” side to him. Hunter was unmistakably the hero of Jennifer Ashley’s Immortals: The Gathering (commentary pending), but he was also laid back with a sense of fun. In Christine Feehan’s newest Carpathian novel, Dark Possession (see previous commentary), even Manolito is a kinder, gentler version of an uber-alpha!

Micah, from Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series (see The Harlequin commentary) is an alpha shifter but doesn’t feel the need to growl at everyone to prove who he is. Also in LKH's AB series, Jean-Claude can "taste" food for the first time in hundreds of years through his metaphysical link with Anita. Anita recounts how, when they are alone, Jean-Claude enjoys the tastes so much that he rolls around on the floor, covers his mouth and moans. For him to let go and get that goofy, you just KNOW it must be love!

Jamie Frazer from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series is beloved because (among other things) he is friends with and genuinely LIKES Claire.

My husband and I have been together 26 years. On our wedding invitation 24 years ago, we had the following engraved on the front, “Today I marry my friend. The one I laugh with, live with, love.” And, to me, that says it all. “Best friends” romance stories have always been popular, and of course we find humor in romantic comedies. Outside of those, though, I hope more and more authors will include male leads that aren’t just sexy and masculine, but genuinely LIKEABLE too. They can still be alpha hardasses, but let me see SOMETHING that tells me why the heroine wants him forever instead of one night. Because, isn’t it the private moments, when we can let our guard down with our significant other and act silly and goofy, that bond us together? Let me see why the female lead puts up with the overbearing protectiveness that is standard in romance novels. We KNOW that the alpha hero will be there during the tough times, but let us see the good times, too. Even if it’s just a quick glimpse of their lighter side. Make me fall in love, rather than lust, with them.

I think one of the main reasons I prefer gay contemporaries over straight ones (aside from the whole man-luvin' thing ;D), is because the relationship dynamics are so different. For the most part, the romantic leads are buddies that hang together AND love each other. It's rare to find that "ease" in a male/female based romance story and, while I can accept the lack in a paranormal or historical, it's very hard for me to read a contemporary without it.

Having said all that, though, let me also caution that playfulness that seems “forced” is a kiss o’ death to a book. An author doesn’t have to be a master (mistress?) of one-liners to show us their hero’s lighter side. The entire book doesn’t have to be oh-so-wacky. Just give me a moment or two that show me how comfortable the leads are together in their private moments. One of my favorite lines in Christmas Pride, the first novella in Shelly Laurenston's The Mane Event perfectly illustrates the point I’m trying to make. This is part of a longer bedroom scene: kneeling above Dez, Mace hands her a condom and says “Here, make yourself useful.” See? Not laugh out loud funny, not even all that important to the storyline, it’s just PLAYFUL and REAL. Maybe only the heroine gets to see it, but find those little opportunities to give us a glimpse of another side to your alpha heroes.


Chantal said...

Wow. Great post. I read gay romance, for the same reason.

*Dreamy sigh* I loved Luc from Decadent. I hope it's true that he has his own book. I hope it's soon. I hope that I like Luc as much at the end of his own book, as I did as the end of Decadent.

QB said...

Good news/bad news! I just heard back from Shayla Black and Delicious IS Luc's story! Woot! But we aren't getting it until April 2009. *dejected sigh*

Madam Butterfly said...

Great post! I agree. I've been reading a lot of alpha male stuff and I'm always thinking, these guys would great for a few weeks but there is no way in hell I'd be with them for a lifetime. I'd feel so smothered.

I'm romance reading newbie and it's great that you listed some books to read that have "real" men in them.

QB said...

Madame Butterfly, welcome to Romancelandia!! I LOVE to give recommendations, so ask away if you need any advice. And if it's a genre I don't personally read, you can bet I know some people that DO read it!

Tracy said...

That is what I like about Suzanne Brockmann's SEALs. Dude, they are ALPHA and will kick your ass with their pinky finger if need be, but somewhere in the book you see their vulnerable side or their funny side or their sweet side, etc.

My favorite of her SEALs is Kenny from OVER THE EDGE. The running commentary in his head had me laughing so hard in bed while reading that I woke up my hubby!!

BTW, I followed your link from TGTBTU.

QB said...

Hi Tracy! That's so weird you mentioned Brockmann because I haven't read her for years and years but I am thinking of picking up her holiday novella, All Through the Night.