As a midwife, I worked with an arrogant paediatrician who growled, snapped, and barked, but he never bit off his words. He used them to belittle anyone he thought might not be able to answer back. If arrogance is a heroic alpha trait, at least one of the female staff would have swooned over him. Not so. We despised him. When we needed a hero to see a sick baby, we chose anyone else because none of the other paediatricians snapped, barked, gritted, urged, hedged (maybe sometimes) swore, lied, or defended, all of which are typical behaviours of alpha heroes defined in their own dialogue tags.
I’m on a committee with a man who yaps, barks, and rises to his hind legs to snap at me across a table. If he is an alpha hero desperately in love with me and trying to fight his attraction, I’ve been looking at these two men the wrong way. I see/saw both as insecure, but not deserving of any pity.
Then again, I’m not heroine material. I have some of the traits like the ability to fall in love with good-looking, smart, ambitious men, but I’m not long-suffering and I don’t have sapphire eyes, fanlike eyelashes, a sweet tip-tilted nose, and a body that makes men drool. Nor am I attracted to men who don’t know how to behave in front of women. I’m clearly quite averse to alpha males.
I don’t actually know what an alpha male is other than a leader of the pack. What pack? The snarling wolves, whining and nipping at the heels of their prey? How is that heroic? I prefer achievers. Achievers are my heroes.
I recently bought The Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale, and S T Maitland is one of my favourite heroes. I loved him from the get-go. He is almost, but not quite, Don Quixote. He strives against all odds to reach his heroine’s expectations, and he guards her and loves her. I just wanted to grab him and kiss his whole grumpy gorgeous face. Even his wolf wouldn’t snap or bite, except in defence. Why is S T not an alpha male? Why would he want to be when he is a leader of people and an achiever?
An achiever is not arrogant—because he is confident of his ability; he is not abusive to women—because he doesn’t judge our sex by our beauty. He is able to think for himself without a snarling pack behind him, and rather than snapping at women, he comes to their aid.
A hero doesn’t snap, bark, bite, yap, or piddle in a corner. That’s an untrained dog.
Barbara Cartland has a lot to answer for.