The Secret Baby. Reformed Rake. Friends-to-Lovers. Romance novel tropes are the themes, structures and hooks buried in our happily-ever-after reads that push our buttons. They have become shorthand for the romance reading community, a common language by which we can get super-targeted recommendations or find support for I-threw-it-against-the-wall rants from fellow readers who just get it: “Desperately seeking another Tormented Hero story…reccs, anyone?” or “Is it weird I have a thing for Heroes-Missing-Body-Parts?” or “OMG, I’m on a Best-Friend’s-Little-Sister-Grew-Up glom!”
The most successful romance novels tend to be formed around a strong trope, and nothing’s more fun as when a clever author revisits a well-known trope in a fresh way. Or, as acquiring editors like to put it, “We’re looking for a new spin on classic themes.”
Fifty Shades of Grey was nothing new, at least not from a romance genre perspective (BDSM was already going strong courtesy of writers like Charlotte Stein and Cara McKenna). The series hits a bull’s-eye on the classic Teacher/Student trope—repackaged with handcuffs, rope, and a contract that forces the “Student” to get regular bikini waxes—whilst likewise evoking a bit of Billionaire Boss, Taming the Untamable and Alpha Hero.
Alpha Hero is among the most traditional and popular romance tropes, and it has evolved over the years since the old (and I do mean OLD) bodice ripper days when he was mostly a cardboard cutout of an arrogant, rapey asshat. Now being the Alpha Hero means he’s the leader of the pack, with all of the super-confident, charismatic, go-to-guy trappings that has to offer. He’s the biggest, brightest, best of ’em all. You (assuming you, the reader, are putting yourself in the heroine’s shoes) are the only person on the planet who can rock his socks off and make him yours. The alpha hero always wins…except when he loses to you.
Here are a few Alpha Male tropetastic reads currently making waves in the indie romance reading community:
Willing Victim by Cara McKenna (erotic)
This erotic romance features a brutish boxer (think Fight Club) alpha hero who uses plain, honest talk to dispense with all the grey areas in dating so he and the heroine can get right to the sex. Experienced guy who knows how to do everything (and anything) meets girl who’d like to take a walk on the wild side with a bona fide bad boy? Check.
Warning: Part of the buzz on this book has to do with the rape fantasy scenes. The good news is that consensus suggests the author handles these scenes brilliantly, part of the appeal.
This is truly a modern incarnation of that classic Alpha Hero.
The Gamble by Kristen Ashley (contemporary)
Don’t you hate it when you’re taking a break to think about whether you really want to marry your fiancé and there’s a hot guy already staying in the vacation cabin you’re supposed to be renting? Indeed.
So, this contemporary romance features, as the heroine calls him, a “macho mountain man” alpha hero who’s got just the right amount of protectiveness and sweetness to temper his oh-so-domineering ways. The Gamble kicks off Ashley’s popular Colorado Mountain series (just one of this prolific indie writer’s many series) and features a mystery subplot to boot.
A Touch of Greek by Tina Folsom (paranormal)
This alpha hero doesn’t just think he’s a god. He’s actually a god—one who has pissed off his elders and can only be redeemed by the love of a good woman.
Good humorous paranormals are harder to find than their dark and tortured counterparts, and this book’s got a great balance of light comedy, sexy (sexy!) times, and relationship building moments. It’s the first book in Folsom’s Out of Olympus series.
The Wicked One by Danelle Harmon (historical)
The alpha hero in this adventure-laden historical romance is double-troped, being the Head of the Family Who Marries Everyone Off but Believes Himself Destined to Live Without Love. That means that he’s all-powerful, emotionally walled off, everybody’s a bit afraid of him and he can’t be tamed. Until, of course the heroine knocks him for a loop. Sometimes alpha males are paired with delicate, disarmingly adorable heroines, but in this case, she’s every bit as bold, dangerous and clever as he is. This is actually the last book in Harmon’s excellent De Montforte Brothers series, which was originally traditionally New York published but is now independently published by the author.
Bestselling author Liz Maverick has written thirteen paranormal romance, young adult and women’s fiction novels including Publishers Weekly Top Book of the Year Wired and the USA Today bestselling Crimson City series.
Liz currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she can look across the water at the Manhattan skyline and dream up new stories. Connect with Liz Maverick on her website, Facebook, and Twitter. She’d love to have you stop by and say hi!