Over the Top (Here’s to Beta Males)

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Crimes to the Third Degree.

I can’t remember the first time I ever heard the term, Alpha Male, but it was in reference to the heroes I was supposed to write for my romantic suspense novels back in the early 90’s. My guys weren’t always “heroic” enough, according to the second editor…yeah, the one who told me she didn’t want me to write suspense because “whether the guy and girl get together is suspenseful enough.” Come to think of it, she really seriously liked Alpha Men.

Flying By Night novelMe? I refused to write cowboys, sheiks, billionaires. Warriors and soldiers, yes. Bodyguards and detectives, yes. Healers and teachers and scientists, yes, but much iffier. Much. Physicists keep coming up again and again for me!

My heroes were troubled, brooding sorts. Sensitive and often a little out-of-place in the world. Some like puppy dogs who’d do anything for their heroine, even die for her. They were overly protective of women, adoring, but didn’t treat them like crap as a prelude to lovemaking…which, come to think of it, she was often the initiator thereof. Oooooooh.

Or as Editor #2 said, “Your heroine thinks like a hero and your hero thinks like a girl.” Editor #1, who’d just left, had loved my characters and so did I, but maybe that’s why I like to write Alpha Females.

Fast-forward to a conversation with an erotica author who does bondage books in 2006. Her books do quite well, she says. Hey, how many different ways can you tie up a woman and have her ravished by a sexy vampire, werewolf, alien shapeshifter, and a sheik or two? All in one night?

What about books where the woman’s in charge of the knot-tying? I ask, coincidentally remembering a friend explaining once that every tool needed for bondage can be found in the pet section at any Wal-Mart.

The author gives me a disapproving look and explains that “those” books just don’t sell. “Those” books being erotica novels where the men are submissive instead of the women. Oh, occasionally there’s a female alien commander who takes a male slave from another alien race and he becomes her plaything…until he reverses the role and then suddenly she’s donning his handcuffs forever and giving up her throne to him. Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Like aliens are that good in bed.

But the author explains that readers of erotica prefer their bondage only one way—with the women submissive every time. It’s really a hot market, she says, and she sells it quite well.

That’s not the focus of my books. My novels tend to be extremely complicated plots with lots of twists and turns. However, the sex lives of my protagonist and her suitors tend to derive from their characters as well as from the plot, so this story I’m thinking of will most definitely not be puritanical. Odd, but my thrillers and suspense novels tend to have much more sex in them than my romance novels.

So here I am contemplating this really hot new series of erotic thrillers featuring black ops, black technology, and black magick (yeah, I know the difference). I figured I’d put a little something extra into my love scenes but now, knowing that male submission is unpopular in commercial fiction, I’m trying to figure out how to get the best of both worlds. You know, let her be dominated…just a little. Think I’ll let my heroine surprise her top with handcuffs and a taser when he least expects it.

Yeah, that wicked laugh you heard was mine.