Come on, sing with me,
I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'till the end of the night
He's gotta be strong
And he's gotta be fast
And he's gotta be fresh from the fight
I need a hero
I'm holding out for a hero 'till the morning light
He's gotta be sure
And he's gotta be soon
And he's gotta be larger than life
OK, that was annoying even when it was on the radio all the goddamn fucking time. (Can I swear here? Well, it is my own space, so I guess so.) And what is still annoying, nay irksome, nay irritating, is that with all of Bonnie Tyler's repetition of her requirements, I'm not sure that if this guy were to show up we'd be all that amused.
"Hello. I am your hero. I'm strong, fast, fresh from the fight, sure, soon, and larger than life."
"Whoa, man. Back away."
Anyroad, a few months ago I started thinking about heroes, alphas and betas. And I signed up for Paperback Book Swap around the same time. Well, trading books certainly bumps up your TBR pile, but at the same time you have to have an idea of what title you're interested in requesting. Using All About Romances' lists, I pulled out a variety of Beta Heroes titles and threw them into PaperbackSwap's wishlist. All this to say that I've been reading a lot of authors I hadn't even heard of, over different time periods, but I've been focusing on the heroes in each one. Makes for an interesting mish-mosh if you haven't posted any reviews in a while.
One I just have to get out of the way. It was actually a cute bit of fluff.
George and the Virgin by Lisa Cach is a time travel quick read about a professional wrestler transported back to a medieval castle where there lives a virgin abbess and a real dragon. George teaches her to make french toast, rescues her from her need to keep a dragon around, and transports her and her twenty-odd younger virgins back to modern times.
Two notes--PaperBackSwap amusingly lists this title as George the Virgin, which I think is a hysterical error, and there is a plot device here where, like ten, you know, giggly girls? You know, who are like twelve? All stay hidden from George, like, in the same castle, for, like, the whole book? George is very nice to (Help! I've traded the book already, can't remember heroine's name) what's-her-name, and builds her a couch so she can relax in front of the fire, but he's a beta hero? A dragon-fighter? Not sure the french toast and the couch makes up for the dragon-slaying in the alpha-beta phylogeny game. Not a terrible read, just one more under the belt.
The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick and The Bargain by Jane Ashford end up getting lumped together here. Both are Regency romances where the hero is a cool, analytical, scientific type who uses logic rather than bulging chest muscles to protect his lady love. Arthur Lancaster, Earl of Merryn, from The Paid Companion, is investigating a series of murders, the whereabouts of dangerous machine, and the whereabouts of a mad scientist. Lord Alan Gresham, from The Bargain, is investigating the appearance of ghost who is teasing Prinny. In both books the hero and heroine pretend engagement in public so as to mingle with the ton. (Ariel of The Companion is the daughter of the woman who is supposed to be a ghost, so that's how she gets involved. Elenora from The Paid Companion actually is paid to play a part. As a further link between these two books, both heroines are descended from actresses, which apparently is a very important trait.)
Overall, Arthur is a more fully developed hero, and ultimately his is the better book for it. Alan would have worked just fine--he is analytical and precise--except that he keeps having the same realization in his head whenever Ariel speaks or acts. Not an exact quote but, "Good God! She's brave and intelligent!" Yeah, OK, put a sock in it. I also thought the "What is this burning sensation of passionate possessiveness I feel for the lovely Ariel? Surely, I, as a man of science, can analyze its cause" was dumb. The man's a scientist, not an idiot. (Arthur, on the other hand, feels passion but tries to logically decide whether or not he should act upon it. A little better.)
At the end of The Bargain Alan becomes totally unhinged when his love is, sigh, kidnapped. (I'm getting a little tired of the kidnapping thing. Too many Jude Deveraux Montgomery brother stories in my impressionable youth wherein every heroine must be kidnapped, preferably all four at the same time to allow all four heroes to rescue them. Dumb.) And he has to ask her, basically, "Is this terror I feel for your safety, love?" Could so totally have done without that scene. (Oh, and BTW, she's kidnapped not by a mustache-twirling villain, but a nefarious troupe of Shhh ACTORS!)
OK, now I've made it out that Alan is rushing around thumping his chest; that's not true. He's very precise and measured, and I enjoy his thought process. But I found myself embarrassed for him when he became confused by his own thoughts or flustered in passionate protectiveness.
But then in contrast, Arthur is so controlled, and Ms. Quick/Krentz/Castle only allows for two love scenes, both oddly interrupted, that his passion feels tepid and strangely focused only on one breast, Elenora's left.
I think Ms. Quick is trying to get this out of the heaving bosom category and into the "Fiction" section of the bookstore, so that would explain cutting down the sex scenes. However, there's not much going on in the rest of the story, even though them thar's a lot of words written. Most of the plot is taken up with the murder mystery, which is, well, not as complex as you might expect. I like to have a bunch of suspects, threats, red herrings, etc. But instead we spend a lot of time trying to figure out the identity of one person. As soon as that person gets a name, Ta-Da!, s/he's the one. And then the heroine gets, sigh, kidnapped.
Amongst the other similarities between these two books is that they both have very strong heroines who are protective of the servants, brave, able to turn the attention of an entire ballroom to them, without being that beautiful, and are more intelligent than usual.
Another entry in this group of I-don't-know-what-I'm-getting-into-but-someone-says-there's-an-interesting-hero is One Man's Love by Karen Ranney. Big time goof-up disclaimer: I read it in, I think, August, and have really lost track of the details. But I remember the general impression I had.
This story centers on a English/Scottish man who leaves Scotland (as a boy) and becomes English, to the point where he enlists in the military. He is then posted back to watch over the village he grew up in--and he doesn't want either side to know who he is. The relationship between Alec and Letis is very sweet. He brings her gifts, he's very interested in her talents and friends. She hates him because he is the conqueror. I don't buy that she wouldn't recognize him as an adult--they were best friends as children. I just went back to my High School reunion and met people who were instantly familiar to me although I had never had a conversation with them when I was at school. Then Alec becomes a Scottish Ian and Letis still can't tell the difference. ::Family Feud buzzer:: Nope. Don't buy it.
But I like the gentle respect Alec/Ian shows for Letis. He brings her a loom and wool to pass the time. He's interested in her family, and her life. I liked him.
And then, another catchy tune, "One of these things is not like the other."
The Dark Highlander by Karen Marie Moning. General Disclaimer: I skimmed this book to the point where at the end the hero says, "I first fell in love with you when I saw you from the cab" I had to go back and find the scene.
The Dark Highlander is Daegus, who is doomed to an eternal life, holding within his soul thirteen evil spirits who are trying to take over the helm. When the spirits get too powerful, Daegus has discovered, he can get control back by having fast, hard, doggy-style sex. And Church Lady says, "Well isn't that conVEEEENient?" Since he's a multi-bazillionaire in modern Manhattan, he can entice anyone he wishes up to his penthouse to have fast, hard, doggy-style sex with them. ConVEEEENient. Except that one day, he finds his soul-mate. BOOM! She's the one. Toss the rest out on their ear. He'll keep her safe from someone who's stalking her (him?), she'll help him research the answer to saving his eternal soul, they'll travel through time together, and eventually they'll have fast, hard, doggy-style sex because he says he needs it to stay strong against the forces of evil. (Um. Chloe? The Senior boys used to try that excuse on the sophomore girls way back when, and even we didn't fall for it. The Church Lady may need to have a little Church Chat with you.)
The sex is hot. The hero is hot. The total experience? Ewwww.
No, wait, I don't have any problem at all with fast hard sex, that's not the issue, even though I keep referring to it. I don't buy the: "I fell madly, deeply, passionately in love with you the very first time I saw you. Our souls reached out through time and space and connected like a fuse and an explosive." Nope. Nada. Nuh Uh. It gives me the creeps. It's like setting up the romance hero as being a stalker or a potential abuser rather than a lover. Some are so possessive and obsessed it's scary.
So I think I've discovered the hero I don't like, one which apparently is all the rage in paranormals: (Please use your Ahnold The Guvernator voice), "Dahlingk, you are my one twoo love. I Kannot live wizout you. Ze Aneemal in me is thundering inside of me, forcing me to take you. Against this vall. Against this floor. Look in my eyes! See them change Kolor! No more Girly Men for Yoo!" OK, that last bit was mean--but the animal magnetism, soul mates reaching through time? Can't. Quite. Deal.
The "beta-hero" idea. Interesting, but still mostly incomplete for me. I think because The Bargain and The Paid Companion are SO similar it's hard to get a representative sample. I have a few more posts to make about books, so I'll keep fleshing this out over time.