On alpha heroes

Sarah e-mailed me this question yesterday as part of a discussion about alpha heroes:

What’s too alpha for you? And what hero crossed the line?

Alpha heroes are tricky beasts, and the term has come to be associated with a whole fuckton of baggage—it has, in fact, become shorthand in a lot of ways, though exactly WHAT that shorthand stands for greatly depends on where you draw your lines when it comes to acceptable hero behavior, and how you distinguish assertiveness from arrogance, and firmness from brutality. The vast majority of asshole heroes in Romancelandia do tend to be alpha heroes, though not all alpha heroes are by any means assholes; it’s just that some authors and many readers seem to conflate “shouty, angry and impatient” with alpha behavior.

I enjoy the antagonism and sparring between alpha types as much as anybody else. One of my all-time favorites is Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels, for example; Dain and Jessica are both Type A personalities, and it is a true joy to watch them duke it out. The two of them are well-suited to each other; they’re equally strong, and best of all, they’re equally fun to watch.

But frankly, part of the enjoyment is seeing Jessica get the best of Dain despite his machinations. I’m not sure what it says about me, but it makes me deeply uncomfortable when a heroine loses or is the one in the wrong too frequently; a large part of it is related to the way people have dismissed women’s opinions and decisions as being inconsequential and/or wrong for such a very long time, though I can tolerate it as long as it’s treated with sensitivity. Laura Kinsale, for example, is the mistress of creating heroines who, for one damn reason or another, get things wrong and otherwise fuck their shit up, but who don’t trigger my ick response.

But a strong power imbalance can be an emotionally and aesthetically satisfying storytelling tool as well. My favorite example: Devon and Merry from The Windflower by Laura London. Devon puts Merry through hell, and while she grows stronger (literally and metaphorically) throughout the story, Devon is quite clearly in the position of power through much of the book. But again, of key importance is that Merry isn’t in the wrong, and that she doesn’t ever cave on that point. She maintains her innocence, despite all the adversity she’s put through, and when Devon finally realizes what he’s done to her, I feel strangely vindicated in my faith in Merry and even more strangely proud that she managed to hold on to her principles so strongly. Part of what bothered me immensely about Whitney, My Love, for example, is that Whitney breaks down and apologizes to Clayton when I didn’t think she had any particular cause to. Well, that, and the rape.

But back to alpha heroes, and what’s “too alpha.” One of my clearest lines of demarcation—and it’s really not a question of being alpha so much as exhibiting sociopathic tendencies—involves seducing the heroine out of revenge. Once a hero decides to get the heroine in bed (sometimes via blackmail, other times via good old-fashioned deception) to, say, punish her father because her father inadvertently caused the death of the hero’s second cousin’s pet gerbil, except no, we find out he’s actually in love with her despite himself and has been since page 23 when he kisses her punishingly for the first time and accuses her of being a slut—once the hero crosses that line, he’s just not redeemable. Sleeping with somebody out of revenge is, well, so very fucked up on so many levels, I can’t find him redeemable. Not that fucked-up scenarios can’t be hot, and if you get off on that kind of power play, more power to you. It just doesn’t float my boat, is what I’m trying to say here.

Another fairly firm line is rape, though given how much I’ve enjoyed books in which forced seduction—hell, even psychological and sexual torment—play a significant role in the hero and heroine’s early relationship, such as in Only With Your Love by Lisa Kleypas and To Have and to Hold by Patricia Gaffney, I can’t say that heroes who play fast and loose with consent immediately make it into my shit list. A large part of the believability of the hero’s redemption lies with a) how sorry he is for being a rat fucking bastard, b) whether he fully grasps that what he did was pretty damn awful, c) the severity of what he did and d) how frequently he repeats the offence.

A somewhat fuzzier line is the alpha hero who doesn’t trust the heroine for whatever reason and as a consequence is constantly on the heroine’s case because he thinks she’s a filthy liar (and sometimes, an even filthier whore—that is, until he tries to fuck her and his cock encounters her Magical Hymen of Steel That For Some Goddamn Reason is Mysteriously Located Three Inches Up Her Hoo Hoo). When handled wrongly, it can result in a numbing cycle of fighting and distrust; when handled correctly, it can be an excellent source of conflict and romantic tension.

So I want to hear your thoughts. The alpha hero is a topic that’s been hashed out and bashed around a million different times in a million different on-line romance communities, but I want to hear your thoughts about them—especially with regards to power imbalances. Do they bother you? What are your lines, in terms of alpha behavior crossing into asshole territory? What about the heroine being constantly wrong—does that get on your tits, too?

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Random Musings

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  1. 1

    I agree with the books you mentioned, and I was especially intrigued by your analysis of Windflower.  While Merry comes across as a naive ditz half the time, she also shows so much strength from the very beginning that I just adored that relationship.

    Alpha heroes who cross the line for me are the dude from Whitney, My Love because he assaults her twice, the hero of SEP’s Kiss An Angel because he’s so wrapped up in his own anger he can’t see the heroine as a human being who’s not trying to manipulate him, and every single Rosemary Rogers hero.  They just made me want to go after their nuts with a dull knife.

  2. 2
    SB Sarah says:

    Linda Howard’s alpha males always make my jaw clench, mostly because they are boneheaded and frequently assuming the worst about the heroine, or assuming that they will get some, oh yes, they will, so they put the condom on 45 minutes before she unzips him to see his latex surprise.

    The whole discussion of course made my brain go in an entirely different direction so I have to go ponder that now. Sheesh.

    But oddly, the topic of Alpha Heroes has been discussed a great deal lately on teh world wide interweb:

    Dawn Halliday wrote about them as part of a contest for her new book, while also focusing on the question of redemption for an alpha hero.

    Denise Shaw and I emailed back and forth about it a few days ago, debating the limits of redemption for the alpha, and what puts him in “too far gone” territory. The most obvious example for me: “Claiming the Courtesan.” Whether the hero was redeemed by the end of the story was the focus of my review, and several people emailed me to disagree that he had been redeemed by the end. I thought not, and wasn’t as satisfied by the end. That’s really the crux in creating an alpha hero for any author – how far down the road of hell to send him before you can bring him back satisfactorily.

    However, in some ways there are really two issues: do you as a reader like the alpha hero so long as he redeems/reforms himself, or is it the “being under his control” aspect that you dig as a reader?

    And is it the redemption/reformation that makes the alpha heroic? That plot development plays into the emotional redemptive powers of the heroine – which a LOT of people love to read. She is the only one who can heal him, reach his heart and yadda yadda yadda, ergo he has to be a right bastard before she provides the turning point and inspiration to his reformation.

    I think the redemption of the alpha hero is necessary to prove the subtlety of the heroine’s power over him. Here’s this powerful man – socially, economically, emotionally, whatever – with alpha status, and he needs this lil’ woman to save him/redeem him/ fulfill him. The subtext of alpha-dom is all about power – who has it, and who has to give it up in order to reach fulfillment. The alpha has to give it up or at least somewhat compromise it quietly and acknowledge that fact to the heroine in order for her to fulfill their happy ending. I.e. there has to be some damn fine groveling, or at least admission of weakness for her.

    Darcy, for example, in Pride and Prejudice: his first proposal: “Despite you and despite me, I love you.” His second proposal: “I righted all my wrongs for your regard, and wish to be worthy of you.” Only with his admission that he did all that stuff for Elizabeth can she fulfill him. He’s a humbled alpha – but only to her.

    That balance of power is a tricky sexy thing. Done well, it’s delicious. Done poorly, the hero isn’t ever worthy of the heroine because of his crimes, usually against her.

    p.s. This comment is 546 words long. Take that, Candy! That’s some kind of record for me. I need to go lie down now.

  3. 3
    Gennita Low says:

    Cruel humiliation.  I can’t stand it if the alpha hero strips a heroine of her dignity.  Doesn’t help if said heroine is a helpless blow-up doll in need of blowing up either.  Classic example, Linda Howard’s h/h in All That Glitters.  I love me the old early 80s classics, mind you, and am a Harlequin Presents reader, so I can take some pretty crappy behavior from the alpha dude, but. That. Book. 

    Gah. I’d stabbed that book with a steak knife many times, muttering in my bad Greek accent, “You will wear a pair of peach Speedos on your wedding and I will laugh at your mantitties.  And then you will cry like a sad puppy for two chapters while I dance with your best man. And you will crawl back to me begging for more.” ;-P Unfortunately, I can’t throw the book away since it’s part of my Goddess Linda Howard Collection.

  4. 4

    I have a knee-jerk reaction to super-alpha-dom.

    Recently I was on J.R. Ward’s website checking out excerpt for the next book.  And Vishous (I think it was him) just told his homies to take the doctor (who looks to be the heroine) with them back to the compound.  He’s doing that because his male possessiveness has suddenly kicked in—you don’t say.  That pushed all my buttons.  And even in a sanitized fictional environment I can’t accept that.

  5. 5
    Tracy says:

    Diana Palmer.  The hero: “I loved you but I couldn’t have you so it made me cruel” OR “I loved you but I thought you were a slut even though you are a virgin” over and over and over again.  Makes me crazy. And as soon as the hero admits this~the heroine forgives him and then the epilogue he’s a much nicer guy. Gah!

    SB Sarah: “I think the redemption of the alpha hero is necessary to prove the subtlety of the heroine’s power over him. Here’s this powerful man – socially, economically, emotionally, whatever – with alpha status, and he needs this lil’ woman to save him/redeem him/ fulfill him. The subtext of alpha-dom is all about power – who has it, and who has to give it up in order to reach fulfillment. The alpha has to give it up or at least somewhat compromise it quietly and acknowledge that fact to the heroine in order for her to fulfill their happy ending. I.e. there has to be some damn fine groveling, or at least admission of weakness for her.”  I agree with this.  The alpha male needs to admit that he NEEDS the heroine. Not just that he loves her.  Some version of “you make me a better man” etc.

    I love me a well written alpha male! ;)

  6. 6
    Molly says:

    Unrepentant rape, being a general asshat from start to finish, using mind control to seduce the heroine and not getting why she’s so upset when she finally realizes what he’s done, blaming the heroine for his ex’s misdeeds despite an utter lack of evidence that she’d ever do that, seducing the heroine in the room next to her kid while commenting on how thin the walls are . . .

  7. 7
    Jepad says:

    There are two major ways I’ve seen the alpha romance play out. In the first the man comes up against a woman just as strong-willed as he is.  This is satisfying because we get to see the power struggle play out, but neither one is really the top dog.  They have to learn how to compromise.

    The other situation is that you have this wilting flower female, whose kindness and generosity of spirit turn the slavering alpha dog into a lap dog.  He’ll never try to domineer, only do what she wishes. 

    Obviously, I find the second situation less interesting and also less believable.  I guess I can’t see that really working long term. 

    One of the other problems with alphas is they also come with a shitload of emotional baggage, which often is just an excuse for them to act badly.  I understand they can be an irritable, high-handed group, but just being nasty and obnoxious quickly turns me off.  There had better be a damn good reason the guy is bordering on emotionally abusive.  Much of the time, the reason for the guy’s bad attitude is pretty weak.

  8. 8
    Jepad says:

    Recently I was on J.R. Ward’s website checking out excerpt for the next book.  And Vishous (I think it was him) just told his homies to take the doctor (who looks to be the heroine) with them back to the compound.  He’s doing that because his male possessiveness has suddenly kicked in—you don’t say.  That pushed all my buttons.  And even in a sanitized fictional environment I can’t accept that.

    I can understand that.  Although, personally, I’ve stumbled across enough kidnapping scenarios in books that it doesn’t really bother me.  The issue really becomes how it plays out afterward.  I’m willing to cut him slack if he is genuinely remorseful later.

    Alpha males are prone to crossing the line of acceptabel behavior, but I can deal with it, if they own up to their mistakes later.

  9. 9
    Carrie Lofty says:

    He’s a humbled alpha – but only to her.

    SB Sarah wrote words that got me hot. Or maybe that was just me thinking about Firth’s Darcy being humble. Mmmmm. It’s the only way to do alpha. It’s the intentional cruelty and humiliation that bothers me intensely. I’ve been in those relationships, and they’re NOT SEXY. Darcy, as an alpha example that works, never humiliates Elizabeth or mocks her. His appeal is that he cannot have her—yet finds himself defending her (the “fine eyes” comment that just slips out, against his better sense).

    If an alpha doesn’t come back with enough groveling to make up for the craphatness, I just can’t buy the HEA.

  10. 10

    Okay, rape is a hard and fast rule for me on the no-fucking-way scale. One book that did this that I remember specifically is Fire Song by Catherine Coulter where the hero rapes the heroine, it’s called rape and the heroine still falls in love with the hero. Stockholm Syndrome or something, I swear.

    Forced seduction is one thing, because in the end, the heroine is WILLING. She may not want to be willing, but she is. Rape? Oh. Hell. No.

    The alpha can get away with a lot since I love to read them—and write them. But the girl has to be willing or he’s not an alpha HERO, he’s just and top dog assclown.

  11. 11
    Francois says:

    I think it works if the book is well written. If the characters progress. I can’t be doing with a man who remains an asshat throughout, and turns his life around on the last page.

    Sometimes I read all sorts of things into the text that aren’t there anyway – I remember someone described a Jenny Crusie hero as an alpha and I just didn’t get it (Phin from Welcome to Temptation). I’d read him as almost the opposite. But then thats what a nicely textured characterisation will do for you.

  12. 12
    Jepad says:

    I remember someone described a Jenny Crusie hero as an alpha and I just didn’t get it (Phin from Welcome to Temptation).

    That’s funny.  Just a day or two, I commented here that I thought Phin was a beta hero.  He didn’t have that aggresive macho mentality that I so often associate with alpha (at least modern romance alphas).

    I think part of the difference is that alphas tend to be more physically aggressive, whereas a beta (who isn’t packing 200 lbs of muscle) will be more likely to whip out his rapier tongue and cut his opponent down to size verbally. Phin had some great lines in WtT.

  13. 13

    Like a few of you said, rape is a hard and fast line for me.  I simply won’t continue reading if the hero does that.  If he is able to do that, he has problems that I don’t even want to address, let alone think can be solved by the Love of a Good Woman.

    I tend to like alpha heroes in general, but only if they are matched with a heroine who can stand up to them.  I don’t want to read about an alpha male and his wishy-washy mate.  I want to read about them coming head to head (why does everything I write look dirty this morning?) and living to tell the tale.  If a hero recognizes this and actually *wants* a woman who is going to be his equal, he gets big points from me.  I think that’s why I love both Darcy and Rochester – they’re attracted to the untameable natures of their partners, not just willing to put up with them.

  14. 14
    Ellie M. says:

    When alphas think of the woman as less intelligent than they are and it’s not in an historical.  When there is no respect (because they hate women, mostly.)  I don’t love it in an historical, but I can bear it if done well and they’re redeemed.  In a contemp, if the hero treats her as dumb, histrionic, silly, foolish, childlike, etc. and she’s not, she’s just female, line is crossed.  If she IS, I probably quit reading anyway.

  15. 15
    dillene says:

    I second that comment about Rochester- Jane is not really the spitfire type, but she has the courage of her convictions and in the end Rochester sees that she was in the right.  Heathcliff, on the other hand, should have been drowned as a child.  I have no sympathy for him at all by the end of his book.

  16. 16
    Laura says:

    I looked up Alpha Male on dictionary.com. All it says is a dominant man, a leader of other men.

    So when did the term alpha male become associate with asshole?

    It’s possible to be an alpha male without being a jerk. Real men prove this everyday.

    I’m tired of the hero trying to assert his dominance over everyone. There are so many ebooks out there where the hero barks orders during the sex scenes. “Ride this”, “Suck this”, “Bend over”. I keep waiting for the heroine to tell him to get lost, but she never does.

    I think that’s my breaking point. During sex, if the dude is a jerk and only wants to assert his control, he isn’t redeemable in my eyes.

  17. 17
    sara says:

    During my adolescent infatuation with Elizabeth Lowell I encountered a whole lot of alpha heroes, and a lot of them were dicks. Sometimes that was a good thing.

    One that sticks out (heh heh) particularly is Archer in Pearl Cove, who’s madly in love with his bastard half-brother’s wife, and after the brother dies they get to boot-knockin’, but there is a misunderstanding involving baby-makin’ and Archer decides to act like a complete asshole for two-thirds of the book. Which is part of the emotional complexity, and the plot, yes, but he’s so goddamned high-handed about it that I want to smack him.

    Lowell’s “Only” series also has a lot of those wiser-than-thou, cynical bastards who are only melted by – what was it, Candy? – oh yes, the Magical Hymen of Steel (I love you for that) That Proves She Is a Lady. They’re historicals, but I don’t think that gives the heroes carte blanche to be such stiff upper lippy pricks about it.

    I think what pushes it over the line for me is when a battles of wills doesn’t involve equal capitulation. There’s always great sexual tension to be mined from a proud man and a proud woman breaking each other down (hard to prideful when naked and sweating, after all), but when he’s never humbled, he’s proven to be Totally Right By Virtue Of His Massive Wang Of Truthiness, and she’s the one who gives all the ground, that’s when I get pissy. There was one…yes, it was also a Lowell. To the Ends of the Earth. I could have cheerfully murdered the alpha dicksmack in that one. And the heroine, come to it. She spent most of the book acting like an invertebrate.

  18. 18
    Denise says:

    Or maybe that was just me thinking about Firth’s Darcy being humble. Mmmmm. It’s the only way to do alpha. It’s the intentional cruelty and humiliation that bothers me intensely. I’ve been in those relationships, and they’re NOT SEXY. Darcy, as an alpha example that works, never humiliates Elizabeth or mocks her. His appeal is that he cannot have her—yet finds himself defending her (the “fine eyes” comment that just slips out, against his better sense).

    If an alpha doesn’t come back with enough groveling to make up for the craphatness, I just can’t buy the HEA.

    lovelysalome nailed it in one for me in her response.  I have a problem with the characterization of the “alpha” trait in a hero relies on mental and/or physical cruelty toward the heroine.  Yes, he may be alpha, but I no longer see him as a hero.  Redemption can excuse a lot of behavior, but I’ve never subscribed to the idea that everyone can be redeemed.  So I have a low threshold for the hero’s behavior when it comes to how he’s treating the heroine and at what point he is redeemed by her. 

    Darcy and Lizzy are examples of the alpha male and the redeeming heroine done right IMO.  No one is being raped, imprisoned, revenge-fucked or psychologically tortured.  Yet Darcy remains wonderfully alpha and brilliantly redeemed by the strong, unbroken (if more humbled) Lizzy.

  19. 19
    sara says:

    Obviously, rereading SB Sarah’s analysis, this means I like to control the hero. No news there.

  20. 20

    Candy, get out of my head!!! I was just about to guest blog about this for someone else! Blast!

    Well, I guess I’ll just go forward with my pale imitation, because I’m too lazy to think of another topic. *sigh*

  21. 21
    Nifty says:

    I’m not a big fan of the alpha heroes, and perhaps that’s partly because I think that label gets tossed around too easily.  Maybe my perception of the word is fuzzy.  Dunno.  But for me, “alpha” often equates with “giant douche-bag jerkwad.”  Mostly I hate them when they’re condescending toward the little woman:  she’s too stupid, or too inexperienced to take care of herself and therefore the alpha hero must take care of her.  Hogwash. But sadly, the heroine who is paired with such an alpha is often willing to overlook his obnoxious behavior because, after all, he loves her, and isn’t that exciting?

    My number-one infuriating alpha schmero is Robert Cannon from Linda Howard’s Loving Evangeline.  Evie’s been on her own for some 12 years or so…has a successful business, owns a house, manages her life quite nicely.  Robert latches onto this idea that’s breaking the law—not only causing problems for him and his company, but betraying her COUNTRY, by God!—and so he steps in and coldbloodedly ruins her life.  He destroys her fragile finances, puts her in a situation where she has to sell her house, puts her livelihood at risk.  But of course that’s all okay because 1) he’s doing it for the good of his country and 2) by then he suspects she’s innocent, but he has to use her to trap the bad guy, and if it turns out that she IS innocent, he’ll step in and make everything right.  He loves her; he’ll take care of her.  She’ll never want for anything ever again.  She grows a backbone and tells him to get lost and he comes back to her—groveling?—and tells her that he’ll keep her barefoot and pregant and be at her 5 times a day and she’ll like it…because of course he loves her and that makes everything all right.  *shakes head*  Run for your life, Evie, you dipwit. 

    Please.  Give me a nice, well-behaved, respectful beta hero anyday.  They generally seem to have something going for them other than a big dick and lots of testosterone.

  22. 22

    Yes, the groveling is the key. Only for her. The groveling. Mmmmmmmyeah.

  23. 23
    Chris S. says:

    I love books in which the writer really gets the alpha hero – Loretta Chase’s LORD OF SCOUNDRELS is the perfect example.  Because a real alpha wants an equal match.  Not a doormat, not muse to worship:  a match. 

    Being a pissy, argumentative jerk isn’t alpha:  being strong is.  And there isn’t just one kind of strength.  Gaaron, in Sharon Shinn’s ANGELICA, is an alpha hero. He’s quiet, rational, and fairly mild-mannered, but the entire world looks to him for guidance, and he accepts the weight of that responsibility.  That’s alpha.

  24. 24
    cecille says:

    ~Heathcliff, on the other hand, should have been drowned as a child.  I have no sympathy for him at all by the end of his book.~

    Thank you, dillene, I spat my coffee at the screen, laughing, and then cheered that someone has summed up all my feelings about him so neatly!

  25. 25
    Stephanie Doyle says:

    Alpha’s… love them. If you ask me Linda Howard defined them for me – but that’s only because I read her first.

    Lowell’s Sil. Desire series – those guys were always brutal!!! But books that I remember loving when I was younger – teens, 20’s –  are harder reads for me now. Except maybe LH’s Kell Sabin – that guy never goes out of style for me.

    For a brief second I thought I might be over the Alpha Hero. Then I read Chase’s LOS. I picked it up because of this blog – THANK YOU!!! – and yeah… wow.

    That book was so perfect and reminded me of everything I LOVE about those heros. I finished it and thought… when can I read this again.

    So bring them on. For my money I’ll take the strong sassy woman who comes with him rather than the doormat.

  26. 26
    Susan W. says:

    “Darcy and Lizzy are examples of the alpha male and the redeeming heroine done right IMO.  No one is being raped, imprisoned, revenge-fucked or psychologically tortured.  Yet Darcy remains wonderfully alpha and brilliantly redeemed by the strong, unbroken (if more humbled) Lizzy.”

    Amen.

    My pet peeve in an alpha hero is over-generalization—you know, “One X done me wrong, therefore every X is evil.”  Most often it’s “My mother/first wife/former favorite mistress was a cheating bitch, and therefore no woman can be trusted,” but it occasionally shows up as, “I’m a self-made man and one aristocrat done me wrong, so therefore that duke’s daughter over there must be a slutty bitch,” or, “I’m an aristocrat who once ended up on the wrong end of a business deal, so that Cit’s daughter over there must be a grasping, social-climbing slut.”  And it drives me crazy because it’s just so amazingly immature and idiotic that I can’t believe the author expects me to swoon over this loser.

  27. 27
    --E says:

    I loves me some arrogant, ubercompetent fellows—as long as their arrogance is based on confidence springing from their ubercompetence. Abusive people are fundamentally insecure, and that’s completely the opposite of appealing.

    Hijacking the thread a bit, I lost it on Magical Hymen of Steel That For Some Goddamn Reason is Mysteriously Located Three Inches Up Her Hoo Hoo. What is up with that? Why is that such a common convention in romance novels? Do the writers not know anatomy? Are there maybe some women with such improbably located hymens?

    I really want to know, because the first time I ever came across this, I wondered what the heck was wrong with me. Then I remembered the filmstrip from sixth grade and realized I’m fine, but some authors are very peculiar.

  28. 28
    Kimberly Anne says:

    I can only love an alpha if the author knows the difference between an alpha male and an asshat.  Darcy and Rochester are alphas done right, as Melanie said.  They are powerful, fascinating, proud men, but they never denigrate the women they claim to love.  Their words may be sharp and their behavior questionable, but in the end, they RESPECT their ladies.

    I think respect is what it all comes down to for me.  A hero can behave like a total doucheberry and I’ll still end up liking him-if and only if he treats the heroine with respect.

    One of the worst alphas I ever read was in the manga version of Penny Jordan’s Response.  He seduces her to avenge her brother’s rape of his sister (which of course didn’t actually happen), and then taunts her afterward because she liked it!  I’d have taken a screwdriver to his eyes.

    BTW, what is with this patriarchal bullshit of a guy raping or seducing a woman because of something a male relative of hers did to him?  I’ll punish him by deflowering his sister/daughter!  That will teach him not to mess with me!  Is this really the 14th century and I’m just hallucinating that it’s the 21st?

  29. 29
    sara says:

    BTW, what is with this patriarchal bullshit of a guy raping or seducing a woman because of something a male relative of hers did to him?  I’ll punish him by deflowering his sister/daughter!  That will teach him not to mess with me!  Is this really the 14th century and I’m just hallucinating that it’s the 21st?

    Yeah, that’s some bullshit reasoning-for-honor-killings right there. Do not want.

  30. 30
    Michelle says:

    I agree about cruelty being a big issue.  If the hero enjoys causing pain to the heroine that crosses the line from alpha to asshole.

    There is an Amanda Quick book that I am blanking on the name where the hero seduces the heroine into marriage as revenge.(Is it Seduction?)  He knows her family is dependent on her financial skills to keep them afloat.  It is a really good book and I think it was handled well.

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