The Rec League: Historical Alphas

The Rec League - heart shaped chocolate resting on the edge of a very old bookOh, buddy. I have a feeling this request is going to generate a lot of opinions and double some TBRs. Reader Arielibra was inspired by our Heyer birthday sale post to find some alpha heroes in historical. Here is her email:

Could we have a Rec League on alphas?

The comments from the Heyer-birthday post have been haunting me, especially Pam Shropshire’s point that Avon is “the definitive alpha.” *sighs, fans self* Yes, yes he is.

I like a nice bespectacled beta as much as anybody… But maybe we could have a Rec for those of us who are at risk of just re-reading These Old Shades until the end of time? Thanks!

Amanda: Whew, okay. These are a few of my personal favorites:

Wulfgar from The Wolf & the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss ( A | BN | K | G | AB ). It’s old skool, so I definitely recommend pairing Wulfgar’s alphaness with some alcohol.

Jason from Once and Always by Judith McNaught ( A | BN | K | G | AB ). Another bit of some crazysauce, but I just ate up Jason’s tortured hero schtick with a big ol’ spoon.

Guilty Pleasures
A | BN | K | AB
Anthony from Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee Guhrke. I love Guhrke’s historicals and I think they’re severely underrated. This is a pseudo-workplace romance. The heroine is a shy woman who works for Anthony, doing excavations at his estate. An alpha with a love of antiquities!

Rohan from Anne Stuart’s Ruthless ( A | BN | K | AB ). This is definitely on the darker, more erotic side of historical romance and it has an age difference. The hero is commanding and crude and made me utter, “Oh my…” quite a few times.


Lord of Scoundrels – Loretta Chase ( A | BN | K | G | AB | Au )

The Bride – Julie Garwood ( A | BN | K | G | AB )

Devil in Winter – Lisa Kleypas ( A | BN | K | G | AB )

The Lion’s Lady – Julie Garwood ( A | BN | K | G | AB )

Redheadedgirl, Elizabeth Hoyt’s To Beguile a Beast ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) should qualify, yeah?

Redheadedgirl: Yeah.

SarahDevil’s Bride – Stephanie Laurens.

RedheadedgirlWicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt ( A | BN | K | G | AB )

Devil’s Bride
A | BN | K | AB
Sarah: Two things: 1. alphas change, and the way they’re portrayed changes. I could suggest a ton of very old skool romances with alpha heroes but a lot of them I’d like to punch in the throat because they surpass “tolerable alpha” and head straight into “idiot” and “good grief how insecure ARE you?” territory.

2. If you need to describe an alpha male, Devil’s Bride is my favorite example.

Honoria has just found out who Devil is:

“Proof? What more proof could she need? One glance into those ageless, omniscient eyes, at that face displaying steely strength perfectly melded with rampant sensuality, was enough to settle all doubts.”

Omniscient eyes, steely strength, rampant sensuality – check, check check. Of course, Laurens also wrote, “The weeping furnace of her sheath” in The Brazen Bride. Bless her.

I suppose the hero of Whitney, My Love ( A | BN )qualifies for sure but he’s on my list of “I could punch him, no problem.”

Redheadedgirl: I can think of a bunch of old school alphas, but I don’t recommend them as dudes.

Sarah: Derek Craven in Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas ( A | BN | K | G | AB ). Also pretty darn alpha.

Oh! Wulfric! Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh. ( A | BN | K | G | AB )

Duke of Sin
A | BN | K | AB
Redheadedgirl: Ash in Unveiled by Courtney Milan ( A | BN | K | G | AB ). She doesn’t often do alphas.

SarahIndigo by Beverly Jenkins. ( A | BN | K | G | AB )

I’m going to stop now because I’m giving too many.

ElyseDuke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt

It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas ( A | BN | K | G | AB | Au )

Hoyt writes amazing alpha heroes! So does Kleypas!

Carrie: Devon Crandell in The Windflower! ( A | BN | K | G | AB | Scribd )

Get all that? We practically squeed all over the place! What alpha heroes in historical romances would you suggest? Tell us in the comments!

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    Sigh, I love this topic and could talk about it for hours! You all have named my all-time favorites, but I’d like to add a few.

    I love Eloisa James’ Leopold Dautry, the notorious Duke of Villiers. In one story, she practically kills him off in a duel and then recreates him in a Duke of her Own. With a similar hero’s journey, Leopold reminds me of Sebastian St. Vincent in the Wallflower series.

    What about Jonas Merrick in Anna Campbell’s Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed? When you’ve got a wounded Alpha? Smack my lips-I’m in heaven!!

  2. 2
    AG says:

    I’m going to checking this rec hourly for the next week!! One of the qualifications for my fav alphas is that they have great female leads as well, so these include some pretty awesome women too!

    1. Christi Caldwell has a lot of quick reads – Forever Betrothed, Never the Bride, The Heart of a Scoundrel, A Marquess for Christmas
    2. Her Secondhand Groom – Rose Gordon
    3. To Love a Dark Lord & A Rose at Midnight – Anne Stuart (in gamma territory)
    4. Ravished – Amanda Quick
    5. That Scandalous Evening – Christina Dodd
    6. All Through the Night – Connie Brockway (all time favourite)
    7. At the Bride Hunt Ball – Olivia Parker
    8. The Raven Prince – Elizabeth Hoyt
    9. The Stranger I Married – Sylvia Day (Alpha Lite transforms into Dark Alpha!)
    10. My Sweet Folly – Laura Kinsale (One of the few historicals with parts set in India that doesn’t annoy me)

  3. 3
    Konst. says:

    I second all Elisabeth Hoyt recommendations, would add “Raven Prince” to the list.
    The heroine in this one is simply great and she makes him do some serious groveling before HEA:)

    Also Gaelan Foley “Lord of Fire/Ice” are old-skool hyper-alphas. Warning – those might be a bit much on your modern patience… I am not a huge fan myself :-/

  4. 4
    Lostshadows says:

    Based just on how many times I’ve reread it, Silk and Shadows by Mary Jo Putney. (CN:CSA)

    Nothing else is coming to mind, but it’s 6:30am. I’ll be back.

  5. 5
    Lil says:

    I was so glad to see Guhrke’s Guilty Pleasures mentioned. It’s one of my all-time favorite books.
    Let me nominate Jo Bourne’s heroes in her Spymaster series. Especially Hawker. Sigh.

  6. 6
    PamG says:

    Francis Crawford of Lymond and Sevigny, hero of Dorothy Dunnett’s 6 vol. historical series, The Lymond Chronicles. Scotland, England, France and Russia during the Tudor era. A wonderful (brown haired) heroine whom one first meets as a child and who becomes Lymond’s perfect match. Delicious villains. A vast cast of characters each one as fully realized as the principles. Horrible things happening to all kinds of people. Politics and intrigue. Brilliant humor. And Francis Crawford–with all the golden gifts and all the angst. Yum!

    It’s definitely not a light read. However, the romantic payoff at the end of book six is so completely worth it.

  7. 7
    Patricia says:

    Love the Kleypas shout outs. Honestly Devil in Winter was my gateway drug for historicals.

  8. 8
    Gigi says:

    Oh this is going to wreak havoc on my book budget! I second everything by Kleypas.Off the top of my head: Marsha Canham writes amazing adventure romance and to die for larger than life alphas. My favorites are her Scotland trilogy -especially the first two books Pride of Lions and Blood of Roses and her Pirate book Across a Moonlit Sea. Madeline Hunter has some great alphas Provocative in Pearls stands out among her recent books. My favorite of hers will always be her medieval By Possession. Sir Addis is a delicious Alpha. For Old skool Alpha that won’t drive you to murder try Patricia Gaffney Lily. Meredith Duran Duke of Shadows and Luck Be a Lady and Pamela Clare’ s McKinnon Rangers books Surrender, Untamed and Defiant. Anna Campbell Claiming the Courtesan. Anne Stuart’s Lord of Danger, Rose at Midnight, The Devil’s Waltz and To Love a Dark Lord.

    All I can think of for now but after a,few cups of coffees I may be back with more.

  9. 9
    jimthered says:

    While it has its share of triggers (notably a lot of non-consensual sex), the Black Lace novel WHITE ROSE ENSNARED by Juliet Hastings is set during the War of the Roses and features an alpha hero, an alpha villain, and a heroine who gets aroused at the very thought of bondage. It’s far more erotica than romance, but it’s wild and hot! (review at )

  10. 10
    Christine says:

    I highly endorse the Lisa Kleypas and Elizabeth Hoyt recommendations. I would add some Meredith Duran like “Lady Be Good”. For Steampunk/Historical I highly recommend Bec McMaster, Kiss Of Steel and Heart Of Iron are two of my favorites. A newer recommendation is Kerrigan Byrne’s “The Hunter”. Even Grey, the hero of Joanna Bourne’s The Spymaster’s Lady would qualify as an alpha in my book.

  11. 11
    SusanH says:

    I don’t think anyone’s mentioned Meljean Brook’s The Iron Duke? It’s the start of a steampunk series. Brook tends to balance out her alpha heroes with equally competent, self-confident heroines, which I really like.

  12. 12
    Mary Heather says:

    Thanks for this post! An alpha hero is just what I need to get through Hurricane Matthew. Off to load up my 3 kindles to get me through the duration.

  13. 13
    Amanda says:

    I think that we are leaving out a really great Alpha in Brodick Buchanan in Julie Garwoods Ransom. He is so male it also inept at times when it comes to love. I have reread this book several times and it never gets old.

  14. 14
    Joanna says:

    Bey Malloren, the Marquess of Rothgar, who you meet repeatedly in the earlier Malloren books as the older brother who takes care of everyone else and finally gets his own romance in Devilish by Jo Beverley. It’s Georgian, and his heroine Diana is strong and not a pushover.

  15. 15
    mel burns says:

    Beowolf Malloren Marquess Of Rothgar…need I say more?

  16. 16
    Sue says:

    If you’re re-reading These Old Shades for an alpha, also read, Devil’s Cub, which is the story of Avon’s son Vidal – definitely an sexy Alpha!

  17. 17
    denise says:

    I have always loved Bourne in Sarah MacLean’s A Rogue by Any Other Name, and I also love Nicholas St. John in her Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord.

  18. 18
    chacha1 says:

    The book I thought of was “The Disdainful Marquis” by Edith Layton. The hero appeared in her previous “The Duke’s Wager” and he was not just an alpha but an alphole. Since these are Regencies that takes the form of cynicism, rudeness, general misogyny etc rather than violence/rape; but the heroines’ situations are pretty dangerous, and I appreciated what Layton did in turning this veryattractive but verymean guy into a worthwhile mate.

  19. 19
    Judy W. says:

    I’m going to skip the usual well mentioned which are fabulous choices for some less well represented suggestions. Well I couldn’t resist a couple of well known anyway.

    Trevelyn de Villars from Wagered Widow by Patricia Veryan
    Guy Ravenshaw from Romantic Lady by Sylvia Thorpe
    Nicholas Davies from Thunder and Roses by MJ Putney (is this a repeat?)
    Ian Thornton from Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught(great alpha writer)
    Alexander Moncrieffe from What I did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long
    Nicholas Dearborne from A Heart too Proud by Laura London
    Nicky the Earl of Ives from Daughter of Fortune by Dawn Lindsey (Loved it!!)
    Drummond Macqueen from Chieftan by Arnette Lamb (Scottish!)
    Byron Stratford from Veil of Night by Lydia Joyce
    Stuart Aysgarth from Untie my Heart by Judith Ivory (Is he bossy enough?)
    Black Niall from Son of the Morning by Linda Howard (alpha writer supreme)
    Lord Garth from Georgiana by Marian Devon (Funny, funny writer)
    Ethan MacCarrick from If You Deceive by Kresley Cole

  20. 20
    DonnaMarie says:

    Ah, Old Skool Alphas. These were the characters I cut my romance teeth on, hence my high tolerance for alphole behavior. I’ll see your Wulfgar of The Wolf And The Dove and raise you the non-consensual, stalkery, pirate improving, introduce you to my wealthy family without telling you they’re my family to make you feel extra bad about your snobby behavior when we met glory this is Ruark Beauchamps from Woodiwiss’ Shana. The bff recently pointed out that, thanks to Outlander, we now know we’ve be pronouncing his name wrong for the last 40 years.

    ….Crap. I read that book 40 years ago! I am old.

  21. 21
    Crystal says:

    Okay, someone already pulled out Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt, because that was my first thought, and I’d also suggest Maximus from Duke of Midnight. I’d also go with When a Scot Ties the Knot and Romancing the Duke from Tessa Dare as well (and I just finished Do You Want to Start a Scandal, and I think Piers is an alpha that disguises himself as a beta because it’s easier to be a spy if people think you’re kind of an ineffectual nerd). Someone mentioned Indigo, and I’d posit Rhine from Forbidden as well.

  22. 22

    Thanks for this awesome list.

  23. 23
    LauraL says:

    Devil’s Bride was my first thought when I read the headline for this post. He’s a, uh, mature alpha in By Winter’s Light.

    I’ll add Joanna Shupe’s Knickerbocker Club heroes to the list.

  24. 24
    Cordy (not stuck in spam filter sub-type) says:

    I think maybe people mean different things when they say “Alpha”. Quite often in romance novels it seems to mean a guy who is very overbearing and emo-dramatic. For myself, when I want to read about an alpha dude, I want to read about someone who is hyper-competent. I want him to be in charge of things and good at being in charge of them. I do like it when he is also a little bit alarming (Anne Stuart is good at writing this) but the competence is key. A lot of romance alphas seem to me to be bossy, but not actually that competent. He has to earn the right to be bossy, as far as I’m concerned.

    I really like the dynamic in Elizabeth Hoyt’s DUKE OF MIDNIGHT. (Hero is a duke with all of the responsibilities, including revenge for the death of his parents – heroine is an impoverished noblewoman who lives/works as her beautiful cousin’s companion after a family scandal left her without options. The hero is courting the cousin. It’s full of poignancy and duty – I think alphas in historicals should have a lot of duties, personally.)

    I also like PROVOCATIVE IN PEARLS by Madeline Hunter. (Hero (impoverished nobleman) and heroine (rich industrial heiress) were married several years ago, but the heroine vanished immediately after the ceremony. He wants them to be actually-married, she wants out of the marriage and to find out what happened to a childhood friend. Hawkeswell is highly competent, arrogant, and slowly comes to see his wife as a person, a person he is willing to make sacrifices for. It’s great. It’s also one of the few historicals that feel to me like they capture a pretty likely emotional dynamic between the leads. They aren’t modern people – he makes a lot of assumptions about how obedient his wife should be, and Verity/the heroine chafes at those assumptions, but also resentfully acknowledges that law and culture are on his side.)

    I like DEVIL IN WINTER a lot, but I think that Sebastian really has to earn his competency stripes, he isn’t that competent when you first meet him.

    PASSION by Lisa Valdez. I’ve recommended this here before: it’s super crazy, like – whoa, so much ridiculous sex and melodrama! But it does have a powerful/arrogant competent hero with Duties To His Name, and I like it in spite of the ridiculous overwrought nature of the whole thing.

    SEIZE THE FIRE, FLOWERS FROM THE STORM, and MIDSUMMER MOON by Laura Kinsale. You want bossy, arrogant, competent heroes? These are your books. I am listening to the audiobook of FLOWERS FROM THE STORM right now and it’s just amazing and great how even without the ability to speak and while trapped in an asylum, the hero is full of arrogance. MIDSUMMER MOON is much lighter and more farcical, but I love it. A hyper-competent, duty-bound hero brought low by love and his fear of heights!

    TO HAVE AND TO HOLD by Patricia Gaffney. Caveat: you know how usually when historicals say “this guy is a rake”, he’s actually a nice young man with a sex drive? This hero is not like that. “Hero” is maybe not the word you want. It’s a pretty dark book – a lot of what happens is dubiously consensual. But I think if you like Anne Stuart-type dark-bossy heroes, this is a good bet.

    IF HIS KISS IS WICKED by Jo Goodman. Hyper-competent hero – more confident than arrogant/bossy, though. But I love the heroine.

    LORD PERFECT by Loretta Chase. He’s, uh, the perfect lord, basically. She’s a widowed mother from a scandalous background. He finds her apartments, there’s a road trip, everyone is bound by love and duty, it’s delightful.

  25. 25
    LSUReader says:

    What great recommendations. Here are a few of mine:

    Sebastian, Marquess of Dain–Lord of Scoundrels, Loretta Chase
    Christian, Duke of Jervaulx–Flowers from the Storm, Laura Kinsale
    Alexander Moncrieffe–What I Did for a Duke, Julie Anne Long
    Simon Basset–The Duke & I, Julia Quinn
    Rhett Butler–Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
    Camden, Lord Tremaine–Private Arrangements, Sherry Thomas
    Ash Turner–Unveiled, Courtney Milan
    Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent–Devil in Winter, Lisa Kleypas
    Thorn Dautry–Three Weeks with Lady X, Eloisa James
    Christian, Duke of Mercia–The Captive, Grace Burrowes

  26. 26
    Miss Louisa says:

    I like the first 6 Cynsters. Yes, they are all alpha, but each realizes he won’t be happy with one of those debs with more hair than sense. Each bride is smart and capable. Also, the heroes’ mothers are not portrayed as wimps either nor pushy and overbearing.

  27. 27
    Crystal says:

    Next rec league…alpha heroines. Because I do love me an alpha girl.

  28. 28
    Vicki says:

    I am old enough that I remember shivering at the alphas in some of Mary Stewart’s work. And I cut my teeth on Victoria Holt who had an alpha or two, also.

  29. 29
    Eva says:

    I’m gonna go broke!

  30. 30
    arielibra says:

    Late to my own party, but I have to THANK YOU all!

    Sue, An Infamous Army features a heroine from the third generation; Avon pops up briefly and he’s definitely still got it.

    Thanks PamG – I’m halfway through the Lymond series and glad to hear there’s a payoff at the end.

    Cordy (not stuck), completely agree with you about earning the right. In addition to romance/fiction on the topic I also read lots of history/politics/biography on the concept of power and what it really means to command. It never means “Because I said so”!

    I agree with everyone who alluded to the difficulty of distinguishing between attractive alpha behavior and the unattractive values of the past. Pretending that everyone in the past (except truly irredeemable villains) was feminist/positive/inclusionary is a little more of a leap than pretending everyone had good teeth and changed their shorts once in a while, but confronting the evidence to the contrary yanks me out of the story good and hard. A delicate line to walk. (And it’s an issue not just with historicals, obviously. Contemporaries have plenty of alpholes, and while I love the May-December trope, some guys you just want to arrest, and not in a fun way.)

    And now I have to stagger off with this epic reading list. Thanks again.

  31. 31
    Karin says:

    The Duke’s Perfect Wife by Jennifer Ashley, in fact any of the Mackenzie men.
    Any of Maya Banks’ McCabe series(Scottish historicals)
    Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett(Roaring 20’s)
    Lots of Jo Beverly books-Lord of My Heart, Something Wicked,An Unwilling Bride
    Gayle Callen-His Scandal/His Bride/His Betrothed series
    Liz Carlyle writes super alphaey alphas-Never Deceive a Duke, Never Romance a Rake, Tempted All Night, Beauty Like the Night, The Earl’s Mistress. Actually almost everything she wrote.
    Pamela Clare’s MacKinnon’s Early American Rangers series-Untamed, Surrender and Defiant.

  32. 32
    Karin says:

    I’m working through my booklist alphabetically, and that first comment only made it to the “C”s!
    Nicola Cornick-The Last Rake in London,Whisper of Scandal, Lord of Scandal
    Michelle Diener’s John Parker/Susanna Horenbout series, set in the court of King Henry VIII. The first one is “In A Treacherous Court”. OMG, these are so good, I wish she would write more of them!
    Charlotte Louise Dolan-Fallen Angel, The Unofficial Suitor
    Suzanne Enoch-Always a Scoundrel, Before the Scandal, Meet Me At Midnight.
    Jennifer Haymore-The Duchess Hunt
    Lorraine Heath-Scoundrels of St. James series
    Hannah Howell’s Wherlocke series
    Did anyone mention Hoyt’s “To Taste Temptation” and “Scandalous Desires”?
    Madeline Hunter-Tall, Dark and Wicked. The whole Wicked trilogy is excellent.
    Bevverly Jenkins-Nighthawk
    Paula Marshall-Hester Waring’s Marriage
    Miranda Neville-The Dangerous Viscount, The Wild Marquis.
    Mary Jo Putney-Thunder and Roses, Silk and Shadows
    Karen Ranney-The Devil Wears Tartan
    Deborah Simmons-The Devil Earl
    Claire Thornton-The Vagabond Duchess, The Defiant Mistress
    Sheila Walsh-The Arrogant Lord Alistair
    Joan Wolf-Fool’s Masquerade

  33. 33
    roserita says:

    Late to the party, but you can never have too many alphas:
    Domenico, Duke of Cabria in Teresa Denys’ “The Silver Devil”
    Earl of Linton in Jane Feather’s “Love’s charade” (totally inspired by the Duke of Avon)
    Damian, Lord Rutherford in Jane Feather’s “The Smuggler’s lady”
    Lesley Byrne, Lord Linden in Laura London’s Bad Baron’s daughter” (practice for Devin in “The Windflower”)
    Sir Alexander MacHugh in Jan Cox Speas’ “Bride of the MacHugh” (Scotland!)

  34. 34
    Karin says:

    Oh, I need to find Bride of the MacHugh! It’s out of print and not in e-format either.

  35. 35
    Lora says:

    Shoutout to Francis Rohan in Ruthless getting mentioned. /clutches pearls merrily/

    I also dig the brooding Gavin from Master of Blacktower (Barbara Michaels). One of my all time favorites although I’m sorry to say our heroine is, in fact, TSTL

  36. 36
    Lora says:

    Anyone else think Smite Turner was an alpha in Unraveled by Courtney Milan? Like, a dysfunctional or damaged alpha with Dark Past of Darkness?

  37. 37
    Karin says:

    @Lora, well he is competent and a control freak, so I’d say yes.

  38. 38
    Stefanie Magura says:

    @Pam G:

    Glad to see you enjoy and recommend Lymond so highly. I read Game of Kings and enjoyed it, but had a bit of trouble with Queen’s Play. I hope to get back to them and have an easier time now that I’ve read the first book.

  39. 39
    Julie says:

    For hyper competent, omniscient alpha heroes, two of my favorites are the linchpins of Jo Beverley’s two series, Nicholas Delaney of the Company of Rogues, and the Marquess of Rothgar of the Mallorens. IMO, they’re both at their most fascinating as individual characters in the other books in the series, not their own book. I think it’s because their own book reveals their inner life, which, while interesting, takes away from the mysterious, all-powerful and all-knowing quality they have in the other books.

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