Of Alphas and Edinburgh

posted in: Barbara Monajem | 0

Hopefully, you’re not thinking “Oh, no! Not another post about alpha heroes.” (That’s one reason I included Edinburgh in the title. Who can resist Scotland?) Anyway, if you’re tired of alphas, I apologize, but I’m doing a sort of informal survey here. I was emailing with an editor the other day, and she mentioned that the story in question needed an alpha hero, which got me thinking about my definition of an alpha — or maybe just a hero, period.


This is Edinburgh Castle from below. Pretty daunting, isn’t it? It’s also my idea of an alpha hero—built on rock (and usually beautifully built as well). You can’t help but notice him. He’s tough and strong, an impregnable fortress (unless the heroine is laying siege). (Edinburgh Castle was successfully besieged, too, so this isn’t a terrible comparison.)

I’m not saying I don’t like reading about manly men, natural leaders, etc., but I like less showy, obvious heroes as much or more. Take a few examples from Georgette Heyer. The Duke of Avon in These Old Shades is my idea of an alpha. I love this story–Avon is delightfully ruthless. But I love Heyer’s quieter heroes just as much, such as—to give my favorite example—the Duke of Sale in The Foundling. He’s an untried, unassuming young man who in the course of the story shows what he’s really made of, and I think he’s just wonderful.

I really enjoy reading about heroes who take care of things in a quiet way. Who don’t necessarily attract awed attention (whether from respect, fear, admiration or whatever) the minute they walk into a room. Who have hidden depths of which they’re often unaware. Who stumble because of their fears, then pick themselves up and prove their worth in ways that perhaps no one sees but themselves.


This photo was also taken during my recent visit to Edinburgh. I think it’s what is known as a wynd—a sort of alley between houses, often a way up and down a hill. (It may be a close—an alley leading to a specific place, where it ends—but let’s assume it’s a wynd. I took a bunch of notes in Edinburgh, but I’ve misplaced the notebook.) Anyway, this wynd is more like the quiet hero I like. Hidden depths, maybe quite a bit of darkness, but instead of a solid rock, he’s a process. Which is a weird sort of metaphor, I guess–but I must say I found the many wynds (or closes) along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh incredibly intriguing.

Anyway, I’m asking two things. 1) Have I misunderstood the definition of an alpha hero? 2) What do you look for in a romantic hero?

Oh, wait – I’m supposed to ask a trivia question, too. Here goes: Who is the hero of These Old Shades? Fill in your answer here.

Last but not least, for those of you in the UK and Australia, the Christmas anthology, Improper Christmas Nights, is now available. In contains two of my novellas, Under a Christmas Spell and Under a New Year’s Enchantment.

Improper Christmas Nights

I love this cover. She’s definitely harboring some very improper thoughts. ;~)


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Barbara Monajem started writing at eight years old. She has wandered from children’s fantasy through mystery to paranormal and historical romance. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.