Today I’m pleased to welcome fellow Loose Id author Carolyn Gray to the blog. Carolyn is talking about beta heroes and giving us a great little excerpt from Long Way Home. Take it away, Carolyn!
Carolyn lives in North Texas, where she makes her home with her two young-adult kids and two Siberian Huskies. She divides her time between working full-time as a legal assistant, traveling to Europe as often as possible, playing with her dogs and creating stories about everyday people caught up in more-than-ordinary lives. She currently has two novels out with Loose-Id Publishing, A Red-Tainted Silence and Long Way Home, www.loose-id.com. She can be found on twitter @carolyn_gray and www.carolyngraybooks.com.
Big Boys Sometimes Do Cry – Or, Why I Love Beta Heroes
Now don’t get me wrong, there is, absolutely, something incredibly hot and desirable about the alpha hero. Strong, rugged good looks, a man who takes command and does so in a fashion there is no doubt he’ll get what he wants. There is a definite, important place for the alpha male in romance. I can’t argue with that. But for me, it is the beta male who steals my heart.
A beta male is that guy who lives next door, the cute guy with dimples who rescues the dog and goes out of his way to bring it back even if it is storming and he is soaked to the skin. Especially because it is storming and he is soaked to the skin. A beta is, at first glance, someone who might be discounted initially for the tall dark-headed hunk with bulging muscles. A beta might not be built like the alpha male, but is a great hugger. Warm, friendly, caring, gentle… And, not afraid to show his emotions. Even cry if he wants to. He is not ashamed, why would he be?
What is it about the beta male that is so attractive to write? Writing a beta male is just sheer fun. I’m a sucker for the underdog and the beta male personifies that. My task as a writer is to take that beta character with his charming good looks and three cats at home and make him desirable, hot, and believable despite the lack of bulging muscles and fierce, take-charge personae. To make him the man who deserves to win all his desires, and to do so with incredible boyish charm. Talk about irresistible!
I write m/m romance and as such am dealing with two male personalities that must be distinct from each other. As I tend to favor writing the beta male, I have to be careful to ensure one of my guys be, well, more alpha than the other, and, even more importantly, to make sure each has their individual strengths and alpha characteristics that complement the other’s beta.
In my first book, A Red-Tainted Silence, my character Nick Kilmain could only be described as a beta male. A beta-beta male even. ARTS was my first m/m novel, and when I wrote it (many, many years ago), I learned just how powerful the beta male can be. A character I thought would, primarily because of his looks and stature, the weaker of the two main characters showed me that just because he is beta, doesn’t mean he can’t steal the show, and was powerful in his own right. I learned a lot writing that book, though some lessons came later after the book was out – such as, just because a guy is a beta, doesn’t mean he should cry at the drop of the hat. Oh, regrets, I have them!
My current book, Long Way Home, is also m/m. Gev is a ballet dancer, and Lee a bass player. Initially, and yes just because he is a ballet dancer, I imagined Gev would be a pure beta but he surprised me with his strength, and the facets of his character. Being a beta character is not a sign of weakness. My characters have proved that to me over and over again. Can’t wait to see what the next ones teach me!
And the excerpt from Long Way Home:
Lee checked himself in the mirror. He looked like crap. Exhausted, anxious, depressed as hell. Worried to death. “I care, all right, dammit? Happy?” he said to his reflection. He grabbed the cell again, hit redial, and waited. Nothing but endless ringing. This time he waited for the voice mail.
Gev’s voice filled his ear. He gritted his teeth, refusing to let his thoughts go there. Gev would be okay. He turned the car around a corner as the beep sounded. He nearly screeched to a stop right there in the middle of the street as he stared, dumbfounded, at the column of smoke choking the sky.
The note — the person who’d written it — was right. They had known this was going to happen. Known the building was going to blow up, known he would be too late to stop –
Then he saw a figure walking down the side of the road toward him, cars zooming past too damn close. “Gev, why the hell are you walking down the street?” he said into the phone and snapped it shut. He drove up to Gev and stopped the car. Gev looked up, wavered when he saw it was Lee, put a hand out to steady himself, and started to stumble. Realization kicked in — fucking hell, he’d been hurt — and Lee bolted out of the car and grabbed him. Gev clutched his arms, fingernails digging into him, but Lee didn’t care. Gev was alive.
He took Gev’s face between his hands, brushing his hair back. “Gev, Gev,” he said over and over as he took in the black eye, the dust on his clothes, the fear rippling through him.
Gev started to pull away, but something in Lee’s voice made him stop. “Lee?”
“You’re really okay,” Lee said, and then a rush of relief ripped through him. Their gazes locked, Gev’s eyes widened, and Lee bent down and kissed him. It was instinct. There was no other reasonable course to take. He didn’t give a damn that they were standing on a busy street, in broad daylight, or that this area of Dallas wasn’t exactly the gayborhood. Their lips met, and a whimper — of relief or what, Lee didn’t know or care — escaped from Gev. Lee broke away, then pulled Gev against him.
Gev held on tight, fingers digging into Lee’s back — a welcome pain, nothing compared to what Gev was dealing with. He didn’t sob, didn’t cry — Gev wasn’t the type — but he held on, clutching Lee like he was his lifeline.
“I’m so sorry,” Lee said, stroking his back. Gev melted into him, his body shaking. Lee’s was too. “I shouldn’t have left. I should’ve stayed. I should’ve been there for you.” He breathed in Gev’s scent — sweat and dust — ignoring the cars whisking by, yet grateful no one honked, no one jeered. Or worse. “Gev.” Their bodies fit perfectly together.
“It’s not your fault.”
Lee pulled back. “I could’ve stopped it.”
“I always knew you were Superman.”
“I try. Sometimes I don’t do so good of a job.”
“We’d better get out of here,” Gev said. He pulled away, wavering unsteadily.
Lee didn’t want to let him go but knew Gev was right. “Easy. Sit down.”
“I’m all right,” Gev protested but didn’t fight as Lee eased him down onto the curb.
“Like hell you are.” Lee reached out and pushed Gev’s head up, examining his face. “I need to get you to a hospital.”
Gev closed his eyes. At that moment, the wail of a siren sounded. They turned to look in the direction Gev had come. A fire truck tore around the corner, followed by an ambulance.
“Oh, God,” Gev whispered. Lee crouched down in front of him. “It’s all my fault.”
Gev laughed softly. “Someone blew up the building. Can you believe that? Just like the fucking movies. I don’t know if anyone’s hurt. Or dead.” He pressed his lips together. “No, I know they’re hurt. I saw them. Elizabeth’s arm. Doris… Oh, God.”
“Let’s get you out of here. You can tell me what happened.”
“Someone wants me dead. Why the fuck do they want me dead? What the hell did I do?”
“I don’t know that you did anything.” Lee pulled Gev to his feet. “Can you walk to the car?”
“Going to carry me?”
“If I have to.”
“No. I can make it that far, I think.”
Lee walked beside him anyway. He pulled the note out of his pocket and handed it to Gev as he opened the car door. Gev sat down. “What is this?” he said, looking up at Lee.
“Hold on.” Lee shut the door and hurried around to the driver’s side. Once the doors were locked, he said, “Some guy in a gray hoodie left it on my car.”
Gev stared at him, incredulous. “A hoodie. Crap.”
Lee hesitated. “Not sure. I don’t know.”
“What are we going to do?”
“Take it to Detective Ramirez. I was at Ruby’s. No one knows about Ruby. I thought. They set off the car alarm; we went outside and saw a guy at the end of the street. He’d been running. He stopped and turned and looked at me before he took off.”
“Did you recognize him?”
A small punch in Lee’s stomach made him hesitate. “No, I don’t think so.”
Gev winced and touched his eye. “Fuck, this hurts.”
Lee reached out and turned Gev’s face to see the damage better. He looked like hell. “Did a rock hit you?”
“A fist, actually.”
“Would you believe Chad’s dad? I think it made him feel better. Knocked me out for a while.”
“Is that why I couldn’t get hold of you?”
Gev closed his eyes and leaned into Lee’s touch. A thrill shot through Lee, straight to his groin. He let his hand fall to Gev’s shoulder and squeezed it gently. Gev’s eyes opened, dark with fear. “This is shit, Lee. I’m not sure I can take much more of this.”
Lee moved his hand to the steering wheel, glanced in the mirror, then whipped the car around. “That’s why I’m getting you out of here.”
“You kissed me.”
Lee moistened his lips. “Yeah. I did. Close your eyes. Try to relax.”
When Gev didn’t protest, Lee knew to be worried. Gev leaned back against the seat. Then his eyes flew open. “I don’t want your friend to get hurt.”
“If that guy with the hoodie is behind this, he already knows where Ruby is.”
“Who is she?”
“She’s –” Lee hesitated, then sighed. “A good friend of my mother’s. A very good friend of mine.”
Gev stared at him. “The house.”
Gev looked out the window for a long minute, then finally back at Lee. “Thanks. For coming back. You didn’t have to do that.”
Lee took a deep breath. Calmness had stolen over him. Now that he knew what he had to do, now that Gev was safe and there were steps to be taken, he was okay, he realized. What would happen, would happen. “I know I didn’t. I wanted to.”