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Unpacking the Navy SEAL hero in romance or the magic in...

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Since last week, there has been an increased interest in romances featuring Navy SEALs. The Washington Post and Glamour magazine both took a stab at what makes these archetypes popular with readers but they only skim the surface.

“They have all of these abilities that the average guy doesn’t even have,” White said. “They appeal to the side of women who want to know there are really strong men in the world who aren’t afraid to take responsibility. SEALs are not not going to pay their child support. They are not couch potatoes who don’t care. They are active in making the world better.”

In the romance world, the competency of SEALs knows no bounds. “They are trained from Day 1 to notice the tiniest detail,” Melton said. “A man who can pick up on the smallest little nuance is bound to be able to please a woman, if you catch my drift.”

Glamour:

They’re highly trained in narrowing in on targets, finding objects in demolished buildings and even underwater, and tracking down pretty damn un-track-down-able enemies. This is appealing for two reasons. They’ll never ask for directions—because they don’t have to. And, if SEALs can find a terrorist who has eluded capture for 10 years, we’re pretty confident they can also find a clitoris.

I think the appeal of the Navy SEAL is not only the competence that the archetype is deemed to possess, but also the safety and certainty that is embodied in the Protector archetype. This is particularly appealing right now. There are natural disasters occurring left and right. Earthquakes and tsunamis. Floods and tornadoes. People are being laid off and families are being put out on the street. It’s a very uncertain period in our lives. The Protector archetype brings certainty and safety. No matter what the costs, no matter how difficult the effort, no matter what the challenges, and no matter how long it will take, this archetype will take care of you.

I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy the Lisa Kleypas hero. She once described her alpha heroes as being so capable and FULL OF CARE for the heroine (and I am paraphrasing here) that the heroine doesn’t even need to worry about her own orgasms. Her three trilogy of contemporaries featuring the Travis family is replete with examples of this.

In Smooth Talking Stranger (review), Ella is trying to negotiate a settlement for her sister who was impregnated by a man of a big, famous church. This negotiation is taking place without the consent of the sister who calls to yell at Ella for interfering. Jack is present when the sisters’ phone call takes place:

I looked up at him bleakly. “Do you have Mark Gottler’s number? I have to call him.”

“Got it right here on my cell phone. You’re welcome to it.” Jack studied me briefly. “Would you trust me to take care of it?” he murmured. “Can I do that for you?”

And Jack goes on to take care of it:

“Hey, Mark. How are you doing? Great. Yeah, things are okay, but we have an issue here, and we need to get it straightened out. Ella just got off the horn with Tara? about that meeting we had, the contract? yeah. Ella’s not too happy, Mark. Tell you the truth, neither am I. Guess I should have made it clear that it was confidential. But I didn’t expect you to go talking out of school.” He paused to listen.

“I know why you did it, Mark.” His tone was quiet but blistering. “And now you got these sisters as aggravated as two cats in a bathtub. No matter what Tara says she wants right now, she’s not in any shape to make those decisions. You don’t need to worry about if or when she signs the contract. Once my lawyer sends it over, you have your boys look it over, you sign the fucker, and you send it to me.”

Jack listened for a moment. “Because Ella asked me to be in on it, that’s why. I don’t know how you usually handle these things? yeah, that’s what I’m implying — Fact is, Mark, I’m here to make sure Tara and Luke get their due. I want them to have what we talked over and what we shook on. And you know what it means to cross a Travis in Houston. No, of course that’s not a threat. I consider us friends, and I know you won’t back down from doing what’s right. So let’s be clear on how the next couple of months will play out: you’re not going to bother Tara with this stuff again. We’re going to nail down this contract, and if you cause any problems for our side, I guarantee you’re going to have even bigger problems. And I don’t think any of us want to go there. Next time you want to talk about any of this stuff, you call me or Ella. Tara’s out of the loop until she gets well enough to leave that clinic. Good. I think so, too.”

He listened for a half minute or so, looked satisfied and said goodbye, and closed the phone with a decisive snap.

Jack just doesn’t help Ella out here but he does things like put together the crib for Ella, spends some morning time with the baby so Ella can sleep in.

In Sugar Daddy (review and guest review), Gage takes in Liberty’s confession that she’s not very good at sex,

“We’ll work at it,” Gage said. “Believe me, I’ll have no problem helping you practice.”

I dared to touch his thigh, which felt like concrete beneath my palm. “What’s the other rule?”

“I’m in charge.”

I blinked, wondering what he meant. Gage’s hand closed on my nape in a light squeeze that sent an erotic shock down my spine. “Just for tonight,” he continued evenly. “Trust me to decide when and where and how long. You don’t have to do anything except relax. Let go. Let me take care of you.” His mouth lowered to my ear, and he whispered, “Can you do that for me, darlin?”

I think the fantasy is this. This hero archetype knows you are capable of doing everything but they are willing to “take care of things” once you give them the go ahead and then able of following through and accomplish whatever task is set before them. Encapsulated within that “ableness” is the concept that they get things done. For Jack, he gets it done with a simple phone call.

In Breaking Point (review), former SEAL and current deputy US Marshall, Zach McBride, leads the Natalie, the heroine, across the desert between the Mexico and the U.S. for four nights. He knows every supply they’ll need:

ZACH READ OVER the list of supplies he’d just written, checking to make certain he hadn’t forgotten anything. Handheld GPS. Batteries. Compass for when the GPS fucked up. Wristwatch. Night vision goggles. Infrared binoculars. Night scope for the AK. Box of 115 grain +P jacketed hollow point rounds for the Glocks. Cartridges for the AKs. Double shoulder holster. Flashlight. Two backpacks. Sturdy trail shoes, athletic socks, BDU pants and jackets for both of them. Thick leather gloves. Bandanas. A heavy wool blanket. Duct tape. Sunscreen. Lip balm. Hats. Rope. Powdered electrolytes. Moleskin for blisters. Antihistamine. Insect repellant. Snakebite kit. Codeine-caffeine tablets. Hard candy. MREs if he could find them. Canned food and a can opener if he couldn’t. Hand wipes. And eight gallons of water–enough to last three or four days if they traveled at night.

And this is a comfort to her:

She’d be lying if she denied that what he’d told her had made her feel safer. A short trek across the desert into the U.S. was surely a cakewalk for a man who’d fought in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. He’d probably had lots of outdoor survival training. He would know what supplies to bring. He would know how to navigate with GPS so they wouldn’t get lost. And if they ran into armed traffickers in the middle of nowhere, he would know how to deal with them, too.

Contrast these types of heroes to say, Sam in Rachel Gibson’s Any Man of Mine. While Sam is good for child support, he breaks promises to his kid and lives a life of unadultered self pleasure. The first thing in Sam’s mind when he gets up isn’t “how can I best take care of my kid” but “how can I get the most pleasure out of today for myself.” He’s an incredibly selfish creature and one who probably doesn’t know where the clitoris is.

“I’d be with him more if I could. You know my schedule makes it difficult.”

“If he were a priority in your life, you’d make time.” She pushed her hair behind her ears. “You had this past summer off, but you only spent three weekends with Conner. You canceled on him at least eight different times, and every time you did, I had to try and make it up to him. Every time you’ve ever let him down, I’m the one who has to tell him that you love him and would be with him if you could. I’m the one who has to lie to him.”

The Navy SEAL archetype would not act like Sam in Rachel Gibson’s Any Man of Mine (dueling reviews). What the author Pamela Clare (aka P White) explains above isn’t universally true obviously. Spousal abuse is high in the military as is divorce and infidelity. Just because a guy is a SEAL and can take out a compound of a terrorist in under 40 minutes doesn’t make him a good partner or a good husband. (In fact, I believe you aren’t allowed to enlist in the SEAL program if one is a single parent). What is being sold in romances is, of course, a romanticized version of the SEAL, one where the attributes that make someone a good SEAL are extended into the ordinary routines of life.

What evens out the power balance, at least within Breaking Point, is the fact that all Zach feels he is capable of doing is soldiering.

But the bottom line was that he didn’t know how to live a civilian life any longer. He could never be the family man with the house in the suburbs, the wife, the two kids, and the dog. The only way he knew how to go on was to keep fighting.

Despite all of his abilities, his competence, his ability to keep her bodily safe, he is not a good bet emotionally.

Natalie deserved a full and happy life with a man who wasn’t fucked up or in the line of fire, and he aimed to see she got her chance at it. He would get her safely home even if it cost him every last drop of his blood. But then they would go their separate ways. It sucked for him, really, because if ever he’d met a woman who made him feel . . .

Of course, this is a sort of paternalism in and of itself. In other words, Zach knows best here when really, maybe Natalie would rather have a few years with Zach than none at all. (And this is later brought to bear as Zach agrees that life is only worth living if he is with Natalie). By removing himself from her sphere, she doesn’t get to make that decision. (This is the crux of the conflict in Miranda Lee’s Not a Marrying Man).

Allowing someone to take care of you implies a lot of trust. In other words, by ceding control to the partner, the heroine has to know that the other person will still hold her with the same esteem. With someone you trust, the power exchange can happen. I think it is important that in each of the scenarios above, the heroines are asked permission. With the Navy SEAL archetype, men are not only trustworthy, but honorable and full of integrity. This type will understand that the directive is not to get in take control and hold control, but to take control for the moment in time that it is allowable. Let me take care of you.

I think that the appeal of the Navy SEAL archetype is less knowing where your clitoris is and more the concept that this is a type of man who will go to the ends of the earth to take care of you. The fantasy power balance is that he is emotionally fulfilled if you let him and the heroine ultimately controls the hero’s emotional happiness. I’ll leave you with this excerpt from Blue Eyed Devil.

Jack grinned. “I almost pity the bastard. Okay — you handle Cates, and I’ll set Dad straight on a few things.”

“No,” I said automatically, “don’t do anything about Dad. You can’t fix my relationship with him.”

“I can block or run interference.”

“Thanks, Jack, but I don’t need blocking, and I really don’t need any more interference.”

He looked annoyed. “Well, why did you waste all that time complaining to me if you didn’t want me to do something about it?”

“I don’t want you to fix my problems. I just wanted you to listen.”

“Hang it all, Haven, talk to a girlfriend if all you want is a pair of ears. Guys hate it when you give us a problem and then don’t let us do something about it. It makes us feel bad. And then the only way to make ourselves feel better is to rip a phone book in two or blow something up. So let’s get this straight — I’m not a good listener. I’m a guy.”

 

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

86 Comments

  1. Julia Broadbooks
    May 10, 2011 @ 06:44:08

    For me, the appeal is definitely the honor and the integrity represented by the SEALs, however romanticized. I know that is why Kleypas’ contemporary heroes work so well for me, as well as a long list of military heroes. That scene where Jack makes that phone call in STS was one of my favorites. Jack doesn’t just walk all over Ella to fix the problem. He asks her first. Just swoon worthy.

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  2. Lori
    May 10, 2011 @ 07:38:16

    And there’s probably one of my least favorite archtypes and well described also.

    I don’t really care for the hero walking in and able to make everything right. It’s just my prejudice. I love me a great hero but I read for the heroine. I want a woman able to handle her life or who, in the course of the book, figures it out and makes it happen.

    Maybe it’s my form of escapism in an uncertain economy and natural disasters. I want to know that when bad things happen, I can take care of it and I can still provide my daughter a safe life. It goes so completely against my grain to want someone else to shoulder my burden that in romance I find it off-putting also.

    SEALs aren’t my cup of tea at all. Make the woman who I want to be and I’ll love the book forever. Make the hero the savior type and I’m just meh.

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  3. SH
    May 10, 2011 @ 07:53:13

    Thanks for the excellent article!
    This type of hero has always been the most appealing to me (which would explain the hundreds of suspense books on my shelves!). In my own life my experiences with military types – including in my family – has been similar to the kind of person described in this piece.

    What I find appealing about this kind of hero in contemporary romance/romantic suspense is that they DO know and acknowledge the heroine’s strengths. I often see people whinging about alpha males in paranormal romance because they overtake and disregard the heroine’s wishes. What many readers don’t seem to realise is that in non-paranormal books a similar hero can have all that strength without that, “Wench, you lifemate. Breed with me now!!!!” stuff.

    It’s kind of funny how a couple of weeks ago everyone wanted to read about princes, and now they’re reading about SEALs. Next week some lawn bowls player will do something spectacular and everyone will be obsessed with lawn bowls romances (but I’m betting that’s not exactly its own subgenre yet!).

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  4. Milena
    May 10, 2011 @ 08:20:23

    @Lori: Thank you! It’s nice to know I’m not alone in finding this type of hero off-putting. And, since I also find strong heroines more appealing than I’ll-take-care-of-everything heroes, I think the two might be connected. Something to ponder, perhaps?

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  5. Joy
    May 10, 2011 @ 08:23:02

    I just read a SEAL romance that mentioned that the SEAL divorce rate is about 90-95% (for reasons that seem pretty obvious–he’s gone most of the time, can’t talk to his wife about his work, etc.). I am on the second romance in this series, and of course it still works as a fantasy–but I’d think IRL you’d have better marital prospects with a prince!

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  6. Jane
    May 10, 2011 @ 08:31:20

    @Milena: and @Lori: I am surprised that you find that the heroine is automatically weaker in these scenarios. I never get the impression, particularly in the Kleypas books or the Pamela Clare book that the heroine is weaker. She has a different skill set. Particularly in Smooth Talking Stranger, Ella is fully capable of accomplishing the tasks that Jack does for her but she allows him to do things for her.

    Why does that make her weak?

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  7. Isabel C.
    May 10, 2011 @ 08:46:32

    What Lori said.

    Having a different skill set works okay, except that when the focus is deliberately on how the guy’s taking care of things for the woman, it sort of undermines the different-skill-set thing.

    I *do* like military elements in a romance, but I much prefer it if the heroine is also military, or otherwise taking care of herself for the most part. Having each other’s back gets me hot; being taken care of or protected makes me feel downright queasy and trapped, like riding in the back seat of a car without AC.

    That said, protection or hurt/comfort scenarios can work for me if they’re limited incidents within a larger story, and if the roles switch off pretty equally: saw Thor last night, for example, and the dynamic worked well for me there.

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  8. Evelyn
    May 10, 2011 @ 08:52:49

    @Milena and @Lori: I second your opinion on this trope. I don’t believe that the heroines are capable of doing the stuff the hero is “relieving” off of them. They always seem uncapable and tend toward TSTL-characters. Maybe it is due to my field of work (engineering), but I like to do most things on my own and don’t like bothering other people about it. Additionally I don’t like plots within characters from SEAL and other military (is SEAL a military unit?) due to the fact that the military here in Germany is not exactly beloved and people despise it. Because of that I was also astounded by your appeal to support the troups. Sometimes these things seem from a completely different planet…

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  9. Jane
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:03:31

    @Evelyn I may not support the war, but I do support the men and women who sacrifice and die for their country. Right now is a miserable time to be enlisted but I have family friends who are and I support them.

    I do believe that the heroines are capable of doing the stuff the hero is helping them with. In other words, I have no doubts in my mind that Ella could have resolved the conflict with Mark Gottler and built the crib and hired a nanny to help her take care of the baby. Weak, missish heroines don’t appeal to me either. If you read the Washington Post article, I think it was Clare or Marliss Melton who points out that the heroine’s are much more capable today – they are soldiers, CEOs, leaders in their own right and therefore the men have to rise up to meet the challenge the women are positing.

    In Breaking Point, for example, it is Natalie’s journalistic skills, her memory recall, and her ability to put together clues that create the breakthrough needed in the suspense. In the upcoming Elizabeth Jennings book, the hero is a military officer and he is deemed the “muscle” because the heroine is the brains of the operation. She has the experience in spying and subterfuge. Too often, I think, physical strength is given priority when measuring strength v. weakness.

    In Meljean Brooks’ Demon series, the weakest person in the room of Guardians and demons is a human because the human’s free will trumps both other characters.

    Power isn’t merely derived from physical strength.

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  10. Jane
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:06:04

    @Isabel C. Obviously I am highlighting a particular trope here and I don’t believe that a guy taking care of things in a story, giving the hero those attributes automatically renders a power imbalance. Also “taking care of herself” again, I think is a misnomer here. A person who is trained to be combat ready is going to have a completely different skill set than someone who has been trained in analyzing information. A code breaker has a different skill set than a commando. A business woman has a different skill set than a police officer. One skill set isn’t preferred over the other, unless a) the author makes it so or b) the reader’s bias creates an imbalance where one isn’t intended.

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  11. Gennita Low
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:11:24

    There are so few men and women in the real world today who, given the chance, would walk the path of fire. Many would prefer the easier route. While I don’t blame the latter, because hey, I do it myself, I’ve met enough of the former to intrigue me into dissecting their psyche and giving them a place in my writing fantasy life.

    They appeal to me because their world view is cynical yet fair, black and white rather than the gray sides that we’re always talking ourselves into, and they apply their mental strength into their physical, making endurance and power something exciting and challenging rather than tedious. These are qualities they carry from their military training to their daily jobs and I find it fascinating when I observe them “cope” with normal men (and women) who don’t find their give-it-all qualities appealing. In my experience with them, many of them tend to become one-man (or woman) working machines, even within a crew. Despite the downsides (and there are a big few!), the independent woman in me is very attracted to those qualities.

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  12. Isabel C.
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:15:56

    @Jane: Oh, in general, I absolutely agree.

    The problem for me is that the “hero who takes care of everything including orgasms” trope doesn’t balance, in a way that appeals to me, with the “different but equal skill sets” or “working partners” tropes. Tough Guy/Smart Girl is awesome as long as Smart Girl gets equal time pulling Tough Guy out of bad situations; the Kleypas paraphrase and the quotes above seem like a different dynamic, though, and one that’s a personal squick for me.

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  13. Marquita
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:19:46

    Having a man do something for a woman doesn’t make her weak or TSTL. Men like being needed. Men like solving things. Men like taking care of the women they love.

    Women who allow a man to do that are woman who are confident in their own strengths. And yes, I said ALLOW. In today’s society woman can do almost anything a man can and vice versa. And being vulnerable enough to trust another person to help you is STRENGTH.

    Oh and thank you ,Jane, for supporting the troops. My sister is a First Lt. serving in Afghanistan.

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  14. Evelyn
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:21:46

    @Jane – thanks for clarifying. I will try the books you mentioned – maybe those are better than the ones I read

    @Gennita Low – it’s nice to hear someone’s personal few of how they are affected by the heroic properties.

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  15. Lori
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:23:53

    @Jane It might be the difference in what we personally take from the books we read. My own history has taught me that I need to be my own rescuer and my greatest pride comes in a job I’ve done well.

    So a hero to me would not usurp my role in my life.

    The essence of a military/SEAl type is that he’s invulnerable to everything but the heroine and from what you described, might respect the heroine and encourage her but he also made the phone call and took the power away from her settling it for herself.

    It’s like any other trope: we react to it based on our own life experiences and personal needs. It’s also why I prefer women’s lit to romance: I love some romance in my stories but I really want the heroine to rescue herself.

    It is a bias. But that’s what tropes are all about, right?

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  16. Jane
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:25:09

    @Isabel C. I guess I don’t understand. Just because one character has a “let me take care of things” attitude doesn’t automatically preclude the opposite character being competent. For example, in Breaking Point, Natalie is the one that breaks the two out of prison because when she is thrown to the floor in the mud cell, her handcuff breaks. She is able to use the handcuff to dig out a brick (I think). Throughout the night, Zach gives her instruction on how to use the handcuff as a weapon; what actions she has to take when the guard comes in; prepares her to kill someone to get free. Natalie isn’t capable of doing this on her own. They are a team in this situation. Later on, of course, Zach is the one with the knowledge and ability to walk her through the desert. But, as I pointed out in the previous comments, Natalie is the one who puts together the pieces to identify who is putting them in danger. Not all “saving” is down through physical force.

    In fact, it is often frustrating for me to read characters who have no skill in certain circumstances rushing out and doing crazy things that puts them in danger. That is TSTL when the Smart Girl thing to do would be to stay put and not run into the dark night with nothing more than a flashlight and a prayer.

    I think we place too much emphasis on physical strength equaling power in a relationship. That’s obviously not true. In Smooth Talking Stranger, Haven, Jack’s sister, talks about Jack’s emotional vulnerability in that he loves deep and hard and is very possessive and that is hard for some women to take. The emotional power exchange can be just as imbalanced as a physical one. Frex, in Blue Eyed Devil, Haven is a battered woman and the mental abuse, the emotional power that her husband had over her before she broke free was just as debilitating or more so than the physical abuse.

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  17. Kati
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:26:10

    I have to say, the Caregiving Alpha is my all time favorite hero trope, and unsurprisingly, Jack Travis is my favorite Caregiving Alpha of them all.

    I have to say that the thing I love best about my guy is that he knows I *can* take care of things, but he does it for me. Like…tire shopping. Can I buy my own tires? Sure. Do I want to? No. So he does it for me. He also vacuums, which I still maintain is a kind of foreplay.

    This hero archetype completely appeals to me. And I haven’t read the Pamela Clare books yet, which means I’m looking forward to a delicious series of caregiving alphas to read. Yay!

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  18. Patrice
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:31:13

    Sam Starett and Alyssa Locke from Suzanne Brockman’s Troubleshooter series is a great example of this sort of romance. Of course their back story takes place throughout a few books, as many of her story/character arcs do. Sam starts off not very likable but grows on ya. Alyssa is every bit as kick ass as Sam, maybe stronger, and in different ways.

    And I’m sure these romantic heros are romanticized compared to what military heros returning to civilian life are like, but that’s why it’s called fiction. If I want to read about real life military heros struggling and overcoming a variety of problems there are non-fiction stories about those journeys.

    I like the protector archetype hero but only when he is teamed with a strong heroine. And that strength can manifest in a wide variety of ways, she doesn’t have to be an FBI sharpshooter like Alyssa Locke! It’s probably because I was raised to take care of myself and be very independent. But in stressful times that can be especially tough. So escaping with a hero who isn’t pushy but is a supportive, sexy (and somewhat superhuman if he’s a SEAL) partner is fun. I agree the uncertain economy, and fears associated with that, makes these heroic military themes popular. I appreciate a strong man who can help sometimes, is always a partner with complementary skills and is himself capable and caring. Thank God I found one! They exist. (and he was never a SEAL) LOL :)

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  19. Isabel C.
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:37:08

    @Jane: I think we’re talking past each other a little here, for which I blame the hour. ;)

    Breaking Point sounds like a fine balance of skills and opportunities to use them: both characters get the opportunity to be badass in their own way. That’s a necessity for any team dynamic romantic or not–everyone should be useful and competent in some fashion, and physical strength is definitely not the only fashion available. (q.v. TV Tropes’ Five Man Band.)

    My turnoff is the “I will take care of everything” end of the spectrum. “I’ll deal with this, because I know how,” is fine *as long as* the other person gets their turn to do the same: I’ll drive if you read the map, I’ll fight if you research, etc. The Kleypas paraphrase above implies, at least to me, otherwise: if he’s taking care of everything including orgasms, where does she get to be badass?

    There’s a significant difference in my mind between “let me take care of *this*” and “let me take care of *you*”. The former is cool–at least from a friend–but the latter will make me back away *fast*.

    Absolutely agree with you on the TSTL stuff, though. Different skillsets are good. *Knowing* your skillset is essential.

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  20. Jane
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:42:23

    @Isabel C.

    My turnoff is the “I will take care of everything” end of the spectrum. “I’ll deal with this, because I know how,” is fine *as long as* the other person gets their turn to do the same: I’ll drive if you read the map, I’ll fight if you research, etc. The Kleypas paraphrase above implies, at least to me, otherwise: if he’s taking care of everything including orgasms, where does she get to be badass?

    Ah, but I think the important part is the power exchange. In other words, just because one party is capable of taking care of everything, doesn’t mean that the person should or does. In each of the Kleypas examples, she has the power negotation “can I do this for you”. It’s never a take. It’s an offer and then an action.

    That’s the archetype, the ability to do those things and the willingness to do them if given the greenlight. Taking isn’t part of the Caregiving Alpha, as Kati terms it.

    But I feel like you define “badass” as someone having physical strength. In one of the Balogh books, the one with the second brother Aidan, he comes to the heroine at the end and lays out his feelings, unsure of her response, telling her that he loves her. To me, that is badass because it is incredibly courageous for to lay one’s heart on the line, to be open to rejection but his “badassness” isn’t defined by physical strength but emotional strength.

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  21. Jane
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:47:19

    @Patrice I really loved the Sam & Alyssa dynamic and Brockmann really put us readers through the ringer with them. Ultimately I found the consummation of their relationship disappointing. Did I hear that in later books, the marriage of the two is in trouble?

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  22. Robin/Janet
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:48:29

    @Isabel C.: I’m an unabashed fan of Kleypas’s Smooth Talking Stranger, precisely *because* Ella is so independent, capable, and resopnsible — all through the book. She’s raising her sister’s newborn by herself (her boyfriend at the beginning of the book tells her in no uncertain terms that he does not want care of a baby, and her mother simply expects her to take the baby, because she has no interest in children, including her own, for the most part), in a different town, while also supporting herself and trying to get mental help for her sister.

    There are definitely times when Jack pushes Ella to let him take part of her burden, and because she’s a control freak herself, she resists. At the point in the book quoted above, she’s just come home after trying to arrange support for her sister’s baby and her sister calls her and responds in an incredibly self-centered and immature way. Which is the pattern in Ella’s life — she’s always cleaning up after other people, especially her younger sister. So when Jack takes the burden at that point, it’s a relief for her, because she’s put her entire life on hold to deal with problems that are not hers, for people who have only resentment and not gratitude.

    IRL a guy like Jack would drive me nuts, but as a fantasy it works for me, because it’s frankly exhausting to see Ella carry everything she’s carrying, and to see that Jack truly cares about Ella, respects her for her independence and responsibility, and thinks she’s hot, is a very relaxing, feel-good fantasy for me. But it’s not one that would work *unless* the heroine demonstrated incredible independence and intelligence to begin with.

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  23. Isabel C.
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:50:11

    @Jane: I get that, but the green light doesn’t matter to me. It’s not that I have a problem with the hero’s actions or the hero as a person, but that I don’t want a hero who’s capable of solving all the heroine’s problems for her, and I don’t want a heroine who lets him or wants him to. He should contribute–as I said, team stuff–but so should she, and she should get stuff done where he can’t. Comes down to personal taste, I think, and the Caregiving Alpha archetype is the exact opposite of hot for me.

    But I feel like you define “badass” as someone having physical strength.

    I’m…not sure where you’re getting this, honestly. My last post mentioned research and reading maps as complementary roles that I was fine with, and Smart Girl as a perfectly fine romantic interest to Tough Guy. (Or vice-versa: I totally crushed on Giles, back in the day.) Practical competence in some story-appropriate way is necessary; physical strength is not.

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  24. Isabel C.
    May 10, 2011 @ 09:59:52

    @Robin: Interesting! The context definitely helps, but I think I’d still want to see Ella helping Jack out in some significant way–if that happens in the book, then the scenario would work for me.

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  25. Tina
    May 10, 2011 @ 10:25:56

    @Jane: I thought Sam and Alyssa’s story arc was great. I thought their book — their action/adventure road trip was just about the only way SB could finish their story.

    They’d already had a complete romance novel arc in the previous five-books. They had their enemies-to-lovers, their hot-sex, their make-ups & break-ups, their misunderstandings, their realization they were in love and ready to commit only to have it snatched away. She couldn’t have done much more to them in their own book. So their book was about the stuff that Sam and Alyssa do which is the both of them solving problems and pulling stuff out of the fire while fighting for their own future. I too was a first a bit let down when i first read their book, Gone Too Far. But in subsequent re-reads I realized the story really worked for them.

    Admittedly, I hadn’t read the most recent SB, but the one prior to that one, Breaking Point, heavily featured Sam and Alyssa and they were still schmoopy in love.

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  26. Robin/Janet
    May 10, 2011 @ 10:49:46

    @Isabel C.: I think it would depend on what you mean by “help.” Ella is in a very different place than Jack is. He’s wealthy and in a relatively stable place in his life (superficially), whereas Ella had been settled and is now in flux. At the point in their lives when they come together, and given the issue around which they bond (Ella’s care of her nephew Luke), Jack is in a position to do more physical-type stuff for her (for example, he pushes her to let him assemble the crib she purchased, even though I have no doubt Ella is perfectly capable of it, albeit not with the same speed — and power tools — as Jack).

    But IMO it’s not like they don’t have a give and take, nor is it the case where one will dominate the relationship over time. Even in STS, Jack is a lonely guy and a loner, and his position in society means he attracts a lot of trophy women. Ella challenges Jack intellectually and emotionally, and in the sense that she does not want a traditional relationship. She’s a liberal feminist (from Austin) and she’s not a martyr in her relationship with Luke.

    IIRC, Kleypas had said that the real love story in the book is the one between Ella and Luke, and I think that’s true. Jack’s relationship with Ella is the more traditional Romance relationship, but there are many ways in which he must accommodate Ella and her priorities, which for me really helps even the power balance between them.

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  27. Corina
    May 10, 2011 @ 11:05:46

    Fascinating discussion! I adore the caregiving alpha hero (and I appreciate having a name for him now). And perhaps my love for him in fiction is because, in my own life, I am pathologically independent almost to the point of stupidity. If I were to read a romance novel with a heroine like me I would throw the book at the wall 20 pages in.

    Jane: I’ve read all the Troubleshooters books and Sam and Alyssa’s marriage is never threatened in any way (except by the perpetual risk of one of them dying on the job).

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  28. Niveau
    May 10, 2011 @ 11:16:20

    I seriously do not get the appeal of the Caretaking Alpha. I’ll never know if the contemporary Kleypas books mentioned here would be an exception for me, because after reading a few of her historicals and coming up against this fantasy, I won’t touch another of her books. Isabel C. pretty much laid out exactly how I feel – I don’t care if the heroine could do everything on her own but chooses to let the hero take care of it for her; I have no desire to read about two characters who act that way. I guess it’s just personal taste.

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  29. Elyssa Papa
    May 10, 2011 @ 11:36:48

    I do like this character type even if I haven’t written it yet (but, um, thank you for sparking an idea!) but the reason I think I like it is because I know this type of hero exists in real life. My dad is amazing. Amazing. (As is my mom.) When I was in college in Vermont and 3.5 hrs away from home and completely broke, my dad drove up to give me money and supplies. If there’s one thing that I have always known is that my parents will always take care of me. I’m fully capable of taking care of myself but when the toilet overflows or the car doesn’t start or the car gets a flat tire, I freely admit it’s highly attractive to have a man say let me take care of that for you. I don’t think it’s a weakness to let someone help you out but a matter of trust. You’re putting trust in this person to a) not mess it up and b) follow through on what he says he’ll do.

    And in the cases Jane highlighted, I feel the heroine always complements the hero. She offers her own type of strength to him, and takes care of him when he needs it.

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  30. Patrice
    May 10, 2011 @ 11:41:28

    @ Jane; Oh there was a lot of angst before they got it together wasn’t there? But they sure are memorable! I guess I didn’t feel a let down with their book, maybe because of their appearances in other books? There were certainly a lot of interwoven subplots in their book making it seem very much a continuation rather than all wrapped up. I remember it fondly because it was one both my hubby and I enjoyed together (I speed read it then he read it and we talked about scenes we liked). There’s not too many of those. And it left me eager for the next book. I like the fact that Alyssa later had a book of her own as well! Skeery villan in that one! yikes! The last time I recall Sam and Alyssa appearing for a “walk on” in one of the books they were still deep in love and Sam was funny/sweet about changing diapers and philosophizing with one of the other Troubleshooters while still being deadly when necessary. hehheh Sam is a sexy man. ;-)

    I finished the most recent Brockman book weeks ago and sadly would have to fire up the memory bank to recall details. It wasn’t bad, I just didn’t find it to be a standout like some of the others. I do remember Sam and Alyssa were not in it. I didn’t get that “can’t wait for the next one” after finishing it. I think the Troubleshooters series is suffering burnout plus it seemed there was a long wait between books recently. I know there are more characters who could have exciting stories but I think the author has been more interested in other creative things for the last few years. Hasn’t there been statements implying she won’t be writing any more of the series? And then there was another book. So I’m confused. And sort of put off as far as following this series any further.

    All of which is off point for this discussion of the Protector Hero. Sorry about that. I love tangents! lol :)

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  31. Gennita Low
    May 10, 2011 @ 11:51:14

    It’s just that Alpha Male Caregiver could take care of the assholes so much better (and why not let him?). I work in a mostly male-world (roofing) and have fought my “I can do it myself” fights. Sometimes? I enjoy Alpha Male Caregiver’s “hey, listen to her or you’ll deal with me” attitude when the roofers step over the line. In books, it makes me laugh because it’s like testosteroneX1000 and one strong and capable female heroine manages to get under his skin and shows him she’s got his number.

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  32. Annette
    May 10, 2011 @ 12:06:08

    Delicious post! Can I think of anything more fun to mull on this morning? No, I cannot. :)

    I read strictly historical romance in the romance genre, so I haven’t yet read a SEAL book. But I have an absolute weakness for battle-scarred, manly soldiers and am writing a women’s fiction (with a very strong romantic thread) based in ancient Sparta, in large part due to my attraction to those warrior types. So if I did read a contemporary, I definitely would make it a SEAL type book. Thanks to Jane, I’m now pondering why I am drawn to those caregiving alpha hero types in the romantic fiction I read, and soldierly types in particular.

    Hmmm. I think it’s complicated. For one thing, I am extremely independent in real life. Always have been. Made it through med school on my own initiative (the first and only one in my family) and work as a physician. But once I had kids, it has seemed more and more of a wonderful fantasy to me to just take care of the house and kids and husband, and let him be the bread winner and the decision maker. That’s not translated into reality, of course, for several reasons, but it sure is appealing.

    The funny thing is, a SEAL type of lover/husband would NOT afford the woman that sort of life where he does take care of her. As a matter of fact, military wives, and those of Special Forces/Ops in particular, would need to be even MORE independent than the average civilian wife. Their men are away for extremely long periods of time, once they’re home they cannot talk about their work, and the personality types drawn to SEAL type work are probably not the sort to “unload or share” with their wives anyway. Their brothers-in-arms probably take that role much of the time. And the risk of them being killed or horribly maimed is real and present. So in a general sense, I can’t see that fantasy being anywhere near realistic on a personal level in a long-term relationship.

    So what is the attraction, then? I think it might hearken back to the initial Washington Post and Glamour quotes above – strength, honor, responsibility, decision-makers, not afraid to commit and sacrifice everything for their values. Reality is simplified, I think, by those men. Things are more black and white, rather than many shades of gray. Moral decisions are less complicated. Those are attractive traits in certain situations, and especially in the dangerous situations the heroine finds herself in in the short term in these stories. So yeah in my fantasy world, for a brief time, when I’m held captive by terrorists, hell yes I’d want a tall and muscular gorgeous hunk of manhood to storm the place and rescue me and then immediately fall in love with me and have a torrid affair. But anything longer term? Not sure. Not sure at all.

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  33. Mary M.
    May 10, 2011 @ 12:13:10

    I enjoy all types of stories featuring SEALs, including the humorous Viking/SEALs of Sandra Hill along with the less-than-perfect protectors of Mary Margret Daughtridge’s SEALed series. Do you enjoy these stories or prefer the typical archtype “always in control” alpha SEALs?

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  34. Jane
    May 10, 2011 @ 12:59:21

    @Mary M. I’ve never read Daughtridge but I did download the freebie.

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  35. Pamela Clare
    May 10, 2011 @ 13:53:07

    Jane, I find this post and discussion to be a lot of fun. I hope it’s appropriate for me to post something…

    I don’t like contemporary novels in which the power between the hero and heroine is grossly imbalanced either way — a hero who takes care of everything for a spineless heroine, or a total über-kick-ass shero who only needs the hero to be a living dildo for her. The former is irritating, and the latter is boring.

    I just want to say all of that up front so that what I say next is taken in the correct context.

    I enjoy the physical/emotional differences between men and women, and I prefer feminine heroines who have their own way of being strong and make their own vital contributions to the story. That’s my preference as a reader and an author.

    The Washington Post article didn’t include everything I talked about with the reporter for a variety of reasons (deadline, lack of space, etc.)

    One thing I mentioned that we discussed in some depth was the appeal of these men to successful, liberated working women.

    I’m one of those women. I’m a single mom of two kids and had highly successful career in journalism that is the envy of many men. I’m the head of my household. I quilt, and I shoot guns. I earn the money, then spend it on roses for myself. I’m empowered in all areas of my life — I’m the boss at work and at home.

    In fact, I’m so empowered that I’m exhausted.

    The idea that there are men who are capable of taking responsibility and carrying a heavy load on their shoulders on behalf of others (not just the heroine) is really appealing to me and a lot of other successful, empowered, exhausted career women.
    SEAL novels — and alpha male romance, in general — have the ability to deliver the *fantasy* of a man who doesn’t get in your way but is there when you need him.

    I think Gennita touched on this in her comment.

    I hope I explained that well enough. Kind of rushing here at work…

    I plan to get time to read all the posts later.

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  36. Kaylea Cross
    May 10, 2011 @ 14:35:52

    I love Navy SEAL and Spec Ops heroes because they are so protective and capable. They’re brave and selfless and someone you’d want with you in a tight spot. Having said that, I feel the need to clarify that while I love alpha males in romance novels, I don’t love it when they cross the line into jerkdom :)

    I haven’t read Sugar Daddy yet, but man, I’m so reading it tonight! Love that excerpt *shiver*

    http://www.kayleacross.com

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  37. Jane
    May 10, 2011 @ 14:51:26

    @Pamela Clare Thanks for commenting. Yes, the fantasy is appealing. I think Robin hit it on the head when she talks about Ella. Ella is a successful columnist who is struggling to find her sister, take care of her sister’s newborn, worry about her possibly dead relationship with her kind of boyfriend, deal with her terrible mother, try to negotiate a settlement that will take care of the newborn, and just, you know, find a couple of hours to sleep in there. To me, Jack is providing what I like to call the helpmeet (v. the helpmate) in that this is a person who helps meet the needs that the character has. It’s not about overpowering someone or taking power from them, but allowing them the opportunity to take a breath now and again; to allow the person to relax and enjoy herself. I don’t think the trope works as well with a passive heroine because she’s already at rest.

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  38. Janine
    May 10, 2011 @ 15:09:50

    @Jane:

    In one of the Balogh books, the one with the second brother Aidan, he comes to the heroine at the end and lays out his feelings, unsure of her response, telling her that he loves her. To me, that is badass because it is incredibly courageous for to lay one’s heart on the line, to be open to rejection but his “badassness” isn’t defined by physical strength but emotional strength.

    That book is Slightly Married. Aidan is my favorite of all of Balogh’s heroes, not only that but for the scene where the heroine tells him she’s not a virgin and he responds with “Fair enough. Neither am I.”

    ETA: IIRC, Aidan was also ex-military but he was forced into his military career by his father, when what he really wanted to do was farm land. Somehow that made me love him all the more. I very much enjoy military and special forces heroes but it’s great to also see the vulnerable side of a man portrayed in romances.

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  39. Annabel
    May 10, 2011 @ 15:10:59

    Wow, I was wondering how to express my feelings on this when Pamela Clare came along and did it for me. She said, “I enjoy the physical/emotional differences between men and women, and I prefer feminine heroines who have their own way of being strong and make their own vital contributions to the story.”

    This is how I feel. I never want men and women to morph into non-gender-specific, totally equal entities in romance novels. That would not be interesting to me. The thing that fascinates me most about men and women are their differences. Men and women have their own strengths, each to their own. They are complementary to one another, not necessarily equals. I think this creates lovely drama, wonder, and tension in romance.

    I love this drive that men have to protect women, to be the hero. I LOVE the hero trope. LOVE LOVE LOVE it. If it ever disappears from romance, then I’m done. On to biographies or science fiction for me.

    Pamela Clare’s SEALS books are next on my TBR list… But Jo Beverley’s Marquess of Rothgar is my all time favorite of the “capable caring hero” archetypes. As long as they come off as caring, and not chauvinists…I am all over it.

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  40. MaryK
    May 10, 2011 @ 15:12:14

    @Isabel C.:

    “But I feel like you define “badass” as someone having physical strength.” I’m…not sure where you’re getting this, honestly.

    I got the same impression. And it seems to be what you’re saying with this: “Tough Guy/Smart Girl is awesome as long as Smart Girl gets equal time pulling Tough Guy out of bad situations.”

    What if Smart Girl has some quiet skill like accounting? Is Tough Guy out of her league because she doesn’t have his back in physical confrontations?

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  41. Janine
    May 10, 2011 @ 15:17:02

    @MaryK: I didn’t get that impression at all. I thought Isabel C. was talking about Smart Girl using her smarts to strategize their way out of a bad situation.

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  42. Janine
    May 10, 2011 @ 15:37:48

    @Annabel:

    Wow, I was wondering how to express my feelings on this when Pamela Clare came along and did it for me. She said, “I enjoy the physical/emotional differences between men and women, and I prefer feminine heroines who have their own way of being strong and make their own vital contributions to the story.”

    This is how I feel. I never want men and women to morph into non-gender-specific, totally equal entities in romance novels. That would not be interesting to me. The thing that fascinates me most about men and women are their differences. Men and women have their own strengths, each to their own. They are complementary to one another, not necessarily equals. I think this creates lovely drama, wonder, and tension in romance.

    I have mixed feelings about this statement. On the one hand, I do feel there are some obvious differences between men and women that have to be presented in a m/f romance, but I also feel that sometime more is made of those differences than really needs to. If I sense the author is working extra hard to convince me that a heroine is feminine, for example, it can actually turn me off. I know she’s female, do I really have to be told about her love of lacy underthings to believe it? It seems like shortcut, or a stereotype, if you know what I mean.

    A large part of me also agrees with you that the differences in power between men and women are a big part of what I enjoy in reading a m/f romance (esp. in historical romance, where there are societal inequalities as well as physical ones). But it’s really important to me to see the power gap close in the course of the story. If the hero isn’t just as vulnerable as the heroine by the end of the book, at least on an emotional level, than I often close that book feeling dissatisfied in some fashion. I think because I have to feel that the heroine will be an equal in the relationship going forward, even if things didn’t begin that way.

    I remember trying to read Layton’s Fireflower, where the hero was the heroine’s “protector” in a different sense — she was his mistress, even though he was obsessed with and planning to marry another woman. I couldn’t finish that book, because I was so unsettled by the way the heroine was so much more invested in the hero than he was in her.

    I think relationships require trust and IMO a huge power difference makes abuses of power possible. So there has to be some kind of equalizing force, even if it’s just the hero’s overwhelming love for the heroine, that I can trust will stay in place for the long haul. And the more apart they are in their degree of strength, the more powerful that counterbalance has to be, and the more convincing I have to find it.

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  43. MaryK
    May 10, 2011 @ 15:39:18

    @Gennita Low:

    In books, it makes me laugh because it’s like testosteroneX1000 and one strong and capable female heroine manages to get under his skin and shows him she’s got his number.

    Exactly. It’s very appealing to me when an imposing, sometimes rich, alpha hero is wrapped around the finger of the ordinary heroine. When the powerful tycoon lays his empire at the heroine’s feet and endows her with his worldly goods because she fills an emotional need that he has. He may have more visible, material power but without the woman he loves it’s ashes. Who has the real power in those situations?

    When we talk about independent heroines, I get the feeling we’re talking about extroverts who are confident and assertive and can deal with anything. Which leaves introverts, like myself, out in the cold. I would adore a hero who ran interference so I could get on with things without being bothered by people. Or one who just took over everything for awhile so I could recharge in solitude.

    I find Romances where equality is carefully portioned out in precise measurements kind of depressing, honestly. To me it implies that the H and H have to have exactly the same strengths and weaknesses in exactly the same proportions, and that’s not even possible. It certainly doesn’t leave any room for personality quirks or character flaws. I much prefer the puzzle piece formula where each fulfills some need in the other.

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  44. Pamela Clare
    May 10, 2011 @ 15:59:57

    @Janine:

    I agree that the hero needs to be vulnerable, too. That’s part of the balance. Both the hero and heroine have strengths, and both have unique vulnerabilities. Seeing how they come together and help each other overcome or accept or deal with those vulnerabilities is a huge part of an interesting romance thread.

    That’s part of characterization — taking these characters and making them real. I wouldn’t find an impenetrably tough alpha hero to be any more interesting than a spineless, whimpering heroine. We’re talking human males, not Terminators here. :-)

    The way the heroine brings out the hero’s softer side is often one of the most fulfilling parts of romantic fiction — speaking for myself, of course.

    @Annabel — I’ve only written one novel with a SEAL. The others involve men from various law enforcement or ex-military backgrounds. I don’t have a SEAL series or anything like that. I just didn’t want you to be confused. :-)

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  45. Isabel C.
    May 10, 2011 @ 16:04:38

    @Janine: Yep, that.

    Most of my non-romance reading/TV/etc is fantasy, and I do a lot of roleplaying, so I’m used to a team dynamic where everyone contributes in their own practical way. You’ve got the physical goon out front punching people, the rogue picking locks, the bookish guy casting spells or coordinating things…everyone has their role. In a non-fantasy context, The West Wing comes to mind: there are policy-makers, speechwriters, military staff, etc. No two people contribute exactly the same thing, but they’re all adding something vital and practical.

    In a more domestic sense, I’d look for…oh, in the SEAL cases, maybe a heroine who’s great at coordinating social stuff, and the hero’s an introvert and needs someone who can plan his sister’s birthday party. Or the heroine’s great with numbers and the hero’s dad’s business is in trouble because he doesn’t get accounting. Stuff where she can be as practically useful to him as he is to her, just in different ways.

    @Robin: Huh. It sounds interesting, but just the sort of thing that’s…well, not my thing, basically. My fantasy is always about performing or rescuing, almost never about being helped. :)

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  46. MaryK
    May 10, 2011 @ 16:09:21

    @Janine: Maybe. I get that the heroine needs to not be a passive deadweight that the hero has to drag to safety. It seems like a lot to ask of Smart Girl Accountant, though, to have to strategize on the level of Tough Guy SEAL in order to prove her worthiness. He’s just doing what he does but she has to go outside her sphere of excellence to match him at his. You see what I mean? Can’t she just be a good accountant caught in a tough situation and rescued by a bodyguard? Otherwise Tough Guy SEAL needs to be paired up with Tough Girl SEAL. [Do they even have those?]

    @Janine:

    I think relationships require trust and IMO a huge power difference makes abuses of power possible. So there has to be some kind of equalizing force, even if it’s just the hero’s overwhelming love for the heroine, that I can trust will stay in place for the long haul. And the more apart they are in their degree of strength, the more powerful that counterbalance has to be, and the more convincing I have to find it.

    This makes complete sense to me. What bothers me is when emotional power is not acknowledged as a counterbalance and only quantifiable (money, strength) power counts.

    In any case, each reader is going to have their own opinion of convincing. So there’d still be that to argue over. :D

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  47. Janine
    May 10, 2011 @ 16:12:02

    @Pamela Clare:

    I agree that the hero needs to be vulnerable, too. That’s part of the balance. Both the hero and heroine have strengths, and both have unique vulnerabilities. Seeing how they come together and help each other overcome or accept or deal with those vulnerabilities is a huge part of an interesting romance thread.

    That’s part of characterization — taking these characters and making them real. I wouldn’t find an impenetrably tough alpha hero to be any more interesting than a spineless, whimpering heroine. We’re talking human males, not Terminators here. :-)

    Agreed. I think that’s a lot of what I’m enjoying about Breaking Point (I’m reading it now). The characters feel real to me.

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  48. Pamela Clare
    May 10, 2011 @ 16:20:42

    Wow, I have an opinion column about SlutWalk Denver due in 1 hr and 45 minutes and I’m online…

    I just want to acknowledge that romance novels offer readers a variety of psycho-sexual fantasies. Because women have different personal histories and different needs, we’re going to relate to those fantasies in different ways.

    I have a friend who was abused as a kid and only reads novels with super-alpha heroines of futuristics and urban fantasy. She needs the escape of feeling that the heroine is able to fight and to protect herself 99.9 percent of the time. Not my cuppa. But that doesn’t mean her preference or mine or anyone else’s preference is wrong.

    These stories push buttons because they tread on gender roles and sexuality. It’s important to remember that taste in such things is deeply personal.

    As my grannie used to say, “‘To each her own,’ said the lady as she kissed the cow.”

    @Janine — I’m glad the characters feel real to you. That’s what most of my effort as a writer goes toward.

    Back to SlutWalk…

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  49. GrowlyCub
    May 10, 2011 @ 16:36:32

    @Janine:

    “If I sense the author is working extra hard to convince me that a heroine is feminine, for example, it can actually turn me off. I know she’s female, do I really have to be told about her love of lacy underthings to believe it?”

    I find that statement kinda worrisome. I don’t like lacy underthings, so does that mean I’m not female according to your definition of not needing be told that all women like lacy underthings? That’s as much a stereotype as the one that you are complaining about as far as I’m concerned.

    “I remember trying to read Layton’s Fireflower, where the hero was the heroine’s “protector” in a different sense — she was his mistress, even though he was obsessed with and planning to marry another woman. I couldn’t finish that book, because I was so unsettled by the way the heroine was so much more invested in the hero than he was in her.”

    Be glad you didn’t finish. After he marries the mistress and they live a long life together, when he dies, his last actions and thoughts are for the woman he originally meant to marry with some throwaway sentence how that’s okay because after all he shared his whole life with the mistress/wife and she surely couldn’t take those last few thoughts of his amiss… I was physically ill after reading that. Put me off Layton, I can tell you.

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  50. Janine
    May 10, 2011 @ 17:03:18

    @GrowlyCub:

    I find that statement kinda worrisome. I don’t like lacy underthings, so does that mean I’m not female according to your definition of not needing be told that all women like lacy underthings? That’s as much a stereotype as the one that you are complaining about as far as I’m concerned.

    I actually meant the exact opposite. I don’t like lacy underthings either — I have sensitive skin and they really itch! So it bugs me when authors go on and on about that (or other things that are traditionally viewed by some as markers of “femininity,”), if I feel it’s part of a pattern that’s aimed at making me view the heroine as feminine. I mean, I do like perfume, but some people are sensitive to that and can’t stand it. So I don’t like it when I feel that the author is basing her characterization on a certain stereotype of what a feminine woman is.

    It also bugs me when I see authors use the word “feminine” a lot in describing the heroine. It’s not that I don’t want the heroine to be female and the hero to be male (otherwise I wouldn’t be reading m/f romance), but rather that I want that to be conveyed in a subtle way. It’s when I feel I’m being knocked upside the head with it that I start feeling like the author doesn’t trust me, the reader, to believe that her character is female without overkill that I start getting irritated.

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  51. Carin
    May 10, 2011 @ 17:04:07

    This is such an interesting discussion!

    I enjoy stories with alpha/protector heros. I’m not a huge suspense fan, but that seems to be where you find a lot of the protectors.

    I think I enjoy that kind of hero because I live it in real life. I’m a smart and capable woman. I’m married to a man who takes care of me and our family, and I like reading about that in romance, too.

    I’m a foster/adoptive/biological mom. Two of my kids have extensive medical and emotional needs. Honestly, I’m not sure I could do it without my husband – I KNOW it would take a coule other adults to replace him, because when he’s out of town we get a couple volunteers to help out. It’s not that I’m weak, it’s that, together, we chose to take on something that needs the both of us to funtion well.

    While we each can do all of the things that need to be done, we have our own specialties. So the fact that he works outside the house and actually brings home money for the work he does? Awesome. And necessary. A lot of what he does is support me in what I do. He takes care of me and I love it.

    I like to read stories with those kind of partnerships because it resonates with me.

    As an aside, I really liked Kleypas’ Jack & Ella book, but I really *didn’t* like the other two contemporaries. In Liberty’s book (Sugar Daddy) I was thoroughly confused about who the hero was and that pretty much ruined the book for me. Haven’s book was way too intense for me. I just can’t live through real time abuse in a story. Too real and haunting, no matter how sweet the happy resolution. It’s a book I wish I could erase from my memory, which is probably a testament to how realistically the abuse is written, but that kind of realism is NOT why I read romance.

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  52. Kim in Hawaii
    May 10, 2011 @ 17:18:42

    @Annette: You wrote,

    “I read strictly historical romance in the romance genre, so I haven’t yet read a SEAL book.”

    I primarily read historical romance (with a contemporary here and there). Pamela Clare’s BREAKING POINT was my first romantic suspense. Although Zack is very Alpha (by training), he is very vulnerable with his own set of issues. Likewise, Natalie is very capable (by experience), but she appreciates the opportunity to rely on someone else that has the training to get them out of a tight spot. BREAKING POINT was a heart pounding, heart wrenching, and heartwarming story.

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  53. Moriah Jovan
    May 10, 2011 @ 17:20:19

    I haven’t read through the more recent comments, but Robin briefly touched on it:

    Exhaustion.

    I like the “I’ll take care of you thing” a lot more when I’m physically, emotionally, (and sometimes financially) exhausted than when I’m not. That said, freedom from money worries (aka somebody in the book is rich) is always a welcome trope for me. I don’t want to sink myself into a book where both hero and heroine have the same exhaustion/money/stress issues I do because that only increases my exhaustion and stress.

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  54. Kim in Hawaii
    May 10, 2011 @ 17:30:03

    @Pamela Clare: You wrote,

    “In fact, I’m so empowered that I’m exhausted.”

    Sing it, sister! Many military spouses are so empowered (by necessity) to care for their families (and careers) that they, too, are exhausted!

    BREAKING POINT is the only “Navy Seal” romantic suspense I have read. As I responded to Annette above, Zack as the Navy Seal was trained to save the day. Yet Natalie was able to contribute to their rescue. Thus, it was a successful partnership.

    I am married to a “Bravo” military man. We went through prolonged separation. We went through “I can’t talk about my job.” I went through “I don’t want to move there but I will to support your career.” It’s not as glamorous as it is often portrayed in books and film. But it is life that has given us an educational benefits, travel opportunities, and cultural exchanges.

    I have read Sandra Hill’s time traveling Vikings – turned – Navy Seals series. They are a great escape with laugh out loud moments. I don’t take the Vikings’ 10th century alpha attitude too seriously.

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  55. Robin/Janet
    May 10, 2011 @ 18:36:47

    @Isabel C.: Now that I think about it, rescuing is not really a fantasy I respond to. In fact, the caretaker isn’t always, either, especially if the hero consistently tries to take away the heroine’s responsibilities or puts her on a pedestal (long way to fall from there…). But when the caretaking alpha fantasy is done well — that is, when the hero and heroine are well-matched and equally strong — I find it very appealing.

    It may very basically go back to what Pamela Clare said in her first comment about being In Charge in RL and enjoying the indulgence of a fictional situation in which I do not have to re-live the ensuing exhaustion and sense of responsibility when I read the heroine’s story. It’s not something I would indulge so easily in RL, but in fiction, it can be very satisfying for me.

    I think one of the things that makes it work for me in the Kleypas book (and I sooooooo prefer her contemps to her historicals, in part because I think she does a better job at matching her protags in her contemps) is that Jack has a number of nurturing qualities — he can and will change a diaper and take charge of childcare; he brings “fun” to Ella’s life, giving her what she never had as a child; he will get up ahead of her with the baby so she can get a few more hours of sleep, that kind of thing — and Ella has a number of autonomous qualities — she does not believe in commitment and marriage; she hates taking help and even refuses to ask for it; she has a magazine column called “Miss Independent,” which gives you a sense of her values, etc.

    So it’s not like Jack is deciding what’s best for Ella and she’s deferring to him — most of the time he has to fight for whatever bit of ground he can get with her. Were Ella less reluctant to concede her autonomy, I’d probably not be as enchanted. The ways in which she has to reconsider what it means to be independent are very believable to me, as well. In fact, I think Lori Foster tries to write to this fantasy, but I do not respond well to it in her books (in fact, I jokingly call some of her heroes “sheroes,” because to me they sometimes read as stereotypical chicks with big penises and just don’t appeal to me ;D). That said, there are some books that violate all my own rules that I’ve still enjoyed. Call me contrary, lol.

    Still, for me there’s a large gamut on which these kinds of heroes sit, and I actually don’t think you and Jane are in disagreement about the contributions each partner makes to the relationship. IMO the true “caretaker” is a guy who is well-balanced in his qualities and who is well-matched with a strong, intelligent heroine. But there’s also the asshole and, as Karina Bliss characterizes it, the alphahole, and I think sometimes there’s confusion between a guy who really is a natural leader and a guy who is a bully and/or a douche. It’s different for everyone, of course, but I think what Jane’s talking about — and the type of caretaker I often appreciate — is the guy who is, as she put it, the helpmeet, rather than the designated head of household, perpetual savior, autonomous decision-maker, or on the other end of the spectrum, a stereotypical chick with a dick. That’s how I’m reading it, at least.

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  56. Hell Cat
    May 10, 2011 @ 18:40:26

    To put why I love the SEALs/Protector role, I’ll have to add in my own biases and life. I’m the strongest person I know. And I don’t say that lightly. I’ve had to be growing up in an emotionally insecure family. I’m the one my family and friends turn to when they -need- the protecting. I’m the most emotionally available and naturally maternal of everyone I know. It’s my nature and much to many of my former friends dismay, I can’t change it. I’ve lost several friends, some even very good, because I can’t -not- protect when someone comes to me for venting (I try to fix it). But sometimes I get tired of carrying the weight of the world. It’s a bit exhausting. I can’t carry a dozen 2x4s daily, but I can keep my family from falling over flat when faced with disaster.

    That’s why I like the strong Protector Alpha (Caregiving Alpha). Because in my fantasy world, I can self-insert and see a strong woman be helped when she wants it. It allows me a brief time to pretend I’m not sitting here alone, wishing for someone to take the control away for a couple hours for a quiet mind. To see a smart, capable woman in print be given what I want. Not because she’s some fragile little delicate flower but because the man cares enough to help out when given the opportunity by doing the little things. It’s not always the grand gestures but the intent of the action.

    And the protector role is often someone who knows who they are and are secure in that knowledge. It may change (and usually does in romance) but that self-awareness is attractive when coupled with someone who understands his partner’s needs. That to me is the sexy part. Not the rugged looks or posturing. Reading someone like that versus the Navy man my cousin married without knowing is enjoyable.

    As a woman, asking a guy for help and receiving it without being talked down to is an instabuy for me. And thanks to this post, I have some books to request at the local library when I’m caught up with my current 20 requests.

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  57. Isabel C.
    May 10, 2011 @ 20:01:00

    @Robin: Hm, yeah. And I can absolutely see how that works in the abstract. For me, not so much–except that I *do* like it in very small quantities. (What fanfic calls hurt/comfort, for example: normally Character A is absolutely tough, but he or she’s been shot/has had wisdom teeth out/whatever.)

    I think part of it, at least for me–although other commenters who dislike the trope mention having kids, so this is clearly not universal–is that I’m not really responsible for anyone else RL, so I don’t really think I get that sense of exhaustion other posters have mentioned. And because I value my independence RL to a Henry Higgins-esque extent, I don’t have a lot of patience with guys trying to take care of me, so I don’t really dig them in novels.

    On the other hand, the friend who shows up all “Hey, you look like you’re in trouble, need a hand?” is actually pretty appealing. So there’s that.

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  58. Brooksse
    May 10, 2011 @ 20:02:37

    I really enjoyed Smooth Talking Stranger precisely because Ella was so capable. All her life she had been the one to always take care of others, and no one had ever really taken care of her. Even as a child, with an immature mother, no one had really looked out for her.

    Even with her boyfriend in Austin, I had gotten the sense that they were two independents people and he had enabled her to overcome some of the baggage from her childhood (mostly her doing but with him helping her put things in perspective). Yet I never got the impression that he was someone she could always depend on no matter what, which was proven when she took care of the baby.

    When Jack came along, he was someone she could depend on unconditionally. He recognized that she was near the end of her rope and stepped in to help. Something no one else had ever done for her. She was the one who had always stepped in to help. I liked that Jack was there for her when she needed help the most. Which was something she had to learn to accept, that she didn’t always have to carry the load all by herself.

    Due to the situation, Ella was the one who needed the most in the their relationship at that point in time, but I never got the impression they weren’t equals. Rather that they were both capable individuals who realized each in turn could both help and be helped by the other as the need arose.

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  59. Robin/Janet
    May 10, 2011 @ 20:31:43

    @Brooksse: My take on the book is the same as yours. In fact, this discussion has really made me want to re-read it. #mustresist

    @Isabel C.: I would not find most of these guys sexy in real life, but in fiction I can definitely find them appealing. I think that’s the nature of fantasies, though. They’re often unconsciously fueled and therefore not completely explainable in their appeal. Sometimes there are conscious elements that comport, of course, but in total, who knows why we each find certain scenarios appealing or not.

    For me this also marks the difference between reading and reviewing. When I’m reading, I’m enjoying (or not) indulgently. When I’m reviewing, though, I have to take myself out of that space and view the book through different eyes. Enjoyment plays an important role in my overall valuation of a book, but I try very hard not to conflate my enjoyment of a fantasy, per se, and my response to a book as it’s written. IMO that’s my responsibility as a reviewer, which is why sometimes it’s just fun to be a reader. ;D

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  60. Bella F.
    May 10, 2011 @ 20:46:08

    1st, I really LOVE that bunny pic!lol
    But I really liked this post Jane. I think it really does boil down to trust. Especially since as you point out there is a power exchange and that’s always a risk. So having a fantasy where the hero is not only going understand that but also respect it is appealing.

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  61. Emily
    May 10, 2011 @ 21:15:33

    Wow, what a great conversation! I currently work for the military so I’m getting my crash course in what life means for military families. It gave me a new appreciation for Suzanne Brockmann’s Ken and Savannah’s long distance marriage.

    I totally understand that romance books are escape. However, when you’re surrounded by military personnel all day, it’s hard to get out of that headspace. I can’t suspend reality and think that if members of the military break major rules to go save their best girl/boy, fall in love, then live happily ever after. All military romances are variations of that theme. There are too many challenges for military families and I see them every day.

    I think there needs to be a bit more realism about what being with a military member means for your professional and personal life. You’re probably not going to live near your extended family. You’re probably not going to have the ability to maintain a career that isn’t portable. You will spend vast quantities of time away from your spouse in a city you aren’t familiar with, with no friends. If you have friends their husbands do the same thing yours does.

    I guess for me, I used to really enjoy SEAL romances, but now I’m on the private security ones a la Maya Banks KGI, because it’s all the traits without the reality of what military life means.

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  62. Ridley
    May 10, 2011 @ 21:26:19

    I can’t stand the caretaker alpha hero type. I think it’s because I just can’t stand to have people do things that I could do myself. My husband won’t fix things in my presence anymore because I just loom and check his work, making him batty. When it’s time to drive anywhere, hire contractors, chew out the cable company or make major home improvement decisions, it’s up to me, and we’re happier that way.

    So, since that’s my reality, I cringe when the heroes are all “lemme get that for you, hon.” What, the heroine’s suddenly incapable of doing things herself? How can she be sure he’ll do it right? How is being treated like an invalid romantic?

    So not appealing to me to get managed.

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  63. brooksse
    May 10, 2011 @ 22:16:18

    @Robin/Janet: I only read up to about comment 20 before posting and hadn’t seen your comments until just now. Yep, we definitely had the same take. For me, Jack was a wonderful blend of the tough yet tender hero. Wanting to take charge, yet also realizing Ella wasn’t used to having someone else take charge.

    I’ve been resisting the urge to buy the first two books in this series. Partly because they’re agency-priced, and partly because I enjoyed STS so much I’m afraid the other two will be a let down. But this discussion is tempting me change my mind about reading the other two.

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  64. Jane
    May 10, 2011 @ 22:17:25

    @Ridley I’m surprised that you would say this given that you like Cara McKenna’s Willing Victim. I quote

    “You can still be bossy though,” she said. “I like that. I like…you know, giving up control. It feels good, not having to be in charge.”
    He tucked her hair behind her ears. “Sure. Whenever you’re ready. Whatever you want.”
    “Can we make out for a while?

    and

    “You said before you like how when we fuck, you don’t have to be in control of anything.”
    She nodded.
    “Let me give that to you again. Now. Let me be in charge.”
    “Maybe.”

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  65. Robin/Janet
    May 10, 2011 @ 22:30:41

    @brooksse: You can get both used for cheap (a penny on Amazon, plus shipping). I like the whole series, but STS is definitely my very favorite. Some did not feel that Sugar Daddy was enough of a Romance, but I really liked Liberty (Gage was meh for me). And I liked Haven’s journey back from domestic violence in Blue Eyed Devil, although Hardy makes a pretty big change as a character between SD and BED, which some readers objected to. I just prefer Kleypas’s contemp voice, so I’m probably more willing at this point to try those books from her.

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  66. Jane
    May 10, 2011 @ 22:43:57

    Whenever I reread this series I start from the middle of Sugar Daddy. I think Hardy’s reclamation is difficult to read if you read SD first.

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  67. GrowlyCub
    May 10, 2011 @ 23:31:30

    I find it so interesting that some readers feel Hardy is the villain of SD. To me it’s clearly an authorial manipulation that totally went against the character she had built early on and she just did it to make readers swallow the heroine’s choice of the other guy at the end. I’m not that wild about Kleypas’ historicals (mostly C or low B reads), but I have to say I totally lost all trust in her with that switcheroo in SD. She’s off my read list permanently.

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  68. Ridley
    May 10, 2011 @ 23:49:16

    @Jane:

    That’s different than a guy just doing stuff for you that you could do for yourself. I’m down with getting tied to the bed if I ask for it but I have no patience for a guy insisting on driving or wanting to settle my affairs for me. Sexual control and control over your life are different beasts.

    Besides, I didn’t see Flynn as a caretaker alpha. He wasn’t trying to take over Laurel’s life for her. He left his brand of kink up to her to decide if she wanted some. The whole runaround he gave her in the beginning is pretty much the definition of her being in control. He didn’t get her home then surprise her with it or wait till they’re in bed to declare that he calls the shots there.

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  69. Fiona McGier
    May 11, 2011 @ 00:08:11

    It took me years to break my husband of the habit of trying to offer me solutions when I was talking to him about my problems. Finally I told him that there are times when I just want him to listen. I’m smart enough to find my own solutions. Now he just asks, “Is this one of those ‘there, there’ moments, where I should just pat you and sympathize?”
    At last! AS for the the talking to girlfriends idea, I do, but he needs to be involved with my life also, since we are, after all, married and raising 4 young adults! And if I don’t share what I’m thinking/worrying about with him, he’ll start to feel neglected.
    I write strong alpha females who are busy living their own lives. The men who fall in love with them are the ones who decide they need to be together for the long term, then it’s up to them to convince the heroine.
    I don’t read historical or regency because I detest the power imbalances between men and women, and I’m not interested that “he is willing to give her everything he owns because she fills a need.” Bleah. I’d rather earn it myself. And besides, there was no birth control back then, so totally NON-sexy to me!

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  70. Liza Lester
    May 11, 2011 @ 00:24:29

    @Janine: I like what you say about subtlety in characterization. I’m happy to travel along with a lacy, long-haired, shoe-loving narrator if she is engaging, though I myself do not idolize the ruffles and high heels. I’m also OK with changes in appearance as a sign that the heroine is changing inside, and opening herself to things that are hard for her (as in Crusie’s Bet Me). But when an author pushes these things as essential to womanhood and keeps commenting on “femininity” during scenes of heart-hammering hero-heroine attraction, then I feel like she has an agenda, and means to make a Point about Being a Women. Sometimes it comes off as defensive–”I just want to be a girl!”–as if that idea is under constant attack and isn’t still the mainstream conception of an attractive woman. I imagine she is trying to bond with the readers who agree with her depiction of “non-feminine” women as non-heroine material, and I end up alienated rather than bonded.

    I have mixed feelings about Smooth Talking Stranger. The attraction between Jack and Ella is endearing and Kleypas really works her magic for me there. Jack’s desire to barge into Ella’s life and help her was endearing in the sense that he liked her so much, he would take on her problems and and care for (and love) her crying infant. It would have been even more impressive if he didn’t have all those riches smoothing the road for him! Both Jack and Ella had utterly fantastical occupations, so their lives were hard for me to take seriously.

    In her depictions of Ms. Independent, the self-centered anti-commitment vegan saving-the-world exboyfriend, and Ella’s former life in Austen, I felt Kleypas was setting up straw men to be knocked down by the superior passion of Ella’s more traditional relationship with Jack. As a story about a specific relationship, I liked it, but when I felt it edged toward social commentary, I was annoyed. It didn’t have the depth to be persuasive in that territory. I’m sorry that I don’t have a detailed analysis to argue my position here–I’m just working off what I remember of my reaction to the book.

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  71. Jane
    May 11, 2011 @ 07:03:01

    @Ridley This may surprise you but I disagree. First, I don’t think a caretaker alpha wants to try to overtake someone’s life. In the three books I quoted above, none of the women would want that and I don’t believe that the men would be attracted to the women who would want that. The language of negotiation and request for permission to act is similar in all of the quoted examples including Willing Victim. You use the word “insisting” yet none of that is shown in any of the examples that I quoted.

    I think that there is a big difference between the caretaker alpha and the asshole alpha. An asshole is a character who insists on taking over.

    What Flynn is doing to Lauren in Willing Victim is no different than what Jack does for Ella, he gives her a respite. Lauren, out of all the female characters in the books we’ve used as an example, is actually the most weak, both physically, emotionally and mentally. She does not have her shit together. She thrills at their physical differences. She allows Flynn to use a certain type of sex to take her out of her headspace.

    In the aforementioned quoted portion, Flynn offers himself sexually so that he can take her away from the painful headspace that she often finds herself in. Sure, she can bring herself to orgasm, but allowing Flynn to take charge allows her a respite from herself.

    The only way the Caretaker Alpha works for me is if there is a negotiated power exchange which doesn’t come about by insisting things be done a certain way.

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  72. Ridley
    May 11, 2011 @ 09:51:49

    @Jane:

    I think the difference is that the Kleypas example you offer, where Jack handles Ella’s task for her, is a hero taking over for a heroine and making decisions for her. Flynn may have helped Laurel get her shit together by offering her some sexual escapism, but he left it up to her to come and get it.

    Kleypas heroes have always felt managing to me, but Flynn doesn’t give me that vibe. Flynn felt to me like he’d just shrug his shoulders and move on if Laurel wasn’t down with his kink, but a Kleypas hero would insist if the heroine wavered at all.

    To me, it’s the difference between “Let me get that for you.” and “Would you like help with that?” The former, while often well-intentioned, is pushy, while the latter offers help without insisting the offerer knows best.

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  73. Janine
    May 11, 2011 @ 15:01:04

    I started to post this question in the Breaking Point thread, but my comment there was long enough so I thought I’d post my question here.

    Although I love reading about SEALs, cops and other tough guys, I would love to read a romantic suspense sometime where the hero is just a regular guy, not military or law enforcement, and not necessarily that tough. A book where the hero and heroine are on the run together or something, and have to survive by their wits more than their brawn, and learn as they go. Does anyone know of any book that fits that description?

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  74. Janine
    May 11, 2011 @ 15:04:05

    @Liza Lester:

    @Janine: I like what you say about subtlety in characterization. I’m happy to travel along with a lacy, long-haired, shoe-loving narrator if she is engaging, though I myself do not idolize the ruffles and high heels. I’m also OK with changes in appearance as a sign that the heroine is changing inside, and opening herself to things that are hard for her (as in Crusie’s Bet Me).

    Agreed!

    But when an author pushes these things as essential to womanhood and keeps commenting on “femininity” during scenes of heart-hammering hero-heroine attraction, then I feel like she has an agenda, and means to make a Point about Being a Women. Sometimes it comes off as defensive–”I just want to be a girl!”–as if that idea is under constant attack and isn’t still the mainstream conception of an attractive woman. I imagine she is trying to bond with the readers who agree with her depiction of “non-feminine” women as non-heroine material, and I end up alienated rather than bonded.

    This. I’m glad someone got what I was trying to say.

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  75. Milena
    May 11, 2011 @ 15:42:36

    @Liza Lester:

    I’m happy to travel along with a lacy, long-haired, shoe-loving narrator if she is engaging, though I myself do not idolize the ruffles and high heels.

    I just have to admit that, at first, I misread the “she” in that sentence and spent a few very interesting moments trying to come up with the mental image of a lacy, long-haired, shoe-loving SEAL hero. And now I would just love to read a book like that. Seriously.

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  76. Liza Lester
    May 11, 2011 @ 19:11:01

    @Milena: Ha! I would read that too!

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  77. Annabel
    May 11, 2011 @ 21:23:40

    @Milena & Liza

    I have a friend (male) who likes to dress up in vintage corsets, stockings, stiletto boots, and other such “feminine” accoutrements. The thing is, he is 100% masculine, straight, dominant, muscular. I will never be able to wrap my mind around why I find his photos so incredibly sexy, but I do.

    Maybe because he is all the things I love in one package: hot muscular male *and* beautiful vintage lingerie. Ooh, la la!!

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  78. Sarah
    May 11, 2011 @ 23:27:22

    @Janine
    The only books that I can think of off the top of my head with “regular people” are Nora Roberts’ Sign of Seven trilogy. They’re more paranormal than action/adventure though.

    I would love to read some surviving by their wits stories too. Good luck!

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  79. Milena
    May 12, 2011 @ 01:00:53

    @Janine: The Copenhagen Connection by Elizabeth Peters is exactly that, two regular people who end up in trouble and have to survive by their wits. There are some other early Peters’s, too — she liked that trope for a while — but I’m blanking on the titles, sorry.

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  80. Janine
    May 12, 2011 @ 17:32:13

    @Sarah & @Milena: Thanks so much!

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  81. Quadruple Review: SEALed series by Mary Margaret Daughtridge | Dear Author
    Jun 06, 2011 @ 04:00:38

    [...] had never heard of your SEAL books until Jane wrote her opinion piece on the caretaking alpha, and someone mentioned your books in the comments. Although I’m not a big fan of military heroes, for some reason I was intrigued, went to Amazon, [...]

  82. Colette Di Mola
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 21:37:29

    I was with a Seal for 9 years. Two years after becoming a Seal, I found out he was cheating on me and had a huge pirn addiction. He asked my 9 month old son and I to move and refused to help us financially even though I was a stay at home mom. I had to get an attorney to get him to pay child support. He is no hero!

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  83. Jane
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 21:44:39

    @Colette Di Mola: I don’t doubt it. I’m sorry you hooked up with such an awful guy.

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  84. Colette Di Mola
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 21:51:02

    Thanks Jane!
    I just want everyone to know that the Navy Seal is merly a man! Most are narcissistic and self-absorbed. He is not the be all and end all of man!

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  85. Jane
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 21:52:15

    @Colette Di Mola Completely understand. They are largely fetishized in romance fiction. Have a friend whose husband works with a former SEAL. Says he is a walking sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen.

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  86. Jennifer
    Apr 23, 2014 @ 18:40:30

    @Colette Di Mola:

    Hi Colette,

    You’ve just hit the nail on the head of realism. I have a female friend that gets deployed with SEALs and other SF guys. She got into a relationship with one of those guys, only to find out he had a wife and kid back home. When she told me what goes on in deployments and training with these guys, I didn’t believe her until I did some research. Now every time I see a romance with SEALs as some kind of perfect male archetype, I want to yank my hair out by the roots and scream bloody murder.

    There’s a reason why there’s a 90% divorce rate in the SF and SOF community: these men will sleep with anything that moves. Now in BUD/S training, instructors are starting to tell SEALs it’s best to stay single until they get out. Cheating is the norm, inside the Teams. And wives either don’t know, or *do* know about the infidelity, but also know that if they divorce their husbands, they lose all their connections and friendships within the borders of this tight-knit community. In a lot of ways, I have a lot more respect for these strong women back on the home front than alpha males whose “honor” and “loyalty” only extend to their professional lives.

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