In January, Yale University becomes the first school in the Ivies to offer a course on romance fiction, when bestselling romance authors/Yale alumnae Cara Elliott and Lauren Willig teach the seminar they created, “Reading the Regency Romance.”  The pair says they’ll spend some time in the class examining changing attitudes toward sexuality and heroism in a variety of authors of Regencies from over a 30-year period.

’Round these parts – least when I’m doing the posting – it may seem as though heroism and sexuality in romance fiction come in one size: big-in-all-ways alpha male. Yet occasionally, a guy who isn’t imposing, dangerously rakish, or even particularly impressive looking strikes a heroic pose through quiet, yet consistent growth, by vanquishing inner dragons knights in shinier armor don’t possess/cop to, or perhaps simply by meeting his heroine’s lowest expectations. 

Sir Gerald Stapleton is exactly this type of “beta” male, a most improbably appealing hero, and one of many compelling reasons to grab Mary Balogh’s marvelous reissue, “A Precious Jewel,” a unique and intensely emotional novel sweetened by humor and frank, often poignant sensuality.

Like many men of the ton, Stapleton seeks sexual fulfillment among the demimonde. A creature of habit, his liaisons are unemotional and businesslike when he regularly visits a popular, high-class brothel featuring demireps as stringently instructed in elocution as they are in taking responsibility for their clients’ pleasure – and their own reproductive and emotional health.

When a change in schedules finds Stapleton using Priss, a fresh-faced and remarkably lady-like courtesan, the 29-year old confirmed bachelor is confounded by his need to see only her frequently, and within weeks looks to keep her to himself by making her his mistress.

For a young woman in Priscilla Wentworth’s harrowing position, becoming a mistress after only four months as a whore is something to celebrate.  That the man offering his protection is the one she’s become emotionally attached to feeds into the dangerous fantasies of love and commitment she’s concocted during their sessions.

Yet even though Priscilla’s life changed so dramatically that selling her body became honorable work, she still possesses intellect, education and a fairly indomitable spirit.  These things are what most gnaw at Stapleton’s sometimes frustratingly sluggish mind as he struggles to reconcile the woman he’s desperate only to see as “property,” with the warm, accomplished lady of worth he’s opening up to at a dreadfully alarming pace.

Yes, Sir Gerald Stapleton is a conflicted man, and the most insurmountable obstacle between him and a life-altering relationship with Priscilla is Sir Gerald Stapleton.  His vacillation leaves Priscilla without many choices, yet when Society would have her fall on her sword, she wields it instead for the sake of the honor she never relinquished – and the love she deserves.

 

How do you feel about the beta hero? How can a prostitute heroine who accepts/makes the best of her limited choices be heroic – or is she always archaic?  What are some of your favorite Mary Balogh novels/why?

Comments
by Author MonicaBurns on ‎12-22-2009 07:15 PM

Ok, so you're asking ME if a prostitue herione making the best of limited choices can be heroic?? LOL Absolutely. I think any character, no matter their persuasion, can be heroic if they can overcome any odds and make the reader root for them. I love characters who recognize their own self worth and to hell with anyone who thinks their unfit in any way.

 

I'm fiddling with a Beta/Alpha hero at the moment. It's a fine line. I like Beta's, but  more in a contemp than a historical. There's just something about a historical that makes me want an alpha in the hero role. BTW, I want your job part-time. This book sounds great!

 

 

Monica Burns - http://www.monicaburns.com
Kismet - 01/10 - Berkley Sensation
Don't miss this one!" — Sabrina Jeffries, NYT bestselling author
Assassin's Honor - 06/10 - Berkley Sensation

by 1lovealways on ‎12-22-2009 07:51 PM

Hi Michelle!

 

I've read tons of books with beta heroes, but I don't think this topic has ever been addressed with him as the lead in his own article.  My favorite beta hero is Aluinn MacKail from Marsha Canham's The Pride of Lions and The Blood of Roses. Throughout the book I found him as heroic and deserving of accolades as the hero.  He was the hero's best friend and comrade, but was more like a brother to him. 

 

His secondary story was wonderful!  I often found myself wondering if Ms. Canham would write his book.  Alas, that didn't come to pass, but out of all the betas I've read about, he sprang instantly to mind.  Sometimes the betas are just lurking in the background and edge out the hero to gain their own place in your heart.  It can be their personalities or their heroics or just their plain appeal.  Whatever it is, these betas are not to be discounted.  Sometimes, they demand their own book and get it!

 

I think a heroine who accepts/makes the best of her limited choices can be heroic in the fact that she may use the position she's in (no pun intended) as a stepping stone to a better life.  It doesn't have to mean that she's in the business that she's in because she wants to be, but that she's in it for a reason.   Maybe the circumstances are what makes this the only alternative. In the Regency period, it was very possible for circumstances to dictate one's station in life.  For instance a beautiful working class woman that wasn't wealthy, betrothed or married was looked upon as taboo.  She couldn't work as a governess in any wealthy woman's home for fear that she would seduce her husband.  Most times it was vice versa.  Or her reputation had been ruined due to someone maligning her name or she had younger siblings depending upon her for one reason or another.  Usually both parents were deceased.

 

It doesn't mean she has to like what she does.  She only likes what it affords her toward a goal that she's seeking.  I wouldn't say she's always archaic.  I'd say it's never archaic for the heroine to want to be better and have a better life or be better for herself. I do think it's archaic to fall for the hero hoping that he feels the same for you.  Getting her emotions involved is very archaic.  Then, again maybe not.   Most times it turns out the hero feels the same, although there have been those so called hero's who have used the heroine for their own means.   When that happens, it turns out her thinking has been very archaic. 

 

I've never read Ms. Balogh's novels, but I'd like to read this one.  I'm already intrigued!  :smileyhappy:

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎12-23-2009 09:56 AM

1la, your point about the betas 'lurking around' as secondaries is terrifically on point here.  In this reissue, Balogh writes that Sir Gerald originally was a secondary -- maybe a tertiary? -- in "The Ideal Husband," a character who was lamenting that his mistress had just left him to marry. Balogh says she couldn't get him out of her mind and wrote APJ in 2 weeks, yet thought the story would be too controversial, even though her writer pals all encouraged it. She finally sent it to her editor, and the book's become a fan fave.

I think you would enjoy this and Balogh's novels in general. She's got an almost practical way of looking at male/female relationships that's deceptively simple.  She does dignity beautifully, no matter what a character's station.  Yet she also gives great heartache, and just writes a lovely little romance.

Mon, how could I forget!  And I think you're right, the empathetic reader does root for her. Like you, I generally think of betas in contemps and don't dig em all that much.  I dont' think I'd read one in an historical before this, but I have to rethink it all. 

by Janga on ‎12-23-2009 06:12 PM

I love betas. My favorite Balogh is Lord Carew's Bride, and Hartley Wade, the Marquess of Carew is one of my favorire beta heroes. Other favorite betas in historicals are Ewan Poley, Earl of Ardmore in Eloisa James' Kiss Me, Annabel, Robin, Lord Robert Andreville in Mary Jo Putney's Angel Rogue, Harry Braxton in Connie Brockway's As You Desire, and most recently, Sir Toby Aldridge in Tessa Dare's A Lady of Persuasion. Favorite betas in contemporaries include (but are not limited to) Quin Hunter in Kathleen Gilles Seidel's Till the Stars Fall, Blue Reynard in Ruth Wind's In the Midnight Rain, Murphy Muldoon in Nora Roberts' Born in books, and  two recent additions--Cam Early in Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar by Pamela Morsi and Carter Maguire in Nora Roberts' Vision in White. I blogged back in October at Just Janga on why I <3 betas. :smileyhappy:

by M_Malloy on ‎12-27-2009 05:17 PM

Question:  Would Max deWinter of "Rebecca" be considered a beta male?

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