This isn’t *quite* a rant. More like an observation as both a reader and a writer of series romance.
We all probably have that favorite author who has an incredible cast of hot men and women, spanning a complex world. We love them. We have trouble picking our favorite book boyfriend from the series because each seems more amazing than the last.
Seriously. It’s like a hot guy competition. And sometimes this isn’t a good thing.
Something that I see too often, is a scaling one-upping Alpha male conundrum.
Book one starts out well.
We meet our first tortured badass hero; we’ll call him A.
A has a circle of guy friends and a token woman buddy who clearly is just as badass, because she hangs with them. A is hot. He’s harsh primal male and tends to make all the panties drop when he walks in a room. We’re talking male model with a testosterone aura. He loves his friends and is loyal to a fault. He has money and owns a private jet and a small island, but he’s a giving guy and funds the educations of underprivileged orphans.
He’s the leader of his group because he’s clever, level-headed, can punch a hole through a steel wall, and has mastered fighting styles that only the baddest of the bad can know. He has a tortured past. His ex was killed in front of him, and he searched the world finding the people who killed her. But in getting revenge, he became bitter. Only tender love can soothe him.
We love A. We want to marry A. He meets the perfect match in book one, and we’re so envious we want to punch kittens. Awwww.
Book two comes along, and here we get up close and personal with B.
B is A’s second-in-command. They’ve been best friends since the dawn of time. B is as hot as A. No, scratch that. Something about B is inexplicably hotter than A. In addition to the testosterone aura, he’s got a deadly swagger. What we saw of B in book one was nothing compared to how he is when the focus is on him. Around A he’s quiet, but away from friends, he’s got something else going on.
He runs a private business. He makes more money than A. Screw the private jet. B has his own airline. Private island? How amateur. B owns a small country and is a humble anonymous philanthropist, donating billions to war-torn everyone and matching puppies to children in need. In book one, A is touted as the biggest badass fighter, but in book two, A makes an off-hand comment towards B‘s woman, and B wipes the freaking floor with him. His tortured past involves actual torture. He spent years at the mercy of his enemies, and has nightmares that his heroine will need to kiss and grope away.
B is now the center of our universe, and his snuggling skills are unmatched.
Book three. We can’t even prepare. We grab a bottle of wine and light some candles because we’ve anticipated this. Enter C.
C has always been a bit of a mystery. Not because he’s quiet, that’s B’s thing. No, C is a mystery because his personality is completely different. He jokes. He’s not stoic like A and B. How are they even friends? It’s a long story. He has a filthy mind and tends to make a slew of inappropriate comments in mixed company. A few minutes with him and most women are offended but also turned on. A and B won’t leave their women alone with C, because he’s very likely to say or do something that will make them faint.
So what’s his deal?
Well for starters, he functions by day as a semi-unreliable part of A’s gang. What no one knows is that C is actually the heir to a throne and owns his own planet. His people have no idea what he looks like. He’s a fair and benevolent prince but he’s always shrouded behind a mask. His parents hate his tattoos and galavanting across the galaxy, but they look the other way because he’s a great guy. While his friends are helping the poor, he’s building an empire that abolishes inequality and poverty.
C‘s ancestors invented the super badass martial arts techniques that A uses, and C does them better. At one point in book three, C knocks both A and B unconscious, leaving him as supreme fighter god. C‘s tortured past is so involved, there’s a novella of required reading that only details his childhood and upbringing. You’re going to cry.
Oh, and C has the biggest “manhood” of the bunch. (so far)
And I know what you’re thinking. Where does it end? This is just book three! There’s still two more guys and that mysterious lady friend!
It doesn’t stop. Some authors just don’t know how to stop. Everything gets bigger. Everyone gets richer and deadlier until the entire world is bloated with rich do-gooders with the fighting skills of every action hero blended together.
For the love of all that is romantic, please stop. Your heroes are supposed to be unique individuals. That doesn’t work if you just add onto your previous male character until his only flaw is that he can’t marry every woman in the world. When it gets to the point that your hero can buy an entire city evacuation to create the perfect date, or his bed skills are so intense that his sneezes will give a woman an orgasm, you’ve gone too far.
Stop it now.