Jaycee Jarvis: In Defense of Beta Heroes

I’m a huge fan of beta heroes both as a reader and a writer, so I wanted to explore how beta heroes play out in fantasy romance and romantic fantasy, and make a few reading recommendations along the way.

Beta heroes are generally defined as softer, emotionally intelligent people who are willing to take directions and listen to advice, both from their romantic partner and from other characters in the book. They are in direct contrast to the ever popular, take-charge, domineering alpha heroes. Because alphas are often larger than life, it is easy for beta heroes to get dismissed as weak or–worse yet–boring, when in fact being willing to do the emotional labor in a relationship and truly listen to their partners can be incredibly sexy.

Radiance by Grace Draven is a good example of an incredibly hot, slow-burn relationship that builds over time. Brishen and Ildiko are wed in a largely symbolic marriage to unite their two very different people—in a plot that seamlessly crosses Beauty and the Beast with a marriage of convenience. This set-up lends itself to a beta hero, as Brishen is willing to do his duty—however distasteful–and make the best of it rather than resenting the circumstances. They quickly learn to be honest with each other and frank about their cultural (and indeed species) differences. Brishen wins his bride over with his humor, kindness, and respect—all hallmarks of a great beta hero. As this excerpt shows, the agency of the heroine is often underscored in stories with beta heroes, which is one of the things I like about them most.

The laughter faded but their smiles remained. Brishen’s thinned a little. “What do you want to do, Ildiko?”

He had asked a question Ildiko thought she’d never hear in her lifetime. No one ever asked her what she wanted; they only told her what she was to do and say. For a moment she was struck dumb. He waited patiently as she gathered her thoughts.

Radiance by Grace Draven

Because beta heroes generally value compassion over status or control, there are some traits or stereotypes that are often paired with beta heroes. They are often written as scholars or geniuses rather than soldiers or commanders. This association with being quiet or nerdy is a natural fit, which is part of what makes Jadrek from Oathbreakers by Mercedes Lackey a quintessential beta hero.

As a scholar who relies on his knowledge and book learning to help Tarma and Kethry, Jadrek often underestimates himself and lacks confidence with women, showing the very sweetest side of a beta hero. Oathbreakers is a romantic fantasy with an epic fantasy storyline, so the love story between Kethry and Jadrek is an important subplot, not the main focus of the novel. Because of this, the relationship development happens more as part of the other action, yet the romance still gets me in the feels every time—especially when Kethry finally admits her growing attraction…

“It’s you I admire, Jadrek; the mind, the person. You’re something special—something those pretty bodies downstairs aren’t, and probably never will be.”

Very hesitantly, he leaned forward and kissed her. She returned the kiss as passionately as she dared, and suddenly he responded by embracing her and prolonging the kiss until she was breathless.

When they broke apart, his gray eyes were dark with confusion. “Kethry—”

“There are more comfortable places to be doing this,” she said, very softly. “Over there, for one.” She nodded at the curtained bed, half-hidden in the shadows.

He blushed. He blushed even harder when she led him there by the hand, and all but pushed him down onto it. “I—” he stammered, looking past her. “Kethry, I’m not—very experienced at this sort of—”

“You were doing just fine a moment ago,” she interrupted…

Oathbreakers by Mercedes Lackey

While sexual inexperience is often found in beta heroes, it is not a necessary trait. Harlan, from Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy, is more sexually experienced than Ursula, the heroine of this fantasy romance. Harlan also breaks the beta mold in other ways, as a skilled swordsman and the leader of his own band of mercenaries. He is confident and assured of himself, yet he has no trouble deferring to Ursula, letting her take the lead in many milestones in their relationship, and stepping back when she takes charge–an important mindset for a man who wants to partner with a powerful ruler. Because Ursula is so emotionally cut off and determined to stand alone, Harlan’s compassion and tenderness are exactly what she needs—even if she can’t admit it to herself at first. He is the perfect foil for her harrowing emotional journey. Harlan himself puts it best—

“There is no shame in feeling emotion. It doesn’t make you weak. Strength is in bearing our wounds, living through them, and carrying forward regardless—not in pretending they never existed.”

The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy

Beta heroes can add emotional depth and texture to books already filled with wonder and magic. Do you have any favorites for me to add to my TBR pile? Let me know in the comments!

About the Author

Jaycee Jarvis has been an avid romance reader since devouring all the Sweet Dreams books her middle school library had to offer. Also a fantasy fan from an early age, she often wished those wondrous stories had just a bit more kissing. Now she writes stories with a romantic heart set against a magical backdrop, creating the kind of book she most likes to read.

When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children and a menagerie of pets.

Learn more about her around the web:

She enjoys writing beta heroes as much as she loves reading about them. Her latest book, Deadly Courtship, features an empath who isn’t afraid to bare his heart.

In a world rife with elemental magic, can a bard with a knack for predicting the future help a warrior face her painful past?

Han-Triguard Magdalena turned her back on her heritage and her family in order to pursue life as a Hand, honor bound to serve as a Protector in the tropical market town of Trimble. She never regrets putting duty first until a string of brutal murders changes everything.

Her former lover, the attractive musician Jasper, stands accused. Madi knows the gentle empath could never kill anyone, but her word alone is not enough to protect him. Even worse, one of the other victims is a member of her old clan, for whom justice is entirely out of reach.

As Madi begins to question the demands of her work, Jasper asks her to give safe haven to his brother’s orphans. With the children, Jasper has the family he’s always wanted, a dream Madi has never shared. Living in close quarters, their attraction combusts while Madi is beset by unwanted tenderness for the children. When a new threat looms, Madi vows to protect their future, make peace with her past, and maybe find a love worth fighting for.

If only she can stop the killer in time…

Available on Amazon and through KindleUnlimited:

Janeen Ippolito: Write a Good Loser: Love Triangles Beyond the Indecisive Protagonist

I love love triangles in romantic arcs. Granted, in some circles, this is akin to saying I love Brussels sprouts or chicken gizzards. But as it turns out, I enjoy those things as well, so I’ll own love triangles—and hopefully convince you that you might love, or at least tolerate, the awesome triangles more than you think. (Don’t worry, I won’t try to argue for the sprouts!)

Love triangles often get a bad rap in fiction because of Twilight. The infamous Bella Swan is the frail, doe-eyed teenager who doesn’t know her own mind or heart fully, clearly hung up on vampire Edward Cullen. Yet she strings along werewolf Jacob Black because she’s, well… a frail, insecure, doe-eyed teenager who doesn’t know her own mind or heart fully. Whether or not you appreciate the triangle depends mostly on whether you can identify with her, which can be a tough sell for readers outside the book’s target audience.

Because the Twilight books were so dang popular, now all everyone thinks of in terms of “love triangle” is two very attractive male characters who for some reason hang around so that the main character can choose between them. If this is your particular brand of wish fulfillment, all right then. However, love triangles existed in many forms before Twilight, and they continue to exist afterwards, in a much wider variety that is insanely useful for great romantic storytelling.

Love and Romance are Messy

Sometimes the “loser” loses his mind…

At their core, love triangles have a sense of realism. They operate with the understanding that love and romance is messy, and that someone can be attractive to more than person. This happens all the time in real life—as anyone who has been “friend-zoned” can attest to. There’s a painful truth to the concept of liking or loving someone who doesn’t reciprocate your affections.

The major growth often occurs in the character of the “love triangle loser.” Whether this growth is positive or negative is up to you, of course—there’s something kind of awesome about a character turning dark because they didn’t get what they wanted. In my steampunk fantasy series, The Ironfire Legacy, it’s revealed that a main villain turned dark because his destined true love was literally taken from him “For The Good Of The Kingdom.” The kingdom overturned their own rules about fated mates and exerted much pressure on the woman, so that the prince could have her instead of her One True Pairing. Major burn there!

A love triangle where both choices are pretty good…

And that’s where I find a lot of the emotional resonance of a love triangle—in that beautiful, brutal realism that you can’t always just get what you want, and if you let that fact embitter you, it can poison the very love you claim to have. You don’t have a full love triangle until you know who loses and why they lose.

Of course, all of this requires a great deal of smart characterization to figure out why these two characters are attracted to the same person. What do each of them uniquely see in this individual? Are they projecting their own ideas onto the person? How do they think the person will complete them—and are they right or wrong? Who is the best fit for the character—or the best fit for the story you’re trying to tell?

Characters Grow From Love Triangles

A love triangle that’ll put your emotions through the wringer…

A love triangle should create plot problems and force each character to grow to figure out where they stand. One of my favorite love triangles is in J.M. Butler’s romantic fantasy series The Tue-Rah Chronicles. Such a wonderful mess of twisting fate! I’ll try to limit spoilers, but the heroine is meant to be with Naatos thanks to an arranged marriage that was sealed when she was a child. But then the heroine is turned towards another man because of outside forces meddling with her soul and his. When the truth is revealed, the heroine breaks up with the other man, even though Naatos, her arranged marriage fellow, is pretty much a huge jerk. In this case, our noble heroine is trying to allow the other man to go off and live his own life. But of course, life can’t be that simple—how awful would it be to not only lose in a love triangle, but to lose it because the person you love is married to a villain who is trying to take over all these worlds? And plus, that soul-meddling has side effects, leaving all kinds of loose threads between the heroine and the other man. Cue much angst and anger and hard situations that contribute wonderfully to the main plot!

…Love triangles are a great way to show how love (or lack thereof) reflects on the individual characters and moves them along in their journeys. It’s about making those hard choices, growing up, and everyone learning more about themselves.

Yes, if you haven’t guessed, we love triangle fans love us some angst, feels, and character growth. The best love triangles come not from the main character merely “choosing between two delicious love interests.” Rather, love triangles are a great way to show how love (or lack thereof) reflects on the individual characters and moves them along in their journeys. It’s about making those hard choices, growing up, and everyone learning more about themselves. This is likely why you find love triangles so much in YA stories, because YA is all about coming of age and figuring out your identity. But if your main character can be wonderfully stressed out by two people chasing them, or if they can be flustered by chasing the same individual as another person, a love triangle is a great fit.

And as a side hustle, you could start a t-shirt business for your various love triangle options. If you do, let me know… I might need them for Team Brussels Sprouts vs. Team Chicken Gizzards!

What are your favorite love triangles in fantasy and why? Share in the comments!

About the Author

Janeen Ippolito writes unique words that change our world. She writes steampunk fantasy with shifters, and creates writing resources, including the reference book World Building From the Inside Out and the creative writing guide Irresistible World Building For Unforgettable Stories.

She’s an experienced teacher, editor, author coach, marketer, and is the leader of Uncommon Universes Press, a small science fiction and fantasy publishing house. She’s also the cohost of the podcast Indie Book Magic. Whether brainstorming a plot twist, developing a course, or analyzing marketing angles, she’s happiest when creating solutions that get unique words written, polished, published, and noticed in the ever-changing publishing industry.

In her spare time, Janeen enjoys sword-fighting, reading, pyrography, and eating brownie batter. Two of her goals are eating fried tarantulas and traveling to Antarctica. 

This extroverted writer loves getting connected, so find her on:

Janeen also writes love triangles in her own work! Her recent release is Lawless, the first book in The Ironfire Legacy series:

A dragon felon, a forsaken prince, and a jaded airship captain walk into a city—and everything explodes.

Dragonshifter convict Kesia Ironfire has one goal: to redeem herself as a soldier in the dragon-human war.

A rogue mission to spy on a new airship is the perfect way to win the trust of her superiors, as long as she collects useful intel. Then the airship explodes into sickening green smoke, leaving Kesia and her tactical partner Zephryn Nightstalker in cold water and under house arrest. Kesia is sure a little more investigation won’t hurt—and her curiosity earns them the death sentence.

Kesia and Zephryn flee to the human military capital, where Captain Shance Windkeeper is furloughed after the destruction of his airship and avoiding a most unwanted countess threatening an arranged marriage. Eager to discover what—and who—blew up his vessel, he helps Kesia and Zephryn infiltrate High Command. In exchange, Kesia must pretend to be Shance’s betrothed. Kesia has never heard of a betrothal, but it can’t be that complicated.

And human social customs are the least of her worries. Dark secrets emerge as Kesia searches for answers in the heart of High Command. Secrets that undermine her criminal status and the war itself.

Available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited!

Ines Johnson: Girl On Her Own Horse (Tropes in Fantasy Romance)

Have you been paying attention to the evolution of the Cinderella story? If you’ve watched the Disney blockbuster Frozen, then you have. Young girls and women are no longer waiting around for a man to come by on his horse, sweep them off their feet, and give them shoes.

Okay… I doubt any of us would turn down the shoes!

Cinderella swaps her glass slippers for combat boots in this fairytale fantasy. 

My point is that women are now taking the reins of their own stories and rejecting the Cinderella trope of changing themselves into someone new. In many, dare I say most, of these stories, the prince doesn’t pay attention to the Cinderella character in her ordinary world of working 9-5 p.m. with grime under her nails and threadbare clothes. He doesn’t look her way until she gets magicked into expertly applied makeup, a binding, shape-shifting corset, and brand-new shoes.

My first notice of this was in the film Working Girl. This ’80s retelling of the Cinderella story featured a bright secretary who had dreams of entering the board room with a briefcase instead of coffee. When her wicked boss steals her idea, the secretary seizes an opportunity to steal into a high-profile business meeting by pretending that she’s her boss, while also wearing her boss’s dress and shoes. Melanie Griffith, as the secretary, uses Harrison Ford’s charming character to get her into the board room’s door. When the business deal goes south, Griffith doesn’t wait for the knight in a business suit to rescue her. Instead, she shows off her “head for business and bod for sin” in order to win a business deal, thwart her boss, and get her man.

In this Edwardian retelling of Cinderella, the heroine is a katana-wielding zombie slayer!

A decade later, Drew Barrymore retold the Cinderella story in Ever After. In a pivotal scene when Barrymore’s character, Danielle, has been taken prisoner by the evil Pierre Le Pieu, the audience holds their breath as the prince leaps onto his horse and heads off to rescue her. But Danielle picks up not one, but two swords, and swashbuckles her way to an escape. As she’s walking out of the castle a free woman, the prince arrives moments too late with her shoe in hand.

In this reverse Cinderella retelling, the hero is the one looking to go from rags to riches…

Nearly another decade later came another retelling with Penelope. Penelope is an heiress born under a curse that can only be broken in the face of true love. The problem? Penelope’s face doesn’t inspire sonnets and poems as much as it does a hankering for breakfast meats. Penelope’s snout nose has caused her to be rejected her whole life, including rejection from her own mother. When she finally finds a man willing to tolerate her looks and break the curse, she comes to the realization that she likes herself just the way she is. And just like that, the curse is broken and Penelope’s outside matches her glowing inside.

In today’s stories, women don’t wait around for men on horses. They take the reins, defend themselves, and declare love to their own reflections. They’re now even qualified to deliver true love’s kiss to their own sisters as we saw in the blockbuster Frozen.

What are your favorite books with heroines who save themselves? Share in the comments!

About the Author

Lover of fairytales, folklore, and mythology, Ines Johnson spends her days reimagining the stories of old in a modern world. She writes books where damsels cause the distress, princesses wield swords, and moms save the world.

Want a modern-day fairytale retelling? Check out her Cindermama series. Rather see 21st century women kicking ass with a touch of sword and sorcery? Check out her Misadventures of Dame Galahad series. Or want a bit of magic in your love story? Check out her Knights of Caerleon series.

You can find her and her books at www.ineswrites.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ineswrites/

Ines’ recent release is One Knight, the second book in her Knights of Caerleon series:

Sir Lancelot will make you swoon in this steamy, modern-day adventure of valiant knights, sassy witches and the death of chivalry!

Lance has loved Lady Gwin for a hundred years. Though he’s the best knight in Camelot, his low birth ensured that she was beyond his suit, and so she was promised to another. But when Lance and Gwin’s lips accidentally meet, Lance flees Camelot, rushing into battle recklessly to avoid conquering the one quest he’s never completed: having the noble Lady Gwin in his arms.

Lady Gwin has been living a lie for a hundred years. Her arranged marriage linked two powerful families, ensuring her place among her people—but her vows were never consummated, and the union to a treasonous wizard is a sham. Now, she’s ready to tell the world the truth, starting with the man who captured her heart just before her wedding day. But when a stolen kiss sends Lance running unprepared into a dangerous mission, Gwin is determined to save him.

Though forbidden love has drawn them together, the pressures of society and the pursuit of a deadly enemy threaten to tear Lance and Gwin apart. In a place as steeped in ancient tradition and duty as Camelot, following their hearts could spell disaster.


One Knight is the second book in a series of modern-day retellings of the myths and lore of Camelot. If you like fierce knights who would lay down their lives for their brothers and lose their hearts for their women, then you’ll love the Knights of Caerleon.

Claire Luana: On Romance Tropes

Tropes often get a bad rap, especially tropes in romance novels. A trope is defined as a common or overused theme or device—which sounds negative—but I would argue that we see the same tropes showing up in book after book because we love to read them! Take the Happily Ever After (HEA), for example. This trope has become so integral to the genre of romance that experts will say a romance without a HEA doesn’t even qualify as a romance.

Many readers are split on whether they love or hate it when certain tropes show up in their latest read. I thought I’d weigh in on a few I see frequently, and give you a few recommendations, in case you love the particular trope, or would like to give it a second chance!

Enemies to Lovers

I have to admit, this is one of my favorite romance tropes! I can think of little more enjoyable to read than the fireworks between two people who loathe each other…until they realize what they thought was hate is actually love! There’s so much great emotion and chemistry behind this trope, and there’s a lot that an author can do with it. This one is solidly in my YES column!

Some great enemies-to-lover romances I recommend:  

Love Triangle

This one definitely gets a lot of heat from critics. I admit, it does seem a bit overused, and it’s not one of my favorites. I don’t like that someone gets left out and doesn’t get their HEA. (Maybe that’s why Reverse Harem has become so popular lately!) But if done well, it can be super compelling. For me, I’ll happily read a love triangle if there’s sufficient depth and character development.

If love triangles are your thing, try:

Soulmates/Mates

This trope is especially popular in shifter/wolf romance, as well as fae romance. I don’t like the mates trope when it is used as a stand-in for relationship building. I want to see the characters fall in love—I don’t like it when they realize they’re mates, and so *shrug*, decide to be together. On the other hand, the slow inevitable realization of soulmate status can be amazing to read. So this is another one that I’m mixed on!

Forbidden Love

I admit, I usually love this one! Is there anything better than two people who are so desperate to be together that they will overcome whatever obstacles and barriers are put in their way? To find love, whatever the cost? (Insert satisfied sigh here…)

Some great forbidden love reads are:

Alpha Male

With the crazy success of Fifty Shades of Grey, for a while there you couldn’t crack a romance without bumping into a controlling, possessive, alpha male hero. I find myself liking alpha males in context. If the society, time period, or fantasy setting they are in provides context for why they are acting all alpha, I’m way more likely to enjoy that type of read. If the book is in modern times and the hero is just a misogynistic jerk, no thanks!

What are your favorite or most loathed tropes in romance? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

Claire Luana grew up reading everything she could get her hands on and writing every chance she could. Eventually, adulthood won out, and she turned her writing talents to more scholarly pursuits, going to work as a commercial litigation attorney. While continuing to practice law, Claire decided to return to her roots and try her hand once again at creative writing. She has written and published the Moonburner Cycle and is currently finishing a new trilogy about magical food, the Confectioner Chronicles.

She lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband and two dogs. In her (little) remaining spare time, she loves to hike, travel, binge-watch CW shows, and of course, fall into a good book. Connect with Claire Luana online at:

Her latest series is a reverse-harem fantasy that begins with The Fifth Knight, co-authored with Jesikah Sundin.

Four cursed knights. One warrior princess. A faerie sword that binds their lives together.

Fionna’s only hope to save her family lies across the Irish Sea. As a warrior princess of Ulster, the rival clann holding her father and sister for ransom knows she’ll pay any price to get them back. But even she couldn’t predict the task set before her—to steal a faerie sword from a king.

The Kingdom of Caerleon is dying under Morgan la Fay’s dark magic. Her vengeful curse has locked Excalibur in its scabbard, placing Arthur Pendragon’s kingship in jeopardy. Now Arthur and his sword brothers—Lancelot, Galahad, and Percival—have but one hope. The fifth knight. The one foretold by Merlin who will break the curse and heal the land.

But Arthur and his sword brothers didn’t expect the warrior to be a fierce and captivating woman. Or the legendary White Fay, prophesied by Morgan la Fay to destroy Caerleon by claiming the heart of a king and three sworn knights.

The Fifth Knight is a Reverse Harem tale of betrayal and fated love. Get it here!