Friday Favorites: The Beta

I know a lot of readers and writers are totally enamored of their alpha heroes.  And who wouldn’t be?  They’re a strong, incredibly motivated, take-charge kind of guy.

But what about the other males in the book?  The best friend, the sidekick, in some cases, the comic relief.  Do you have a favorite among the betas in books?

In my books, I’m probably most partial to Thomas Knowlton, Earl of Brayton, in Time Enough to Love.  Now, I know early on in the first book, Betrothal, Thomas does not show himself in a very sympathetic light.  He’s jealous of Geoffrey’s attentions to his betrothed and his anger gets the better of him, causing him to make trouble between the couple.  But Thomas learns the error of his ways and comes to value the friendship of both Geoffrey and Alyse.  Here’s a little snippet from the point where Thomas has an epiphany regarding Alyse.

He lifted his carefully penitent face to hers, opened his mouth to speak, then paused, as if he would change his mind. His eyes widened, as if with some revelation, and his mask of composure seemed swept away, leaving in its wake a man full of contrition.

“Lady Alyse de Courcy. You see before you a man with a contrite heart who would ask your gracious mercy. In my infinite folly, I have spoken words against your gentle character that were false and slanderous. They have, indeed, caused you much pain. I acknowledge these words were spoken without true understanding of your intellect or your kind, generous nature and therefore were falsely judgmental.” Here Thomas peered into her eyes beseechingly. “I sincerely regret the grievous harm I have done you, lady. Had I the power to recall those words, they would have never been spoken. I regret that is not within the realm of God’s mercy. I can only offer what little I have, and therefore lay my hand and my heart before you. If it is within your kind nature to forgive a wretch such as I, I swear my hand to your service and my heart to your purpose, what’ere it may be, from this day forward.”

Stunned and touched by the sincere words, Alyse sat silent for several moments,  amazed that there had been none of the glib courtier in that apology. His words had come not from his head, but from his heart. An unexpected turn of events. The primary reason she had declined to hear his apology was her fear that it would be all pretty words with no  true feeling behind them. To her shame, she had sorely misjudged him. There had been too much honesty in his words for her to doubt his sincerity, too much genuine remorse in his warm brown eyes at the end to mistrust him. 

I like a man who admits when he’s wrong.  And a little grovelling never hurt either.  Still, Thomas is a very charismatic character, though he’s actually a beta, and I’ve grown very fond of him.

So, who’s your favorite beta male?  Please share him with us!

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11 Responses to Friday Favorites: The Beta

  1. That was a great snippet, Jenna. I actually really like a lot of the betas and secondary characters in different stories and find myself wanting to know more about them. :)

  2. My problem is my beta (secondary male characters) end up screaming at me to put them in their own books. I have two series going (one paranormal and one contemp western) because my secondary characters wouldn’t stay secondary…LOL

  3. Great topic, Jenna. I really had to think about this. I realized that I don’t usually think of any of the other male characters in my books as “betas” but rather as “alphas” who don’t have their stories on paper yet. Still, I think maybe I can pin one down. In my book The Strong, Silent Type I have a brief scene between the hero, Drake Stillwater, and his older brother Buck Stillwater. Buck is a confident man despite being wheelchair-bound. He has a sense of humor and a winning attitude. He’s only “beta” because Drake is “alpha” in that book. Later, I gave Buck his own story, a free short on my website: “A Mouse in His Pocket.”

    Brothers often take the “beta” role in my books. I don’t know why that would be, but it works for me. :)

  4. When I first started writing The Notorious Lady Anne, her hero was supposed to be beta. I thought it would be really cool to have an alpha female and beta male. Alas, it didn’t stay that way. Nicholas refused to be beta. LOL.

    There is one beta male I fell in love with and believe it or not I can’t remember his name. JoAnn Ross wrote it and he was an ex priest. I remember I couldn’t wait for his book to come out but it took so long to come out that I never did read it. I’m going to go find it now because I really liked him. LOL

  5. Carrie-Anne says:

    One of my favorite Betas is Nikolas Andreyevich Vishinskiy of my Russian novels. Male lead Ivan has two best friends after his former best friend Boris turns out to be a gigantic scumbag and villain. While Aleksey and his wife Eliisabet are always seen as a peaceful contrast to the often tumultuous relationship Ivan has with his Lyuba, Nikolas and his Katriyana (Kat) are a different story in contrasts. I can relate to NIkolas, since he’s a serious, bookish intellectual who cares more for reading and debating ideas than things like sporting, dancing, and parties. And though his real name is Nikolay, he’s been going by the Greek form of his name since he was 12 and fell in love with the ancient Greek philosophers.

    This is a scene from the sequel, where Nikolas is finally woken up to how much trouble his marriage and household are in, due to years of ignoring his wife’s deep unhappiness at not being able to work and having more kids than she wanted (three sets of twins!). Though he’s always been a Beta, here he finally mans up and takes control. He’s just woken up in the middle of the night and found a suicide note from Kat, indicating she’s gone to drown herself in the East River.

    Nikolás tosses back the covers and frantically pulls on a pair of slippers, not bothering to waste his time by fumbling for socks and shoes when time is of the essence. He doesn’t even bother locking the door when he rushes out of the apartment and down the stairs, almost tripping in the dark. He starts running as soon as he gets out the front door of the building, hoping he remembers the way to the East River in the dark and that he’s taking the same route Kat chose.

    As he runs towards the river, he screams his wife’s name and looks around frantically for her. He doesn’t bother to stop the few people he sees, since he knows stopping to ask them if they saw a slim woman with dark blue eyes and raven hair would just slow him down and waste precious moments.

    Once he reaches the waterfront after what feels like hours, he sees the line of boats tethered to the dock, the boats he knows are used to row three miles out to the anchored boats with alcohol. Feeling relieved he won’t have to use his weak swimming skills or have to potentially carry his wife’s body while swimming, he jumps into a rowboat and struggles to untie the knot. He doesn’t see a cop come up and start looking in his direction as he’s starting to row aimlessly into the river, continuing to scream Kat’s name.

    Nikolás has no idea how much time has passed by the time he finally catches sight of something floating below the water. He reaches over to lift it up and finds a dead body he doesn’t recognize. Recoiling in horror, he continues rowing up and down the length of the waterfront, hoping he isn’t pulled into the Atlantic Ocean.

    He stops rowing, his heart still pounding, after what feels like another eternity has passed. He can just make out the shape of her face, though her eyes are closed and her entire body from the neck down is submerged in the water. Praying the boat doesn’t tip over and send him into the river too, he stands up and begins trying to pull her into the skiff. Right about now he wishes he’d thought to bring a lantern with him, or at least some kind of rope or crook to help with reeling her in.

    Kat remains unresponsive when he finally succeeds in lugging her entire limp, water-saturated body into the skiff. He throws himself over her, hoping to warm her up, and feels a very weak pulse coming from her.

    “You’re right that I ignored your pleas to not have more kids before you wanted them. I know our family and the Konevs have been having a harder time than all our other friends with making ends meet, and I just kept on listening to my own selfish desires. I wasn’t living in reality. I’m as much as stupid romantic dreamer as Konev if I thought love could solve all our problems. I didn’t want to face it for fear of admitting I was wrong and that we were struggling more than I wanted to believe. I was the only one being selfish all along. I had a dream of some great big happy family, as though you could make a big family when only one spouse wants it, and when you don’t have a lot of money. You’ve got to forgive me for this when you get better.”

    Nikolás remembers where they are and begins rowing back to the dock as fast as he can manage, hoping he didn’t just waste vital moments by talking to his unconscious wife when he could’ve been already at the dock and getting help. Right about now he wishes he’d been more into athletics than intellectual pursuits. A real man would know how to row a boat properly, he thinks to himself, not have a hard time steering the oar straight.

    “Where’s your alcohol?” he hears someone saying when the front of the boat finally touches the dock. “How much did you pick up out there?”

    “No, I have no alcohol on me. I vas not in za river to go to za boats vit alcohol. My vife, she’s tried to kill herself tvice already zis veek, and tonight I found a suicide note saying she vent here to drown herself. I used zis skiff to look for her, and I found her in a very bad state. Search us both if you vant, but ve don’t have any alcohol on us. All I vant is to take my vife to za hospital.”

    The cop shines his lantern onto Nikolás and doesn’t see any oversized clothing that could be covering up alcohol, nor a hat, cane, or shoes that might have smaller quantities in hidden compartments. When Nikolás gets out of the boat, the cop sees no bottles, containers, or double-use items like coconuts or eggs. Only Kat’s limp form is in the rowboat.

  6. Starfox Howl says:

    This is from a work in progress. Not sure if you’d call Patrick a Beta or not. But here goes:

    It was near midday when we heard the roar of the waterfalls. An hour later we actually found them.
    I checked the map and it showed only one section of falls and the distance from base to crown was slightly more than twenty five meters. What stood before us was two sections of falls were the lower portion was twenty meters or so. The upper section was more than forty meters.
    Master Charles turned to face us and pointed back up the trail.
    We turned around and made our way back to a clearing we had passed a half hour before. It was far enough away that we could still hear the falls, but we didn’t have to shout to make ourselves heard.
    “There was no way we could make it to the top of the falls by nightfall and it didn’t look as if there was a place to bivouac between sections. We’ll attempt it in the morning, after a good night’s sleep for everyone.” The last I knew was directed at me.
    Once Master Charles decided on our campsite, I dropped my pack and followed it to the ground. It was barely mid-day and I was already feeling the effects of our march that had started at first light. I was glad that we were going to be resting the remainder of the day. When we started this hike, I hadn’t realized exactly how hard it would be. The first day hadn’t been so bad, but by the end of the second day, it was sheer willpower to not disappoint Master that kept me walking.
    It was too early to start cooking the afternoon meal, so I busied myself getting tarps and setting up our primitive camp. It didn’t take long to stake out a ground cloth and string our larger tarp as a shelter fly. Five minutes later, I had all the packs stored under the fly, then turned around to see where everyone had gone.
    I couldn’t help but chuckle at the antics of Master and his wives. All three of them had jumped into the river, naked as newborns and were splashing in the water like little kids on a hot summer afternoon.
    By the Earth Mother they are beautiful, the thought whispered through my head. Tall, powerful, god and goddess warriors each of them. A shiver ran up my spine as I watched them play, a realization that I loved each of them. I had known so many people before, my partners, my play toy slaves and acquaintances at the various clubs. I had known them, but that had been all. I had not loved them and had not been loved by them.
    I choked back the bark of laughter that threatened to break free. Oh, that was irony at its best, or worst. It took being transformed by the Novians into a submissive toy boy, with nothing of his own, pledged to a Master and two Mistresses, to finally realize what had been missing from my life.
    Stripping off my field clothes, I ran across the twenty feet or so of grass and cannon-balled into the middle of the trio. When I came up for air, all three were staring at me with smiles slowly spreading across their faces and playful revenge gleaming in their eyes. Master Charles caught me as I tried to beat a hasty retreat to the safety of the riverbank.
    With one hand on my waist and the other planted firmly on my butt, he boosted me towards Mistress Anna. She caught me easily spun me like you would a doll and tossed me towards Mistress Samantha. They were chanting something about flying through the air with the greatest of ease.
    Master Charles caught me the second time by the legs and my head slapped the water. He flipped me end for end and added a half twist so I landed upright in his arms like a child. My legs went around his waist and my arms around his neck. Memories flooded back of my uncle and dad doing the same thing with me while standing on the trampoline in the back yard of our home. They laughed while I squealed with childish terror that evaporated instantly when they stopped.
    What I saw in Master Charles’s eyes while he held me was the same look my father had for me. I never knew it was love, until it was too late.
    “You okay Pet?” Master asked me.
    “Yes, Sir,” I replied, nodding.
    Master Charles set me back on my feet and we continued to play. All of them laughed at my attempts to dunk Mistress Anna or Samantha, sometimes succeeding, most times not. It didn’t matter as we were all having fun.
    It didn’t take long for me to tire, the hiking and other unaccustomed exercise taking their toll. Wading wearily ashore, I made my way over to the shelter fly to get out of the sun to rest a bit before starting the fire for dinner. My eyes closed for only a moment.

  7. I’m not partial to labeling folks, but if you twisted my arm, I’d say I do adore the Beta male characters. In my books, well, the main male in mine might be considered a little beta, since his wife has to take the alpha role. Second to him would be his best friend, of course.Love ‘em. They’re always so sweet!

  8. jerridrennen says:

    I’ve only written 1 beta in all the stories I’ve told. They are so much fun though.

  9. My favorite Betas come from some of Georgette Heyer’s books. So, far, I’ve yet to write one, so I don’t have anything to share. Loved the excerpts.

  10. Lauren Smith says:

    Wonderful Post Jenna! I’m a huge fan of secondary characters, especially male friends of the hero. They offer such a good contrast to the hero and a foil for their varying personalities!!

    Here’s a brief glimpse of my beta Ashton, of course, he’s an alpha in his own story *wink wink. Here he is trying to reassure the heroine after she’s been rejected by the hero.

    Ashton wasn’t sure what transpired between his friend and Emily, but her tears moved him more deeply than anything had moved him in years.
    Ever since Emily had come into his life, parts of his personality were reawakening. The urge to protect was the strongest now, and to punish the source of her tears, even if it was Godric who paid the price. They had all vowed to ensure her safety and that, in his eyes, included from the prevention of her tears.
    Despite her tender years, Emily was a strong woman, and until now she hadn’t cried. Godric must have done something truly terrible to leave her body wracked with inconsolable shudders, muffling tears.
    “Hush now, my dear, shh,” he murmured against her hair. She quieted at his words. “There, now. Can you tell me what happened?” Ashton cupped her chin and lifted her face up towards his so he could see those lovely violet eyes. They were rich in color after so many tears, a pair of amethysts.
    “I don’t know if I can say…” Her cheeks flared with a soft peach blush.
    “Please, Emily, I need to know. I don’t want to see you hurt again. So I must know what to protect you from.”
    Emily drew in a slow shuddering breath before she replied. “I asked Godric if I could read a book. He said that, if I wanted to, I would have to kiss him as payment.”
    Rising fury blackened Ashton’s heart.
    “I decided I didn’t mind kissing him, but I’m not so very good at it, and he said he’d teach me.”
    Ashton’s animosity for his friend grew.
    “Did he…did he force you? Did he get rough with you?” he demanded in a low dangerous growl.
    Emily shook her head vigorously.
    “Then why are you crying?”
    “It was what he said to me afterwards…He said he shouldn’t have asked a child to kiss him. A child! I must have kissed him terribly, and now he can never forgive me! He’ll never believe I’m not a child.” She buried her face in his chest again. “I can’t bear that thought!”
    Ashton was confused. He couldn’t understand what had gone wrong, for what could lead Godric to say such an odd thing? Kissing an inexperienced woman was not a bad thing. It was usually sweet to teach them the finer points of physical love. Women were always natural kissers and caught on quickly. It was men who needed practice to master the art.
    There was no reason for Godric to have said such a cruel thing, especially not when she’d done as he’d wanted and kissed him willingly.
    “Emily, look at me, dear.”
    She did.
    “What did you do when you kissed him? Can you tell me?” If she described more clearly, he might learn what had bothered his friend.
    “I just kissed him. I thought about everything you had told me and I kissed him.” Ashton’s features softened, and the shadows underneath his eyes lightened by a breath. “Did I do it wrong?”
    “No, Emily.”
    “Then why?” she demanded in an upset whisper.
    Ashton put a finger to her lips. “You have done something to Godric that no one has ever done before. It scared him, and he doesn’t know how he feels about it yet. He needs time to sort his feelings out. Can you be patient with him?”
    “But what did I do?”
    “You really don’t know, my dear?”
    Emily shook her head.
    “You kissed him from the depths of your heart.”
    “Isn’t that how everyone is supposed to kiss?”
    She was so earnest it almost tore his heart out, to realize that she was as sweet and innocent as she appeared to be. No man under this roof was worthy of such a heart as hers. Ashton held her hands together, kissing them softly before he spoke.
    “If everyone kissed as you do, I suspect men would never leave their lovers to go to war, fathers would never beat their children, and wives would never worry about unfaithful husbands because there wouldn’t be any. More of us should kiss with our hearts. Never change how you kiss Emily, never. No matter what someone tells you, remember this: what you’ve shown in your kiss is priceless.”

    • Jenna Jaxon says:

      How incredibly sweet, Lauren! Yes, I think Godric needs a dressing down myself, earth-shattering kiss or not! :) Thank you so much for coming by today and sharing Ashton with us! :)

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