May Chen
Editor, Avon Romance

Sign: Scorpio

Favorite Snack: Cheetos

Favorite New Reality TV Show (now that American Idol is off the air):
So You Think You Can Dance?

Pet: A calico cat named Chloe.
Here’s her picture:

Don’t let her pert cuteness fool you—she likes to bite.

Favorite Baseball Team: The Yankees

Favorite Book by a New Author (not including the ones I’ve worked on, of course): Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Favorite Romance Novel:
Possible tie between Remember When by Jude Deveraux and
Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught

A Sampling from The Infamous Proust Questionnaire:

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
To be separated from my cheetos.

Where would you like to live?
Anywhere bigger than my one bedroom apartment.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
To eat a plate of chili cheese fries and not get sick.

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?
Heathcliffe. Always, only Heathcliff.

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
I have only one: Wonderwoman.
Who wouldn’t want a pair of bullet-proof gold cuffs—they’re fashionable and practical.

The quality you most admire in a man?
Supreme self-confidence.

Your favorite occupation?
Besides being an editor, I like napping.

Possible conversation starters:

Lately I’ve been discussing with my colleagues and authors about Alpha heroes versus Beta-plus heroes (sensitive men who only really get tough when their backs are against the wall ). What does everyone think about this? I grew up reading Kathleen Woodiwiss, Diana Palmer, Christina Skye, Iris Johansen, Judith McNaught and Linda Howard. The men in their books were definitely more aggressive, sometimes to the point of being overbearing (or even abusive!) to the heroines, but I find that over the past few years in the romances I’ve read the heroes are more in touch with their lady loves’ feelings. What do we all think about this? Do we like the evolution of the hero? Is this what younger, newer readers are used to and want? Or does anyone miss the laconic, gruff hero of old? Have readers’ fantasies changed?


Blogger TJBrown said:

I think the changes our heroes are going through are keeping pace with our expectations of the men in our life. Most women I know are frazzled and while we may dream of an alpha hero, we also want someone who can sense when we are going over the edge and will respond by doing the dishes or giving us a back rub.

But then, I've always been a sucker for the sensitive musician type:)

3:27 AM  

Blogger Fertile Soul said:

I grew up on Alpha heroes and still enjoy them (not the overly aggressive ones) but i think the tide is shifting back towards the heroes that launched this genre, like Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightly, as in Mark Darcy of Bridge Jones or (my personal favorite) Jack Callaghan of While You Were Sleeping.

5:31 AM  

Blogger MariaGeraci said:

I think most readers of today still want an alpha hero, but mixed with a few superficial beta traits. So maybe on the outside, a smoother, beta look? But when the going gets rough, I think deep down, alpha guy needs to emerge!

Love the blog look, btw!

6:23 AM  

Blogger Bookstoredeb said:

I love them both. It seems that no matter how independent and strong we are, there are days when an alpha male would be wonderful. Just take care of everything and give me a break! However, the beta male is more of what we normally find in daily life, my DH for example. He is pretty laid back for the most part and usually tries to make the best of a situation but in a crisis, I know he is my rock and will take care of me and whatever else that needs to be done. He will stand up to whatever life throws at him and still manage to give me the occasional back rub or just the hug I need after an average day of stress. Now to me, that's a hero!

6:49 AM  

Anonymous kathie said:

I do like the sensitive/tough guy. I don't mind a guy who is offensive and rough around the edges at first, but not abusive to the heroine. Is there a man who isn't cranky as all get out at some point? Except for the husband on Medium. That guy's a fantasy if I ever saw one. Thanks for the blog!

8:52 AM  

Blogger Kelly said:

I'm all for the tough alpha hero but there's a line btw tough and being just plain horrid. Toughness doesn't exclude sensitivity. Like the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man. Crusty on the outside, soft on the inside.

9:28 AM  

Blogger Mel Francis said:

Do I want to be married to a total Alpha male? No. Kill me now.

Do I want to fantasize about him? Do I want to pretend he wants me bad? Yup. Alpha all the way.

I was 15 when I fell in love with Woodiwiss' Wulfgar and Ruark Beauchamp (who is still my ultimate hero). I love to read the modernized version of these guys. I hope that's the kinda guy I'm writing...

9:38 AM  

Blogger Terri said:

I'm a Beta-plus kind of girl. :-) I'm attracted to men who are manly when it counts, but self-confident enough to show their softer side, whether it's admitting they like cats *gasp*, or playing make-believe with the kids.

My ex-Marine hubby is perfect example- always ready to step up and take the heat when need be, without 'macho' posturing or unnecessary aggressiveness. I love to read about heroes who don't need to 'prove' their manliness, because they're comfortable with who they are.

9:55 AM  

Blogger Kerrelyn Sparks said:

Hi May!
I love the alpha male, but toned down a bit-- no abuse, please! That's just not romantic to me. Since I write comedy, I don't mind if the guy is a bit clueless when it comes to understanding our feelings. There's a lot of humor in the innate differnces between the male and female. For me, the hero needs to be strong, intelligent, loyal, honorable, and have a sense of humor. And the heroine needs to be strong enough to stand up to him.

Great blog!
See you in Atlanta!

10:04 AM  

Blogger Kathryn S said:

May, do you find it hard to hold a pencil with no thumbs? Somehow I think you're lovlier in real life than in your picture. lol.

I think fantasies have changed. I think we as women (and readers) like men who can help us out, cheer us up AND sweep us off our feet.

Give me a hero who can get the job done but not take himself too seriously and I'm there. I like those same traits in a heroine as well.

10:29 AM  

Anonymous Robyn DeHart said:

Pass those cheetos!

I think the problem I always had with true Alpha males was their lack of a sense of humor. At least on the page, I'm sure at home these fellows were total riots. That's one thing I loved about A Rose in Winter - you got both kinds of heroes in one book, talk about a fantasy come true.

Amanda Quick always wrote my favorite heroes though. The Beta-plus, I guess is what they were (great term, btw) intelligent, if not a little geeky, but buff and strong and passionate.

11:06 AM  

Blogger May Chen said:

Thank you all for posting--please keep your comments coming! We love to know what our readers want.

I agree, I don't want to read the abusive heroes anymore--raping the heroine is so passe--but I do like a little toughness in my fantasy hero. I think Julie Garwood did a great job in creating a balanced and sexy hero.

11:36 AM  

Blogger Jenna Petersen said:

Alpha is hard because there is a balance. Abusive isn't heroic, but I think alpha is the fantasy because this is a man who is going to sweep in and take care of everything. He's going to push your boundaries and give you fantasies you didn't even know you had. So to write a good alpha, you have to balance between him taking over and him going too far.

11:37 AM  

Blogger LaGena said:

As long as the story is captivating and the match between hero and heroine works, it doesn't matter to me whether he's alpha or beta+. I like variety!

12:21 PM  

Blogger Jill James said:

I want an Alpha who is crusty and tough for a reason. And the love of a good woman has to break through that shell and I guess, make him a Beta + by the end of the story.

2:54 PM  

Blogger Karen said:

Welcome to the blogosphere!
I love reading Alpha males. Mostly because I'd never put up with that sort of attitude in real life *G*.
Hope to see much information on authors, editors, and behind-the-cover insight, in addition to book blurbs here on the blog!

3:53 PM  

Blogger Gayle Callen said:

Hi May!

I have to say, Kathie mentioned the husband on "Medium," and I don't think he's a fantasy. Did you see the big kiss in the rain in the season finale, when he walked through the rain, whirled her around and kissed her? Talk about a beta guy showing he can be alpha when he wants to. That was a hot scene. I think that's what we all want from a hero--a little bit of both. And Mel mentioned Ruark Beauchamp of "Shanna." Yep, he's one of my all-time faves too!

5:54 PM  

Blogger Kathryn S said:

OMG -- Joe on Medium! Yes! He's fabulous! Definitely a beta with an inner alpha. And Gayle, you are so right about the kiss in the rain. I was watching with Steve, and even he noticed! I think he actually made a comment, "Now THERE'S a hero for ya!" lol.

I love the combination of the alpha and beta. There's nothing sexier than a man capable of great tenderness AND great strength. Yum!

6:13 PM  

Anonymous Sierra Donovan said:

Beta. Almost without exception.

I want to read about a guy who's articulate and witty, who's tuned into what the heroine is feeling (most of the time, though he's gotta get it wrong once in a while). I want to believe the characters have something to SAY to each other, and they'll spend nights cuddling together for years on end. Hard to picture that with a crusty Alpha.

The rare exception is the Alpha who's Alpha for a really good reason, to hide some deep hurt and/or protect the tenderness underneath. You don't find many of those.

12:45 AM  

Blogger Jenna McKnight said:

I find alpha males the easiest to write, and I love to read them, too, as long as they don't go too far. They're just downright humorous, all that macho ego stuff going on in their heads.

They have to show some sensitivity, though, even if they're struggling to hide it. They must be nice to kids and pets and old ladies, even if they don't particularly like them--at first. To me, to be a true hero, they must come around eventually, and still keep that rough, clueless edge.

5:25 PM  

Blogger Camy Tang said:

I admit to a secret love of sheikhs. Dh might look like one if he wrapped himself in a sheet. And bulked up. And lost weight. And grew facial hair. And got a tan.

I love those beta males like CSI Gil Grissom. Intellectual, quirky, but strong as a character. Not a pushover.

Although come to think of it, my favorite alpha hero, Jack Bauer, can come visit me anyday. :)


3:10 AM  

Blogger Marjorie Jones said:

Hi there, Marjorie Jones here. I don't think I have a blogger account. But then, who knows? LOL

I'm of the Anne Heche variety gal (accept I'm not really all that attracted to Ellen Degeneres). Do you remember Six Days, Seven Nights? Harrison Ford looks at Anne and says something like, "I thought women wanted sensitive men." Anne says, "Not when they're being chased by pirates. When we're being chased by pirates, we want them MEAN and ARMED."

I like the Alpha+ hero, I guess. Is there such a thing? I dunno. He'd be a tough, agressive, confident go-getter, mostly armed (I love a man with a sidearm... wowsers) but depending on the moment, he can entertain the kids or build a shopping mall on a desert island with a match and a q-tip.

Oh, and it took a few minutes for the picture of Chloe to appear on my screen. So initially, I thought the comment "Don't let the her pert cuteness fool you - she likes to bite," refered to YOU ... LOL. I thought... "File this information for when you finally submit that novel to May."


11:23 AM  

Blogger Marjorie Jones said:

Hey, whatdaya know? I DO have a blogger account. *grin*

11:24 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I grew up reading the bodice rippers and I have to say--I MISS THEM!!!! They didn't need to be abusive to be Alpha--i think too may people equate dominating characteristics as abusive when they're not.

5:03 PM  

Blogger lacey kaye said:

I think I'm late to the dance here, but let me put in a vote for Beta+. I like the humorous-merry-go-lucky kind of guys! BUT I definitely like them to go alpha when backed up against the wall.

I'd have to say the only thing I don't like about Beta+ heroes is when they were simple Betas in the prequel books. Why do authors feel like they have to take a perfectly good Beta male and have Something Horrible happen to him in between books? And now I've been waiting for what feels like years to read this character's book, and he's not the same guy he was in the first two or three when he was the amiable friend. It's very disappointing.

Otherwise, my heroes can be Beta+ anyday! Yum. A guy I like love AND live with :-)

7:36 PM  

Anonymous mary reed mccall said:

Hi May,

I call the alpha-beta mix a "gamma" male. Just did a blog about it as a Guest Blogger over at Romantically Inclined, in fact.

Neat concept for discussion, that's for sure.


11:47 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

My first romance was Wicked Loving Lies, and since then I think there has been a 'dummening' of romance heroes. I'm sick to death of them being spies, solving a Scooby Doo mystery, or being such a tight-a** that they are unbearable. Think back to the last time you had sex; was it all very gentle or did you 'git it on'?! There needn't be rape to have a ||great|| Alpha hero. Let the bodice rippers come back, Avon. We've had enough secret missions already.

8:48 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

The heroes in my novels are witty, distinct, driven, successful, sometimes kind, always non-abusive, and loaded with faults. They are intruiging, have friends, values and integrity, and are able to fall in love. They are all Alphas, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Their stories are about relationship, with all the flaws, flubs, and foibles that make them real, that make them live. Attraction has no 'reason'. It just is. My heroines are soft, feminine, and strong as he*l. They are dedicated to family, occasionally save the day, and they follow their heart. That doesn't make them weak. It makes them beautiful.
These are your new Alpha Romances, Avon. Give them a try.
ps: I agree with Anonymous, above.

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