My Ideal Romance Hero (or Alphas, Betas and Gammas, Oh My!)

Image purchased from Adobe Stock

This week’s blog challenge is one I can’t believe I’ve never covered here before: My Ideal Romance Hero. I AM a romance writer, after all.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I am so NOT into alpha males. (Oddly enough I just talked about this during my romance cliche presentation last weekend at the Missouri Writer’s Guild Conference.) If you don’t know what that is, an alpha male is your typical romance hero. He’s usually ripped (think Fabio) and is very masculine, confident and bold. He takes charge to take care of his woman. *shivers* I can fend for myself, thank you. All that testosterone is just not for me.

Give me a beta male any day. A beta male is more vulnerable and sensitive than an alpha. He’s shy, sweet, reliable, trustworthy, easygoing but not a pushover, quick to offer comfort, feels deeply, and avoids confrontation. As author Cynthia Eden says: “The beta, well, he’s the guy you hope to marry in real life. Dependable. Steady. You know, a nice guy. The kind you looked for after you were done playing with the bad boy.”

I wrote Alex in Been Searching for You as a beta male. He’s highly educated, works as a professor (as opposed to alpha male careers like military, cop, fire fighter, construction worker, etc.), and he even cries while reading The Fault in Their Stars. He’s got a thing for theatre and the fine things in life. He’s basically my ideal fantasy man. My Lancelot is also more beta (although he may be a gamma), whereas King Arthur is certainly an alpha, which I did on purpose. Aggrivane is all beta. So is Miles from Been Searching for You. Nick? He’s an alpha-hole. (A subcategory of asshole alphas – this is a real thing in the romance community!)

Actually, the ideal man is probably what is coming to be known in romance circles as a gamma male, a combination of alpha and beta traits. There are shy betas who morph into aggressive, take-change alphas when the heroine is threatened, and alphas who hide a softer, beta side. If I had to pick, give me the former. I’d rather have the sensitive guy who will kick ass if I need him to than the one who kicks ass, but occasionally cries. When I think gamma male, I think Ben Pearl from Interred with Their Bones, who is totally my book boyfriend. he’s an internationally security expert and he protects the hell out of Kate Stanley, but he’s also highly intelligent and is able to keep up with her PhD-level Shakespearean knowledge. *swoon*

Ladies (and men who are so inclined) what does your ideal romance hero look like, physically and in all other ways? I want to know!

Memorial Stones & the Un-happily Ever After of Arthurian Legend

The Vanora Stone (source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Vanora Stone (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Arthurian legend is one type of folk tale that certainly does not end with “and they lived happily ever after.” In fact, it’s unclear exactly what happened to our favorite characters after the battle of Camlann.* In the most familiar versions (though not all), Arthur and Mordred are killed in the battle. Guinevere enters a convent to live out her days in penitence, and Lancelot becomes a monk. Sometimes, the two lovers meet one last time, while in other stories, Lancelot is called to the side of the dying Guinevere, but arrives too late and dies of a broken heart.

What then, are we to make of the mysterious carved stones that bear their names? Are they more a part of folk legend than truth? Or did Guinevere and Lancelot seek refuge in Scotland there after the battle? Was Tristan real? Or perhaps some of the theorists are correct and they were all from the area to begin with. We likely will never know the truth. But the stones do make for some thought provoking reading.

Guinevere
According to one interpretation of a Pictish carved stone found in a Highland area called Meigle, after Guinevere was kidnapped and released from the clutches of Mordred (in this version, he’s a Pict), Arthur had her executed by ordering her torn apart by wild animals (dogs or lions, depending on who is telling the tale). Supposedly, the stone, called the Vanora stone (Vanora being a version of Guinevere) marks where she is buried and tells the story of her death.

Lancelot
And Lancelot? There is a stone for him in Scotland, too. At least I know I read about one, but of course, I can’t find where I read it. It’s possible that I’m making it up, I don’t think I am. One thread of legend associates Lancelot with the name/area of Angus, which is something that shows up in my third Guinevere book. If any of you happen to know what stone I’m thinking of, please let me know in the comments. It’s driving me crazy that I can’t find it!

Tristan

The Tristan Stone (source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Tristan Stone (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Depending on the version of the story, Tristan may have been killed by King Mark for having an affair with Isolde, or he may have died in Brittany of a broken heart, thinking Isolde no longer loved him. Either way, his body was brought back to Cornwall, or he was buried there. A 1,500 year old stone in Cornwall near the town of Fowey that memorializes a man named Drustans who is believed to be connected with a possible historical or mythological inspiration for Tristan.

Arthur
Lest you think I forgot about the Once and Future King, I’ll just mention here that there are hundreds of places across England, Wales, and Scotland supposedly associated with King Arthur. The most famous, is of course, the “grave” at Glastonbury Abbey, which has been almost certainly proven as a hoax. (Here’s the latest article.)

*In some versions of the legends, Guinevere is dead long before Camlann, either from disease or by Arthur’s own hand. In others, she helps Mordred in his bid for the throne and therefore must be punished by Arthur. 

Sources
http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/meigle/meiglestones/
http://arthurianscotland.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/vanoras-stone/#more-76
http://www.cornwalls.co.uk/history/sites/tristan-stone.htm
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-34908894
http://www.electricscotland.com/history/lancelot.htm

What do you think about the memorial stones? I think they are likely an outcropping of legend, but that’s just me.

Brittany in Arthurian Legend

Brittany is the dark blue part of the map. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Brittany is the dark blue part of the map.  Southern England is the gray area directly above. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

So, I’m back to Book 3 in Guinevere’s story, and am excited to be exploring brand new terrain: the land of Brittany.

History
Today, Brittany is part of northwest France, but in Arthurian times, it was its own kingdom, though often considered a colony of Britain, peopled as it was by many former Britons, some of whom fled from the Anglo-Saxon invaders in late fourth and early fifth centuries. In some references, it’s even called “Less Britain” or “Little Britain,” and was part of a larger area known as Armorica.

Like many locations, its origins are murky. Historically, Brittany was home to five Celtic tribes in the time before the Romans conquered it: the Curiosolitae, the Namnetes, the Osismii, the Redones and the Veneti (Wikipedia has a longer explanation, if you want to learn more). Brittany became part of the Roman Empire in 56 AD. and had strong trade ties with Britain and Gaul, especially in the tin trade.

Geoffrey of Monmouth tells us that the Brittany we know from legend was founded when the Roman emperor Magnus Maximus (a historical figure who reigned from 383 – 388 AD) took his army of Britons there and crowned a man known either as Conan Meriadoc or Eudaf, depending on the source, as king. King Arthur’s grandfather, Constantine, was said to be the brother of Conan’s successor, thereby giving Arthur a relation to Brittany.

Arthurian Legend
In Arthurian legend, Brittany is most famously associated with Lancelot, Tristan, Viviane/Nimue, Merlin and to some extent, King Arthur. There are many more, but I am going to focus on these characters.

Brittany is the location of the famous Forest of Borceliande, the setting for many Arthurian stories. In some, it is the Breton equivalent of Avalon, ruled over by another Lady of the Lake. It is in this forest and by this woman that Lancelot is raised after his father Ban of Benwick (also in Brittany) dies. He gets his surname, du Lac or “of the Lake” from this upbringing. Borceliande is also where Merlin is trapped by Viviane/Nimue in the Estoire de Merlin. If you want to go visit Borceliande (I know I do, it’s next on my Arthurian list) look for the Forest of Paimpont, which is how it is currently known.

Lancelot and Guinevere riding to Joyous Gard  by N.C. Wyeth (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Lancelot and Guinevere riding to Joyous Gard by N.C. Wyeth (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Lancelot
In addition to being his birthplace, Brittany is also home to Lancelot’s castle and possible final resting place, Joyous Gard (or Guard), which appears in the Vulgate Cycle of Arthurian legend. This castle was first called Dolorous Guard because of a dark curse, changing to Joyous Gard when Lancelot puts an end to the evil being done there. Other traditions refute this location, saying Bamburgh Castle off the coast of Northumberland in England is the true Joyous Gard.

In some versions of Arthurian legend, Lancelot flees to Brittany with Guinevere after rescuing her from death at the stake. In other versions, she remains behind, while he flees, causing Arthur to chase him, which leaves the throne open for Mordred, which results in the battle of Camlann.

Tristan
In Gottfried’s version of Tristian’s lineage, he is Breton by virtue of his parentage: King Rivalin and Queen Blanchefleur. Even if he is not, he marries into Breton royalty when he takes Isolde of the White Hands (not to be confused with Isolde of Ireland, his first love) as his wife. He is said to live with her in Brittany until he dies of a broken heart, falsely believing Isolde of Ireland abandoned him in his hour of greatest need.

King Hoel
Brittany is also the home of King Hoel, who was a relative and ally of King Arthur, and in many traditions, also father-in-law to Tristan through his marriage to Isolde of the White Hands.

The Giant of Mont-Saint-Michel
If you’ve been around here a while, you know an Arthurian roundup wouldn’t be complete without at least one weird association. Brittany, or more specifically, Mont-Saint-Michel, was said to be besieged by giant from Spain, who had quite rudely kidnapped Lady Helena, a relative of King Hoel. Though thousands of knights tried and failed to best the giant, only King Arthur was victorious.

What do you know about Brittany from Arthurian legend? What do you want to know more about? Share your questions and I’ll try to find answers.

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Sources:
Arthurian Romance in Brittany
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Arthurian Legends by Ronan Cohhlan
Encyclopedia Britannica Online: Brittany (region, France)
King Arthur and the Grail Quest by John Matthews
Knights of the Round Table (Pitkin Guide)
Wikipedia: Brittany