I was talking to a longtime reader of romances a couple of weeks ago, and she told me that she was finding books sort of “meh” these days. One of the problems, she thought, was that the heroes were too “nice.”
Now, “nice” is right up there with “likeable” as a word that is totally subjective. Your “nice” may not be my “nice.” It seemed that her “nice” was becoming very common in romances, and she felt it was taking some zing out of the books. This was especially true of historicals, where all of those dukes and other peers would probably have had an arrogance to them that would not fit under the “nice” description. She felt the heroes were getting too beta for her, is the best I understood it.
It is really clear if you read reader reveiws that the “nice” factor plays a big role in reader satisfaction. Normally one sees it from the other perspective—readers who don’t care for a book because the hero is not very nice.
As a writer, my preferences are for heroes who are not too nice, but it has nothing to do with anything other than the reality of writing as I know it (meaning it might be different for other writers.) I find that when my heroes keep wanting to be really nice the book is harder to write. It takes a lot of wind out of the story. I usually get into trouble half way through the book. For me at least, it is hard if not impossible to write an alpha hero who won’t bother some readers because he is not “nice” enough.
My heroes never get planned as too nice. They just turn into too nice sometimes and get me off track. The result is a book I have to fight with, and revise. I have concluded that as I write the hero I see all his good qualities and want the reader to see them too, and to “like” him. It is always a mistake if I get seduced into doing that.
Since I do write historicals, I can get away with a bit of “not always so nice” due to all that peer arrogance mentioned above along with other historical realities. I cannot imagine trying to write a contemporary hero who is alpha but also “nice.” I have nothing but respect for contemporary romance authors in general and am glad I don’t have to be one.
So, readers, where are you on the nice question? How nice is nice enough, and how nice is too nice? Do you go to a specific subgenre for your alphas, like paranormal where it seems maybe the nice question is not as big a deal? Has your opinion on this question changed with time, along with your taste in heroes?