Building the Better Alpha
What’s big, domineering, possessive, and delicious to look at? The romantic alpha male, of course! He’s been swaggering through our bookshelves for years, exasperating and seducing us by turns.
On the surface, he looks like an easy character to write—make him handsome, make him heroic, add some baby oil to show off all those muscles and you’re done, right? Not so fast! Because he’s such a familiar archetype, it takes some extra work to turn this hero (or villain, for that matter) into someone extraordinary.
Powerful male characters are multi-dimensional. He needs to be smart, which enables him to function in his area of expertise. This might be as a stock trader, or a scientist, or the leader of a street gang. However he does his business, he has somehow believably earned his place. Generally, he’s also people-smart. An alpha is a leader, and that requires empathy, emotional maturity, and excellent self-control. If he’s stomping around demanding that everyone play by his rules, he looks like a jerk. Smart alphas get their way by earning respect.
My hero, Merlin, is the enchanter in King Arthur’s court of Camelot, which has been accidentally transplanted from medieval England to modern day Washington State. Merlin is a warrior, a magic user, and a teacher. He’s also keeping some impressive secrets, which is the special sauce every powerful male character needs. An interesting protagonist is flawed, sometimes badly. Just ask Merlin’s demon ex-girlfriend.
Flaws make for interesting characters who grow and change. In a romance, that journey of redemption begins with love. Most heroes resist emotional intimacy at first. Here the hero is at his most vulnerable, and yet that emotional openness is what allows him to grow. It takes an extraordinary woman to convince him to take the first steps down that road to healing and redemption. Clary, Merlin’s apprentice, is truly one—or maybe two?—of a kind.
Merlin’s journey is laden with peril, including an array of terrifying past mistakes. He has to save the world, but first he has to save himself, the woman he loves and the entire realm of Camelot.
Camelot Reborn #4
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne
Date of Publication: February 1/6 2018
Number of pages: 300
Word Count: 80,000
Cover Artist: Brandon Allen
Tagline: Ancient magic and new passion…
In the last battle for Camelot, Merlin had to make a terrible choice. Now he must pay the price. When a demon from his past reappears, she wants nothing more than to destroy the wizard. Now to reap her vengeance as a lover scorned, the demon occupies the body of Clary—the apprentice who is capturing his heart—and has the innocent behaving in uncharacteristic ways. Ways that push the forbidden desire Clary and Merlin share into heated play…
Other Books in the Series
Book 1 – Enchanted Warrior (RITA nominee)
Book 2 – Enchanted Guardian
Book 3 – Royal Enchantment
Clary jolted awake. Power surged through her body, painful and suffocating. Her spine arched into it—or maybe away from it, she wasn’t sure. Merlin had one hand on her side and the other on her chest, using his magic like a defibrillator. The sensation hammered her from the inside while every hair on her body stood straight up. When he released her, she sagged in relief. A drifting sensation took over, as if she were a feather in an updraft.
Merlin’s fingers went to her neck, checking for a pulse. His hands were hot from working spells, the touch firm yet gentle. In her weakened state, Clary shivered slightly, wanting to bare her throat in surrender. She was a sucker for dark, broody masculinity and he projected it like a beacon. All the same, Clary sucked in a breath before he got any big ideas about mouth-to-mouth. If Merlin was going to kiss her, she wanted wine and soft music, not blood and the dirty workshop floor.
Another bolt of power, more pain, another pulse check. Clary managed a moan, and she heard the sharp intake of Merlin’s breath. His hand withdrew from her pulse point as she forced her eyes open. He was staring down at her with his peculiar amber eyes, dark brows furrowed in concern. She was used to him prickly, arrogant or sarcastic, but not this. She’d never seen that oddly vulnerable expression before—but it quickly fled as their gazes met.
“You’re alive.” He said it like a fact, any softness gone.
“Yup.” Clary pushed herself up on her elbows. She hurt all over. “What was that?”
“I got that much.” Clary held up her arm, peering through the rents in her jacket where the demon’s claws had slashed. Merlin’s zap of power had stopped the bleeding, but the deep scratches were red, puffy and hurt like blazes.
“Demon claws are toxic.”
“Got that, too.”
“I can put a salve on the wound, but you’d be smart to have Tamsin look at it,” Merlin said. “Your sister is a better healer than I am.”
“She’s better than anybody.” Clary said it with the automatic loyalty of a little sister, but it was true. “She’s got a better bedside manner, too.”
Merlin raised a brow, his natural arrogance back in place. “Just be glad you’re alive.”
She studied Merlin, acutely aware of how much magic he’d used to shut the demon down. He looked like a man in his early thirties, but there was no telling how old he actually was. He was lean-faced with permanent stubble and dark hair that curled at his collar. At first glance, he looked like a radical arts professor or dot-com squillionaire contemplating his next disruptive innovation. It took a second look to notice the muscular physique hidden by the comfortable clothes. Merlin had a way of sliding under most radars, but Clary never underestimated the power he could pluck out of thin air. She was witch born, a member of the Shadowring Coven, but he was light years beyond their strongest warlocks.
That strength was like catnip to her—although she’d never, ever admit that out loud. “What were you doing?” she demanded, struggling the rest of the way to a sitting position.
“I was watching the demons through a scrying portal when you interrupted me.” His tone was precise and growing colder with every syllable. Now that the crisis was over, he was getting angry.
“The she-demon tried to kill me.” Clary’s insides hollowed as the words sank home. Dear goddess, she did kill me! And Merlin had brought her back before a second had passed—but it had happened. Her witch’s senses had felt it happen. The realization left her light-headed.
“She doesn’t get to have you,” he said in a low voice.
Their gazes locked, and something twisted in Clary’s chest. She’d been hurt on Merlin’s watch, and he was furious. No, what she saw in his eyes was more than icy anger. It was a heated, primal possessiveness that came from a far different Merlin than she knew. Clary’s breath stopped. Surely she was misreading the situation. Death and zapping had scrambled her thoughts.
“I shouldn’t have walked in on you.”
“No, you shouldn’t have,” he said in a voice filled with the same mix of ice and fire. “You’d be a better student of magic if you paid attention. You asked me to teach you proper magic and not the baby food the covens use. Real magic is deadly.”
Abruptly, he stood and crossed the room to kick a shard of agate against the wall. It bounced with a savage clatter. Clary got to her feet, her knees wobbling. He spun and stormed back to her in one motion, moving so fast she barely knew what was happening.
He took her by the shoulders, the grip rough. “Don’t ever do that again!”
And then his mouth crushed hers in a hard, angry kiss. Clary gasped in surprise, but there was no air, only him, and only his need. She rose slowly onto her toes, the gesture both surrender and a desire to hold her own. She’d been kissed many times before, but never consumed this way. His lips were greedy and hot with that same confusing array of emotions she’d seen a moment ago. Anger. Fear. Possession. Protectiveness.
Volatile. That was the word she’d so often used in her own head when thinking about him. Volatile, though he kept himself on a very short chain. Right now that chain had slipped.
For the first two chapters, click here.
Sharon Ashwood is a free-lance journalist, novelist, desk jockey and enthusiast for the weird and spooky. She has an English literature degree but works as a finance geek. Interests include growing her to-be-read pile and playing with the toy graveyard on her desk. As a vegetarian, she freely admits the whole vampire/werewolf lifestyle fantasy would never work out, so she writes paranormal romances instead.
Sharon lives in the Pacific Northwest and is owned by the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness.
1 set of paperback copies of the first three books in the series. Open to entries worldwide.
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