The Care and Feeding of an Alpha Male
The title of The Care and Feeding of an Alpha Male raised my feminist hackles quite a bit. Why not just call it “The Big Strong Man, the Demure Housewife, and Adventures in Traditional Gender Roles?” While the book didn’t totally prove me wrong, it was much more enjoyable (and less sexist) than I expected.
Beth Ann Williamson broke up with her fiancé (after his fifth time cheating on her) nearly a year ago, but in their small Texan town, everyone else (including her ex-fiancé) is convinced that Beth Ann is just going through a phase, and once she snaps out of it, she’ll go back to Allan. They both have fairly prominent positions in the town (she as the mayor’s daughter, he as a wealthy businessman) and have been dating since high school, and everyone is convinced they’re the perfect couple. Beth Ann, though, is over it, and is working hard to establish herself as an individual apart from Allan, and as a business owner and hair stylist.
One evening her mother sends her off into the woods to retrieve her teenage sister, who snuck out to attend some sort of convention/orgy run by a group of people who like to dress up as elves. Once she gets there, it’s pouring rain, and no one will help her find her sister. Meanwhile, the campsite is flooding, and the Fire Department orders an evacuation. Enter Colt Waggoner, a survivalist and volunteer who is helping evacuate the site. He learns Beth Ann is there, though, and decides to take things into his own hands. They’re acquaintances (his friend is dating her friend), but hate each other. He thinks she’s an uptight snob, she thinks he’s a jerk. When he finds Beth Ann wandering around, drenched and lost, he tells her that they’ve been stranded and that they can’t get back to the road that night. She is far more accepting of this than he expected, and together they find shelter (randomly and inexplicably, in a tree house). They are both very attracted to each other, and decide that this makes a great opportunity for a one-night-stand – something Beth Ann has never done.
Despite this somewhat contrived beginning, most of the book is about them back in town, figuring out a relationship. Colt is from a “white trash” family from the wrong side of the tracks, while Beth Ann is town royalty and supposedly “better” than him. While they figure out a relationship, her business is unexpectedly floundering, and Allan (and the rest of the town) are extremely persistent.
Besides the title, the other things that worried me early on are a few very specific and very problematic lines. One of Beth Ann’s friends tells her, “It sounds like you could use a hero,” which has very different connotations than, “It looks like you could use some help.” Colt, too, said some troublesome things, like thinking, “Why the hell was he so turned on by the sight of her all wet and helpless?” and having the following conversation with Beth Ann about superheroes:
“Supergirl is just Superman’s kid sister or something.”
“I don’t know that she’s Superman’s sister,” Colt said. “Maybe his hot underage cousin or something.”
“You’re so into superheroes, then here’s your question. Batman or Superman?”
“Batman… Batman’s a millionaire playboy. He gets all the pussy.”
“Hot underage cousin?” “He gets all the pussy?” He’s turned on by her helplessness? Very early on in the book, my impression of Colt is that he objectifies women, and maybe has tendencies toward pedophilia. Later in the book, he tells Beth Ann to judge him by his actions, and if you do that then Colt is a very different person. I never fully forgave him for those comments, but at least in the end, he proved that he wasn’t really that person, but a supportive and caring man.
Beth Ann was a much more likable and consistent character. I admired her determination to develop independence and be her own person. She’s realistic and honest and not always perfect (I particularly enjoyed a well-deserved tantrum toward the end of the book). While it’s far from a focus of the story, there are some allusions to some emotional abuse at the hands of her family and Allan, and seeing her grow and discover who she is was one of my favorite parts of the book. She and Colt have strong chemistry, and this book is definitely “hot” if not burning. The love scenes have some vocabulary that I don’t care for; certain words pull me out of a scene very quickly, and that happened frequently in this book – but then again, everyone has words they like and words they don’t when it comes to sex and body parts, so what didn’t work for me might be preferable to others.
So in the end, I give this book a qualified recommendation. Some parts of this book are quite good; like I said, I really admired and liked Beth Ann’s character, and I appreciated that most of the story centered on a realistic development from one night stand to friends with benefits to a committed relationship. But even as I enjoyed those aspects, I still couldn’t get past my early qualms.