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In praise of the "Alpha" Woman

We’ve all lounged in a beach chair reading it: the heroine – a woman down on her luck, down on herself. The kind of woman we instantly care about, because we’ve all been her at one time or another. Enter stage left the hero: handsome, mercurial, wealthy, complicated, dominant. Ready to rescue the heroine, put her on the back of a white horse, lead her off into the sunset. Happily ever after, end of story…

But is that the woman we really want to be? The nice kind who needs rescuing? Do we really want that dominant alpha male who we’ll always be just a little beholden to for effecting that rescue?

Maybe. But there’s another woman out there too, lurking the shadows. A different kind of heroine. One that’s harder to read, harder to like. One who isn’t baking cakes or designing fashion, unless she’s doing it for a multi-million pound company that she owns.

One who doesn’t need rescuing – not on the surface, at least.

Enter, the alpha female.

OK, she’s a little off-putting. She’s flawed. She’s made mistakes, and keeps making them. She’s had to toughen up to make it in a man’s world, had to make compromises. She’s not, in a word, nice. She doesn’t participate in the office Secret Santa, doesn’t wear a light-up Christmas jumper. Maybe she flirts a little when she’s in a conference room full of men to get a deal over the line. Maybe she drinks alone too often, a few too many glasses of wine. Maybe, she’s got a reason for being the way she is, that she isn’t telling anyone else. Maybe she’s even forgotten who she really is.

Nicola Taylor is the ‘alternative’ heroine in my new novel Moonlight on the Thames. She’s a partner at a private equity firm in London. She works all the time, she refuses to engage in office Christmas festivities, and to top it off, there is a huge black mark against her – she’s having an affair with a married colleague. Nicola is flawed, almost irredeemably so. But one thing’s for sure – she doesn’t need a prince, a hero to come and rescue her. She already lives in a palace: a nice house in Richmond that she bought herself, and paid off the mortgage. She already has the glass slipper: a wardrobe full of Jimmy Choos. And yes, she also has a secret that makes her the hard person she appears to be on the surface. The sign on her heart firmly turned to ‘closed’.

Nicola doesn’t need to marry the billionaire. But what does she need?

Is there an alternative to the alpha male character?

A penniless, Russian musician perhaps? A man who spreads kindness and helps others despite the fact that once, many years earlier, he had his own goals and ambitions stolen from him?

Maybe we’re still channeling the Cinderella story here, but who is the prince and who is the princess, who is the rescuer and who is the rescuee? Take long swig of your piña colata and hold on to your beach chairs. The lighthearted Christmas romance is about to be turned on its head.

Moonlight on the Thames by Lauren Westwood is out on 4thSeptember 2018, published by Aria (Head of Zeus).

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