A decolonised alpha hero? Negotiating masculinities in Nigerian romance novels

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A “strong assertive hero who is in charge and oozes power” (Caldwell); the romance alpha hero is as familiar as he is monolithic. This model of hegemonic, alpha masculinity is generally applied to romance across the world, yet how ubiquitous is such a model of masculinity? Would such a model be visible in heterosexual romance novels published in Africa, written by African authors? As Connell and Messerschmidt theorize, masculinities are “configurations of practice that are constructed, unfold, and change through time” and place (Connell and Messerschmidt 852). Thus, drawn from narrow and specific cultural, national, and racial contexts, the romance alpha hero is far from universal.

This article investigates the construction of African heroes in ten titles published by Nigeria’s Ankara Press (2015-2017), “a new imprint bringing African romance fiction into the bedrooms, offices and hearts of women the world over” (‘About Us’). Ankara Press promises ‘A new kind of romance’ – this article asks: does it also provide a new kind of hero? I explore the ways Ankara heroes reveal local ideas about gender and culture, while simultaneously offering a rejoinder to the ubiquity of the Western alpha. Ankara Press romances partially Western alpha masculinity, locating the perceived toxicity of alpha masculinity in African culture and in ‘other’, non-heroic men. These novels offer a space to explore African masculinity and its challenges while simultaneously, I argue, decolonising romance, allowing us to emerge with a more nuanced appreciation of the alpha hero and his universality.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Popular Romance Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 28 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Not yet published as of 22/02/2024.


  • masculinities
  • alpha hero
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
  • postcolonial
  • toxic masculinity
  • popular romance


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