I’m a big fan of HEAs—happily ever afters, if you’re not familiar with the term—but having been married almost 7 years, I am finding that in real life, your HEA is something you have to work at every single day. So while I love me a good romance that ends in a pledge of commitment or perhaps even a grand wedding, there’s a special place in my heart for the series that hit that and go beyond it, that explore a couple’s relationship as they struggle to become (and to stay) a well-oiled unit.

My favorites among these series are those that feature alpha couples. Now, I’ve heard “alpha” described in many ways. The most common view of alphas seems to be of aggressive go-getters who are willing to stomp on their foes to get the job done. But while that is, in part, true, I think that at the core of a truly alpha character is the desire to protect that which he or she holds dear and the willingness to live and die by their principles and values. It’s as much what they do as who they are. And while the stakes in the novels I read might be way, way higher than any I might face in real life, these are traits I hope to find in myself and in my life partner.

So keep reading for my personal list of top alpha couples.

#5: Elena Devereaux and Raphael

From author Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series

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Raphael may be an archangel who counts his age in terms of millennia, but he meets his match in fierce and stubbornly independent Guild Hunter (read, vampire hunter) Elena Devereaux. Elena breaks through the barriers of his jaded antiquity and the biases that go with it to make him just a little more human, and Raphael in turn gives her the power to protect the people she loves. Together, they rule with strength and compassion, and it’s easy to see why they are deserving of the nearly fanatical loyalty of their friends and subjects.

Reading order: Angel’s Blood, Archangel’s Kiss, Archangel’s Consort, Archangel’s Blade, Archangel’s Storm, Archangel’s Legion, Archangel’s Shadows, Archangel’s Enigma (for release in September 2015)

#4: Anita Blake & Jean Claude

From author Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series

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If you’ve followed this series at all, you probably know that Anita has more than one sweetie, but Jean Claude is the guy who’s been after her since book 1, and he’s also the guy who, along with Anita, is arguably in charge of their merry band of vampires and shapeshifters. I love that Anita is unapologetically alpha, to the point where she even talks about her guys being her “wives.” She’s a no-holds-barred queen of kickassery who stops a couple of marks short of being a violent sociopath because she has the love of several good men to remind her that she’s human. Plus, she’s got a pretty good hold on her ethics. Jean Claude is a great partner for her because he also exhibits that same ruthless streak, yet it’s tempered by love and a sense of decency that centuries of mistreatment (and in some cases, outright torture) haven’t managed to completely erode.

Reading order: Guilty Pleasures, The Laughing Corpse, Circus of the Damned, The Lunatic Cafe, Bloody Bones, The Killing Dance, Burnt Offerings, Blue Moon, Obsidian Butterfly, Narcissus in Chains, Cerulean Sins, Incubus Dreams, Micah, Danse Macabre, The Harlequin, Blood Noir, Skin Trade, Flirt, Bullet, Hit List, Kiss the Dead, Affliction, Jason, Dead Ice (for release on June 2, 2015)

#3: Cat Crawfield & Bones

From author Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series

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What is it with these paranormal series and one-name hotties? Cat is the daughter of a human and a vampire, and she first meets vamp bounty hunter Bones when she tries to kill him as part of her revenge on all vampire kind for the rape of her mother. Bones helps her to see that vampires are people too, and he takes an untutored yet enthusiastic killer and turns her into a warrior who is a sight to behold but also who has a deeply rooted sense of responsibility. She, in turn, gives him someone to fight for and fight with, and together they don’t just wreak devastation on their enemies—they also take the steam to another level! And if you’re under the misconception that sex doesn’t get hotter once you’ve put a ring on it, well, these two will definitely change your mind.

Reading order: Halfway to the Grave, One Foot in the Grave, At Grave’s End, Destined for an Early Grave, This Side of the Grave, One Grave at a Time, Up from the Grave 

#2: Eve Dallas & Roarke

From author J.D. Robb’s In Death series

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And speaking of marriages… Well, none has inspired me quite so much as the one between Lt. Eve Dallas, homicide investigator extraordinaire, and Roarke, former criminal and current billionaire and (according to Eve) master of the universe. What I enjoy about this couple is the perpetual give and take you see between them in each of the novels in the series (I recently reviewed Obsession in Death, which is Book #40). Roarke helps Eve come to terms with her childhood trauma even as he helps her catch the bad guys. Meanwhile, Eve accepts Roarke as he is, even the criminal past that makes her a tad uncomfortable from time to times. If ever a couple was a unit, this would be it.

Reading order: Naked in Death, Glory in Death, Immortal in Death, Rapture in Death, Ceremony in Death, Vengeance in Death, Holiday in Death, Conspiracy in Death, Loyalty in Death, Witness in Death, Judgment in Death, Betrayal in Death, Seduction in Death, Reunion in Death, Purity in Death, Portrait in Death, Imitation in DeathDivided in Death, Visions in Death, Survivor in Death, Origin in Death, Memory in Death, Born in Death, Innocent in Death, Creation in Death, Strangers in Death, Salvation in Death, Promises in Death, Kindred in Death, Fantasy in Death, Indulgence in Death, Treachery in Death, New York to Dallas, Celebrity in Death, Delusion in Death, Calculated in Death, Thankless in Death, Concealed in Death, Festive in Death, Obsession in Death, Devoted in Death (for release in September 2015)

#1: Mercedes Thompson & Adam Hauptman

From author Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series

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Honestly, I debated for a long time as to whether Mercy and Adam or Eve and Roarke would take the top spot on my list. I think wiley coyote Mercedes Thompson and literal alpha Adam Hauptman made my top spot because of a story in Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson, in which they explain to one of Adam’s wolves why he isn’t higher up in the pack hierarchy, and that’s because being dominant isn’t just about exhibiting a willingness to fight; it’s also about being willing to protect everyone who acknowledges your dominance over them. Right makes might, as the Arthurian tales go. And this is why I love Mercy to bits. She is physically weaker than many of the wolves she protects as Adam’s mate, but she’s a scrapper and she is fully prepared to live and die for the greater good, and she just doesn’t have quit in her.

Reading order: Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, Bone Crossed, Silver Borne, River Marked, Frost Burned, Night Broken, Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson, Fire Touched (for release in spring 2016)

 

Honorable Mentions:

Charles & Anna Cornick

From author Patricia Briggs’ Alpha & Omega series

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To be honest, Charles and Anna are probably hands down my favorite couple. They just got edged out the teeniest bit on this list because of their newness. The series is a spinoff from Mercy Thompson’s, and it features one of the characters I was immediately intrigued by early on. Charles is a dominant wolf who acts as enforcer to his father, the Marrok, head of all North American werewolves. He’s got magic chops that leave people dumbfounded, and he’s ornery to boot. Then we meet Anna, who’s kind of an anti-alpha. You get all those protective instincts wrapped up in a personality whose core is quiet strength but who is altogether more chipper and notably less intense than many other wolves in this series. I found it fitting that Anna would quote “Illegitimi non carborundum,” or, as they say, don’t let the bastards grind you down. Because this is a woman who lives and breathes the motto.

Reading order: On the Prowl (“Alpha and Omega” novella), Cry Wolf, Hunting Ground, Fair Game, Dead Heat (for release in March 2015)

Kate Daniels & Curran Lennart

From author Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series

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If you’ve read my Series Spotlight on Kate Daniels, you probably know I’m an instant fan of this couple. Kate in many ways reminds me of both Mercy Thompson and Elena Devereaux in that she will live and die for the people she loves and those she has sworn to protect. Meanwhile, Curran exhibits the level of ruthlessness I’ve seen in Charles Cornick and Raphael, albeit with a more marked sense of humor than either man. Frankly, this couple would have tied for fifth place if I hadn’t wanted to withhold judgment until I read what happened in the events after the latest book, Magic Breaks (which you’ll soon get to read a review for). Let’s just say I can’t wait for Book #8 to come out!

Reading order: Magic BitesMagic BurnsMagic StrikesMagic BleedsMagic SlaysMagic RisesMagic BreaksMagic Shifts (Released on August 4, 2015)

 

So who are your favorite alpha couples? Do you have any series to recommend? Leave a comment to share!