He’s testosterone on legs and probably goes so far as to growl at any other men that stand too close to His Woman, or smile at her too often. This may or may not include The Exceptional Man seeing His Woman’s father/brother/best friend as a threat to both his claim on her and her safety and the worst part is that he is usually right. After all, he can’t be exceptional unless all the other men in the book are utter scum.
And boy, do the rest of the men suck. In any other genre, The Exceptional Man would be an overly Alpha creeper but as part of making him seem great, he’s surrounded by idiots, attempted rapists, and violent bodybuilders with anger management issues. It’s a cesspit of toxic masculinity that makes him look amazing by contrast.
The Exceptional Man is usually the love interest for a woman who’s vulnerable in some way, often because of her own naiveté. She’s also usually younger than him, with most of the books I’ve read having a female MC in her late teens being pursued by a man in his early to mid-twenties. It’s not a very big age gap, but there’s generally a huge life-experience gap between the two characters.
So, not only are we perpetuating the idea of rough, pushy men as an ideal but we’re shipping them as the perfect match for vulnerable women.
I like reading a hot male lead in PNR as much as the next person, but do they all have to be so possessive and jealous and just in your freaking face all the time? Seriously, if a PNR hottie escaped his book through a magical portal and set his sights on me, I’d call the cops on him. These dudes are constantly harassing women into dating them, and all I can think about are news headlines of women and girls who’ve been murdered by men they turned down who then began stalking them.
But it’s romantic in fiction? It must sell for so many writers to keep on and on and on with this archetype. Why are we packaging nightmares as romance?