Friday, May 23, 2014

Love triangles seem to be one of those tropes that just. Won't. Die. Nearly every back cover summary these days tells us of a girl who must decide between the love of two very different boys, who must decide which boy means the most to her, yada, yada, yada. Or it's at least implied in the synopsis. Sometimes, though, we're not even warned that a love triangle is in the works, and to some more persnickety readers, this is the end of the line for them.

Around here, though, we're more likely to give a story a chance based on the plot and the characters, rather than letting a little ole love triangle come between us and a good book. We realize not all love triangles are created equal and that some will be more irksome than others. And some will make our hearts hurt like no other before.

That's not to say we seek out books simply because they have love triangles, either. We do have some standards. ;0) Sometimes a love triangle (or other shape!) is appropriate and feels authentic to the story, and sometimes they are just thrown into the story to add tension or for dramatic effect. Neither will immediately cause either of us to immediately love or hate the book. We're far too reasonable for that.

We've seen so much hate for love triangles lately that we thought we'd put in our two cents and hope we still had some friends left at the end. You might think we're kidding, but some people really, really, REALLY hate love triangles. We're just not those people. We understand that they happen in real life, that they're angsty and full of melodrama and definitely more fun to witness from the outside than as a participant.

**We are going to cite examples below, which means MEGA SPOILERS may be involved. Just a heads-up.**

April:  Love Triangles are a necessary evil, I think. I don’t feel that every book should have one but in real life, love triangles are happening all the time. It’s one of the main reasons marriages and relationships go bad. Not the only, but in a lot of cases, there is someone else involved. (Even if one party doesn’t admit it right away.) This seems to be the year of divorce on my Facebook feed, so I’m seeing this first hand.

My point is though, when it comes to a books and romantic relationships, chances are there will be a love triangle of some kind. That’s real, and I’m cool with it. If it’s done correctly, that is.

Jen:  I'm probably going to get flogged for saying so, but I'm pretty okay with love triangles these days. I wasn't always as on board with them, but they've really started to grow on me. Especially since the more I see of them in young adult literature, the more I feel they show us of the characters. Maybe they're not necessary per se, but they might be one of the easiest tools the author has at their disposal to show the reader who the main character truly is, what they value most, etc. Because as the protagonist is forced to decide between two love interests, they have to weigh what each person means to them and we're therefore given a glimpse into the inner-workings of the main character's mind. (Just for consistency's sake, I'm going to assume for most of this post that we're discussing the one girl/two guys version of a love triangle, as it is most common.) Each boy is a viable partner for the MC, but ultimately, she's not deciding between two boys but what each stands for, who brings out the best in her and helps her to be the person she wants to be.

April:  Jen brings up a good point, I never really thought of it that way, but yeah, love triangles do add to a story as far as getting to know what the character values most in others.

For me, I break them down into two categories… Love Triangles & WTF is this shit Love Triangles. Acceptable Love Triangles for me are those that show valid reasons for being torn between two people. I want to feel torn as well. Otherwise, I’m not buying it and the whole thing just pisses me off.

Jen:  Love triangles where both possible love interests seem right for the protagonist are the ones that feel most genuine to me but are also the hardest to recover from. You want the girl to be happy, but you know in your heart that either guy would make her so. And you know that "just being friends" won't be enough for either guy, so she's ultimately going to lose one of them. These scenarios break my heart, but they're realistic and true-to-life. Some go so far as to call them the Love Triangles of Doom. *shrugs*

I know some will disagree with me, but one of the best examples I can think of is Lauren Oliver's Delirium series. At the end of book one, we knew Alex couldn't be dead, but Lena had no such delusions. But she didn't move on immediately. She mourned Alex's loss for months. Then Julian lands himself a spot in her life, and they fall in love. I don't think anyone can fault Lena for trying to find happiness, even though we as readers knew this was going to make things a million times more complicated when Alex resurfaced. I know many people were really peeved at the openness of the series ending, but considering both boys were very feasible choices as partners, each for their own reasons, I'd think we'd all want Lena to take her time with such a difficult decision, especially considering they'd all just been to hell and back. I mean, did you really want to wait for another book just to find out her final choice? I sure didn't. This is a realistic scenario and probably one of the most painful, much like those in which a friend or brother goes off to war and doesn't make it home, then the other guy falls for the dame, only to have the first love swoop back in and want what was his to begin with.

Another example I love is Alina Starkov and her many suitors in The Grisha Trilogy. I know the Darkling is a villain, but maybe he can be redeemed? And Mal and Nikolai...well, either would be a good fit for the Sun Summoner, but each for vary different reasons. We're still waiting to find out how that all turns out, but I'm just hoping Leigh Bardugo doesn't throw in yet a fourth awesome potential love interest. Even so, I'd be okay with it. The girl deserves her pick of the lot after all she's been through. =)

But I think a TRUE love triangle is one in which all involved parties love each other equally and undeniably: Damon, Elena & Stefan from television's The Vampire Diaries; Will, Tessa & Jem from The Infernal Devices Trilogy; or even Dorian, Celaena & Chaol from the Throne of Glass series. And these are the hardest of all because they'll still always be there for each other, but the hurt will also be there.

April:  There are those books that feature the.. “Oh, he’s cute.. and so nice…. But he’s cute, too… woe is me.. who should I pick?” These are a no go for me. Also, the nice guy who treats me well, but my vag is telling me the hot guy who is a total prick is the one. I see these a lot. And to me, that’s a hot mess. Not even worthy of the name triangle because it’s no contest in my eyes. Those are the Love Triangles I can’t stand and will quickly put down with lack of interest. I can't stand reading about a girl who gets treated like crap, but keeps coming back for more. I have no patience for it.

It’s Love Triangles like these that give the whole term a bad name. There are so many different situations that can result in a triangle. One that also gives it a bad name is cheating. Not every love triangle results in cheating. And then there are the boundaries of what one actually considers cheating. Ahhh, so many things!!!

Jen:  These are the least bothersome triangles to me. You pretty much know from the get-go who's going to win our heroines affections, but it's fun to watch the other guy try. I usually tend to pull for the wrong guy in these scenarios, but I also understand that that's what I'm doing from the beginning. I like a good underdog, even if he is a villainous villain-type. Bad guys need love, too, right? And anyone can be redeemed if given the opportunity. Just look at Cole Stockton from Brodi Ashton's Everneath series. I mean, it took awhile, but had he not been aiming for Underworld domination, he and Nikki might have made a good match. Or not, but either way, I was pulling for him, despite everything.

The cheating aspect April speaks of is something I would normally back far far away from in a story, having been cheated on myself a time or two. But it happens in real life, and if it can be done realistically, and in a way that feels authentic to the story without making me cringe, I can abide it in my books, as I did in Colleen Hoover's Maybe Someday. I know a lot of people who did not like this story for the love triangle and could not overlook the cheating, but I was able to tolerate it because of how the characters were written and how their story was told. Really good writing can negate all of those annoying tropes sometimes.

April:  I think with every book I pick up, involving a romance, I run the risk of getting a garbage love triangle, but I don’t let that discourage me. I’ve seen bad reviews and DNF books claiming “LOVE TRIANGLE!!!” I’ve read a few of those books anyway and was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn’t all that bad. Some weren’t even love triangles at all in my eyes. At least not in the traditional sense.

I’ll admit in the beginning, when love triangles were blowing it up I would shelf a book just because I heard it had one. But over the years I’ve noticed the term Love Triangle thrown around so much that I would almost have to shelve 80 percent of the all the books I read, just to avoid them all. I've come to realize that a lot of books are going to have them, and I just have to suck it up and deal with it.


Jen: I try not to tag books with love triangles as such because that's not my focus when reading a story. (However, it might have made things easier as far as this post and providing examples goes. Lol.) And as we said earlier, I don't search out books featuring love triangles. But I also don't avoid books with them because of their inclusion.

Should books come with a love triangle warning label? I think doing so would be doing a great disservice to some really incredible stories, and I'm sure some authors would be rolling over in their graves to have this warning added to their books. I don't think it's necessary to gird your loins in fear of a love triangle at the start of each new book or series. Yes, it's always possible, but it's not the end of the world. It's just a story -- possibly a great one -- that might be overlooked because of the possible romantic entanglements it holds within its pages. That's not fair to the book or to the reader.

However, I would like some variation in love triangles, which have become all too stale in their current state. Instead of always focusing on a female main character who must choose between two boys, maybe have her be one of the choices for a male character who is not the main character...see how she feels then. Or, what if there were more main characters who were male making the decision between two love interests. And what if one of those love interests wasn't female? Oh, the possibilities! And I want to thank Tahereh Mafi for letting the bad boy redeem himself in her Shatter Me series. I'd like to see a few more bad guys get the girl for a change. =)

Our favorite love triangle. :D


  1. I've come to the point where I don't hate any specific thing unequivocally since there always seem to be gray areas or exceptions to the rules.
    I barely notice a love triangle if it fits organically into a story, but if it becomes obvious that it's just there to hype up the angst and just pulls my estimation of the characters down, then no-go.
    I'm a mood reader so its quite possible that I'll set a book with a love triangle down for a time if I'm not in the mood, but then again, I might grab it up first.
    I enjoyed your points ladies and appreciate the discussion.

  2. Oh my gosh....loooool to that last picture! ME TOO. *ahem* (But I'm not ashamed of my relationship with my bed.)
    In other topics... ;) I don't like love-triangles. If a book mentions it in the blurb, I ditch it. BUT they have been redeemed in my eyes by a) Splintered, b) Shatter Me, and c) Throne of Glass. Those are the BEST love-triangles I have ever read and I was 100% engaged. Usually one side is sooo underdeveloped it's easy to see where the whole thing is going. But when the author takes time to develop BOTH guys? Eeeep. I'm sold. ^.^ But I have had a looot of bad experiences, so as soon as someone says "love triangle" to me, it's a turn-off. Fab discuss!

  3. Okay, I didn't read the post because I don't know what books were going to be spoiled and I was scared haha. But, I don't mind love triangles when done well. Unfortunately, 90% of the time they are not done well. I hate the 'I love you so much I'm sacrificing myself for you so you can be happy with the other guy' storyline. I HATE IT! I also hate how it's always between a good guy and the bad boy. Why can't she have a hard time choosing between two good guys, or even better, two bad boys?
    Also, why is it okay for the girl to have two love interest but if it were a guy with two love interest he would seem like a manwhore???
    But anything has to be better than the 'I can't have you so I'll just fall in love with your daughter' storyline....

  4. Love that last picture, it's very accurate ;) I have to admit that I had to skip some of this because I hadn't read a lot of the books you mentioned and I want nothing ruined. I don't really like or get the need for love triangles most of the time. There are just far too many of them and I am really fed up of it now. It seems authors feel a need to put them in even when they don't make sense or aren't needed. I need the love triangle to make sense, I need to understand why the person would be torn between them. There are a few I like but in general I am not a fan. Great post :) I'm actually stopping by as someone linked you up in my Blogger Love post.

  5. I agree with what you ladies had to say about love triangles. There are good ones and there are those that shouldn't even exist because they serve no purpose at all. I've come upon a few love triangles that to me aren't even love triangles. I've always seen a love triangle as a girl having a love interest (such as I love you, I wouldn't mind banging you) in both guys. Any time the girl loves the second guy as if he is her brother or in other words, friend zoned, then I just roll my eyes. That's not even a competition and you already know that Mr. Friend Zoned is not going to win no matter how much you root for him.

  6. Great post! I don't love love triangles, but I don't hate them either. Most books do seem to have them these days, so they're difficult to avoid, and there are so many great books that have love triangles. I get annoyed when they seem to be resolved too conveniently or easily. I just think that when it comes to love triangles, it usually seems like one of love interests is not as well-written or well-developed as a character compared to the other one. I like it when both love interests seem like really interesting characters and you can actually understand why the hell the girl is torn between the two. But I've liked seeing some bisexual MCs lately who are torn between a guy and a girl. That always makes things more interesting. (:

    Cynthia @ Jellyfish Reads

  7. I'm one of the few that really doesn't mind love triangles. I mean, yes, there are some that are just so annoying their laughable, others are infuriating. But most, I don't mind at all. :)

  8. I love how through this post is! I used to run away if I came across a love-triangle but now not so much. There are so many great books that use the love-triangle well and brings out the characters. My one problem with love-triangles is that they seem to be used as filler, with one under-developed character and one of the guys/girls being the obvious choice for the MC.


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