I’ve found myself thinking about love triangles in fiction lately. I admit I tend to associate them more with young adult books simply because I see them there more often than in adult. Love triangles can be very popular. Think Twilight, The Hunger Games, and The Selection. Some people can’t get enough of love triangles, others hate them. Personally I love a well done love triangle, but I think they can very difficult to do in a way that feels natural. I’m going to discuss my personal tastes here with complete honesty and I’m going to use a few book examples, but don’t take them as gospel and remember it is my opinion and mine only. If you are considering querying me and your book features a love triangle, this post will help you decide if I’m a good match or not. And if you are a love triangle fan then this post might give you four more books to read.
Warning: Spoilers for the books below in regards to the love triangles. And remember, I’m probably way more critical than the average reader.
In The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni, the author took an angle on a love triangle I really liked. One of the men involved isn’t actually in love with the main character (Verity), he is just trying to get close to her to manipulate her and protect his own self-interests. I also enjoyed the way the author used the triangle to explore how Verity isn’t sure how to recognize love. She also struggles with the love triangle and the feelings of being interested in two very different men and actively tries to pull away from the second because she feels it is the right thing to do. What made this romance captivating for me is that the first man is an arranged marriage, and the second isn’t, adding an extra layer of intrigue and character exploration to the triangle.
While it’s not young adult, special shout out to The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. The book is based on a real-life love triangle between King Henry VIII and the Boleyn sisters Mary and Anne (yes, the infamous Queen Anne Boleyn who lost her head.) The book is told from Mary’s perspective. What drew me to this is that it is two women and one man instead of vice versa. In the book there were also extremely high personal stakes for Mary and Anne and their family was relying on them to bring power and wealth to them. They had a lot of pressure riding on them and were doing what their family wanted them to do, not what they necessarily wanted to do. The love triangle created a rivalry between the sisters, setting up a fascinating and heartbreaking relationship between them.
Now let’s get to examples that fell flat for me.
The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig is a fun time travel book with an interesting father/daughter relationship subplot. I wasn’t a fan of the love triangle because the romance between Nix and Kashmir felt right from the start, too right to make me care about the second option when he appeared. Instead of a love triangle I wanted to focus on Nix’s and Kashmir’s relationship instead. For me sometimes one relationship is enough and more than that is too much.
The next example is This Splintered Silence by Kayla Olson. This sci-fi survival had a great concept centering on teenagers attempting to survive after a virus wipes out all the adults on the space station. Unfortunately the love triangle felt unneeded to me due to some of my biggest issues with love triangles in general. Lindley falls for two different guys except I had no idea of why she liked both of them and why they liked her. Their relationships weren’t developed enough to feel convincing and the most frustrating part for me was that the author sets up the love triangle but never resolves it. I enjoyed watching Lindley struggle under pressure without adding romantic drama into the already tough situation. Dealing with a virus, serial killer, and not enough water/food was enough for me.
Notice a pattern? In my last two examples the authors did something so well that the love triangle detracted from that for me. I didn’t feel like I needed the love triangle in either one. In the examples where the triangle worked, the romance added to character development as well as the plot and stakes. I like a love triangle that is integral to the story and steps away from what we usually see in triangles, which is two men and one woman or when the story adds a twist to the love triangle. If you’re writing a love triangle in your book examine its importance to the story. If it exists purely for drama purposes without contributing to character development or the plot then the triangle may not be needed.
Have a favorite love triangle? Feel free to share it!