Okay, I can hear your facepalms already. There are few things more prevalent in modern lit (or lit in general, I guess) than the Love Triangle, regardless of what genre the book happens to be in, and it seems like readers usually split into two general camps on this–they either love them, or hate them with the force of a thousand supernovas. I have to admit, however, that for me, it just depends. I’ve read Love Triangles that make me cringe, and I’ve also read Love Triangles that make me SWOON. So today, I thought it would be interesting to list out some of my absolute favorite Love Triangles, along with why I like each of them:
1. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens): Charles Darnay, Lucie Manette, and Sydney Carton
Okay, easily my favorite type. I gotta say, I am a TOTAL SUCKER for this kind of Love Triangle, where it’s VERY obvious that two of the characters are in love with each other and the third person is the endearingly sympathetic third wheel who really has no chance in hell of getting together with the girl/guy. When that Third Wheel character is actually a really great person (ahem, SYDNEY CARTON), I bawl my eyes out over the unrequited love. What makes this one even more painful? The Third Wheel KNOWS that he has no chance, and as a result he strives to keep the other two together because he wants Lucie to be happy. Oh God, Sydney my darling, my heart hurts for you! <3
2. The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Rae Carson): Elisa, Alejandro, and Humberto
A very different type of Love Triangle than the one mentioned above, this one threw me for a complete loop. I loved every bit of it because it was unexpected—and because it was unexpected, that’s about all I can say without giving anything away. But it was great. The characters were each human and flawed, and they reacted to each other’s love in realistic, painful, and beautiful ways. I’m totally jealous of how well Rae did this!
3. The Infernal Devices series (Cassandra Clare): Will, Jem, and Tessa
I’m drawn to this Love Triangle for one ginormous reason: Will and Jem’s relationship with each other. The fact that the two boys are so fiercely protective and loving of one another makes this stand out from the classic Love Triangle, and in many ways, their beyond-brothers bond is more fascinating to read about than their romances with our leading lady. I’ve always had a soft spot for complicated sibling, familial, and friend relationships, and this one hits that spot right on the dot. (For the record, I’m all for Jem. Like, 108%.)
4. Kushiel’s Dart (Jacqueline Carey): Alcuin, Anafiel Delauney, and Phèdre
So, there are like a million romantic relationships in this high fantasy, all beautifully crafted, but I fell hard for the Love Triangle that happened between Anafiel Delauney, an elegant and politically shrewd nobleman, and his two students, the seductive and complex girl, Phèdre, and the achingly beautiful, innocent, and sweet boy, Alcuin. (Alcuin in particular was my favorite, and not just because I seem to have a thing for pretty boys with long pale hair. Yes, I heard your facepalm!) I loved this Triangle because there were two levels of relationships going on at the same time: both Alcuin and Phèdre loved Delauney as their tutor, and wanted his approval on a student/teacher level; at the same time, though, both Alcuin and Phèdre also loved Delauney on a romantic level. The two relationships layered together made for some delicious tension and tender moments. Ooh, I get shivers just thinking back on this one!
So there you have it, four Love Triangles that totally work for me. As a writer, there’s always the danger of falling into creating relationships that feel safe or familiar, but when I recall the above, I remind myself that making complicated relationships which surprise and dig deep will stay with the reader far past the initial thrill.
How about you guys? What works for you? Any favorite relationships, polygonal or otherwise?