Trope Thursdays: A monthly feature where I look at various reading tropes. Each month I will pick a trope and examine all aspects of it. I’ll discuss the classic features of the trope, what I love (or hate) about it and share some books that use the trope in their plots.
I wasn’t able to get a Trope Thursday post up for May so the feature took a brief hiatus. While most of my posts are scheduled far in advance, certain features posts (like this one) are usually written a few days before I plan to publish them.
For the month of May I planned to tackle the one trope I can’t stand with a passion. Seriously, if I could abolish one trope from the world of writing, it would be this one.
June’s Trope: Love Triangle
A love triangle (also called a romantic love triangle or a romance triangle or an eternal triangle) is usually a romantic relationship involving three people. While it can refer to two people independently romantically linked with a third, it usually implies that each of the three people has some kind of relationship to the other two. The relationships can be friendships, romantic, or familial.
~Wikipedia (“Love Triangle“)
- Possibility for Forbidden Love
- Torn between two friends/brothers/sisters
- Unrequited love for a best friend
- Possibility for unfaithfulness
Quick Note Moving Forward:
I’m going to mostly be using the pronoun “she” as the Person of Interest when I write my opinions and assume that her potential suitors are “he”. This is really just to keep it simple and clear what I am trying to convey. I’m not saying that men don’t find themselves torn between two girls or whatever combination you want to imagine, it’s really just a matter of keeping things clear and consistent to emphasize my points 🙂
What I Love About The “Love Triangle” Trope:
In this case, love is a strong word. I don’t particularly care for the love triangle (and I’ll get to why below) but I can admit that there are certain aspects of the love triangle trope that can contribute to the story in a positive way…and not simply for filler.
One of the reasons I think we see so many love triangles in fiction is for their ability to emphasis the “torn” nature of the person of interest. What I mean to say is that in most novels, the Object of Affection (OOA) must choose between two suitors much like the idea that she has to choose the path for life she must follow. Does she stick with the path she has always known or does she embrace the new “her” and the future it could bring?
Take Twilight for example. Bella is torn between Jacob (a werewolf) and Edward (a vampire)–and don’t forget for a little while Mike (a human). Each suitor represents a different path for Bella. With Mike, it’s the acceptance of the human world and the casting aside of the paranormal one. With Jacob, she can remain human, be in love with a close friend while still acknowledging the paranormal world. And with Edward, it’s accepting his immortality and the question of whether or not he is worth her mortality.
(Now Twilight isn’t the greatest love triangle example [it’s included on my worst list below], but it’s one most readers are familiar with without spoiling other series).
Now, not all love triangles follow this ideal. But I think at the heart of most of them, they represent a choice for the characters that is deeper than simply who they want to kiss at night and, if done correctly, they can contribute positively to the character development.
What I Dislike About The “Love Triangle” Trope:
Where do I start?!
One of my biggest peeves about the love triangle trope is when it is throw in simply for the sake of some “drama”. Not every romance needs to be challenged by a rival. There are other obstacles that couples can overcome that don’t involve a third person and that can still provide depth to the characters and their relationship.
My other dislike about love triangles is the back and forth nature of them. Suddenly the “ugly duckling” is seen by two amazing boys and she simply can’t choose between them. Thus ensues chapter after chapter of flip flopping between her feelings. I find this usually distracts from the large plot (especially in middle books of trilogies) and can make for a dull read.
But perhaps my biggest issue with love triangles is their unrealistic nature. I’m not saying that love triangles can’t exist in real life. The reason I liked the definition Wikipedia provides is that it emphasizes that those relationships between those three people don’t have to necessarily be romantic in nature. Rather, what I find unrealistic about most love triangles is that suddenly, two suitors are simultaneously in love with the OOA seemingly out of nowhere. Now I get that there are certain circumstances that can bring this on (like the end of the world for example). But the whole transformation of “ugly duckling” to “most loveable person ever” is one I readily dislike.
Books that Use the “Love Triangle” Trope Well:
This goes back to my first argument where love triangles can be used to emphasize the torn nature of a heroine. What I like about the love triangle in this series–besides the fact that it never overshadows the rest of the plot–is how much it contributes to Ember’s character development. Throughout the series Ember is struggling with her dragon nature (thus her draw to Cobalt) as well as her human nature (thus her draw to Garret) and her attempts to reconcile her feelings for each guy also reflects her growth as a person and dragon as she tries to save the world.
>>Series Review: Talon
This is one of the only books I have ever read that has a “true love triangle” element to it (ie all three characters are in love with each other). The heart of this novel is Laney’s identity crisis and her relationships with both Armin and Blythe play crucial roles in that. The love triangle here provides an interesting dynamic to the story and one that keeps the reader on their toes as they watch Laney’s plan for revenge unfold.
>>Standalone Review: Black Iris
Others: No One Needs to Know | Suitors and Sabotage | Shatter Me
Books that Didn’t Use the “Love Triangle” Trope Well:
There is actually a love square in this book but that’s besides the point. My main peeve with this one comes from my intense dislike of our lead heroine, Harper and the inexplicable reason why she has two boys chasing her down with only two sentences spoken between them. (Oh, and her token male BFF who has always loved her). Harper flops like a fish with her feelings and it does nothing to develop her as a character.
>>Series Review: Taking Chances
This one had the potential to be good. I mean Calla is torn between duty and her heart when it comes to her suitors…but it’s her actions and reactions that sink that ship pretty quickly. Calla’s relationships become a sole focus for the story and for her. She becomes this self-obsessed heroine who flits back and forth between guys (ie making out with each of them) and subsequently feeling guilty for doing so but does nothing to solve the problem. Frustration to the extreme.
>>Series Review: Nightshade
Others: The Vincent Boys | A Beautiful Dark | Twilight
Do you enjoy books with the “love triangle” Trope?
I enjoy the love triangle trope when it’s done right, like you mentioned. I’m even fine it it’s the main plot of the story, but only with contemporaries. I get frustrated when I’m reading a sci/fi or fantasy book and it turns out to just be a love triangle story with other fantastical elements on the side. I remember hating the love triangle in The Vincent Boys…UGH. One love triangle that I do enjoy, and one that you mentioned, was Juliette/Warner/Adam. I also like the love triangles in any of Jenny Han’s YA books, and think that the one in Kiss of Deception and the subsequent books was also done very well!
Great post. 😀
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I was very close to adding the Kiss of Deception to my list because it was very well done with the whole mystery aspect.
I love romance novels but I’m so with you when it comes to non-contemporary genres that become more romance than action/fantasy/whatever. I don’t have a problem with non-contemporary romance but when I usually pick up non-contemporary stuff it’s to get away from all the lovey dovey, not much else to the plot, romances.