Just Another Love Triangle


I was reading The Kiss of Deception the other day and it features a love triangle that’s not really a love triangle (there are two guys who like Lia but she really only likes one of them – I hope this doesn’t change in the rest of the series but we’ll see). And it’s cool, you know, identifying yourself with Lia and imagining you have two hot men looking at you like you’re chocolate cake.

I’ve read my fair share of books with a love triangle plot and while I don’t hate them, I also feel it’s an over-used trope that really shouldn’t serve as a plot device to add more drama to a story, because that’s just plain awful.

I did a quick check of my Goodreads “read” shelf and came up with these examples of love triangles, most of which are young adult novels:


But let me ask you something: How many of these do you think feature a love triangle where there’s one guy and more than one girl? Three, that’s how many. There’s Shadow Scale, where Seraphina’s in love with a man who’s promised to marry another (a princess, no less); Lying Out Loud, where the love triangle isn’t really a proper triangle since one of the girls doesn’t even like the guy; and The Eye of The World – or indeed later instalments of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan – where Rand has three (at least I think there are only three of them?) women trying to win his heart – and they’re remarkably civil about it, too.

What I’m trying to say is that we’re apparently much more likely to meet a book where there are two boys/men trying to win a girl’s heart. And I don’t know whether it’s just me – I’m guessing not, since this trope is still so popular – but my thought process when encountering a love triangle like that is: “Wow, I know it’s unrealistic but it’s cool, two hot guys is better than one any day, right?”

But we’re reading the story from the girl’s perspective, aren’t we?! It always surprises me how tolerant the two poor guys are when confronted with a heroine’s indecision. How can you not know who you want to be with? How do they just wait and wait for her to decide? Ugh. If the story was reversed and a guy was “trying to decide” which of the two lovely girls he wants to date, I’d probably think: “He’s such a douche, leading those two on.” And even: “That bitch, trying to steal her boyfriend!”

And that’s completely unfair! Ok so I know these are fictional relationships we’re talking about but as most of the people I hang out with these days are either virtual or fictional (Wow, that sounded way worse that it actually is, I do have flesh-and-blood friends as well!), I care about them deeply – most of the time.

I’m OK with a love triangle that’s unobtrusive and where the person in the middle (the one deciding) isn’t being an asshat. I would, however, love to read more stories where this age-old trope is used to further the plot in a non-angsty way, where my expectations are turned upside down and where the final decision surprises me. I’d love more of that, really.


What’s your take on love triangles? Love them? Hate them? Love to hate them? 

Have you read any stories with an innovative use of a love triangle? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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  • I whine a lot about love triangles, but it probably wouldn’t be fair to say I hate them, because I don’t. I don’t mind those that are done well, those are necessary in some way to the plot, or if they add to the overall quality of the story. I really dislike those that are, as you call them, “afterthoughts” because it’s so obvious when an author throws one in just because the genre “demands” it. And it irks me when a love triangle is used to create drama that takes away from the main story.

    So that said, there aren’t too many books I can think of off the top of my head where a love triangle hasn’t bothered me. You know what I’d love to see though? Most love triangles I’ve come across are 2-boys-1-girl, and usually told from the girl’s POV. I’d like to see those dynamics shaken up a bit.


    • Yep, I’d love to see more books breaking away from the mold. I mean, why does “genre demand” anything? Is it really necessary for every paranormal romance to have this kind of relationship? Isn’t a one-on-one relationship complicated enough? Or if you’re into polygamy, why not have more than 2 choices? ;)

      • Oh, but that opens up the possibility of even more complicated love-shapes, and I don’t know if I like the idea of love-squares or anything with more sides :P

        Polygamy is interesting, but I also find that many YA readers are vehemently against the idea cheating – there was a book I read recently that I really liked, but the boy in the book had a girlfriend already while things between him and the protagonist were really heating up, and most of the reactions to that in the reviews I read on Goodreads were pretty negative.


        • Well, yes, cheating is usually frowned upon (I don’t much like it either, unless the marriage was arranged or whatever, I guess there are some gray areas?) but I meant HAPPY polygamy :D Eh, I guess I should be looking at adult novels for this, though it would be interesting as a possibility in YA, at least. I just want this hetero baseline shaken up, as you said.

  • Lying Out Loud’s love triangle actually sounds more like what a love triangle should be, because by its definition it should go like this : character A loves character B, character B loves character C, and character C loves character A, a perfect triangle. Otherwise it’s just a sort of angle (point A and B leading up to point C – sorry for the geometry !). I probably wouldn’t hate them so much if they were actually love *triangles*, but I totally agree, it’s exhausting to see the same format used as a plot device.

    • I can hardly refrain from major eye-rolling when I see these silly love triangles. I recently read a novel where the outcome of a VERY angsty triangle was resolved by a READER POLL for the last book in the series, which I only found about later. This is the worst possible thing, a pure marketing ploy…

  • I love your discussion of unusual love triangles and how they’re resolved! I’m intrigued to see how that plot point wraps up in Shadow Scale (which I still haven’t read because I’m the worst).

    For me a love triangle is alright in two situations. Firstly, if the person deciding (usually a girl or a woman, as you said) has genuine feelings for both people. Usually those feelings are a little stronger for one person than the other, but at least in that case no one’s being led on.

    Secondly, if the person deciding is promised to someone else because of political reasons and can’t be with the person they really love – but they begin to develop feelings for their new romantic interest. This one just makes sense to me, because what are you supposed to do, waste your life pining? Um, no. Pining over someone who’s not interested while leading on some poor sod who *is* interested is the absolute worst love triangle set-up, imo. I mean, why would you want to be with someone who doesn’t want you in the first place?! Blergh.

    Also, why are there so few love triangles with non-hetero couples? I can’t think of any where the decider is bisexual or gay, for example.

    • Ahh, yes, Shadow Scale. I did wish for more Seraphina+Lucian time but you can’t have everything, can you?

      Yeah I can understand that first scenario, I know there’s a possibility of loving/liking more than one person, but then I think they usually know which one they like better so why go through the horrible mess of waiting instead of making a decision? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I just never experienced this and am therefore less sympathetic towards such characters! :)

      Ooh, yes, the arranged marriage thing. This is a legitimate complication which makes sense, as you say.

      But yes, I always commiserate with the poor sod, and usually mentally urge them to grow a pair and ditch the whole situation. But you can’t help who you love, can you?

      And YES for the non-hetero couples. That would be interesting and different. Let me know if you think of any! :)

  • You make some really interesting points. I actually really dislike love triangles. I feel really annoyed with the girl who can’t decide who to be with. But, in all honesty, I would feel the exact same way about a guy trying to decide.

    • I know. If I imagine meeting a girl or a guy like that in real life, I’d be angry at them for sure. The person who gets left behind is inevitably hurt and I always feel bad for them… But this trope is SO common!

  • Maraia

    I had to stop reading to laugh for five minutes when I got to Twilight.

    Have you read all three Clockwork Angel books? I don’t want to say anything about the end if you don’t know it. I’m assuming Twilight is safe, though, and that has got to be one of the lamest love triangle resolutions ever. Did I say lame? I meant creepy.

    I’m not really sure I agree that Celaena was leading anyone on in ToG. I see it more as serial monogamy, rather than a love triangle. I’ve never understood the fuss about it, to be honest. (Of course, it may help that I’m not particularly fond of Celaena as a character, so my ability to care is diminished.)

    I also disagree about The Hunger Games. That might be my least favorite love triangle ever. WHAT A COP-OUT ENDING.

    Believable love triangles don’t bother me, but a “plain” girl going on and on about how two impossibly hot guys are madly in love with her (and, as you pointed out, don’t care that she’s stringing them both along) and how she can’t possibly decide between them, because that would take actual brain cells…I hate that trope with a passion.

    I also want to see more original love triangles. I think there’s a lot authors could do with them. I like books where the main character has multiple love interests, though I prefer when they aren’t at the same time. I know a few good series like that, but I can’t think of any innovative love triangles besides Shadow Scale.

    • Yep, I read the Clockwork Angel books, I forgot to list them! I disliked that one, too, I felt like Tess (Tessa?) was really unfair towards both of the boys. And the whole immortality thing was just weird…

      OH GOD YES how creepy was Breaking Dawn? Jacob imprinting on Renesmee has GOT to be illegal :D

      Hmm, yeah, you have a point about Celaena, though I think there was some pining done by both her and Dorian after she dumped him, and Chaol never seemed to get over the fact that they’d been together… “so my ability to care is diminished” :D I’m kind of imagining how you’re smoking a cigarette like a Daisy Buchanan, disinterested, while you say that in a very bored voice.

      Ahh, yes, “plain” girls are the best, aren’t they? “I’m really not pretty but I do have porcelain skin and BIG BROWN EYES and GORGEOUS hair.”

      And yes, I like it better when characters enter relationships one AFTER the other, not simultaneously. I really dislike cheating and love triangles often amount to that.

      • Maraia

        You did list the first one, haha. That’s why I wasn’t sure about the other two. I thought the ending was kind of lame, with Tessa ending up with *both* the guys.

        SERIOUSLY. It would be illegal in real life. Not to mention half the other stuff that goes on in that book. Oyyyy.

        That’s also true about Celaena/Dorian/Chaol, there was definitely some pining. Maybe the difference is that I don’t think Celaena purposely strung anyone along (unlike Tessa, Bella, Katniss, etc.). She told Dorian that she didn’t want to continue a relationship with him before she got involved (at least physically) with Chaol. The reactions on the guys’ parts is more their own fault than hers. I had to look up Daisy Buchanan, but now I’m highly amused. :D

        Ughhhh cheating. Yeah. I know it happens in real life. I’m not an idiot. But I choose to read fiction for a reason. There are very few instances in which I can sympathize with a cheater, and it’s hard for me to enjoy a book if I can’t muster at least a little sympathy for the MC.

        • Ok so ARE there instances when cheating is permissible? I’d say arranged marriage and then finding the love of your life (like Tristan and Yseult and King Marc), possibly? So I’d say only in historical/fantasy books, given how arranged marriage isn’t really a thing anymore (or perhaps if I was reading a book set in India or somewhere similar, not 21st century US).

          I’m still not convinced about Celaena – I mean, she HAD to have known they’d be jealous + she put herself between two best friends, which is NEVER a good idea. I know they didn’t stop being friends or anything but their relationship cooled off anyway.

          • Maraia

            Yeah, I guess we could say a lack of consent cancels out the cheating. I read a YA contemporary earlier this year with this exact situation, actually.

            That’s true. Ugh. You’re really not making me like her any more. I don’t even want to read QoS at this point.

          • I actually liked Celaena a lot more in Heir of Fire than I did in the previous two books. So I’m hoping that QoS will continue this trend. I haven’t pre-ordered the book yet because I’m saving it as a treat for myself after I finish my article. But I’ll definitely read it soon!

          • Maraia

            Oh, I definitely prefer Celaena in HoF. Hopefully you’re right and she keeps maturing! I’ll probably end up reading it as soon as my library copy comes in, because I really prefer clean, un-read copies. Are you done with your article yet?

  • Nicole Hewitt

    I don’t mind love triangles usually – as long as they’re well-done and the person trying to choose isn’t being a jerk (like you said). I do agree with you that most of the time it’s from the girl’s POV with the love triangle being her deciding between two guys – I have seen it the other way, but you’re right that it’s much more rare!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    • Ugh, yes, I dislike characters who don’t think about the consequences of their actions. So often, one of the triangle gets hurt and it’s usually the one I was rooting for!

  • I don’t mind a triangle, as long as it makes sense in the story and isn’t just thrown in for the hell of it. THOSE make me angry. But I do think that there ARE times that they add to the story, and then I am totally fine. You know, as long as the ship I like ends up working out ;) There is one other book where there are two girls and one guy that I’ve read- Never Always Sometimes. This is a good discussion, I agree that we could use some new, fun ways to use triangles!

    • Yeah, I’m ok with triangles where the couple I’m rooting for get together :D I guess that’s unfair but there you have it.
      I’ve seen good reviews of Never Always Sometimes, I’ll have to check it out!
      Thanks for stopping by, Shannon! :)

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  • I found this post via Starships and Dragonwings, and it piqued my interest since I actually really like love triangles when they’re done right (i.e. It’s heart-wrenching and I can understand why the character has feelings for both guys). But when you mentioned love triangles with two girls and one guy, I stopped reading and thought to myself, wow, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a MFF triangle. Then I thought, actually I probably have, I just didn’t consider it a love triangle since I was too busy thinking about what a bitch the other girl was, haha. So it was like you read my mind. But it’s all about perspective. You’re almost always going to root for and be understanding of whichever character is the protagonist, whether it’s male or female, the tip of the triangle or one of the other two points. A lot of protagonists just happen to be female. Great post :-)

    • Oh, it’s nice that someone found their way to my post from Anya’s blog, I really like Starships and Dragonwings! :)

      Yeah, I don’t know why we always feel bad for “the other man” but we’re all against “the other woman”. I guess it’s a cultural thing. I’ve been thinking about it a lot and it would be interesting to see how people viewed cheating – who’s more at fault, for example, if a wife cheats on her husband, or if a husband cheats on his wife…

      Ooh, that’s a good point – you always feel for the protagonist and MOST (if not all) of these books are written with a girl at the front, by female authors…

      Thanks for stopping by, Kristen! :)

  • I know a lot of people really hate love triangles, like with a passion. I am not one of them. It annoys me when it’s obviously thrown in to add a bit of drama, but even then I can accept it if it doesn’t affect the main story. I mean, I’ve literally just read Cruel Beauty and I did roll my eyes when the love triangle began, but now I’ve finished I can’t help thinking, can it actually be classed as a love triangle or was it Nyx was attracted to different aspects of Lux’s personality (I know, what is with those names?). I admit the White Hot Kiss love triangle did make me roll my eyes because that basically becomes the story at points. Basically, it’s all down to the author’s skill with it, if it’s done skillfully I don’t mind, but when an author is trying to create drama for their storyline without putting any actual thought into it then I hate it.

    • Yep, you basically summed up how I feel about love triangles in a single paragraph. :D

      I know, the names in Cruel Beauty were pretty weird but I still maintain that Armentrout’s Daemon Black from Obsidian is the worst. (She also has a pretty lame love triangle in that series, if I remember correctly. All the drama.)

      Eh, I don’t HATE love triangles (I hope that’s obvious from the post) but I never was in the same situation myself so I can’t really say I understand the person who’s trying to choose between two others… Maybe I just lack empathy :)