Earlier this year I wrote about the ‘Enemies to Lovers‘ trope in romcoms and today I’m tackling a trope that, for some readers, is a HUGE turn-off. How do I know that some readers vehemently dislike the love triangle trope? Because I’ve written a love triangle and have learnt* that for some readers, a love triangle equates to cheating―regardless of the circumstances.
Also, this is the most popular post defining ‘love triangle’ from the Urban Dictionary:
So, let’s dig in.
Simply, as the Urban Dictionary’s indicates, a love triangle is when the main character has genuine romantic feelings for two other characters.
Where I think a good love triangle diverges from this definition is that it is possible for 2 out of 3 people to end up happy. As I write romcoms, this is critical―readers want a ‘happily ever after’ at the end of the main character’s journey.
Another key ingredient to a good love triangle is when each love interest brings out something special in the main character―that both relationships lead to that character’s growth.
One of my favourite love triangles (ever) is from Bridget Jones’s Diary (book and film series).
Daniel Cleaver is the sexy bad boy who awakens Bridget’s sexuality, sassiness and grit―a downturn in their relationship prompts her to quit her ho-hum job and get into television. And, of course, Mark D’Arcy is the curmudgeon, who despite all outward appearances tells Bridget he likes her ‘just the way you are’ (swoon). Bridget is transformed by her relationships by both men, gaining both confidence and self-acceptance.
Aside: the third book in the trilogy is extremely different from the 3rd film and (I think) vastly better.
In Sweet Home Alabama, which also explores the enemies to lovers trope, Melanie is engaged to Andrew (Patrick Dempsey) and returns home to Alabama to secure a divorce from Jake (Josh Lucas), who she married when they were just out of high school.
[SPOILER] Melanie learns that she’s her truest self when she’s with her soon to be ex-husband and, yes, she shares a kiss with him while still engaged to Andrew, but her ‘cheating’ is far from malicious. She realises that she has genuine feelings for each man and must decide what ‘happily ever after’ means to her.
The television show Younger explores a love triangle over multiple seasons (currently 6 and soon to be 7).
Liza, 40, masquerades as a 20-something to get a job in publishing and has a relationship with the much younger Josh, who knows her real age and doesn’t care about the age difference, and the age-appropriate Charles, who thinks she is 20-something and is, ironically, concerned about the age difference.
Liza oscillates between these two relationships over the multiple seasons, only rarely ‘cheating’ on one when she is officially with the other. It’s a moral dilemma for her as well as a romantic one, because she loves them both and doesn’t want to hurt either man―though, of course she does. This is a love triangle and someone always gets hurt in a love triangle.
In the 1st book of The Holiday Romance series, One Summer in Santorini, Sarah meets and falls for 2 very different men.
Each brings out something different in her. With the older James, she sees herself in a new light―that her ‘heart on her sleeve’ approach to life and the hopeful way she enjoys simple pleasures, make her immensely lovable, something she has never quite believed about herself.
With the younger Josh, she sees how ‘stuck’ she is in her own life and she learns that she has the power to transform it. She needs to stop feeling sorry for herself and participate fully in her own life.
Sarah has genuine feeling for them both and wants to figure out which man―if either―is the right man for her, and in A Sunset in Sydney [NO SPOILERS], we find out.
But along the way, she is in a relationship with both men. This is the core of the love triangle I’ve written and while some readers balk at Sarah’s ‘cheating’, it is never malicious, and being duplicitous about her two relationships makes her uneasy. It should also be said that there is no commitment to either man until the end of Sarah’s love triangle story.
Lastly, I wanted to share my fave love triangle romcom series by Lindsey Kelk, the Tess Brookes series, in which Tess’s love pendulum swings between Charlie, her longtime crush, and Nick, the brooding journalist.
Fair warning, it does take 3 books to find out who, if either, she ends up with but it’s a fabulous ride!
‘Til next time, happy reading and if you have a fave fictitious love triangle, drop in in the comments.
*By ‘learnt’ I mean that I’ve read some ‘passionate’ reviews of my books saying just this.**
**Maybe if you hate a trope so passionately, don’t read books based on that trope. 😉