Love triangles and why I’m coming to hate them

Love triangles in books used to just sort of annoy me, but now I am actively becoming resentful and angry at them and they will cause me to not read a book. So far, this seems to be the case in UF and paranormal romance, but less so in epic fantasy. I’m not sure if this is because epic fantasy broadens the scope of the story to include a larger variety of characters and events, or if it’s because I’m running across it less there. Doesn’t matter. The point is that I’m not real fond of them at the moment and I want to talk about why. This about me and how I approach them as reader, not a general rule for readers. YMMV. Plus I’ve certainly read triangles that I’ve enjoyed, but in general, right now, they make me want to puke.

I started noticing I was putting down novels quickly that had any sort of a love triangle and I began to ask myself why. What’s the problem with them? I think a great deal of it feels disingenuous. Like I’m being deliberately lied to. That’s strange, because what is fiction but a deliberate lie? This is different, though. I felt that the author was deliberately manipulating me to like two characters, knowing only one could get chosen, or luring me to like one character that eventually would turn out to be an ass, while I was supposed to hate the jerk who would eventually become the hero. The author, of course, knows that she’s misleading the reader, pushing me to sympathize with one character only to pull the rug out from me later.

So the second part of the problem for me, aside from feeling manipulated, is that I can’t invest in the characters. Not any of them. Because the central female or male who must choose, is going to be as mislead as me, and then the other two are not at all what they seem and sooner or later I’m going to find out why one is redeemable and the other is not. For variation, the one that is supposed to turn into the total ass may turn out to be the one redeemed, but essentially, one must be an ass and one must be the love interest. But if I care about one and he turns into a bastard, I feel cheated and like I never should have cared. So I start to read with less empathy for the characters and quickly I lose interest in them because I simply cannot force myself to care. Instead I’d rather go read something else.

Does anybody get irritated by it? I don’t mind when a relationship seems to sour because a new person shows up and it’s a natural progression, and I see why the change happens in the feelings and the rug doesn’t get pulled out where original romantic interest suddenly turns into a monster. People change and fall in and out of love and relationships. I just hate it when it feels like I’ve been tricked.


  • Tine

    I have to agree with you.

    I have stopped reading the Stephanie Plum series because Stephanie is starting to hop out of bed with one guy and into bed with the other guy. I have just lost interest in her and in the series as a whole.

    The story line that I really dislike is the vampire who basically ‘rapes’ his lifemate, soulmate, whatevermate to make them a vampire so that they can be together forever and ever amen. I have to be convinced that a story with a vampire in it is very different for me to pick up the book let alone buy it anymore.

    I have stopped reading a couple of authors that I really like in the beginning of their career because of that storyline. On the other hand, I really care about the secondary and tertiary characters in one author’s series, so I will keep buying her, even though she almost lost me with her book that was 800 pages of sex (felt like it) and 50 pages of story.

    I am eagerly awaiting the next Crosspointe book in the series.

    • Di Francis

      Don’t get me started on the rape-out-of-love motif. Stupid and disgusting. I don’t think I’ve noticed it of late, but then again, I’m not reading a lot of vampire stuff lately.

      I’m glad you’re looking forward to the next Crosspointe. Much as readers want Max to get it on with Tutresiel, there’s not going to be a triangle.

      You know, I haven’t read the end of the series, but the Sookie Stackhouse series did the triangle reversal thing. First Bill, then Eric. Think Eric will be it, then back to Bill. I never liked Bill. I know there was what’s his name the werewolf in there–oh, Alcide–but he was more a naturally occurring development in the course of Sookie’s life, rather than a part of the triangle. Up until the resurrection of Bill as her twu luv I thought the shift from Bill to Eric went fairly seamlessly. It didn’t feel like the tortured triangle that I was talking about above. I didn’t feel manipulated until I figured that we were going back to Bill because he was The One all along, and I just thought that was jerking me around.

      I also quit reading the Anita Blake when she started doing the triangle thing. I just didn’t buy it ever and I really felt manipulated on that one.

  • Zealith

    I’m not a huge fan of love triangles. Some of it is what you’ve mentioned, but I often feel like the character in the center is leading on one, the other, or both love interests. Deliberately messing with someones emotions is a major turn off for me.

    • Di Francis

      That makes sense. That’s part of the mistrust on the part of the reader. The author has made it impossible to engage because either you don’t want to go along with the pivot (of the triangle), or s/he becomes a jerk in your eyes and you’re done.

  • Adrianne

    I have no patience for love triangles. If s/he loves him/her great. If s/he can’t decide, then I’m done. I don’t do adultery stories either. I think it’s because I believe in loyalty. And treating your potential mate with respect.

    I don’t do vampires either. Making love to a dead guy or an evil guy turns my stomach.

    Guys who love girls don’t rape. Period.

    So I guess you can call me a stubborn stick-in-the-mud.

    I too look forward to the next Crosspointe novel.

  • Tine

    I think that even in urban fantasy or paranormal, I still want romance for my characters. Sex is not romance, never has been, and never will be. If there is a man and woman and they are going to be more than co-workers, I want romance and respect. Maybe respect even more than romance.

  • Julio A. Cezar Junior

    I think the triangle thing is overdone, specially on “young adult fantasy”. You hardly see a book of that gender without one. Cheap way to add conflict.

    Feels like the authour is ticking out a list: female lead with misterious power (tick). Love triangle (tick)…

    And yeah, I have dropped a book or two because of it. Although not exclusively because of it. It is when the story feels wooden that I drop it.

    Nowadays I give great value to a story that can, not exactly surprise me, but that feels… new, I guess. Not a new clothing to an old theme or a frankenstein from other books. The triangle thing is just one more thing that adds to that “recycled idea” pile.

    One more reason I’m looking foward to the new novels.

  • Bard Bloom

    Hmph. I am currently writing a love triangle and I guarantee that the chooser will choose 0 or 2 of the other triangulants.

    Also, my hottest sex scene is between Niir and his fiancé Eric, which I take the liberty of quoting here in extenso:

    “I suspect that you may be homosexual. May I investigate this point by placing my arm over your shoulders and embracing you?”

    “Sure,” said Eric. The investigation was begun.

    Soon Niir frowned, though he continued embracing Eric. “If this were my single data point, I would not be certain.”

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