Romance Tropes – The Love Triangle

Love triangleTop Ten Tuesday is on a six-week hiatus at the moment, and while I may still come up with some top ten posts for you during that time, I’m taking the opportunity today to do something a little different. If you’ve read some of my recent posts, you’ll know that the final book in the Serena Jones Mystery Series releases today (YAY!), and you’ll also know that it has been much anticipated by me (and countless other readers) because it will give us the answer to the big question: Which man will win Serena’s affection? Nate Butler or Tanner Calhoun?

Coincidentally, there has been a lot of conversation about love triangles recently in some of the Christian fiction Facebook groups I’m in. Some people love them, some people hate them, and then there are many who swim around in the middle, enjoying them in certain circumstances.

Put all of this together, and it means I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about love triangles! So I thought it might be fun to spotlight them on my blog this month. Let’s talk about what we do like, what we don’t like, and which ones we’ve enjoyed.

First of all, what do I mean by love triangle? At its most basic level, it means one of the characters has a choice to make about who they are going to be in a relationship with (because we’re talking about Christian fiction, so ménage à trois and the like are out of the question!) But when I started thinking about it, I realised that reducing it to ‘a guy choosing between two girls’ or ‘a girl choosing between two guys’ is missing out on a lot of the nuances that exist in this particular trope. So I put my list-loving brain to work, and came up with a more detailed answer.

Love Triangle Type 1 – The Engagement/Betrothal Triangle

In this love triangle, one of the characters is already engaged or betrothed when the third person comes on the scene. Historically speaking, breaking an engagement had significant social repercussions, so when this type of triangle arises in historical novels, it raises a specific set of consequences.  Although contemporary social mores have relaxed on this, it is still a serious commitment many Christians are wary of breaking; hence I have given it its own category, even though it overlaps with some of the other types listed below.

Love Triangle Type 2 – Expected Marriage vs Marriage of Choice

In this instance, there is no formal engagement, but there is either an expectation that one will soon be entered into, or at the very least, an expectation as to the type or class of person who would make an eligible match. This type is more common in historical novels, where matters such as class, financial security, and connections were often taken into consideration, but it also occurs in contemporary novels.

Love Triangle Type 3 – Previously Married Triangle

In some stories the hero or heroine has been married previously, but is now either widowed, abandoned, or divorced, and moving on with their life. They may already be in another relationship (or even remarried) when the previous spouse reappears, or they may simply be moving towards entering another relationship.

Love Triangle Type 4 – Blast from the Past Triangle

This love triangle arises when one of the main characters is already in a relationship when the book opens, but then a person from the past comes back into their life for some reason and this friendship tests the relationship they are currently in.

Love Triangle Type 5 – Right Under Their Nose Triangle

This love triangle also arises when one of the main characters is already in a relationship, but in this case, it is a friendship with someone who has been right under their nose all along that begins to challenge their current relationship.

Love Triangle Type 6 – Someone New Triangle

Also similar to types four and five, in that one of the main characters is already in a relationship when the book opens, but in this case it is someone new who comes into their life, and the attraction or friendship that develops tests the relationship they are currently in.

Love Triangle Type 7 – Decisions, Decisions Triangle

Neither of the main characters are in a relationship at the opening of stories featuring this type of triangle, however at least one of the main characters will have two people vying for their affection (or in some cases, commitment).

Love Triangle Type 8 – Previous Relationship Triangle

This is a less common triangle type, but the third point of the triangle is someone who has an emotional hold over, or presents a moral obligation of some sort to the hero or heroine. Perhaps one of the main characters is trying to leave behind an abusive or unfaithful partner, perhaps they are or have been in a physical relationship outside of marriage and they are having to deal with the emotional or physical consequences (including a child).

Love Triangle Type 9 – Third Wheel Triangle

This is one of the more painful triangles to read about—when the third point of the triangle was never really in the running, but tried really hard to be. Depending on the pre-existing relationships between the parties, this can get messy, and painful.

Love Triangle Type 10 – Spurned Third Party Triangle

The third point of this triangle may not be a true contender either, but they’re not ready to concede defeat, and so they do whatever they can to try and interfere in the relationship between the hero and heroine.

Can you think of a variation I haven’t mentioned? What are some of your favourite stories involving a love triangle?

PS – If you’re on Goodreads, feel free to check out my list and add any that I’m missing!


About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
This entry was posted in Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance, Romance and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Romance Tropes – The Love Triangle

  1. camillering says:

    Wow! What a comprehensive list of love triangles (thanks for the mentions!). Going old school with my love triangles: Anne of Green Gables: Gilbert vs Roy Gardner (seriously, how is that a choice?), and Pride & Prejudice: Elizabeth & Mr Darcy & Caroline Bingley.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love Deborah Raney’s Beneath a Southern Sky in the “previously married/returned spouse” category. I read it when researching for Out of Darkness. Heart wrenching, especially because children are involved.
    I also love Crystal Walton’s Unveiled series in the “someone new” category, even though I don’t typically care for it when a man pursues someone who’s already in a relationship.
    I always prefer the ones where the main characters have strong moral character and aren’t just being wishy-washy or dating two people at once. I like honesty, so I want them to talk with whoever they’re committed to about their feelings, not try to hide it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Patricia Beal says:

    Surprisingly enough (since I wrote one – thanks for the mention), I don’t like triangles much. I wrote mine because that was their story. The triangle was need for all three people to free themselves from the past, to grow, and to mature. I did just read the first Baxter Family novel and enjoyed what Keren Kingsbury did with Kari, Tim, and Ryan. #BlastFromThePast 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is super fun! Great post! Thanks, Katie!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Like Patricia, I’m not a huge fan of love triangles. And yet one of my books is on your list. 😂 I blame my character, though. He surprised me!!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m intrigued to read Deborah’s book now that I’ve found out about it. That would be such a difficult situation! And I still have to read Crystal’s Unveiled series *hangs head*. But the character being wishy-washy or unfaithful/dishonest seems to be one of the most common complaints against love triangles, and I agree. Big turn off when you can’t get behind the main character!

    Liked by 1 person

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