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If you’re anything like me, then a book’s just not the same without a fairly significant portion being devoted to the love interest(s). I think I’m safe in saying I’m not alone, given how wildly successful novels such as Twilight, The Hunger Games, and A Discovery of Witches have been; the brooding romantic intensity is just such a winner.
It’s such a winner in fact, that many authors (myself included) have chosen to include not one, but two male leads, with, in some cases, a third thrown in on the side-lines for good measure. Why? Because it forces the heroine to make a choice. No man is ever going to provide everything a girl could ever want (apart from Charming, but I’ve already made my thoughts known on that topic), so it’s more in line with reality for the heroine to weigh up what they want and to have to choose. Importantly, this means there are things she will not get that she really wants, and this leads to intrigue, tension and loss; so much more three dimensional a saga than when there is only one male lead.
Twilight is probably the best current example of the love triangle. First there was a baseline; the good looking guy from school; cute, desirable, wanted by the popular girl, but let’s face it, normal, horribly predictable, and he never stood a chance when lined up against the competition. It’s not his fault, the competition was a vampire, who, not only had super hearing, super speed, super strength, and could hear peoples’ thoughts, but sparkled in the sun for goodness sake.
However, as seen in Shadow of Night (the second book in Harkness’ All Souls trilogy), once we’ve got over the initial excitement and intrigue created by the first love-conquers-all relationship (with a spectacular, ancient, rich, volatile, over-protective, full of secrets, vampire), it gets a bit romantically boring; it’s incredibly difficult to sustain the tension. This is where the love triangle comes into its own and when Meyer cues her third and final contender; the werewolf. Jacob is the underdog (sorry, couldn’t resist), who, not only has his own unique and highly desirable charms (not least a spectacular six pack and the ability to keep you warm at night), but also serves to spice things up in the love department, and provide uncertainty for the reader.
But Meyer is far from the only author to have utilised the love triangle; Collins also employs this tactic in The Hunger Games, pitting the rugged, powerful, self-sufficient, hunter-gatherer, Gale, against the more effeminate, but none-the-less skilled with a paintbrush, Peeta. It never quite got to the dizzy heights of the team Jacob / team Edward frenzy (team Jacob all the way), but it was an absorbing love triangle all the same. The will they, won't they, who will she kiss next excitement is sustained right to the end and certainly kept me turning the pages.
In Legacy, I created a similar choice for Anita, and even went as far as to throw in the third potential love interest, Bas. Anita has to choose between the fun, frivolous, exciting Marcus, and the grounded, powerful, responsible, Alexander. In the real world, I think Bas is probably the most sensible choice; he’s intelligent, good looking, from a Council family, provides stability and certainty, doesn’t attract unwanted attention, and is the pick of Empire. But what girl has ever made the ‘sensible’ choice when presented with that kind of line up (or indeed even when they’re not)?!