Books: The Love Triangle Trope

Screenshot of Jeong Yunho in ‘Imitation’. Copyright goes to KBS2.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I’ve been watching and reading a lot of content lately that involves the love triangle trope and, after thinking about it a little, I thought that this trope deserves an entire post. Not only is this one of the most common tropes in media right now, but it’s also one of my least favorite tropes. And that’s not to say that I dislike every show or book that has a love triangle! Unfortunately I usually find love triangles to be largely unneeded, unrealistic, and not well executed. But every once in a while I’ll see a love triangle that actually seems to make sense. I’ve found that there’s one pretty big difference between love triangles that I don’t mind so much and love triangles that are the reason why this is one of my least favorite tropes. So to make this fun, I’m going to use K-Dramas as an example for one and some of the books I’ve been recently into for the other! So here’s my post dedicated to everyone’s favorite, or least favorite, trope, the love triangle!

Bad Love Triangles:

Love triangles have been around forever, but if you mention the trope most people will probably think of ‘Twilight’ at some point. And though the fight between Edward and Jacob was very public, I actually don’t feel that this was a bad love triangle. For the main character, there wasn’t even really a choice there. For me, I’m not the biggest fan when characters are directly in between two characters and especially when it is completely unneeded to the plot. The biggest example I currently have of a bad love triangle is actually the recent sequel to a book I’ve reviewed on this blog. I absolutely love ‘Tokyo Ever After’ by Emiko Jean! It’s an amazingly adorable mix of ‘The Princess Diaries’ and ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ with a swoon worthy romance and a heartwarming coming of age twist. The book works perfectly as a one-off and even seems to wrap up completely at the end. I’ve been really hesitant to pick up the sequel that Jean released, ‘Tokyo Dreaming’, because I heard pretty early on that the book introduces another love interest and therefore, a love triangle. One of my immediate issues with this is that media, whether it be film, television, or books, seems to think that representing the growth of a healthy relationship is boring. If it isn’t the initial chase and the couple getting together, then a piece of media usually feels like they have to throw some other form of drama in rather than show the couple actually as a couple. This was a perfect example of that. The bodyguard-princess relationship in the first book was cute, but this book saw (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD) Akio breaking up with our main character and her falling for her tutor that she’s in a fake relationship with instead. At the end of the book Akio is suddenly back and claiming that he made a mistake.

I know a lot of people like Eriku, the sweet tutor from this book, but I personally thought that Eriku lacked some depth. I felt we were told more about Eriku than we saw him actually do anything. But that aside, the romance also didn’t have the chemistry from the first book. This sequel book claims to be more about the main character finding herself, but I couldn’t see how a love triangle helped with this agenda. Especially because Akio comes back in the end and she chooses him anyway. I’m always a sucker for a sweet second lead (a point I’ll get to in a second), but this time I just missed Akio and his relationship with Izumi from the previous book. This could have easily been Izumi navigating her relationship with Akio while figuring out what she wanted to do, but it seemed like the author didn’t feel navigating a new relationship was dramatic enough. Which I would strongly disagree with. And at the end of the book when she was choosing between her two love interests, it felt less like her figuring out more about herself and more like an odd unrealistic stretch to a story about suddenly becoming a princess. As usual, I found this to be one of those love triangles that are completely unneeded and just another reason to throw drama at the main couple. I would, personally, rather just see the main couple be a couple.

Good Love Triangles:

Most K-Dramas involve some kind of love triangle, but usually the love triangle makes the slightest bit more sense because the person in the center isn’t equally involved with both of them. Because why would somebody lead on two people at once? Though, sometimes the main character not even considering one of the guys who has a crush on her can be painful to watch if you like that character. I am exceptionally guilty of having second lead syndrome. While the main lead is usually more brooding and typically attractive, the second lead is usually the sweet, caring, golden-retriever, one. Which I tend to go for more often. But here, the end goal is pretty obvious. For example, in ‘Imitation’ (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD) Maha is always interested in Ryok and only sees Yujin as a friend. Obviously, I’m biased here, but Yujin has been there for her from the beginning and is rightfully absolutely gutted by Maha’s indifference. ‘Imitation’ actually brought even more of a realistic edge to this by having Yujin so desperate for Maha that he neglects his friendship with Hyunji and ends up hurting her before realizing that he’s been more interested in the idea of Maha than an actual relationship with her for a while. When Yujin finally realizes that Hyunji has been in front of him the entire time, he has to apologize for hurting her in the process of trying to start a relationship with her. I would have chosen Yujin if I were Maha; but I like that she never wavers on her own views of friendships and relationships. In the end, it makes sense for Maha to continue to like Ryok despite her other love interest and it benefits her relationship with Ryok in the end.

There’s always going to be that one K-Drama where the second lead is the obvious choice in every way and not just one that a member of the audience might prefer. In ‘Bride of Habaek’, (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD) Habaek uses Soah and becomes an absolutely unbearable partner who does little but insult her constantly. The second lead here is Hooye, a demi-god with a complicated past and is very sweet despite his dangerous powers. Though Hooye is in love with Soah, and Soah helps Hooye in some important points for him, she is never swayed by anyone but Habaek. Though this decision to pair her with Habaek rather than Hooye was not a decision I supported; this doesn’t mean that I dislike the structure of this love triangle. Rather than her be equally as interested in Hooye, I would have much rather he been the first love interest rather than the second lead. I don’t mind having another character who has feelings for someone in the relationship, but in the end a true love triangle only seems to detract from the story of the main couple. And let’s be honest, not many people actually experience a true love triangle. In my romances I much prefer to see something that feels like it could possibly happen and actually see a focused story follow the different aspects of one relationship. I don’t particularly care for the relationship being constantly tested by drama. I want to see how the couple actually acts as a couple!

I still think that one of the only shows that I’ve ever seen that actually depicted a couple as a couple after they got together is the C-Drama ‘Meteor Garden’. The drama actually followed the couple from before they got together to well after and didn’t throw any unneeded drama at them until the very end. Meaning there were some really cute moments of them actually in a relationship. Some K-Dramas without love triangles do this too, but it’s really difficult to find a show or a book that acts like a couple as a couple is interesting enough. To be fair, my favorite book, ‘Pride and Prejudice’, does not depict the characters as a couple at all. But the book I recently read and loved, ‘Float’ by Kate Marchant, did leave a bit of time at the end for the couple to just be cute. And can I just say that those were my absolute favorite moments of that book? Blake reading her the book because he was sad she was leaving was one of my absolute favorite scenes. It’s cute and I wish more media would realize that it’s cute! I wish we could see less love triangles and more couples being cute and coupley.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

One thought on “Books: The Love Triangle Trope

  1. Well, I rarely think of the Twilight love triangle to be honest—–after all, not the biggest fan of that series due to not liking vampires

    When I think of love triangles———–usually never in literature. The ones that tend to come mind are from musical theatre. But there are times when I wonder how am I actually missed it, as in not noticed

    Liked by 1 person

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