This article originally posted as a guest blog on Romance Around the Corner for Valentine’s Day.
Love triangles. They’ve been around forever – in literature, movies and real life. I adore love triangles (except the real life ones – my heart still breaks for Brad and Jen). Seldom do I get as worked up as when I’m debating the merits of Eric versus Bill (Eric all the way) or Damon versus Stefan (Dalena, anyone?). As a romance reader, love triangles produce strong feelings and attachments, which may be why we love them so much.
Seeing as how I have such a fondness for love triangle, it will come as no surprise that there is one in my Kathleen Turner Series. Book one, NO TURNING BACK, introduces the characters – Kathleen Turner, Blane Kirk and Kade Dennon. However, it’s not until the end of NO TURNING BACK that you can see the hint of a possible triangle. I love spending lots of time with characters, developing who they are and their relationships to one another, so in Book two, TURN TO ME (to be released on 4/24/12), we see Kathleen’s relationships with both Blane and Kade grow deeper and more complex. After all, how are you going to know which “Team” to be on unless you get to know both men??
Below are five of my favorite love triangles. I’m sure all or most of them are going to be familiar, but let’s rehash the details anyway, today being Valentine’s Day and all.
5. Les Misérables – Éponine Thénardier, Marius Pontmercy, Cosette
Les Mis is my favorite musical of all time. I am embarrassed to say I’ve never read the book, but can quote (and sing) the musical by heart (I’ll have you know that I think my impression of Gavroche is spot-on). We meet Cosette as the poor, orphaned little girl awfully abused by the Thénardiers who coddle their spoiled daughter, Éponine. But Cosette gets the last laugh when Marius Pontmercy falls in love with her. Marius is oblivious to the fact that his good friend Éponine is hopelessly in love with him. Ah the “friend” box – we’ve all been there, haven’t we? Poor Éponine is shot while delivering a letter to Cosette from Marius and dies in his arms, confessing that she doesn’t mind dying, so long as he’s there holding her. *sob* Pack your bags, Marius, you’re going on a Guilt Trip. Of course, guilt doesn’t last long in fiction and Marius and Cosette marry and ostensibly live happily ever after.
(A footnote – Hollywood is once again putting Les Mis on the big screen, slated to be released Dec. 12, 2012 with Amanda Seyfried as Cosette and Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean. Marking my calendar now.)
A close runner-up to Les Mis in my List of Favorite Musicals is The Phantom of the Opera. I guess I can also add that as another book-I’ve-not-read. Anyway, unlike Les Mis, the entire plot of Phantom of the Opera revolves around the love triangle. A musical genius, the Phantom falls in love with Christine when he hears her sing. Hiding himself in the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, the Phantom brings Christine to his lair in an attempt to seduce and ensnare her. Enter Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny and an old childhood friend of Christine’s. Turns out they do escape the Friendship Trap and fall in love. The Phantom, obsessed with Christine, forces the Opera Company to do his bidding in casting her in the starring role of his opera. Christine attempts to run away with Raoul to escape the Phantom, which only enrages him. The Phantom captures Christine and threatens to kill Raoul if she doesn’t come with him. Overcome by pity, Christine removes the Phantom’s mask and bestows a scorching kiss on him, scarred face and all. The Phantom, so moved by her gesture, frees both Raoul and Christine, staying behind to await the mob coming to kill him. In a scene sure to bring even the most hardened hearts to tears, the Phantom hears the echoes of Christine and Raoul singing as they leave while the Phantom despairs over his unrequited love.
I read Gone with the Wind when I was eleven, and even at that young age I wanted to slap some sense into Scarlett. Anyone with half a brain could see that rich, successful, debonair, swashbuckling Rhett Butler was a much better catch than that insipid excuse for a man Ashley Wilkes. Honestly, if they’d had “Team Rhett” and “Team Ashley” paraphernalia back in 1936, I’m betting Rhett would have outsold Ashley fifty to one. This is a rare type of triangle – the kind where the heroine ends up with neither hero. Of course, by the time we reach the end of Gone with the Wind, we are well aware of Scarlett’s character and tenacity, thus her resolve to win back Rhett eases the part of us that just wants to say “WTF?! I read that whole book and there’s no HEA?!!”
What movie first comes to mind when you say “romance?” For me, it’s Casablanca. The always-breathtaking Ingrid Bergman opposite Hollywood bad-boy Humphrey Bogart, what’s not to love? Believing her husband to be dead when Ilsa meets Rick in Paris, she embarks on a love affair with him. When Paris falls to the Germans, Rick makes plans for them to flee. Unfortunately, that’s when she discovers that her husband isn’t dead after all. Oops. All three of them wind up in Casablanca where Rick is a hard, cold man – disillusioned and cynical. Ilsa is torn between the two of them – a fact her husband never realizes.
Watching Ingrid Bergman work her way past Bogart’s defenses is entrancing. They decide to escape Casablanca together, Ilsa choosing Rick over Victor, but at the last moment, Rick concedes, forcing Ilsa to leave with Victor. Gallant and wise, Rick knows that Ilsa would eventually come to regret her decision, regret choosing him over Victor, and does the only thing he can. It’s heartbreaking to see Rick watch as Ilsa flies away with Victor, leaving him forever. Which scene of course then reminds me of another of the greatest romance movies of all time, When Harry Met Sally. Sally is quite sure that Ingrid Bergman doesn’t want to stay and be married to “some guy who runs a bar,” but would rather be First Lady of Czechoslovakia, after all, “Women are very practical, even Ingrid Bergman, which is why she gets on the plane at the end of the movie.”
Arguably what has become the most well known love triangle in current times, the Twilight Saga brought a whole new level of fan obsession to the genre. I don’t think I need to explain the details, and some may disagree with placing Twilight at the top of the list, but I would contend that more has been talked and written about this triangle than the rest on this list combined. I don’t think it’s the most well done of love triangles (I mean come on, did anyone really think Jacob had even a fighting chance??), but the level at which Jacob, Edward and Bella entered popular lexicon and culture is staggering, producing a uniformly acknowledged meaning to the term “Team Insert-Name-Here.” As an author myself, I can only tip my hat in admiration to Stephanie Meyers and her enormous good fortune.
So what will the next big love triangle be that captures our imaginations and unleashes the inner romantic? No one knows. But I think it’s a safe bet that love triangles will never lose their appeal.