If there's one thing that can make or break a romance for readers, it's an improperly-handled love triangle.
Often, readers see them wind up as a lose-lose situation where a character you like will get hurt, your personal ship might not sail, all while the protagonist risks seeming fickle and indecisive without commitment to either partner.
However, we know love is complicated and these entanglements can add to the plot, conflict, and character's growth when handled with care. So today, we're taking a look at some of the love triangles we believe had satisfying resolutions.
Jesper is the gunslinger of The Dregs, a notorious criminal gang of Ketterdam, while Wylan comes on board as the "demolitions expert" (really, he's a noble's son and they keep him around because they think it'll pay off).
Throughout the first book, Jesper and Wylan grow incredibly close, with Jesper at first taking Wylan under his wing and teasing the ever-loving hell out of him. Wylan clearly has a crush on Jesper, but it takes Jesper a long time to see past his own crush on The Dregs leader Kaz.
After rescuing a scientist's son, Kuwei, the young man becomes a fixture of The Dregs, as they have to keep him safe if they don't want his formulas getting into the wrong hands. Kuwei also develops an obvious crush on Jesper, which makes Wylan jealous.
There's honestly no competition. Jesper falls for Wylan and has no idea Kuwei likes him, so the tension lies in the fact that Jesper and Wylan simply haven't confessed their feelings.
This dynamic culminates in a hilarious scene where Wylan and Kuwei have to take on the same appearance for decoy purposes, and Jesper accidentally kisses Kuwei, who he thinks is Wylan.
Jesper later confesses his love in a panicked apology to the real Wylan, while Kuwei leaves wordlessly, blissful with his accidental smooch.
Takeaway: If there's going to be a love triangle, one course is to have no wavering on anyone's part. Jesper never has to "choose" between Wylan and Kuwei because there's never any doubt he loves Wylan. Wylan's jealousy is understandable and not at all destructive, and Jesper handles it well by immediately putting Wylan at ease and clearing the misunderstanding. And Kuwei...well, he doesn't seem all that upset. He shoots his shot, gets a kiss out of it, and goes about his day.
Same-sex relationships and polygamy have historically been looked down upon; Black Sails illustrates this on a number of levels when it comes to the relationship between the Hamiltons and James McGraw—later known as the formidable, terrifying Captain James Flint.
This identity shift occurs when England (James's true enemy) "made Thomas disappear" and exiles James and Miranda after discovering their extra-marital affair. Little did they know that while James and Miranda were physically attracted to each other and bonding, James was also in love with Thomas.
Despite their mutual love for one another, Miranda knows she cannot give Thomas all he needs, as he is not physically attracted to women. This secret could not only ruin his political standing and all he's worked for, but it could quite literally threaten his life. For these reasons, she keeps his secret, allows society to brand her an adulterer, and is not upset when James comes into the picture. Instead, she is happy Thomas has found a friend and lover, and they all become very close.
"You were told that it was shameful. And part of you believed it. Thomas was my husband. I loved him, and he loved me. But, what he shared with you...it was entirely something else. It's time you allowed yourself to accept that." - Miranda to James
"People can say what they like about you. But you're a good man. More people should say that. And someone should be willing to defend it." - James to Thomas
"When I first met you, you were so...unformed. And then I spoke and bade you cast aside your shame, and Captain Flint was born into the world...that part of you that always existed yet never were you willing to allow it into the light of day. I was mistress to you when you needed love. I was wife to you when you needed understanding. But first and before all...I was mother. I have known you like no other, so I love you like no other." - Miranda to James
Takeaway: All three characters love and respect each other, and they work together to make sure they're all happy and fulfilled. They have a shared dream they work toward. There's no jealousy or anger...until Thomas is taken, then James and Miranda seek vengeance for the man they love.
Jane Austen has a way of playing with expectations and perception that's admired still today. One of her best examples is the love triangle between Elizabeth Bennett, Fitzwilliam Darcy, and George Wickham in Pride & Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy catch one another's eye at a ball, but Darcy makes it clear he has no interest in her. Elizabeth, stung, vows to have nothing to do with him, no matter how attractive she finds him.
This proves a hard task for both of them. Darcy, despite claiming he has no interest in Elizabeth, is trying to convince himself more than anyone. He keeps his distance, but when his best friend starts courting Elizabeth's sister (thus bringing Elizabeth repeatedly in contact with the two friends), Darcy finds it increasingly difficult to ignore how he feels.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth is oblivious to Darcy's struggle and goes on to court with George Wickham, a soldier who seems the epitome of a gentleman. Darcy tries to warn Elizabeth that Wickham is a liar and dishonorable man, but she won't take the word of someone who is determined to hate her. Eventually, Wickham is revealed to be a terrible person who was using Elizabeth, but by that point Elizabeth had already given up hope of seeing him again, because he ghosts her for most of the book.
During this ghosting period is when Darcy and Elizabeth grow close and eventually admit their feelings (and their misconceptions of one another that got in the way of those feelings).
Takeaway: Throughout the plot, there is never a point Elizabeth is seeing both men. She's at first interested in Darcy, gets rejected, then moves on to Wickham. The two court for awhile, but Wickham's impatience at not being able to quickly secure a rich bride makes him drop Elizabeth, who is then free to explore her feelings for Darcy.
It's a natural progression of characters figuring out what they want, who they want, and exploring compatibility with different people without being unfaithful. It's also refreshing to see that Darcy, while jealous of Wickham, completely respects Elizabeth's wishes to date who she wants and backs off when she makes her stance clear.
Art by: @arz28
This ongoing love triangle is one that has readers on all sides of the fence. Lucien is Elain's fated mate, but Elain is romantically interested in the Night Court's spymaster Azriel, a feeling Azriel clearly returns.
Not all Mating bonds are love matches and can be denied; Elain is firmly against getting to know Lucien, whereas Lucien feels the pull of their bond and wants to explore it. Except for the unspoken interest Azriel and Elain share and Lucien's desire to know Elain better, no major advancements have occurred, and no boundaries have been crossed.
Art by: @runningquill_art
Some fans of the series want Elain to give Lucien a chance, as he's been nothing but caring toward her and Elain doesn't know much about Azriel beyond their physical attraction. It's possible a lack of compatibility will cause young Elain to move on from her crush and see Lucien in a new light.
Others like the idea of seeing a Mating bond rejected in a healthy way. Azriel is a good person, and it's obvious he and Elain care for one another. Elain isn't intimidated by Azriel's darkness, and she makes him feel beautiful and accepted. Azriel helps her heal after her trauma, risks his life to rescue her when she's kidnapped, and lends her his favorite blade during the war.
But does Azriel love Elain, or does he care for her because she showed him kindness? He quickly jumps to this new attraction for someone he barely knows after pining centuries for his close friend Mor, who has never returned his romantic interest. Azriel and Elain could be a sweet pairing who help one another heal, but ultimately none of the characters have a deeper bond than shared kindness and physical attraction. This dynamic has readers eager to see how the triangle will play out, as no commitments have been made and either relationship would be a healthy and satisfying one.
Takeaway: Both men have shown interest in Elain but have remained completely respectful of her wellbeing and wishes, and she has not made advances toward either. While there are feelings all over the place, all parties have been mature and kept a respectful distance.
Even if a reader's preferred ship doesn't sail, it looks like a) Elain will only pursue a relationship with one person, thus keeping disappointment to a minimum or b) she will naturally discover incompatibility with one person then get into a different relationship as she chooses.
END THOUGHTS: Love is a tough thing to navigate on its own, so it's no wonder tossing in two romance dynamics can be a recipe for disaster. The drama makes for a hell of a read, but sometimes it's refreshing to see a love triangle that doesn't break readers into teams and leave one of those groups disappointed.
What are some love triangles you thought were handled well? Let us know in the comments below so we can discuss!