I hate love triangles.
This week's Top 5 post is love triangles, which explains why I've been dragging my feet. Generally love triangles are very badly done (badly done, Emma!) and you wonder if you're really supposed to be guessing when the relationship endgame has been obvious from the start. If I learn that a book contains a love triangle before I read it, chances are I won't ever pick it up. However, if I make that discovery in medias res, I will keep reading it but I will feel very cheated.
Top 5 Love Triangles
1. Emma, by Jane Austen (Emma-Mr. Knightley-Frank)
Emma is an interfering busybody with a misguidedly high opinion of herself--and I LOVE it. I find her to be the most relatable Austen character--mostly because she is terribly flawed and so am I (though let it be said that Emma at least expends her efforts in the interests of others. I, on the other hand, am so shallow you could drown an ant in me).
And is there any greater delight than in seeing Knightley all riled up and jealous over Emma? Because come on. It's Knightley--every iteration of him is the stablest, most self-possessed kind of guy you'd want to bring home to your parents. Seeing him lose his head over Emma over an imagined romantic attachment between her and Frank is possibly the most adorable thing ever. They're already closer than friends, and it's perfectly natural--almost ideal--that they'd end up together. As for Emma and Frank, I love that they're kind of like snarky best friends who once entertained the possibility of a romance between them but eventually decided they're better off as the top queen bitches of Highbury.
2. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon (Claire-Jamie-Frank)
Incidentally, it looks like Franks should never get into love triangles, as it doesn't seem to bode well for them.
This makes it to my Top 5 Love Triangles list solely because it's a love triangle that barely makes itself felt. For most of the Outlander books, Frank is an afterthought--certainly, he is a genuinely felt one, but he recedes into distant memory for the most part. I believe, however, that this is one of the truer love triangles in recent fiction -- Claire never stops loving Frank, despite the passionate strength of her bond to Jamie. I do believe that if Claire had never touched the standing stones and fell backwards through time, she and Frank would have worked things out and been quite happy with each other.
However, things are what they are, and I can't say I regret the loss of Frank too keenly, what with Jamie and Claire's chemistry sparkling on every page. Yes, you're supposed to love Jamie for being ridiculously charming and handsome and, shall we say, virile. Yes, Claire is supposed to be a wish fulfillment character, who is constantly brave despite her terrors and strong in the face of constant danger. Yes, their love is almost too perfect and durable to be true.
But I'll be damned if I don't enjoy every minute of it.
3. Sebastian St. Cyr Series, by C.S. Harris (Sebastian-Hero-Kat)
I liked Kat well enough, because honestly, it was Sebastian's love for her that kept me reading. His love for her humanized him, and was the lens through which you realize that under the feral viscountiness of him beats a heart that cares--a lot. But I always found their love to be a little bland. Now, Hero really impressed the pants off me, right off the bat. I loved her strength and determination as much as I loved her imperiously stiff upper-lip. She manages to get through the layers of lies and societal conventions without destroying a single item of clothing, which is something Sebastian has an awful lot of trouble with (something, I'd like to add, he has in common with Jamie up there, and I'm not complaining).
I read her as a character with the bearing of an Amazon queen and the buttoned-up appearance of a librarian, and that is a fascinating combination. If more female characters had the stuff Hero Jarvis is made of, we'd be wading through a lot less crap.
4. Maledicte, by Lane Robins (Maledicte-Gilly-Janus)
This is a book that I don't think a lot of people have read, and it's such a shame.
I didn't actually realize that this was a triangle until the middle of the book--all I knew was that I really liked Gilly and wasn't really feeling the whole Janus thing. Yes, Janus is golden and handsome and brilliant, especially compared to Gilly the catamite spy. And Maledicte's love for Janus is the combustible fuel that propels the entire story to its devastating finish.
Maledicte breaks into the book, ripping the world apart and leaving a path of bloodied, broken bodies in her wake, all due to her feral desire to get back to Janus's side. Janus himself finesses his way through the capricious court with deadly ease without batting an eye to how many men he's killed to make sure he and Maledicte can be happy together.
Really, how can you beat that? How can a charming yet ultimately powerless servant possibly compete with such an unstoppable, bloodthirsty romance? Well that's why you should pick this up.
5. Deathless, by Catherynne M. Valente (Marya-Koschei-Ivan)
Marya is a fierce, ass-kicking HBIC, and not in the hyper-conscious way your run-of-the-mill ass-kicking heroine tends to be. She doesn't ever pause to reflect on what a remarkable thing it is that she can hunt down beasts, outwit famous Russian hags, fight in wars, and bespell the very personification of life itself. She just does it, clothing herself in glory and blood one minute, then cloaking herself in rags and surviving the devastation of a starving city the next. That's Marya Morevna for you.
Of course Koschei would be drawn to someone as harsh and sharply alive as her. He rebels against being drawn to heel by her, but submits anyway. It's a pity that Ivan, mere human and all-around regular dude, was drawn into their web of messed-up power plays, because there's no way he could keep his head above the water.