Love Triangles, Part 2

A commenter on my last post about love triangles pointed out that various love-angles have been featured in literature since who-knows-when. Cave people probably told stories about dramatic love triangles in grunts and signs, and good for them.

The story of Helen of Troy was a love-triangle of sorts, with Paris stealing Helen from her wretched husband Menelaus. There’s the classic King Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot triangle, one of my very favorite stories of all time, and the accompanying Tristan-Isolde-King Mark tale. Shakespeare loved a good love triangle, and even Jane Austen gives us a variety of love-angles in Mansfield Park, arguably her primmest book—and again, one of my favorites. (Honestly, if there were a Team Edmund/Team Henry debate, I’d be rooting for Henry Crawford. Seriously!)

Downton Abbey happily plays on our interest in love-angles.

But why? I really want to know what it is about being caught between lovers that is so appealing to us. Is it the drama? The exquisite joy and pain of having two people who love someone so much—do we want to experience that vicariously?

Still, today I want to drag into the mix love untried and those rare books in which two lovers unite without much friction. I just finished one: Soulless, by Gail Carriger, a book which probably warrants a blog post about pastiche and steampunk and parasols.

Over the course of the book, though, which is the first in a series, the two lovers are wed—and there are really very few love-related obstacles for them to cross before the wedding. Practicalities like not knowing if you’re writing a series aside, what is the merit of letting the lovers get together right away, especially when we readers love to have the drama stretched out?

I started this topic out with fantasy because, well, I write and read mostly fantasy these days. I do read and love me some historical fiction and classic fiction—Jane Austen continues to be one of my very favorites. But the mix of lovers does transcend genres, just as it transcends the “romance” category generally.

I want to throw this open to you, readers. Which do you prefer: love quickly triumphant or love tried with complications like other lovers? Why do you prefer it? What are your favorite love stories?

As for me, now I just want to reread Mansfield Park.