As Shakespeare put it, “the course of true love never did run smooth.” And one way that’s certain to make that journey even more rockier, is by having two love interests at the same time.
Love triangles feature in some of literature’s most iconic and gripping stories. Whether you’re eagerly turning the page to find out who the main character will have their happy ever after with, or you're living vicariously through the character, they offer a gripping plot line which makes them key in some of literature's most well known books.
When it came to narrowing it down to the five most iconic love triangles in literature it was no easy task. From Wuthering Heights to Jane Eyre and more contemporary portrayals such as One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid, it’s clear that the love triangle trope is one which has stood the test of time.
Warning: this one might contain some spoilers!
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
The triangle: Elizabeth Bennett, Darcy Fitzwilliam and George Wickham.
Jane Austen’s most popular novel has sold over 20 million copies worldwide and unsurprisingly, there’s a love triangle at its centre. When Elizabeth is rejected by Darcy she makes a promise to herself that she’ll have nothing to do with him.
The pair keep their distance, as Darcy tries to convince himself that he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings. Meanwhile, Elizabeth starts dating soldier George Wickham. When she’s ghosted by him, she gives up hope of ever seeing him again, which also gives Elizabeth and Darcy the opportunity to become closer and eventually, admit their feelings for one another.
2. Twilight by Stephanie Meyers
The triangle: Bella Swan, Edward Cullen and Jacob Black.
The Team Edward vs Team Jacob debate didn’t only divide a fandom, but anyone and everyone who watched the movies. The five book series sees Bella Swan’s relationship with vampire, Edward Cullen, develop as the pair marry and even have a baby together. But as her relationship with close friend Jacob Black continues to evolve, readers are left to pick a side. And to complicate things more, Edward and Jacob definitely do not get along.
3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The triangle: Katniss Everdeen, Gale Hawthorne and Peta Mellark.
Almost as divisive as the Twilight debate, The Hunger Games sees Katniss leave lover Gale behind as she enters the annual Hunger Games. Peta and Katniss must fight it out to the death with 22 other contestants until just one survives. The pair strike up a pretend relationship as a survival tactic, but slowly it starts to turn into more. And the main problem? Katniss’ other love interest Gale, has been left watching at home.
4. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
The triangle: Bridget Jones, Mark Darcy and Daniel Cleaver.
The novel chronicles the lives of a thirty-something singleton living in London who’s trying to make sense of life and love. Bridget is worried about her weight, complexion, work and most importantly, she’s on the hunt for a man she can love and trust. Luckily for Bridget, she has two to choose from, her boss Daniel Cleave and lawyer Mark Darcy.
Credit: Everett Collection
5. One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The triangle: Emma Blair, Jesse Lerner and Sam Lee.
Is it possible to love two people at the same time? When Emma marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse, she expects that the two are going to spend the rest of their lives together. But when Jesse goes missing in a helicopter crash on their first wedding anniversary, she’s forced to start all over again.
She moves back home to her parents and years later, falls in love with Sam. The two get engaged, but as Emma is preparing for her wedding, she receive a phone call from a voice she never expected to hear again.
Faced with an impossible decision between her husband and fiance, Emma is left to decide who her One True Love really is.
Is there an iconic love triangle you would have put on the list that we missed? Comment your favourites below. Make sure to check out our 'Love triangles' playlist to get you all in your feels.
If you liked this post then read What is Dark Romance? And five books to get you started or Why crime fiction is fixated on women as victims of violent crime next.
Yasmin is a third year journalism student at The University of Sheffield, specialising in feature writing. She has previously written for the Sheffield Tribune and women’s magazine Pick Me Up! She is particularly interested in how mental health issues are portrayed in fiction.
Favourite genres: Romance, Crime and Thrillers.