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Some Thoughts On The Love Triangle

I just finished Alys Clare's The Rufus Spy. In it, the Point of View Character, Lassair, gets pregnant by an honorable lawman she saved the life of, bolts to her hometown to decide what to do about it, and then miscarries. An ex-lover shows up and asks her to help him escape a dangerous enemy, and we are presented with The Love Triangle (tm). Rollo is the ex who she claims she still pines for and is asking her to help escape the enemy. Jack is the lawman. Both men want her, and early on she declares that she must decide between the two.

But I don't buy it. Lassair prefers Jack's gift of a cloak above all others and labored over saving his life. I also see a general pattern, present in the Midnight Louie series and a few other books, where love triangles that consist of a 'nice boy' and a 'bad boy' end with the bad boy losing out. We know Rollo is greedy and untrustworthy from the start, so anyone trusting Lassair's intelligence is going to put their money on Jack. And when Rollo tells Lassair that he is a double agent, deliberately selling secrets to political rivals, she doesn't respond with much surprise. The deliberating between two people aspect seems tacked on after the fact, and largely unnecessary.

The subplot got me thinking about the infamous love triangle trope. Some of my favorite writing vloggers have complained about it. I don't know quite if I dislike it, in and of itself, but I did want to get my thoughts on the matter an airing. The Marriage Speech Writ Large did a video about the wedding speech trope, the one started by 'The Graduate,' where the hero makes a big speech at a woman's wedding and the bride runs off with him. The video points out that it plays off the notion that women can't make life decisions until a man nudges her, and that she can essentially bounce between men, depending on whoever makes the biggest speech. The Rufus Spy version of the love triangle kind of had a similar vibe to it since Lassair never made up her mind. The plot resolved the dilemma for her by removing an option. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone who wants to read it, but I will say that the resolution involved Lassair only to the point where she helped Rollo with his plans. This book doesn't give Lassair no agency- she makes choices and follows through with them. It's just that the plot resolves some important decisions for her, and I think that may be at least part of what gets people complaining about this trope. It's a plot point that the heroine should really be the one to resolve, but is frequently left to powers beyond the heroine's control instead. It can make the guys look stupid for hanging on and the gal self-centered for dangling them. It feels like the easy way out for everyone. Mr. Plot Device Then there is the melodrama aspect of it. In this trope, it seems like the hunky bad boy is being used to draw out the obviously preferred romance by injecting an easily ejected obstacle. The two men bob in and out of the woman's life, changing places whenever the plot requires a bit more intrigue and drama. They could both be important without being a love interest, but the romance might get sped up without some excuse for the heroine to stall. After a couple of books, this stalling doesn't even feel real. Don't get me wrong: I love having an extra person getting in trouble, but I would feel just as invested in the well-being of both men if one of them was an ex that had remained a platonic friend after the new guy started dating her and she didn't angst about him coming back. The prolonged romantic subplot is good and necessary, too, but I wish Alys Clare had picked another method of prolonging it. This just felt forced.

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