By Kasie Whitener
I’ve been binge reading romance novels lately. Every year I begin my literary year with some high intentions: the National Book Award finalists, the Booker Prize finalists. Then we go to the beach in August and I pick up a courtly romance and I’m sucked back in.
In high school, I belonged to a book club that sent me four new regency romances a month. A regency romance is historical fiction that does not bother being accurate in its historical details. Think antebellum costumes without the complications of slavery, candles and oil lamps without the discomfort of outhouses. Regency romances forget how rarely people bathed and that few, if any, cleaned their teeth. It’s a polished version of old manners, old social norms, and the subtle sexiness of glamourous costumes.
Usually my August romance novel will spur a binge of genre novels for a few weeks before I return to my more sophisticated reading list. Last year, I was caught up in a series by Sherrilyn Kenyon that had me downloading each successive novel as soon as the previous one was finished. This year it was J.R. Ward then Sarah MacLean then J.T. Geissinger.
When I finally emerged from Geissinger’s series about shape shifters, I found a series by Mary E. Pearson that brought me deeper into my fantasy fiction habit. Beginning with A Kiss of Deception, Pearson has crafted a series around a compelling love triangle that has me completely obsessed.
Romance novels very rarely play with love triangles. If they do, the triangle is shallow and mostly a device to make one party jealous of another. But Pearson’s book relies upon the triangle for at least two books (I haven’t started the third) and I never got tired of it. A love triangle offers a unique view of characters. There is the sense that betrayal is lurking all the time, that secrets are knotting themselves deep in the fabric of the story, and that someone is going to end up losing.
Love triangles are common in Young Adult (YA) fiction like the The Remnant Chronicles by Pearson. The Twilight series made use of the Jacob-Bella-Edward triangle, Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series stood on the Jace-Clary-Simon triangle and her Dark Artifices series is hinging on a new love triangle Julian-Emma-Mark.
How an author employs the triangle to test her heroine’s resolve is fascinating. Even the Ron-Hermione-Harry trio had its loyalty challenges through the Harry Potter series. A triangle provides the writer with opportunities to test the protagonist but also opportunities to get the reader to pick sides as well.
Pearson’s first book in The Remnant Chronicles series was a well-organized narrative that provided enough confusion for readers that I didn’t know which of the suitors I wanted Lia to choose. What I did know, though, was that I was fully invested in Lia and the choice she would inevitably have to make unless one of the boys made it for her.