If you’re like us over at Romantic Fantasy Shelf, you love your fantasy with a heaping (over)dose of romance. And for some of us, what’s better than one swoon-worthy love interest? Ahem… two.
No, no—we’re not talking about menage (although wethinks there now needs to be a list for that?!). We’re talking about that spiciest of shapes—the love triangle.
For those of you who didn’t know what all the #TeamEdward and #TeamJacob fuss was about, a love triangle is when the protagonist (one this particular list, the heroine) has two love interests who’d both love to hit it, but she chooses between them. Oftentimes, it’s not just choosing one dude or the other, but also choosing who she wants to be when she’s with the victor. Sometimes in the wild, love triangles are described as LYAHF or “Let’s You and Him Fight,” and if you’re into two hot guys fighting (verbally or otherwise) to win the hand of the lovely lady, you’ve come to the right place!
Without further ado:
Set in Victorian London, Clockwork Angel takes us on heroine Tessa’s mission to find her brother, and has her working alongside handsome allies Will and Jem. If you’re looking for a love triangle in the truest, most thorough sense of the term, this is it—Tessa loves both Will and Jem, and Will and Jem both love her. Who will win, and the juicy and heart-wrenching ways this triangle unfolds, will have you reading these books way too long into the night and slathering on an extra layer of your last jar of Erase Paste concealer under your eyes in the morning before your Zoom call (Just me? Really? REALLY?!). But it is totally worth it, and the third book in this series is arguably Cassandra Clare’s best book.
How wrong can one hunt go? Feyre tries to provide for her family, but she makes a mistake that has major consequences with the fae, leads her to their realm, and… to a juicy love triangle. Although she initially finds herself falling for mysterious and handsome Tamlin, soon the teasing and secretive Rhysand enters the ring, introducing a mischievous element and making an irresistible case for #TeamRhys. If you need your triangles relatively resolved soonish, this one grants you mercy in the second book, A Court of Mist and Fury. Do yourself a favor and let Tamlin and Rhys take you for a spin. *eyebrow waggle*
In this tale of intrigue, curmudgeonly thief Mare is working at the Silver Palace when she discovers she has a special power, and she chooses to harness it for a militant resistance movement. Caught between kind-hearted heir Cal and tortured younger prince Maven (not a bad spot to be stuck in, eh?), Mare navigates deadly stakes as she’s betrothed to one and drawn to another.. Like Clockwork Angel, this series executes the love triangle so well that you won’t want to miss it (and once you finish it, you will miss it!).
Newly initiated seer Effie hopes to stop a war from destroying the land, if she can harness her visions and decipher them, and her allies on this mission are her love-to-hate mentor, Kieran, and strong warrior Guardian, Lucian. Kieran has long dreamt of Effie, so seeing her comes as a shock, and Lucian acts as one of her Guardians, and to make choosing between them even more fun, be sure to read the prequel first, The Dreamer, which takes you deeper into Kieran’s journey first.
Two friends and a talented warrior wind up in a tangled mess as they vie to become the Imperial Enchanter in this engaging tale set in Imperial Russia around the 1820s. Vika, with her ability to summon snow and turn ash to gold, finds herself in the middle of a deadly competition that could lead to her becoming the tsar’s most trusted adviser, except… Well, one of the young men in her way is Nikolai, with magic and passion that calls her. To say nothing of Pasha, the heir to the throne and Nikolai’s friend. Rich with secrets, intrigue, and danger, these three must fight their way through their own feelings, ambition, and terror. And in the end, there can only be one winner. Who will it be? This is just the story for you if you love historical fantasy with a nail-biting love triangle and plenty of folklore to go around.
Batten down the hatches, my friend, because this one is a full-on naval battle—ships abound! Amelia has an enormous destiny that spans worlds, one she chooses to face at almost impossible odds, and at the other end is a larger-than-life enemy, hot shapeshifter warlord Naatos. He’s done horrible, despicable, unthinkable things, that should make him no more than a villain—and yet… 😉 That’s right: if you’re looking for a sexy bully on a journey, Naatos has a big ship you can jump on. But he’s not the only man who vies for Amelia’s heart. There’s also royal guard Shon, who has so many more dark depths to him than the good-guy veneer. But I did say “naval battle” of ships, didn’t I? If you’ve read A Court of Thorns and Roses and loved Rhys’s entourage, open another door in your shipper heart: Naatos also has two hot shapeshifter brothers, the dragon-favoring WroOth, whose #team is nearly as big as Naatos’s, and AaQar, the mysterious wounded warrior who favors sea-monster forms. But who we root for most is Amelia, whose resilience, kind nature, and drive to do good win you over completely.
Celaena is an assassin paying for her crimes in a slave camp when she’s given a chance to compete in order to join the king’s service and eventually gain her freedom. Swept into this different world in a twist on Cinderella, she finds herself getting close… like, super close… to both Prince Dorian and Captain of the Guard Chaol. This win-win between a royal playboy and his brawny best friend is both enticing and heart wrenching, and it resolves by the second book if you don’t want to risk your heart on a longer series ride.
Honor and passion, virtuous paladin and werewolf noble. Rielle is a fiery mage who faces numerous challenging situations and decisions, but two of the men vying for her affection may offer some of the greatest. Jon, a righteous warrior who is supposed to remain chaste in compliance with his oath, finds his connection with Rielle deepening with every moment together. Despite battling his feelings for Rielle, his need and love for her grows. Brennan, the surly werewolf engaged to Rielle, struggles with remorse and desire as his own arrogance may have cost him the one woman he actually needs. And as for Rielle, she is a woman of passion, conviction, and purpose, with a deadly mission and the life of a dear friend at stake as well as a kingdom. With complex and nuanced characters on each point of this love triangle amid a rich French-inspired fantasy landscape, you can’t go wrong on this journey, whichever side you’re on. (Plus the odd one out in the love triangle will get his own spinoff series later on!)
In a fantasy world shaped by the precept “Love As Thou Wilt,” our heroine Phèdre nó Delaunay doesn’t limit herself in her options. Among intrigue, danger, and some serious angst, she wavers between her childhood friend-turned-hot-dude Hyacinthe and her uptight bodyguard, Joscelin, with the sly Melisande never fully off the board either. And (!!) there’s a bonus love triangle in the backstory between two pupils and their mentor, Delaunay, whose approval and attention they vie for. This world is full of LGBTQ+ and sex acceptance, a refreshing change of pace from intolerance and shaming. And as hot as the romance plot is, Phèdre is really the one you root for. (Can I just hang out with her? No? Oh wait, I can reread the Kushiel’s Legacy series, so… Yes, I can, haha.)
Lyana is a free spirit and a princess about to take part in courtship trials to find her true mate, and she’s caught between twin brothers who couldn’t be more different—bad-boy Rafe and sensitive Xander. With Houses inspired by birds, The Raven and the Dove is a Tristan & Isolde retelling but tackles it in a refreshing, well-built fantasy world and with a deep, delicious dive into the characters. You’ll find yourself rooting for both men in this triangle, and particularly if you’re looking for a breath of fresh air among your pile of romantic fantasy books, this is the one.
In this brutal world reminiscent of ancient Rome, Laia, a slave, must find a way to save her beloved brother. Loneliness plagues Laia as she develops feelings for the finest soldier in the realm despite her love for a dedicated member of the Resistance. This world is deceptive, and not all is as it appears. Laia is tested at every level, her heart just as much. And whether she comes out alive is no more certain than whether she can or will make the right choice. An engaging tale set in a harsh world with unforgiving laws makes this a fast read you won’t want to put down.
Care for a love triangle that takes place over more than one story? Kingdom of Runes as a whole includes the complicated weaving of love and conflict that Haven, a pink-haired badass warrior with remarkable skills, must navigate. With a crisp narrative structure and clear voice, this tale of rival loves gets itself warmed up in the first book and then carries on through the series. Who will it be? Powerful connections bond Haven to Archeron the Sun Lord and Stolas the villain, with her connection to Stolas being more complicated given he is rather… shall we say …not a great person but an oh-so-intriguing character. (What’s a little kidnapping and villainy when done in an entertaining fashion?) The worldbuilding is distinct and dark, with hidden magick and surprising twists. Haven herself must learn to navigate a harsh yet enchanting world if she is to save Prince Bell, navigate a treacherous land, avoid corruption, and handle her own forbidden magick without losing herself in the process.
Despite being practically sixteen, Meghan finds herself in quite a quandary that could cost her everything. Not only does she wind up in a fantastical and bizarre place known as the Nevernever, but she finds herself smack dab in the middle of a love triangle. She falls for the cold and distant Ash almost at once, but another legendary and mischievous fellow also has feelings for her. But she must be swift, for this land is full of secrets, intrigue, and treachery. Otherwise, she may never see her brother again, and she herself may be lost. Both seelie and unseelie are present in this gripping fast-paced story, mashing up myths and folklore into a young woman’s coming of age and the choices that define her.
Her parents killed in the Border Wars, Alina has had a hard life, but that hasn’t kept her from developing feelings for Mal, her best friend and a talented tracker. They journey together across the Shadow Fold, where tragedy reveals Alina is not all what she appears or even knows herself. Add to the mix a brooding inhuman Darkling who favors her, and matters get more complicated still. She learns who she is, along with the secrets of these two distinct men, and who she could be depending on where she goes and what else is revealed. An absolute must for those in search of a fast read with an intriguing world and great chemistry.
One of triplet magical sisters, Mirabella is the only one who has come into her own, magically speaking. Once she turns sixteen, she will have to fight her other sisters for the right to rule, but for now she is in training and… developing feelings for two very different love interests. One is a kind soul who has been her friend for quite some time, someone who makes her a better person. The other… Well, we don’t want to walk into spoiler territory, but he’s almost dead when she finds him, and matters quickly get passionate with long-lasting consequences when he wakes up. You should be aware that this love triangle does involve some cheating. There are a lot of emotional connections and webs throughout that get explored, and the series carries on, all parties in tow with the looming final battle.
Princess and prisoner, Theo has been imprisoned in the palace since her mother was murdered before her eyes and the Kaiser’s army overwhelmed them. Now, sixteen and fed up, all of that is about to change. One romance starts with plans for a righteous murder and vengeance. The other romance blossoms from closeness and friendship. All of the intrigues in the Kaiser’s court and the reality of her humiliation make Theo’s job much harder. Her growing feelings for these two men make her life and choices all the harder, but even so, her desire to make matters right guides her through in accomplishing what initially seems impossible.
Caliph Khalid kills each of his wives, and when her best friend is taken to become one, Shahrzad volunteers next, with the intent of killing him. She leaves behind her friend, hot love interest, Tariq, and she and Khalid engage in a deadly game in which each of them expects the other to die… But things don’t go as planned (do they ever?!). Instead, Shahrzad’s heart is caught between her good-hearted childhood friend and her dark-hearted caliph… The love triangle more or less resolves in the first book, so if you’re looking for a taste of one but not catching your heart in a tug-of-war for multiple books, this is the Jenga piece to pull from your TBR.
Institutionalized by parents who think she’s gone mad, Catherine has a rough life in this Victorian Gothic romance complete with fae, spirits, intrigue, and love triangles. It’s only through luck (or so it seems) that she has a good match at all with the handsome but mysterious Lord Thornton. Of course, matters at Thornwood become all the more interesting as Catherine continues to witness ghostly occurrences as well as fae. And to make matters even more intriguing, there is a new rival for Catherine’s affections, the charming fae disguised as gardener, Ray. He has just as many secrets as Lord Thornton, but only Catherine can decide who is best for her and her sanity as she uncovers her true power and the reality behind the estate’s legacy of tragedies.
Ryiah risks it all in pursuit of a prestigious apprenticeship as a combat mage at a magical academy, and along the way, finds herself caught between a prince, Darren, and an older student. What makes First Year different from most of the books on this list is that we don’t dive headlong into the triangle in the first book—nope, it’s the second where it blooms (and my, my, does it ever). It’s Darren’s royalty that’s the possible deal-breaker in this triangle, so if you like drama and angst, you’ll want to pick this one up.
In a world of gods and mortals, Yeine is thrust into a bloody struggle for power with her cousins. While love triangles come in many shapes and sizes, this one is in a category all its own because Yeine loves as she pleases. Although there’s definitely the presence of love triangles (especially in the second book), there are multiple juicy love threads to follow and enjoy in this one. If you enjoy some spice with your romance and possibly more than three points to your love polygon, you need this story to complete your romantic fantasy geometry lesson. 🙂