We've talked heroes, anti-heroes, and now I'm at love interests.
Love interests can go either way. They can annoy or draw the reader closer to the story.
It is also very, very difficult to find books without a love interest of some sort. This probably has something to do with the genres I read. I mean, I can only name a handful of books where there wasn't some sort of romantic tension going on. Maybe if I switched genres?
In non-romance fiction, where there is only one central character and not two, usually we figure out the love interest fairly soon.
In High Heels Mysteries, it was Jack Ramirez. There was a little bit of a love triangle (which I hate) with Tabloid Boy, but it was mostly Ramirez. Oh, and there's going to be another book and our Maddie's preggers.
In Study series, there was Valek. He was probably my favorite love interest in fiction. The man was totally kick-butt:
“Out of nowhere, Valek appeared before me, yelling in my ear, shaking my shoulders. Stupidly, belatedly, I realized he was the drunk. Who else but Valek could win a fight against four large men when armed only with a beer mug?”
― Maria V. Snyder, Poison Study
There was no love triangle. Valek wasn't this over-protective, sexist macho-man. He was moody-broody at the beginning, and Yelena thought he was a psychopath, but...well, the series ends pretty well in a close-the-curtain kind of way ;-).
Most importantly, the romance didn't take override the plot. The characters had a mutual interest and worked together, they just happened to be lovers. Surprisingly (or not), this was published by LUNA, the fantasy imprint of Harlequin, and then MIRA, their mainstream division. Before I knew exactly what LUNA was (I have the LUNA book of Poison Study and then the MIRA editions for the rest of the series), I really didn't know what to expect.
“He pulled my arm out to expose my bracelet. "When I carved this my thoughts were on you, love. Your life is like this snake's coils. No matter how many turns it makes, you'll end up back where you belong. With me.”
― Maria V. Snyder, Magic Study
My heart melts every time I read that passage. Not that they don't have their ups and downs:
"You can join the 'I Want to Kill Yelena Guild.'....Valek is president since he had wanted to kill me twice."
― Maria V. Snyder, Magic Study
The Love Interest is something I've pretty much grown to expect in books I read and movies I watch.
My least favorite? That's a difficult one. I guess Edward and Jacob would be too cliche.
Okay, I'll pick 2 more Snyder characters. Kade and Ulrick from the Glass series. They were both horrible and I'm glad Opal wound up with neither. The one she did wind up with...well... I see why Snyder did that, but...
I like the way it ended, but there's just a lot of heaviness, lot of forgiveness, lot of history in that relationship. You'd have to read that series. And the Study series too, since they take place in the same world.
The Love Interest is a weighty role, about as important as the Best Friend. If you're reading about the protagonist from their love's POV, you'll get things that maybe the Best Friend won't mention.
Personally, I like Love Interests about as much as I like Best Friends. It's amazing how the Protagonist is never the favorite character. It's always the Best Friend for me or the Love Interest.
And sometimes, it's the Mentor, which I'll be getting to shortly.