This Rec League was sent into us by Deborah!
Is there a good fantasy romance novel or series in which the heroine is normal and STAYS normal? I’m getting a bit tired of the Chosen One cliche and would like to read about a character who doesn’t have a billion hidden/latent talents and solves her problems like all us average plebs.
EllenM: I second radiance. Pretty sure Master of Crows by Grace Draven ( A | BN | K | AB ) also avoids the “chosen one” fantasy heroine trope, I don’t recall her having any hidden talents other than just being more competent than anticipated. Actually I think I have a few for this; let me think about it.
Catherine: I realise that Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher is my answer to every question this week, but it’s definitely fantasy and while the heroine is a very good perfumer, she has no super powers. T. Kingfisher is a pretty good bet for down to earth, ordinary heroines in well-realised fantasy worlds, though she doesn’t write much romance. I think Swordheart ( A | BN | K | AB ) is also a romance, and the Raven and the Reindeer ( A | BN | K | AB ) at the very least implies a relationship between Gerda and the Robber Girl.
AJ: Seconded on T. Kingfisher’s works, and can confirm that Gerda/Robber Girl is explicitly canon, so +1 for gayness there!
Catherine: Glad I remembered that right!
Sneezy: It sounds like Deborah is looking for heroines who win against magic shit even though they have no magic themselves and no prophesy ordaining their victory?
Assuming that’s the case, another vote for Radiance. Master of Crows may not be what Deborah is looking for since the heroine technically has magic.
Catherine: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Sharing Knife series started its life as an attempt at a romance novel, and romance is still central . Biiiiig age difference, though, which may squick some people.
Hunted by Meagan Spooner could be another one. Heroine has to navigate magic and its rules without any of her own.
Aarya: Cat’s Tale by Bettie Sharpe. ( A | BN | K | AB ) Puss in Boots novella retelling. Reactions are very polarizing, but I loved it. The heroine is a scheming, wicked, and immoral character (there is an HEA). But she has no magic and she’s a cat for most of it (she’s cursed by a sorcerer). She’s clever and manipulates circumstances to go her way. No Chosen One guaranteed.
Stephanie Burgis’s Harwood Spellbook novella series may qualify. The heroine lost her magical powers in an accident before Snowspelled, ( A | BN | K | AB ) but she learns to navigate her life without it. There’s no easy plot device to regain her magic.
EllenM: Ok got a bunch.
First, Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn ( A | BN | K | AB ) — heroine is an apothecary/hedgewitch type figure in a royal court just trying to navigate the fraught politics and do what’s right.
Ghost Bride by Yangze Choo also fits this I think. The heroine is ordinary and has to succeed by her own wits and the help of others.
I also think a LOT of the Juliet Marillier Sevenwaters ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) books qualify. most of the heroines have no particular powers although in the later books in the series i think there is a seer heroine and another magical heroine but mostly the heroines have no particular powers.A | BN | K | AB ) . These are more fantasy with a strong romance subplot. The heroine is sort of a quasi-mermaid, but she doesn’t have special powers or a secret destiny or anything.
Maya: Ghost Bride is also on Netflix!!
Amanda: I’ve been meaning to watch it. I’ve heard good things about the adaptation.
Maya: It’s pretty good, although for at least a quarter of it, my review was “need more ghosts”, but it eventually got sufficiently weird.
Amanda: Sufficiently weird is my kind of jam.
Which books would you recommend?