Looking for romance novels where "still waters run deep".
October 4, 2013 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Looking for well written, character-driven romance novels or romantic novels where the hero is in fact alpha/dominant/protective/whatever but also smart enough to realize that it's not always the most useful thing to be. Specifically, looking for heroes that are introduced as unassuming, "normal" characters or introduced as unable to harm/control the heroine (e.g. because of a spell) where it later turns out to be untrue.

I will read almost all genres EXCEPT for contemporary (but I read those occasionally too). My favorites are urban fantasy or high fantasy.

I do not remember reading any novels that *quite* fit this bill. Below are some close examples. (Possible spoiler alert.)

* The "Weather Warden" series (though I did not go very far with the series because the romance didn't quite resolve within the first several books).

* "The Fever" series by Karen Marie Moning, where Barrons wasn't particularly unassuming, but he certainly downplayed his powers.

* In the "Mercy Thompson" series by Patricia Briggs, Sam would fall into this category, though he is not the hero of the series.

* I only read the first two books of the "Sword of Truth" series, but Richard definitely qualifies as unassuming but actually powerful. (So does Kahlan actually, but I'm specifically focusing on the hero.)

* Another example is the "Magic Ship" series by Robin Hobb, the character rainwilder who courts Malta, who was mysterious and reviled as "other", and I really wish their story was more prominent.

* Several Lisa Kleypas ("Again the Magic") and Julia Quinn ("Everything and the Moon") books come to mind for historical romance, particularly the ones where the characters initially meet with plenty of attraction, part for some reason, and later the hero becomes powerful (and usually bitter/cynical).

Bonus points for a powerful, ambitious, and smart heroine.
posted by ethidda to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Jennifer Crusie's contemporary romance works are fantastic, but I'm specifically recommending her most recent book Maybe This Time, where she's continued her development towards stuff with a little supernatural flair. North isn't onscreen to a great extent, but his history with the heroine drives a lot of the book. The book's got ghosts and kids and can be read as a contemporary riff on The Turn Of The Screw.
posted by PussKillian at 12:35 PM on October 4, 2013

Your first sentence immediately made me think of the Spenser novels by Robert B. Parker. While they're technically crime/detective books, the relationship between Spenser and Susan is one of the most romantic relationships in popular fiction, and it's pretty much exactly what you describe - on the surface he's a big tough-guy detective, but he's incredibly smart and aware of gender issues and is very deep.
posted by jbickers at 12:37 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not sure if this is what you're asking for, but Mary Stewart writes mysteries with female heroines and a male that often initially is the good guy, but turns out threatening or putting the girl in danger. They're good, although the only one that's 'fantasy" is Thornyhold, and of course, there's the Merlin series, but no heroine in those. (but a damn good read!)
posted by BlueHorse at 12:40 PM on October 4, 2013

Do you have a Kindle? You might enjoy the Elemental series, of which the first book is free. Gio is deeply protective but the balance of he and Beatrice's power changes in interesting ways as uh, other things change them. The series is several books long and the romance between them is very, very resolved within a book or two and evolves in often lovely ways.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:41 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

If SF works for you, that's a pretty close match for Val Con & Miri, the main characters in the Agent of Change sequence in the Liaden Universe. This blue post has more details.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:45 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Kresley Cole has a seemingly never ending series of fantasy romance novels, which I picked up after being a longtime fan of Lisa Kleypas' series. Although her characters can get a bit repetitive over several books (hero has a deep, dark past which causes many FEELINGS, heroine will fix him through her plucky affection and willingness to deal with said FEELINGS), they are still quite addictive, fast-moving and integrated plot-wise. And did I mention steamy? Yes, very steamy.
posted by warm_planet at 2:09 PM on October 4, 2013

Cold Mountain. It's neither fantasy nor strictly romance, but "still waters" describes both protagonists so well. The movie that came out a while back was good, but the book is can't-read-through-my-tears good. And even though the love story isn't what's detailed in the plot, it's the driving force behind the narrative. I picked it up on a whim... Such a good whim.
posted by Sullenbode at 2:33 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Meljean Brook's Guardian series might flip your wicket. I've only read the first two, and they are quite talky for paranormal romances. The lore is pretty complex; it puts me in mind of Supernatural, what with the angels and demons and vampires. Ms. Brook's writing style is pretty heavy for romance--it's not just angst or unresolved sexual tension, though. She's actually got some literary chops, imo.

In terms of your requirements, the first book in the series definitely seems to fit. The basic idea is that there is a demon, Lilith, and a Guardian (kind of like an angel, but all of them were once human), Hugh, who are locked in a centuries long battle of wills where Hugh is trying to figure out how to release her from her bargain with Lucifer and Lilith can't or won't tell him what he must do. Within the first couple chapters of the book he elects to "Fall" to earth, and when they meet again he is human and she is still a demon. She believes that he can have no power of her--gone are the wings, super speed, ability to change shapes, strength, etc--but she learns that she's dead wrong. As a former Medieval Knight and a guy who could bench press a train until very recently, he's pretty alpha, but a very understated one due to certain personality quirks.

The second book of the series doesn't quite meet your requirements--the hero is an extremely powerful vampire, certainly with alpha tendencies, but because of the identity of the heroine his "alphaness" doesn't seem to really matter. She's an Indian game developer who has some interesting qualities due to events that occur early in the book. I only mention it because Meljean Brook's heroines tend to be bright and quite kickass, and this one is no exception.
posted by xyzzy at 10:07 PM on October 4, 2013

Thanks all! I'm still getting around to reading them.

xyzzy: I have in fact read several of Meljean Brook's series. I really like her stories, but her writing style doesn't really agree with me.

warm_planet: I have read Kresley Cole, but even her romance novels read too much like erotica to me, and I'm not a big fan of erotica.

Monsieur Caution: Val Con is awesome! (So is Miri.) I'll definitely be reading more of this series. Thank you!

DarlingBri: The Elemental series was quite good, and I read the first two books. Not necessarily what I would consider understated, but definitely still waters run deep.

I will be working to read the rest of the books.
posted by ethidda at 9:38 AM on October 7, 2013

« Older What's wrong with chicken nuggets?   |   Feel bad about going to strip club, Help! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.