I seem to be reading a lot of romance novels lately, in the quest to read award-nominated books. I am currently catching up Bujold's World of the Five Gods series, and just finished Paladin of Souls. It is the second book written, the third in the chronology of the world.
This one centers on Ista, mother of the Roya Issa of Chalion-Ibra and perhaps the longest-suffering under the curse. She is the dowager royina, and also a woman of a certain age, and Bujold delivers a really good romantic adventure/challenge for her.
Ista decides to go on a pilgrimage, mostly to escape her home. She ends up god-touched yet again, and has to work through it to save a family and the realm. Of course you can read the plot summary elsewhere.
This is, for the most part, a master writer creating a deep and loving portrayal of a woman. Of course a fantasy woman--royalty, commanding vast resources and bearing vast burdens. But for all that that larger theme is predictable, how it is executed is satisfyingly compelling. Ista's curse was removed in The Curse of Chalion, but that removal left not much in its place. In Paladin of Souls, she endures danger and doubt but finds all that could possibly be fulfilling--a calling, respect, and of course love.
I'm looking forward to reading The Hallowed Hunt, which goes back to earlier history in Chalion. Not sure yet about Penric's Demon, library holdings here have some weirdness going on. We'll see. 4 stars from me.