“Rowan was just there to provide fluff. He didn’t do anything or help in QoS”.
What you are mentioning as a bad thing is one of my absolute favourite things about Rowan/Rowaelin in Queen of Shadows. Rowan played the role so often attributed to women.
He was mental and emotional support, and if Aelin asked/wanted it - physical support (both in the romantic and warrior-way).
He was there to help Aelin while she ran the show. Not to stop or over-protect her. Help her. He did this simply by being by her side. We are stronger with the people we love around us, this goes for Aelin too (she specifically mentions how she misses him and how she expects him to be beside her when she wakes up and is sad/disappointed when he is not). In QoS he is the one she discusses things with the most (even if she still keeps things/plans to herself, again this is a very male character-thing to do), he sleeps beside her (after she insists), he makes her feel better about herself, he physically fights for her when she needs him to, he made sure Aedion didn’t hurt himself any further and he was there for Aelin for whatever she needed. He himself was not the operating force, Aelin was. And Rowan is 3000% on board with that (as long as she’s not putting herself in unnecessary danger).
Example: Aelin was anxious and nervous and disgusted when walking into the dinner with Arobynn. Rowan noticed this before the dinner. And what does he do? The one thing that he can do to help her in this situation without undermining her authority - he rubs his glorious body down with the same almond oil. Arobynn’s and Aelin’s reaction to this is as glorious as they are different. The simple act of just being there for Aelin during that dinner made her stronger. It relaxed her. It riled Arobynn up. It was exactly what Aelin and the plan needed. She doesn’t need a fierce warrior who runs the show. She is the fierce fighter who runs the show. She needs a partner and in QoS Rowan is that partner.
Reducing his presence to “romantic fluff” is an insult to SJM’s writing. And it shows lack of understanding of what Rowan means to Aelin and Aelin’s own character development.
What this all boils down to is this: Shitting on how Rowan is written and the role he plays in QoS is basically shitting all over what is considered “female character traits”. And while kicking-ass-and-taking-names-female-characters like Aelin is amazing and needed we can’t start bashing on the traditionally seen “female role” and criticising that sort of strength and ability. If you truely want equality we need to raise the status of those specific character traits and work towards all things “female” not being the equivalent of “weak/useless”.