Saturday, May 25, 2013

(Review) Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James

Title: Once Upon a Tower
Author: Eloisa James
Series: Fairy Tales, #5
Published: May 28, 2013 (Avon)
Rating: Staying in Tonight
Format: Digital ARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss (Thanks!)
Summary: Gowan Stoughton of Craigievar, Duke of Kinross, values order and self-control above all else. So when he meets a lady as serene as she is beautiful, he promptly asks for her hand in marriage.

Edie—whose passionate temperament is the opposite of serene—had such a high fever at her own debut ball that she didn’t notice anyone, not even the notoriously elusive Duke of Kinross. When her father accepts his offer, she panics. And when their marriage night isn’t all it could be, she pretends. But Edie’s inability to hide her feelings makes pretending impossible, and when their marriage implodes, she retreats to a tower—locking Gowan out. Now Gowan faces his greatest challenge. Neither commands nor reason work with his spirited young bride. How can he convince her to give him the keys to the tower when she already has the keys to his heart?
Okay, first thing's first. If you ever stumble across the following summary (which you will if you go to this book on Edelweiss), DISREGARD IT.
What can a girl do when her brand new husband, a handsome, rich but slightly spoiled Laird, turns out to be much more than she bargained for? Tell him that he's boring and tiresome and lock herself in a tower until he mends his ways, of course!

The granddaughter of a duke but the daughter of an Oxford don, she has been raised with a very simple lifestyle, the dead opposite of the wildly rich laird. After running from her marriage, she spends 5 years living in a tower, doing important scientific work. What can a Laird do when, after years of searching, he finally finds his gorgeous young wife locked in a tower with only women allowed in? Why, discover the password and gain entrance to the tower dressed as a woman...

What could possibly go wrong?
I have no idea where this came from. Maybe it was James's original idea for the plot, but then she changed as she was writing? Regardless of the reason, this summary matches the story by maybe 20%. And by 20%, I mean they are married, and she does stay in a tower for a period of time. None of the fun parts actually happen. However, if you happen to be an author, would you mind getting on that? Because I really, really wanted to read that story!

Now that we have that cleared up, onto the actual review.
It was a disagreeable but inescapable fact of life – or of his life, at any rate – that fishing for a bride had taken precedence over fishing for salmon.
My favorite thing about this story was definitely the hero. He embodied so many of my favorite hero qualities. He was practical, logical, productive...and it knocked him flat when he felt such an instant, intense attraction to Edie (an Englishwoman! Oh, the horror!). Of course, the logical thing to do would be to make her his wife, since he was in need of one. So he does. But the best part? HE'S A VIRGIN. And not even just a virgin: He hasn't even kissed a woman. That's right. And it's freaking FABULOUS. Gowan was not a perfect character. He was a little too self-centered and used to having his way (being a duke and all, though, it's pretty much to be expected). But he was totally genuine and dedicated and sexy.

Edie was the heroine, and I really liked some things about her but not others. She had some maturing to do before the story was through due to being pretty sheltered throughout her life. Edie was an extremely gifted cellist, which was the one thing she and her father had in common. I really enjoyed that element of the story; it made me want to listen to classical music while reading. It's also something I don't tend to see in historicals very often. Edie also had issues with love. Due to her observations of how love worked for her father and stepmother, she had decided she never wanted to feel that way. Passion created too much drama and, inevitably, pain.

I liked the way the relationship between Gowan and Edie progressed. It was totally uneven at first, with Gowan being completely infatuated (although it was not full-out instalove, which I definitely appreciated) and Edie not particularly thrilled about the prospect of being married to him. But neither one was what the other thought at first. It was fun watching them discover that.

I did have a few issues with the book. My opinion was probably also a little colored by the fact that I was basing my expectations on the story I thought was going to be told - e.g. I kept waiting for the hero to dress as a woman because I SO wanted that to happen - rather than the one that was actually told. It just seemed to be missing a little something. The conflict was very similar to one of James's previous books. Although the story was good, for me, it just wasn't quite on the same level as many of her other books. Overall, I didn't love this one, but I did really like it.

BONUS: There's some crossover with Julia Quinn characters! Does the name Smythe-Smith mean anything to you? If so, then you'll definitely enjoy the little treats threaded throughout the story.
Ergo, two birds with one stone. He preferred three or four birds with a single stone, but sometimes one had to settle for less.

Obviously, he’d kept himself away from women too long, and now he was deranged as a result. Abstinence wasn’t advisable for a man. It had enfeebled his brain.

It was astonishing how such a very small person could look down her nose.

*All quotes from ARC or galley, so final copy may be slightly different.

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