Author: Eloisa James
Series: Book #5 in the Happily Ever After aka Fairy Tales series
Release Date: 28 May 2013
Number of pages: 384 pages
Source: ebook copy provided by publisher for review
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon, Kindle, Book Depository US, Book Depository UK
Grade: 4.5 stars
Goodreads appetizer: Once upon a time…
A duke fell in love
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.
With a lady
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.
In a tower.
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?
My Thoughts: Although I have Eloisa James' Fairy Tales series on my TBR list and I prefer not to read series out of order Once Upon a Tower was only the second book in the series I have read, saying it so those who fear not having read the previous books is a prerequisite know that the books can be read as complete standalones.
Once Upon a Tower was my favourite Eloisa James novel to this day. It was fun, sexy with both the heroine and hero being characters I could like.
Edith (yep, had a hard time accepting that such a beautiful fairy-like heroine had such an old name - but was glad to see I wasn't the only one as both the hero and heroine disliked her un-musical name) is a young and beautiful woman who knows her duty: she'll marry the man of her father's choosing and does not have fancy ideas about marriage and romance. It was interesting to see such a rational and level-headed heroine, who accepted her fate and wanted to make the most of it by laying down the rules of their life together once they got married. Edith wanted to maintain her independence and personal space, while her groom had more romantic notions: he wanted to enjoy his wife, he wanted them to share their hearts and bodies, to live happily. Once again the reversal of roles in that Gowan was the more romantic, passionate one while Edith the rational one made for an interesting and rather unusual set-up.
Edie was a very likeable heroine. Though she was innocent she wasn't naive, she had witnessed his father's marriage and knew she didn't want hers to be full of drama and heartache and so she planned to have a rational partnership with no strong feelings and emotions running high. Once again Eloisa James gave us an unusual pairing because Edie's step-mother was a still young and flirty woman in her 30s, and she was the colourful social butterfly to Edie's sedate and serious, rationality. (Edie's only passionate trait was her music, that was the love of her life.)
Gowan was a dream come true, he was a passionate, warm-hearted and honourable man. *sighs* He was a Scottish Duke (yum!), very manly and sexy (double yum!), who remained a virgin, because seeing his parents' marriage deteriorate with countless unfaithful adulterous liaisons he wanted to save the act of lovemaking something true and pure, something that had sense and substance and wanted to share it someone who mattered not just a barmaid. And so he wants to share it with his wife, the woman he came to yearn for and he can't wait to love her the way he wants to.
The problem is that it is painful for Edie and she doesn't enjoy it. What enjoy, she suffers through it and not wanting to cause problems in their newlywed status she fakes her pleasure and perpetuates a lie, which once is unveiled slays Gowan's self-esteem and self-respect.
Verdict: Once Upon a Tower is Eloisa James' retelling of Rapunzel, and although we have the tower and the prince climbing it up (twice) as well as the golden haired maiden, it is very much a story of its own, so bravo to Eloisa James for building her beautiful and witty historical romance around a fairy tale but not letting the fairy tale overpower her story. Both Edie and Gowan were wonderful characters and I loved their interactions, especially the wit and humour in their correspondence, and how their relationship progressed slowly, how they had to get to know each other before falling head first in. At times Edie's stepmother and her drama and tears frustrated me and I would have wished for a different ending/resolution as it wasn't to my taste, but Once Upon a Tower is a lovely fairy tale retelling that I'm sure I'll be re-reading soon.
Ending: 6/10 - I loved the story until the very end