Monday, July 29, 2013

REVIEW: "Once Upon a Tower" by Eloisa James

Once Upon a Tower (Fairy Tales, #5)

Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James
For Ages 18+
Historical Romance -- 1820s England
Avon -- May 28, 2013
Mass Market Paperback, 404 pages
Purchased from Amazon

fairy tale retelling, virgin hero, Highlands setting

To win her love...
As an extremely wealthy laird, Gowan Stoughton, Duke of Kinross, can have any of the maidens at the ball he attends. The only problem is they are all English and Gowan is not so certain they are suitable. He is accustomed to the hard-working lasses from his Highlands, not these dainty noblewomen who spend their days drinking tea or some other such nonsense. But then he makes the acquaintance of Lady Edith Gilchrist. Utterly bewitched by the emerald-eyed beauty with lush golden locks, he knows he must have her.

He must free her from her tower...
"Edie" had the misfortune of being dreadfully ill at her debut ball and barely remembers what Gowan looks like. Even worse, she accepted his proposal the following day. Edie's only true passion is playing music—until Gowan writes a scandalous letter and stirs the most irresistible desire. Yet when they marry, Edie realizes her husband needs a lesson and locks herself in a tower. Somehow Gowan must find a way to enter the tower and convince his new bride that she belongs in his arms.

Whenever possible, Gowan Stoughton of Craigievar, Duke of Kinross, Chief of Clan MacAuley avoided rooms crowded with Englishmen.

It is always impressive to me when an author has the ability to constantly surprise me by meeting my already high expectations.  I adore Eloisa James's romances so I was expecting to enjoy Once Upon a Tower and I did.  But, I was blown away by how different this one was from the others in her Fairy Tale series with the tone, the romance, and the characters.

Our hero is Gowan, an extremely wealthy Scottish duke, who has come to England for a business venture and always plans on finding a wife.  I really enjoyed Gowan's character.  I thought it was interesting that he was younger than most historical heroes (early twenties) though he shows considerably maturity due to the fact that he has held his current title since he was a young teen.  Gowan has been a duke for almost ten years and has a ton of responsibilities which he is diligent about taking care of.  His opinions of romance are shaped greatly by the complex relationship of his parents and it is obvious that he is desperate not to repeat those mistakes.  Yet he falls for Edie and proposes rather quickly though he claims not to be an impulsive person by nature.  I also need to mention another aspect of his character that I enjoyed which was the fact that Gowan is a virgin though still pretty sensual.  This unusual predicament ends up being a major plot point that I don't want to spoil for possible readers, but I applaud Eloisa James for bringing it up.

Edie was a little harder for me like at the beginning.  She is a beautiful lady with an amazing talent for playing the cello.  Despite that, she has some self-esteem issues, mostly associated with being right for marriage and motherhood.  This has forced her to have a very cynical view of love that is threatened by her growing feelings for Gowan.  I started liking  Edie when she began showing her more humorous side to Gowan early in their courtship and it gave me hope that she could be a worthy heroine for him since I was already rooting for him.  Edie's views on love and romance have also been shaped by her observations of her father and stepmother's tumultuous marriage which helped me understand why she was afraid to address the issues that she and her husband were having in the bedroom.  I did think she reacted a bit dramatically to Gowan's reaction, but I thought Eloisa James explained well enough by the end.

Gowan and Edie's relationship started off as an example of insta-lust so I was not sure about their compatibility beyond that.  But, I began rooting for them when they started exchanging bawdy letters while Gowan was away on business.  They seemed to connect with each other quickly and it was nice to see the balance between sexual tension (which was definitely visible) and emotional intimacy.  They do have issues in the bedroom which I thought was an intriguing, and realistic, complication to their relationship.  Both of them are virgins so it is to be expected that there would be some bumps on the road.  Despite that, they did seem to want to work out their relationship (until a certain point) and were willing to know more about one another.  There were some communication issues, but they did not annoy me the way that they usually do because of the realistic way that Ms. James showed their reactions.  Also, it was nice to read a romance that focused primarily on the couple with very few subplots getting in the way.

The only major plot, besides Gowan and Edie's relationship, was a sweet secondary romance.  It involved Edie's father and stepmother trying to get back to their initial feelings for another which was easier said than done.  I thought this was a great choice because of the influence that this relationship had on Edie's outlook on romance.  I love troubled marriage story lines so I definitely enjoyed this one.

One thing that I love about this series is the fact that Eloisa James is influenced by the original fairy tales, but she doesn't force herself to follow them literally.  Once Upon a Tower is a retelling of Rapunzel and there is a tower involved, but it was a pretty minimal plot point and I didn't actually mind that.  Most of the book was taken up by the events that forced Edie to go into the tower which is part of the Rapunzel fairy tale that I am always intrigued by though I loved the way she did the hero climbing the hair aspect at the end.  Very clever and shows how dangerous that really can be!

In conclusion, I absolutely loved this romance and think it is in my top two from this series (the other being When Beauty Tamed the Beast).  I definitely am looking forward to whatever Eloisa James comes up with next!

4.5 Stars

“You are a virgin,” Layla said, sighing. “Think of it as an unavoidable stage of life, like getting old and toothless and having to drink soup. Unfortunately, men seem to think that women are like new wine, good only before being uncorked.”

1. A Kiss at Midnight
1.5. Storming the Castle
2. When Beauty Tamed the Beast
2.5. Winning the Wallflower
3. The Duke is Mine
4. The Ugly Duchess
4.5. Seduced by a Pirate
4.6. With This Kiss
5. Once Upon a Tower


  1. Awesome review! This was one of my favorites too! I haven't yet read beauty and the beast even though I own it. LOL I just keep forgetting to get it read, especially after all the great reviews I have read about it.

    1. Thanks for commenting! It was such a good book. I definitely think you would enjoy When Beauty Tamed the Beast...Lisette is one of my favorite Eloisa heroines.

  2. Oh that is different. I can't remember hardly any historicals (really any contemporaries either) where the hero is that young. Outside of YA/NA I mean. I love when an author really surprises me as well. It's always such a fun adventure. Thanks for the heads up! She's on my tbr pile so will have to try her a bit sooner I think :)

    herding cats & burning soup


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