Sunday, 2 June 2013

Review: Once Upon a Tower (Fairy Tales #5) -Eloisa James

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?

Like most historical romance fans I was chomping at the bit to get my mitts on Once Upon a Tower, unfortunately I had to wait until payday but once that arrived I pounced! After having spent a delightful weekend basking in the park reading and drinking far too many iced coffees for my own good, here, finally, is my review of Eloisa James’s latest.

If Julia Quinn is the queen of the comedic romance then Eloisa James is surely the queen of the steamy historical romance (that is not to say that James’s novels fall short with the witty rejoinder). James’s Fairy Tales series, of which Once Upon a Tower (OUAT) is the 5th, have each been brilliantly entertaining twists on well known and loved fairy tales. Fairly predictably OUAT is James’s unique take, or interpretation, of Rapunzel. I must admit, at first I was concerned as to how Rapunzel would translate into a more traditional historical romance format, after all, doesn’t she spend most of her time locked away in a tower? In this way I thought James’s handling weaving of the fairy tale into the romance was particularly well done, as it didn’t overshadow the rest of the plot. In fact, had it not been for the obvious parallels between Rapunzel the novel felt more like a re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet.

Admittedly the first third to half of the book left me wondering where the plot was going and even at some points, it pains me to admit, where the plot was. The first 200 pages or so of OUAT seem to be endless descriptions of two young people in lust, it even struck me at one point how little dialogue and communication we had seen between the characters. While like many a romance – and, unfortunately, real life situation – lack of communication or miscommunication is the source of conflict amongst our characters, it still surprised me that we had little detail paid to how the characters interacted at all, conversations were summarised but rarely presented to the reader.

In regards to the events leading up to Edie locking herself (a wonderful twist) away in the tower I was thoroughly surprised. While making awkward reading at times, undoubtedly intentionally so, the initial disastrous relations of our heroes was a refreshing plot point. While it may seem odd to have such cumbersome couplings be a large focus of a romance novel, it was nice to see that not every virginal heroine is a naturally sensual wanton who takes to sex like a duck to water (teeny tiny minor SPOILER); even more so in regards to our hero. It has always struck me as rather odd and quite aggravating that one of societies biggest prevailing double standards in regards to sex and gender is so often played out in many popular romance novels.

Overall the novel was an emotional rollercoaster, misunderstandings and lack of communication at every corner. While in the case of our hero and heroine this was a welcome addition to the narrative, a romance novel about a young couple struggling to get to know one another and settle into married life makes for a refreshing, and arguably much needed, change. However, I disliked the secondary story involving Edie’s stepmother and father, and later Gowan’s half-sister, and mostly found it annoying and rather frustrating at times. Finally, I found the epilogue of the novel to be overly trite, although I often find this to be the case.

While OUAT is not my favourite in James's fairy tales series (that honour probably falls to either Kiss at Midnight or The Duke is Mine) I found it to be an entertaining read and a worthy addition to anyone's romance library. Finally, (minor SPOILER) I got a really good kick out of seeing some well-known characters from an aforementioned author’s series make a cameo in the novel.

Let me know what you guys thought of OUAT and which is your favourite in James’s Fairy Tale series?

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