Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Once Upon a Tower (Fairy Tales #5)

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

Gowan Stoughton was raised by his no-nonsense, straight-laced grandmother and a castle full of servants. He does nothing that is not considered, measured, and controlled. He is only in London on business. He respects the Earl of Gilchrist, who holds a position in the Bank of England similar to Gowan’s in the Bank of Scotland, otherwise Gowan would have avoided a debutante’s come-out ball like the plague. But it’s Gilcrhist’s daughter, so Gowan arrives to do his social duty….

…And immediately loses his heart to the quiet, angelic beauty. Or his mind, surely, because he’s never made such a rash decision in his life – he appears at Gilchrist’s house the next morning to scoop all the other bucks, bloods, and wife-seekers to make Lady Edith his wife. She will be perfect – quiet, docile, pretty, and able to fit into his life without much change on Gowan’s part. The Earl of Gilchrist is, of course, delighted to consent to Gowan’s offer. Lady Edith meekly accepts as well. Though in the privacy of her room Edie panics about as much as a person who feels like death can panic. She has the influenza and such a high fever that she’s barely going through the motions – she doesn’t know Gowan, his likes, his dislikes, whether he likes her…. Does he even know she plays the cello? Once Edie has recovered from her illness she pens a letter to her betrothed outlining her…expectations, shall we say, about her forthcoming marriage.

Thus, Once Upon a Tower takes off at top speed. Gowan is a bit taken aback by Edie’s letter and pens one of his own in return. Edie demands much more of Gowan’s time than he expected. She practices the cello – a lot – which brings music into Gowan’s life, an element he had never previously experienced. Gowan has a much younger half-sister, a relation Edie was not expecting. And, well, their marital relations don’t progress smoothly – Edie is a master of conflict-avoidance leading to the blowout of all blowouts. Gowan storms out of the castle and Edie mews herself up in the castle tower.

Eloisa James has added another gem to her sparkling Fairy Tales series – this time a mash-up of Rapunzel and Romeo and Juliet. The details of the story are wonderful. Edie plays “Dona Nobis Pacem” for her step-mother Layla when she’s upset over her crumbling marriage. Layla, in turn, is a fully fleshed-out character with her own dreams and foibles rather than a stock step-mother figure. The characters make a delightful visit to the wedding of Marcus and Honoria from Julia Quinn’s Smythe-Smith series (if you haven’t met JQ’s tone-deaf Smythe-Smiths definitely catch up with Just Like Heaven and A Night Like This before The Sum of All Kisses drops in November). Gowan is allowed to make a massive mistake but, unlike James from The Ugly Duchess, he comes to his senses in a few weeks rather than seven years both wiser and humbler. Edie and Gowan’s reunion scene is one of the best James has ever written, on a par with Eleanor and Villiers from A Duke of Her Own, and brings two very stubborn, independent only children to trust and confide in each other. Very swoon-and-two-Kleenex worthy.

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