Eloisa James is truly a master novelist when it comes to witty and intelligent dialogues.
As to prove this, this story starts with her trademark humor:
The moment he was announced, a flock of young women swiveled toward him, each face flaunting a gleaming array of teeth. To his mind they all looked constipated, though more likely the smiles were an automatic response to his title. He was, after all, an unmarried nobleman in possession of all his limbs. Hair, too; he had more hair than most Englishmen. Not to mention a castle.
This story was supposed to be a Rapunzel re-telling.
As to this, I'm afraid that the synopsis is somewhat misleading. The whole climbing a tower takes place in a few pages towards the end. But it isn't the crucial point in it.
Yes, Gowan does loves Edie's hair (alongside with her figure, her eyes, and... many other things) but of course _since the girl doesn't have a wicked stepmother and neither has she been living neglected inside a cave _ her hair isn't used as a rope!
It is the Nineteenth century, for heaven's sake! There're ropes!
“It’s a rope ladder,” Smythe-Smith explained. “Woven from horsehair, as a matter of fact. Could have been made for that purpose.”
Yes the infamous Julia's Quinn Smythe-Smith's characters do make an appearance in Eloisa James story :)
Now, on to the characters of this story...
Well, this promised so much!
The way Edie and Gowan met (well, she was sick as a dog and couldn't remember his face, not even if her life was at stake), the way Gowan immediately falls smitten to Edie (because she was quiet, and didn't open her mouth!)_ despite the fact that that couldn't be further from his way of being _ the letters they write to one another, the way they talk to each other, I loved it!!
Here's a part of what Edie say's to Gowan:
Here's a part of what Edie say's to Gowan:
As I have very little interest in pursuits of the flesh, I shall give you no reason for anxiety in that regard.
Thank you for your letter. You honor me with your candor; I hope you will forgive my bold speech. Herewith please find my expectations for this marriage.
1. I mean to husband your bed every night until we’re ninety, or at the very least, eighty-five.
Here is a young couple (if I'm not mistaken she's nineteen, and he's twenty two) who despite their rapid engagement, seemed to have everything in their favor...
Yes, Gowan seems a little too rigid to Edie's artistic nature, but he promises to respect the importance music has in her life. And I was expecting to see Eddie's influence her husband's too rigid schedule.
By opposition, the secondary characters, namely Edie's father and her stepmother's marriage is a disaster. Showing what happens when two people don't talk to one another because of ~assumptions~ and ~ridiculous jealousies ~.
I especially liked how Gowan, during a conversation with Edie about that subject says:
“Just because I may experience jealousy does not mean that I intend to act on it.”
Young, and wise! What could go wrong?
They get married.
Yes, they get married, and Edie's wedding night... and following nights, turn out to be problematic.
They're a young virgin couple (yes, both of them), and trouble arises.
So a relationship that had everything in their favor turns toward disaster lane.
Eddie has some tstl moments, because instead of talking to her husband about it, she lies.
Of course, we'll have to take into consideration the time period in which the story is told.
It wasn't as if the girl could consult a therapist or a gynecologist.
I think this was the first time I ever read a romance in which the characters don't immediately fall blissfully into the marital bed.
It was a risk that the author took.
It was different, and blatantly realistic. I appreciate that.
In fact, I think this is probably the most realistic novel I ever read.
However, when reading a historical romance, the keyword is romance, and that, from the moment that the main characters get married, practically disappears.
The story becomes heavy with drama, as the days go by, and we read Edie's hardships in the bedroom. It became almost impossible to read.
And for awhile it seems as if nothing else of relevance happens, besides those... cringing moments.
Also, Edie is probably one of Eloisa James weakest characters.
She is portrayed as a violoncello prodigy, however she is also a young lady product of a Era in which women were destined to get married and produce heirs...
We are told that Edie has been accustomed to serve as intermediary between her father and stepmother. Also that she learned how to run a household with Layla, her stepmother.
However when she gets married, she and her husband travel to his estate _castle and all _ and there, instead of trying to resolve the problems related with household chores, she decides to just dismiss people who have been working there for decades, because they wanted her advice, and two hours of daily consults with the lady of the house...
Here's an idea: Why not just say no?
So, she comes out of this as a spoiled brat who only cares about her music.
Gowan is the opposite. He comes out as a workaholic, but someone who is willing to waste part of his time to listen to a member of his household, because he takes their feelings into consideration.
Suffice to say that the household adores him like their beloved monarch.
Which leads us to another strange twist in this plot:
Due to an event _ that will not be named here _ the way these two are seen by the household changes, and Edie is now his people's favorite, while he is despised!
She doesn't change. Her only interest is her music. And while Gowan's feelings for her are visible, hers aren't.
It was absurd. If someone had to grovel, it had to be her...
And this comes out of a feminist's mouth!
I hate writing these long reviews, but I feel that although the story (due to the theme it revolves around, and of course the quality of the writing) would be worth at least a 3 star rating, it lost strength, and interest with the above mentioned points.
In the end, this turned out to be one of those romances in which I really wouldn't mind if the couple got an annulment! Not a good thing to say about a romance.
Buy "Once Upon a Tower"