Friday, May 16, 2014

Once Upon a Tower - Eloisa James (Avon - June 2013)

Series: Happily Ever After (Book 5)

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.

I had mixed feelings about this book. Overall, I enjoyed the story. Gowan had fallen in love with Edie at first sight. Being a wealthy man who is used to getting what he wants, he went to her father the next day and offered for her. Her father said yes, and that was that. Edie had been running a fever during her ball and spent the evening and the next day in a fog. She consented to the marriage, trusting her father to choose well, but she can't even recall what Gowan looks like. Both of them consider themselves to be practical people and plan to treat their marriage the same way.

I mostly liked Gowan. He knew it was time to marry, but wasn't sure how successful he'd be at finding a suitable wife. He's not impressed with most of the English women that he sees. He's taken with Edie right away, seeing the beautiful but quiet girl as the perfect match. He's later surprised to receive a letter from her informing him that she isn't really like the girl he met that night. When they actually get to spend some time together, his desire for her grows, and he thinks that they will be able to deal together well enough. Gowan had inherited his title when he was fourteen, and has spent the eight years since then working very hard to undo the damage that his father did. His parents weren't well suited and both were unfaithful, creating the kind of marriage that Gowan doesn't want. He has remained celibate, waiting for marriage, in reaction to his parents' relationship. I really liked his determination to have a great marriage. Unfortunately, he was so regimented in his life he didn't seem to have any ability to compromise. When he spends the days after his wedding conducting business in the carriage instead of spending time getting to know Edie I wanted to shake him. He couldn't be bothered to make time for her during his day. Once they were alone at night, all he could think about was bedding her. Because of his own inexperience, those activities were a living hell for her and he was totally oblivious. He is also jealous of the amount of time she spends on her music. When the truth comes out about her feelings, Gowan is devastated and says some really cruel things to her, before leaving to visit another property. Once his hurt and anger start to fade, he begins to realize it isn't all her fault. His love for her is still there and he has to figure out how to fix things. I liked the way that he finally went to her and actually talked and listened to what she said in return. 

Edie is a talented musician. Her father had encouraged her music, to the point of neglecting everything else that she should have been learning. After her engagement, I really enjoyed the letter that she wrote to Gowan. She wants to make sure that he understands her needs. She considers herself to be very practical. Her father and stepmother have a very tumultuous marriage and she finds herself acting as peacemaker very often. She doesn't want that kind of drama in her own life. When she gets a chance to actually spend time with Gowan, she is quite happy with him. She discovers he has a sense of humor and they have some very interesting conversations. She is also attracted to him, which makes her think that the physical side of marriage will be good also. Unfortunately, their wedding night does not go well, and thanks to some bad advice from her stepmother, she makes some terrible decisions. She is also frustrated by the way that he pays no attention to her during the day, preferring to work constantly. What she doesn't seem to see is that she is very much the same way when it comes to her music. She shuts him out, along with everyone else, when she is playing. I thought it was incredibly selfish of her to not want to participate in the running of the house at all. She expected everyone to cater to her when it came to her music. I was glad that she felt bad about her treatment of Gowan, but felt like she really needed to take more responsibility for her part in their problems. 

Gowan and Edie were affected by the things they had seen in their parents' marriages. Both of them had to move past those fears and create their own reality. Gowan's fear of being like is father sent him too far in the other direction. He was so completely unconscious of how controlling he was over every detail of his life that watching him see it through Edie's eyes was great. Both of them had a fear of failure that had contributed to their marital problems. Neither wanted to admit to the other that everything wasn't a great as they were pretending. I loved the tower scene where they were finally able to be honest with each other and get their marriage going the way they wanted it.

The secondary characters of Layla and Edie's father were great at showing what not to do. I could never quite understand why Edie was always taking Layla's advice when it was obvious that what she was doing in her own marriage wasn't working. Edie's dad also didn't do her any favors when he encouraged her total absorption in her music. He was being selfish in his own way because he didn't want to lose his music partner. He also needed to look at his own attitude toward his wife and see that his actions were feeding hers.

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