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Wendy’s TBR Pile – More than One Challenge

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Image from Disney Parks via tasteofcountry.com

This month’s TBR challenge was to read an author who has more than one book in the TBR pile. Unfortunately, I have several that fit the bill for this one!  However, after running through the options, I settled upon Eloisa James and her fairy tale series – As You Wish, a duo logy with “Seduced By a Pirate” and “With This Kiss”, and the following full-length story, “Once Upon a Tower”. As I had already read half of the duology before, I settled on “Once Upon a Tower” for this month’s TBR Challenge. Please note that this will not released until the end of the month, so not to fear – there won’t be spoilers released here.

Once upon a time… A duke fell in love

13108289Gowan Stoughton of Craigievar, the 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?

I’ve enjoyed the previous fairy tale re-tellings that James has released, and this is no exception. A blend of Romeo & Juliet and Rapunzel, this is the story of two people who think that their love for each other will mean their marriage will solve everything, only to find that they don’t know how to be with each other after the wedding.

What drew me to this book was the innocence of both characters. Both are driven by duty, but are unique from others of their station. Gowan has a need to provide for everyone around him, and has structured his life to the minute. His dedication to finding the perfect woman left him alone in his youth, and his desire to please his new wife is complicated by his inexperience. Edie is a musician, with a strict father who indulges his daughter’s musical talents in compensation for his own thwarted ambitions. This has left her unaware of the duties and responsibilities of her husband’s position, and without friends she can rely upon when things go wrong as they are destined to do. Both are hindered by the past actions of their parents, but they are so busy trying to avoid

It was extremely refreshing to read about a couple that struggles to adapt to each other. The wedding night does not go well for Edie, nor does the next time that they are together turn out much better. In desperation, Edie turns to her step-mother, Layla, for advice – not necessarily the best move when Edie’s father and Layla are also on the outs for their own reasons. Despite their intelligence, neither couple is particularly talented at relationships and fails to recognize the importance of communication. Speaking of Layla, she is the source of much of the humour in the book, including a scene that could have come from ‘When Harry Met Sally’.

As with her other fairy tales, James uses elements from both stories in this book. There is indeed a tower, where Edie retreats to in despair, but the story owes more to the miscommunications reminiscent in the trials of Romeo & Juliet. Oh, the side mentions of Julia Quinn’s Smythe-Smith family are an extra treat for readers in both series.

There’s only one area that didn’t work well for me, and that concerns Gowan’s half sister. I won’t spoil it here, but I’m not sure that I’m okay with how things worked out for her.  I think that there was a missed opportunity there that could have developed Gowan and Edie’s character more clearly.

Overall, I was absolutely drawn into the lives of these characters and couldn’t read about them fast enough. My heart ached for both of them and I wanted just bang their heads together at times for not talking to each other – a sign of a satisfying read indeed!

Once Upon a Tower was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It will be available for purchase from Avon Books on May 28th from your friendly independent bookstore and Indigo. ISBN: 9780062223876, 384 pages. 

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