Monday, 17 June 2013
#CBR5 Book 59. "Once Upon A Tower" by Eloisa James
Rating: 4 stars
Gowan is 22-year-old Duke of Kinross, who works desperately to set aright the chaos left on his estate by his drunken mother (who abandoned the family and left him to care for an illegitimate half-sister) and his debauched and irresponsible father. Every waking moment of his day is rigorously scheduled, so that he can give the proper attention to castle, his finances and his estates. He wants a dependable and hard-working wife, and while he generally believes English ladies to be soft, spoiled and frivolous, he can't afford to limit himself if he wants to find a good lady to be his duchess.
When he meets the young Lady Edith during her debut ball, he's instantly smitten. Angelic and serene, she barely speaks during the dances they share, and Gowan decides to propose marriage to her before someone else can sweep his dream woman off her feet. Of course, Edie was so feverish during her social debut that she was barely able to stand up, let alone remember who she danced with and what impression she may have made. Hence, she finds herself betrothed to a man she's not even sure she would recognize in a crowd. Still, after some correspondence, and time spent together when neither is feverish, the two hit it off, and the marriage date is actually brought forward.
When I finished this book, I originally rated it 3 stars. I read the whole thing while travelling back from a wedding in England, so it's not like it took me a long time to get through. I found the drama between Gowan and Edie could have been so easily resolved. One of the benefits of being so far behind with my reviewing, however, is that the books stay in the back of my mind and the more I've thought about what I at first thought was a fairy throw-away plot, the better I've actually come to like the book.
Gowan is such a thing as a virgin romance hero (the only other virgin Duke I've ever come across in my many years of romance reading is in Courtney Milan's The Duchess War). He very much wants to be a considerate and attentive lover for his young wife, but let's just say he's ridiculously well endowed, and not as great with the foreplay as he could be. Hence intercourse turns out to be an excruciating experience for Edie, and she fakes orgasm (on the rather misguided advice of her stepmother) to make him finish faster. As the weeks go by, Edie becomes less and less interested in having sex with her husband, who feels more and more rejected, and this is the major dramatic complication that the two have to resolve in order to find their HEA.
While romances are becoming slightly more varied and realistic in the bedroom department (i.e. not always a heroine who never feels pain during the deflowering, and usually has an Earth shattering orgasm to boot), it's rare that you find a book where the sexual relations between the couple is quite as disastrous as it is in this book. It's only natural that two very inexperienced and nervous young people start out having bad sex - I'm pretty sure that it happens all the time. It's just not something that you tend to come across in romance novels.
I also liked that while for a lot of the book, I kept just wanting to shake both Gowan and Edie, and shout at them to just talk to each other, it's also very understandable that they don't. Gowan's parents were dreadful, and had an awful marriage. Edie's father loved her mother very much, but then remarried a much younger woman (she's more like an older, rather foolish sister to Edie than a mother figure) and now her father is insecure and doubts her fidelity, and Edie just desperately tries to avoid confrontation at all costs. Even though she frequently knows that her stepmother's advice is not the greatest, she has no one else to turn to. The book also manages a very clever retelling of Rapunzel, complete with tower and everything. Because I've had time to time to mull the book over in my mind, I've changed my mind, and decided to give it four stars.