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Bellwether Book Reviews

"People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading." - Logan Pearsall Smith.

Once Upon a Tower

Once Upon a Tower - Eloisa James

Maybe I'm being harsh in my opinion of this novel because I expect more from Eloisa James. It just didn't do it for me. I normally love the heroines of her novels. Not this time.

I sincerely disliked Edith. From early on in the novel I couldn't help but think her feelings toward Gowan were tepid, where his feelings for her were much hotter. There were several scenes that left me with the impression that she enjoyed the power she held over him more than anything else. When they first slept together she "flinched" when his sweat dripped on her, and later she reflected that "there was a great deal about bedding that made her shudder. All that sweat, for one thing. The way fluids leaked out of her for hours. The whole event." She definitely never sounded like she desired him, as she claimed, let alone love him.

The complaints Edie had about Gowan and their marriage were totally unfounded and absurd. She wanted him to fit her into his schedule, and yet she refuses his multiple attempts to be alone with her. She throws a fit about having to meet with the housekeeper as lady of the castle; to work for a few hours a day instead of being able to devote that time to playing the cello. Her response to such an inconvenience was to fire the staff members who had expected her to be involved in the running of the house. "The house will settle down once they know my ways," she said. Throughout the novel she had a tendency to handle the servants with careless indifference, and not at all like human beings. Her autocracy ruffled my democratic feathers.

I cannot write a review without commenting on the big fight that ensued after Edie all but proclaimed to Gowan that she had to be drunk to go to bed with him. He was so desperate to please her that he pushed it aside. When he realized Edie had faked her previous 'petites morts' he exploded. After making a few cutting remarks to Edith, Gowan left his estate to cool off. This is when Edith decided, for some reason... maybe her room was just too blue... to move into the tower. She orders the servants to clean and furnish it. It is here that she plays out her pitiful little melodrama by locking her husband out of the tower when he inevitably returned home to her.

When Gowan finally made it back, after some fishing, introspection, and a riding accident he was: verbally emasculated by Layla; beaten up by Edith's father; and literally kicked when he's down by his most loyal employee. I really liked this story's hero, so this scene kind of ticked me off. After their climactic fight I thought Edith was going to be held culpable for her immature behavior and maybe grow up a bit. I HOPED she was being set up for a moment of redemption. Instead, it was Gowan who was berated and begging for forgiveness. Why is it always the hero that has to grovel? I know that usually it's because he's done something unforgivable to the heroine. In this way, Gowan was not like the typical romance novel hero. He was constantly trying to please her, and he demonstrated character growth as the story progessed. I found myself pausing to wonder, if the tables were turned and it was Edith who returned home after a fight where she said some regrettable things because her feelings had been hurt, how would I react if she were treated with the same reception? As much as I dislike her character, I still would have been outraged. It was a bit disturbing that the male lead (who I found to be the more sensitive of the pair) was so easily treated this way, as if the mere fact that he's male makes him impervious to cruelty. I mean, they were rebuking him for the hurtful things he said to Edie by saying hurtful things to him... and that makes plenty of sense... I guess I'm just not real big on hypocrisy. Plus, I have a hard time accepting that a character like Gowan, or any other man (real or fictional), would have ever taken that kind of abuse so docilely.

Edie came across like the type of supercilious aristocrat that I would rather NOT see live happily ever after. I read very little evidence of her possessing many redeemable qualities. All I gathered was that she was beautiful, loved her parents, and was an gifted cellist... She really wasn't a character I wanted to root for and she definitely didn't fit my definition of "heroine."

I did not like this book. It is, by far, my least favorite Eloisa James novel. If you haven't read the previous four books in her Fairy Tales series, please read them first.