June 10, 2013
Out of control Mr. Toad alert!
Yes folks, Once Upon a Tower by Eloisa James comes with a warning. You see, our hero,
Once Upon a Tower is part of Ms. James' Fairytale series, this one based on the Rapunzel story, which was never one of my favorites. The thought of a 180 pound guy using my hair as a rope always transmitted stinging little needles all through my scalp. All that yanking of ones head never made any sense to me.However, Ms. James' version of being imprisoned in a tower, waiting for rescue was somewhat altered. You see, both our hero, Gowan, and our heroine, Edie, are imprisoned by the structure of their worlds. Some of those walls were created by others and some they built themselves.
As always with Ms. James we get an education into the high-falutin' world of Shakespeare. (By the way, Shakespeare gives me a headache.) However, in this book not only do we have Shakespeare to contend with but classical music as well. We are inundated with both and while I admit I enjoy a good symphonic tune, nothing irritates me faster than some pretentious person spouting out their better-than-thou education. So, I had a few groan moments in this story as yet another instruction in sophistication was brought up. I digress.
Gowan is looking for a suitable wife he can pencil into his busy schedule. And, he thinks he's found her in the person of Edie. Quiet Edie with the shining eyes and glowing cheeks. Yes, she's just the woman for him. Of course, he's not aware that those shining eyes and glowing cheeks are due to our heroine having a high fever. Her quiet reserve because she's sicker than a dog and the fact that she's moving through the evening in the fog of illness. I thought this was a good beginning to the story and was looking forward to some fun discoveries. But ‘twas not to be. The first half of this book is the courting of this couple, or the non-courting because Ms. James has created two of the most self-absorbed people I've seen in a long time. Gowen is a micro-manager type - everything goes through him - he's got his fingers in every pie on all of his estates. No one at any of his homes can think for themselves. And, he is so absorbed in his work, that he has a tendency to forget Edie.
Did I forget to mention that Edie plays a cello? She doesn't just play the cello, the cello is her life. She is a virtuoso, a true artist, and she marries a guy who has no understanding of this kind of passion, especially in a woman. And, this mismatched couple are off to a rocky start. But the big problem and I do mean big, is the intimate side of their marriage. Edie, of course is an innocent, but Gowan has also avoided all contact with the opposite sex throughout his young life. And, though he seems to be older in the book I believe he is actually in his early 20's in this story. What we then have is a very young couple who stumble around in the dark. Neither one of them know what to do and on top of that Gowan's Mr. Toad is gargantuan. His Timothy Toad is not only colossal but seems to have the ability to last f-o-r-e-v-e-r. So, while Gowan is merrily thumping and bumping the evening away, Edie is staring at the ceiling wishing someone would end her misery. But does she say anything to Gowan? Does she gently tell him his continual hammering with his giant protrusion is causing her insides to fall out? Nope, on the advice of Layla (her step-mother), she fakes her enraptured moments - if you get my drift. So, all the while Gowan thinks he is a he-man because he has brought his wife pleasure, patting himself on the back for a job well done. Of course, you know he finds out and when he does there is an explosion of gigantic proportion - dare I say a tad bit t-o-o dramatic. In fact, by the time we reach the end of this book, everyone has overreacted.
There is also a secondary story about the rocky marriage of Layla, Edie's step-mother, and Edie's father. I thought Layla was silly, sophomoric and selfish. Edie's father was rigid and uncomfortably obsessed with his daughter. I didn't care for either of these two supporting characters. They were both extremely unlikeable and, for me, proved a distraction from the rest of the book. On top of all of that, Layla also has an overreact moment when she's confronting Gowan. It was an insert speech here minute.
Sorry to say, this story didn't work for me. It began in a promising enough way, but was soon weighed down by high-brow learnin' and the spouting of some extremely selfish people. The Fairytale series has been a hit and miss for me. I think some of the problem I've had with Ms. James' Fairytale series is that unlike her other series' we haven't been able to watch her main characters develop though the process of numerous books. And, I miss that.
Time/Place: Regency England