Friday, June 27, 2014
Once Upon a Tower
Gowan Stoughton, Duke of Kinross and Chief of the Clan MaacAulay, is responsible for a very large Scottish estate, but business brings him to England and to a ball thrown by his colleague, the Earl of Gilchrest. He is not too fond of simpering English misses or English fops, but he cannot keep his eyes of his host's enchanting daughter, Lady Edith. Gowan has no idea that Edie is actually quite sick and the quiet and ethereal beauty he delights in is caused by her illness. The Earl accepts Gowan's proposal on Edie's behalf, and as a good daughter Edie concurs with his decision, but she has no remembrance of her dances with the Duke. To get to know him, and to ensure they are compatible, she begins a correspondence with him, making clear her expectations of their marriage and divulging more about herself. Gowan is surprised to learn his fiance has quite the sense of humor and is very opinionated about certain matters including where she sees their marriage going. Realizing that marriage is about compromise he is able to compromise some of what he wants, but he is quite determined that there marriage will be consummated as soon as possible. When he returns to London he makes it clear to Lord Gilchrest that he expects to expedite the marriage.
Edie finds herself tremendously attracted to her future husband and their courtship, taking place after the engagement, makes her quite eager for the wedding night. Gowan is also a virgin, having seen his father whore his way around Scotland and his own mother sleep around, but is anxious to please his wife. Unfortunately it is quite painful for Edie and instead of telling Gowan, she follows her step mother's advice and fakes it for the first several times they have sex. Edie is not pleased that there are servants constantly around her and Gowan and they never seem to have a moment's privacy, but she likes that Gowan allows her to play her cello. Edie is a an accomplished cellist and music is her life and Gowan appreciates her talents and would never take it away from her. When he accidentally discovers that she has been faking her pleasure he feels betrayed and angry and runs away after saying some very harsh things to Edie. Edie's stepmother makes it clear that he is just as much to blame and when he returns the two of them must work together to patch things up and determine that they can indeed find mutual pleasure in each other's arms.
Edie and Gowan were both incredibly young, 19 and 22 respectively, and, at least in Edie's regard, incredibly sheltered. I have definitely come to enjoy the romance novels that have both the hero and the heroine a little older than that, although Gowan had real life experience that made it easier to overlook his age. My biggest problem with getting to truly connect with Edie was her passion for the cello and how she regarded that as the most important thing in her life; perhaps because of years of being forced to practice instruments and listening to others do so, I just cannot understand a passion for musicianship and I wanted something more from her. I liked that she was "friends" with her step-mother, but even their interactions proved how immature Edie was and she really did not do all that much, just had a lot of thoughts on her father's marriage. Gowan was more likable, and despite numerous references to his temper and yelling, it really wasn't shown in the book and just made Edie look ridiculous for constantly referring to it. He had immense responsibilities and always did his duty making him a bit of a stick in the mud, but also admirable.
They were certainly attracted to each other, but the sex was just god awful, mostly because we were treated to it from Edie's point of view and she was not enjoying it. While I understand there had to be some sort of conflict, I really did enjoy reading so many scenes where the heroine was in such pain. I sympathized with both of them in this regard; him for feeling inadequate and her for feeling like she had to hide the truth from him and the way they handled it made sense to me. Their discussion at the end, where they both took responsibility and agreed to work it out together was very mature and showed that they could work well together. The side plots involved her father and step mother's marriage and I would honestly have liked to see more of that and how they resolved it. The most jarring aspect of the book was when Gowan easily allowed the Gilchrest's to adopt his orphaned sister; I was left with my jaw hanging open.
Rating: An enjoyable, if incredibly long read, about two young people falling in love, but I could not entirely relate to either of them and felt there were a lot of hiccups in the story.