The fifth book in Eloisa James’s Fairy Tales series, Once Upon A Tower breaks in part with a pattern of fanciful, largely jovial courtships, opting instead for a darker, more serious angle that adds a zest of originality to the romance genre and the series. It would be interesting to know if the more somber tone in Once Upon A Tower is perhaps James taking a card from the hand of New Adult romance novels.
Once Upon A Tower opens with a fleeting encounter at a ball between a serious-minded Scottish duke and an ethereal English beauty of equal rank. Instantly taken by her other-worldly charm and delicate silence, the busy duke proposes marriage before the pair even share a conversation.
Upon their first exchange as a couple, by letter, it quickly becomes evident that his future duchess is not at all like the woman he met the evening before. This mishap brought on by love at first sight foreshadows the challenges the couple will face after they are hastily married and relocate to his Scottish castle.
Part Romeo and Juliet and part Rapunzel with a smattering of W.B. Yeats, Once Upon A Tower is about recapturing the love and lust of a quick courtship in the face of the tribulations of married life–mothering children, household management, and blending two lifestyles. Where James really breaks new ground, however, is in her bedroom scenes. All too often in romance novels, the action of the story is simply a give and take that delays the gratification of the couple finally coming together. The struggles faced by couples in romance novels, however, rarely, if ever, have to do with their sexual compatibility. This unusual twist makes Once Upon A Tower a particularly interesting read.
Outside of the two main characters, Gowan and Edie, Eloisa James brings in a delightful secondary cast that pushes the book to the next level. Edie’s charming step-mother Layla and stoic father run into difficulties rekindling their own romance after fertility troubles threaten to tear them apart. The dynamics of the intimate friendships between Edie and her father and step-mother simultaneously cause challenges for Edie and Gowan’s life together and bring the whole family closer.
While the story itself is enchanting, it’s always exciting to see the extra layers of meaning James adds to her books that are a testament to her background as an English professor and Shakespeare expert. Once Upon A Tower has something for everyone–action, romance, great characters, a touch of James’s characteristic humor, spectacular writing, and a great denouement.
Once Upon A Tower is certainly a summer romance blockbuster that lives up to its hype.
Interested in the other books in the Fairy Tales series? Reflections of a Book Addict has a great breakdown of the first four books in the series and the intermediary novellas. http://lifeand100books.com/2012/10/27/100-106-the-fairy-tale-series-by-eloisa-james/