I'm stuck on how to rate this. I enjoyed the first half very much. But the main tension between the hero and heroine was dragged out for too long and added a lot of unnecessary distance and miscommunication. I loved Gowan, the yummy Scottish love muffin Duke who loves and worships Edie from the first moment he lays eyes on her. He was very refreshing and adorable with his strict honor code and wanting to romance and love his bride with all he possesses. *swoon* He is such a romantic I loved it. I wanted to strangle the heroine Edie for listening to her chatter mouth stepmother's misguided 'advice' about intimacy and marital relationships. Especially since said stepmother has been having marital issues of her own, faking it has gotten you nowhere dearie so don't dish out what you don't know about. I liked Edie but she tested my patience with her willingness to continue lying to Gowan just to benefit him. It hurts when they have sex and she can't orgasm so instead of telling him she grits her teeth and bears the discomfort. Let's just say it made the sex scenes not very enjoyable and uncomfortable to read through. I love angsty situations, but this was a little unbearable. She doesn't tell him and it starts to put distance and strain between them and she complains and gets angry over his countless Duke responsibilities and how he has no time for her. I found that a little unreasonable. Yet holing yourself up in your room playing your cello & demanding no disturbance is going to help?? No. And I found it hypocritical hilarious how she would get in a huff over Gowan bringing his own Chef and fine china when they travel but it's perfectly normal and reasonable to have a carriage and coachmen just to carry her cello?? Pot meet kettle. I loved that Edie was a cello player (one of my fav instruments) but there were moments that I wanted someone to throw that thing out the window. lol I would have raged and thrown the book against the wall if it hadn't been for Edie's own struggle and torment over lying to Gowan. She clearly didn't want to disappoint him and hated lying and wanted to spend more time with him so I can't fault her for that. She was very conflicted and torn up about it so it made up for *some* of my frustrations.
I just wish James wouldn't insert the meddling secondary characters who hand out ill-advised opinions and suggestions that lead the heroine in the wrong direction. She's done it a few times in her other stories and it happened here as well. I don't mind it at times but here it caused a lot of unnecessary grief and distance between Edie and Gowan. The minute Edie's young loosey goosey step-mother Layla started talking about faking orgasms just to make your husband happy I had that 'uh oh' moment. Of course in a moment of panic and desperation Edie uses the advice and keeps up the farce for a good portion of the book only to have chatty Kathy Layla tell her 100 pages later 'that's not what I meant!' Oh really? Then what did you mean numb-skull?? Next time don't tell your inexperienced virgin stepdaughter things like that before she gets married. Layla really tested my patience with her chirping and moaning over how her husband hates her while she's totally oblivious to her own reckless actions. Put a sock in it. Maybe if you stopped acting like a light skirt to make your husband jealous then he wouldn't be angry with you. Duh. And of course 2 seconds after meeting Gowan's little sister Susannah, Layla insists the girl is hers
and she's her mother and wants to adopt her (don't get me started on how unrealistic that instant-bond was forged). And yet she turns around and accuses Gowan of not thinking of Edie first when he let Layla adopt the little girl. According to her, he never gave Edie a chance to be a mother to Susannah. Um seriously? You gave Edie no chance
to get the know the child before you claimed her as yours, you did that, not Gowan you oblivious half-wit. Sorry a fan of hers I was NOT. Way too much self-entitlement and silly hypocrisy with this character which I was waiting for someone to set her straight on. Hhmmp.
And I know I'm in the minority when I say this but I did think the verbal and physical reaming of Gowan near the end was a little unfair & extreme. Yes he said some harsh things (which were totally misconstrued & taken the wrong way by the way) and he shouldn't have run off but a marriage involves two people and Edie had her faults too. She lied to him and instead of talking kept her mouth shut and deceived him. Cut the guy some slack. I don't blame him for lashing out and being hurt. Seeing everyone gang up on him with their 'how could you's!' was a bit much IMO. And during Layla's vicious tirade against him she says Gowan took away Edie's self confidence..yeah what about Gowan? After how long he finally finds out he couldn't please his wife in bed. That self-confidence thing and trust goes both ways.
Anyways, I did enjoy James's twist on the Rapunzel story. There is a tower, some climbing and teary ILY's in said tower. It was a very sweet and charming turn on a classic fairy tale. :P Eloisa James always makes HR so intriguing, fun, witty and new in her own way and this series is testament to that. Hoping there are more Fairy Tale stories to be told!