Pros: A wonderful novel on many levels
Rating: 5 out of 5
One of the book review blogs I try never to miss is Dionne Galace—not only does she do the best “cover snark” regarding romance novel covers, but she’s hysterically funny in her reviews and blog posts as well. At one point I read and commented on a post in which she interviewed Colette Gale, author of Unmasqued: An Erotic Novel of The Phantom of the Opera, and I ended up winning a copy of said book.
After reading the interview with the author I was quite looking forward to reading the book, but naturally I felt a slight trepidation about reviewing it. What if I hated it? Ms. Gale kindly sent the book to me as a giveaway, not a review copy. Not that this would stop me from saying what I thought of it of course, but still.
Anyway, I needn’t have worried. This is, so far, the best—not to mention hottest—erotic romance I’ve read.
I’m not incredibly familiar with the original Phantom of the Opera, so I’m not going to give you some kind of comparison. At any rate, I’m the kind of person who, for example, prefers to take a movie made from a novel as being a totally separate entity from that novel, so I also prefer to take “re-imaginings” and stories told from a different point of view than their originals on their own merits.
Christine is a talented singer just blossoming into the fullness of her abilities under the tutelage of her mysterious Ange de Musique, the one others call the Phantom of the Opera. He’s also begun teaching her about her passions, her desire. But as he opens the way for Christine to take center stage at the Opera, she catches the eye of the Opera House’s new patrons: gentle yet obsessive Raoul, the Vicomte, and his brother the Comte, Philippe, a cruel and grasping man who hates the Phantom for his own reasons.
Raoul wants to marry Christine and give her a luxurious life with him. His touch is gentle and seductive, yet there’s something about his insistence and fixation on her that bothers her. Philippe doesn’t want his brother marrying someone of such low station, but is more than happy for her to take on other, less dignified, roles. The Phantom loves and adores her, but doesn’t trust her with his secret and cannot offer her a normal life. Torn between these men and their plans for her, not to mention her own love for the opera stage, Christine has no idea of how these three men’s pasts will collide and change her life forever.
If it wasn’t obvious just from the subtitle of the book, I’ll make it perfectly clear now: this is an erotic romance. It isn’t for children, and it isn’t for prudes. It’s quite explicit, with some BDSM, some scenes of coercion, and an attempted rape. (Some people like to enjoy or avoid specific things in their erotica, so I think it’s best to be clear about this kind of thing up front.)
The story and characters are wonderful. For all that some folk still think romance and erotica tend to have sub-par writing or sacrifice story for sex, this book easily disproves that. The characters are absolutely delightful, from the lusty and cheeky Madame Giry to the controlling and scheming La Carlotta, from the haunted Phantom, Erik, to the obsessed Vicomte, Raoul. The story is tense and engaging, and I flew through the last chapter or two, turning pages just as quickly as I could read them, far more entranced by finding out what was going to happen than I was when I read the last few novels I read, even though several of those were supposedly ‘thrillers’.
The pacing is perfect, giving us comic-yet-salacious interludes courtesy of Madame Giry to lighten the mood now and then, bringing references and characters full-circle as appropriate, and providing a wide array of sexual moods and scenarios to keep things from ever getting boring or feeling rehashed. The sex and romance never feel tacked-on or contrived, but always work as part of the story. The lush settings come alive with detail, and it’s easy to lose yourself in the world that Colette Gale presents.
In short, if the premise of this book in any way interests you, then I highly recommend that you give it a try. It’s an incredibly delightful read on any level.
And yes, the sex sizzles!