Thursday, March 29, 2012

Phantom-tastic Fiction

One of the things I am known for at the library where I work is corralling patrons and recommending books that I think they should read. Usually these are people whose tastes I know pretty well. But not always. I have come to think of myself as the "Militant Recommender"! Perhaps I should wear a mask and cape.
Speaking of masks and capes I am going to begin this weekly blog with a look at Phantom of the Opera and some of the books that have been written around the great and tragic love story at the center of Gaston Leroux's classic. In short,  Erik, the Phantom, lives a reclusive life below the Paris Opera House where he spends his time creating musical masterpieces and falling for the unattainable and, some feel, undeserving, Christine Daae, an ingenue opera singer and dancer. Erik sees Christine as a potential super star of the opera world and spends considerable amounts of time singing to her through mirrors and helping her reach her vocal potential. She, meanwhile, is being courted by Viscount (or Vicomte) Raoul de Chagny, whom she knew from childhood, but who is not half the romantic suitor Erik is. And Erik also has that masked thing going for him, which is pretty sexy and mysterious. So mysterious that when Christine gives in and goes with him to his underground lair (great word!) she can not help herself from sneaking over and slipping off the mask which covers the deformity that makes mask wearing a necessity and not a fashion accessory. Not to give away the whole story here, let us just say, songs are sung, chandeliers fall and love doesn't quite conquer all, though we who are obsessed with this great character think it should. The original story is witty, compelling and truly a classic of gothic romantic fiction.

Because of the way Erik is treated in the original, several authors have taken his character and written sequels, many quite romantic. One of the very best books written is Susan Kay's Phantom which creates a beautifully realized history for Erik. I am going to reread this one and write about it in a couple of weeks.
 I just finished Madrigal by Jennifer Linforth, which I found deliciously addictive!
There are two follow-ups, and I will write about those as I read them.

Madrigal revolves around Erik resurfacing from the quiet life he has been leading in the cellars below the Opera House, after faking his death. Ms. Linforth weaves aspects of the original Phantom into her story while making him even more of a romantic, a man who still longs for Christine, but unexpectedly finds himself the object of the affections of Anna, a 23 year old girl who is working off her evil father's debts at the Opera House.
There are murders, intrigue and the return of Christine to complicate this enchanting love story.  Anna comes across as  brave and compassionate as the girl who loves and accepts the man behind the mask and is willing to take a back seat to his rekindled passion for Christine. READ this NOW! If you're a Phantom fan or someone who likes a good romance, this is worth checking out!

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