Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Back Where You Belong: "The Phantom Returns" by Stefanie Cole

I'd heard great things about author Stefanie Cole's "The Phantom Returns" but it was one of those really hard to find titles and the ones I could find were realllly expensive, so it was on my wish-list for Christmas and I did get a "used  but like new" copy which was basically new! So, I couldn't wait to read it and let me say it was worth the wait! It is a wildly romantic and believable follow-up to what happens after. After Christine leaves the Phantom's lair and marries Raoul, that is.
We begin the story with Christine and Raoul visiting the home by the sea, where she and her father lived and played music and sang and where the childhood friends first met. While searching through some of her father's belongings she finds a trunk of his music including the "Angel of Music" which she pores over and sings... drawing Raoul's contempt. She no longer has to 'sing for her supper" he tells her. They are now Vicomte and Vicomtesse deChagny and she must live up to that title, for he gave up a lot to marry his "little Lotte" and it's up to her to prove to his family and aristocratic friends that she can fit in their social circles and is not just some opera floozy he fell for.
Sometime later, now in London, Raoul hopes Christine will be accepted by his English friends and not be snubbed as she had been by Parisian society. Making the rounds of a ballroom at one event, she escapes to the balcony outside to get some fresh air when she finds herself swaying to familiar music and then...  she sees a figure in the shadows, then feels someone caress her cheek and whisper her name. She closes her eyes for a moment and when she opens them again, he is there, the Phantom, then gone in a flash and a swirl of his cape. A red rose left on the balcony. There is a note attached. It is signed "Erik". "Erik" she breathes his name aloud. Her Angel of Music had a name. A man's name. "Who are you talking to?" Raoul demands, as he joins her outside.
What follows is a passionate whirlwind of desire and obsession as Christine must decide whether to take a second chance at the dark and dangerous love still offered to her by Erik or to live out her life in the security that Raoul provides, a titled life but one without music, a life that would slowly destroy her soul. 
As for Erik, himself, he is different. He had an experience while traveling after the Opera House's destruction. An encounter with someone that completely changes his life. Will this help him to realize his dream of finally possessing the woman who he still holds in his heart? If you can find it, and it is worth the search, get a copy of the "Phantom's Return" and be prepared to give yourself over completely to this exquisite love story.

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