Sunday, November 24, 2019

Avenging Angel: "Reanimated" by Laura DeLuca

The Recommender is a big fan of Laura DeLuca's Dark Musical series from the very first one that introduced Lord Justyn Patko and Rebecca Hope as teens involved in a school theatrical production of Phantom of the Opera. Over the years and through the series we have followed them as they grow and age through college, summer theatre and to Broadway stardom, marriage and parenthood and each book was based around a musical. Also, the couple seem to attract "the crazies" as they call them and each book features some murderer or other that seems to target our favorite couple.
Reanimated is based on a version of Corpse Bride, or Ghost Bride, as it is called here and Justyn and Rebecca are now co-owners of a dinner theatre along with Tom and Carmen, their long time friends. This dinner theatre was featured in a previous book, so be sure to read the whole series to know the back-story.
 They have hired kitchen and wait staff and actors who will be performing the original production of Ghost Bride.
Meanwhile, Rebecca has been doing something else besides acting, and taking care of their wonderfully talented son, Erik, who is also an actor, and their baby daughter, Harmony. Tired of being a victim, she has been taking shooting lessons and is the owner of a licensed handgun. And, she and her friend Victoria, have decided to help  women who have been abused and are in need of safety by working for an underground Railroad led by a dedicated Detective and a cabbie.
As with Ms. DeLuca's previous books, this one will grab you and pull you into the lives of Lord Justyn, Rebecca, their children, family and friends. It's a compelling story complete with murder, crimes and ... wait! Is something wrong with Lord Justyn? Surely this can't be the last book in the series, can it? I was yelling "What???  and "Oh, No!" at the Kindle during parts of this one! Not giving anything away, though. No spoilers, here!
If you are a fan (or Phan) of Phantom, musical theatre and murder mysteries along with original characters, then be sure to check out all of the Dark Musical books and you, too, will fall for Lord Justyn, just like I did when he first stood at the back of the school auditorium and watched his future soul mate audition for the part of Christine!

Below is a song, one of several referred to in the book, brought to you through the miracle of youtube!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Secret Love: "An Eternity of This" by Amanda Osborne

Christine has left him, married now to Raoul. The Paris Opera House was destroyed in the process of his trying to make her love him and be his bride. Erik still lives and stalks the  hidden passageways of the rebuilt Opera, listening to all the secrets shared within, and it is through this habit that he discovers a new employee now occupying the room Christine once did.
Genevieve Devereaux, a new seamstress has joined the staff at the Opera Populaire. She is tall and almost pretty, though she dresses in severe dresses with her hair pulled up in a tight bun and glasses, giving the air of a spinster. In fact, she is a former Comtesse, now divorced from a handsome titled man whose façade hid the sadistic abusing monster beneath. She has affected the disguise to hide her whereabouts in fear of her life, and also to indulge her talent for designing and sewing, a talent that had been frowned on as unseemly for a girl, then woman, of her station.
It is this secret, Erik overhears, and decides he can make use of it. But first, he might need a new wardrobe, his having been damaged in the fire. Will his hold over Genevieve force her to follow his written demands?
And as for Genevieve, has she left one form of hell for this new one where this Opera Ghost could turn her over to her hated ex-husband if she did not follow his instructions?
Amanda Osborne has given us a sympathetic and believable protagonist in Genevieve  and her story which takes us behind the scenes and into the demanding roles of the costume designers and seamstresses as they work with the various cast members who populate the operas presented on stage.
And Erik, the commanding, attractive yet exasperating figure who will act out in destructive ways if he can't get what he wants. Still desperately longing for Christine who could never love him for who he was, was he destined to always be alone and unloved?
This is a love story for anyone who loves Erik and hoped for more for him. Beautifully written and realized and filled with details, passion and heartbreak. If you are a Phantom Phan  (and even if you're not) then don't hesitate to get a copy of "An Eternity of This". You won't be disappointed and you'll find yourself hoping for more from this author!

There is a love story that's kept secret in "An Eternity of This". Who could sing about secret loves better than Doris Day through the miracle of Youtube?

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Clued In: "Missing Person" by Sarah Lotz

One afternoon, in a village in Ireland, twenty-something bookstore employee Shaun Ryan is taking his dog, Daphne, for a walk in a cemetery when he's approached by a man who has an Elvis vibe and says he knew Shaun's dead uncle, Teddy. Johnny Mckinnon, fresh out of jail and home to care for his ailing Mum, was best mates with Teddy and says he wasn't dead. He went to New York to get away from the hate the family heaped on him for being gay.
Shaun, also gay, had looked up to Teddy as an icon of cool, and now, his world shaken, he has to figure out what to do with this information.
Somewhere in the US, a group of online amateur sleuths,, is sharing information on a long time unidentified body, a young man, possibly the victim of a hate crime, and found mysteriously wearing a pink dress. Was it his own dress, or did the murderer stage this crime?
Ratking, the admin of this particular group, has to keep reminding the members that they are now limited to helping ID the missing person and no longer sleuthing. But as the facts on this particular unidentified begin to mount up can Ratking, Rainbowbrite and Mommiedearest keep themselves from working the case to help police bring closure for a family out there, waiting for word.
Meanwhile, Pete, a family man with a stepdaughter and a wife who works a lot, is keeping tabs on the forum. He participates secretly, using the name Bobbiecowell. What is his interest in this case?
How will the people behind these online identities come together to solve this mystery? And what of Shaun and the revelation of his uncle? Get a copy of Missing Person and find out!
Sarah Lotz has once again written a riveting read all night story with great characters and an unusual premise. She is one of the Recommender's favorite authors and  recommends her work regularly to everyone... including anyone reading this review!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

First Love: "Of Love and Deception" Book 1 of the Tainted Love Series by Kayla Lowe

Sarah MacKenzie and her best friend/cousin, Addison, are settling into their freshman dorm and ready to start college life. The future seems to hold endless possibilities for these two girls from good homes with loving, supportive parents. Both girls are excellent students and as they begin classes they fall into a routine of studying and enjoying each other's company.
One thing they have at college that they didn't have at home is... faster internet! Sarah is a Phantom of the Opera Phan and she enjoys interacting online with others who share her passion. It's just harmless fun, the way Addison feels about her favorite group, Duran Duran.
But just as they are getting ready to go out to dinner with friends, a message pops up on Sarah's laptop signed YOUR PHANTOM LOVER all in caps and his opening sentence stops her in her tracks: WELL HELLO THERE, ANGEL! Who could this be? Why all caps?
Later, while enjoying ice cream in their room with Addison, Sarah opens her laptop to find more messages from this mysterious Phantom presence. Bit by bit, message by message, Sarah and her mysterious Phantom begin to communicate and then they move beyond simply messaging to sharing their innermost thoughts, dreams and ... feelings.

Can Sarah be falling for someone who seems to be luring her deeper and deeper into an online reality. Addison has been chatting with someone, too. The ability of the faster internet seems to distract these two young women from what was most important to them, getting a good college education and making their parents and grandparents proud of them.
Sarah, especially, finds herself longing for those moments when she can chat with her Phantom. Will she ever meet this Opera Ghost in real life? Will he be everything she dreamed about if she does?

Author Kayla Lowe brings these young women and their families to life in a completely believable way. The Recommender found herself yelling at the Kindle and trying to advise Sarah to wait, to be cautious! Can this online Phantom be too good to be true? Be sure to get a copy of Of Love and Deception, and by the end you, too, will find yourself anxiously awaiting the next chapter of the Tainted Love series!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

On the Road Again: "The Angel's Flight" by Louise Anne Bateman

Spoilers! Because this is a sequel, if you haven't read Ms. Bateman's first Phantom of the Opera based novel, The Angel's Shadow, then go back and start there before you read any further!
We begin at the end of the Angel's Shadow with the fire that destroys the Paris Opera House. Meg and Antoinette Giry were in the midst of being quizzed by the chief of gendarmes as to their relationship with the Phantom of the Opera, or Opera Ghost, when the explosions leading to the fire take place.
Standing outside, watching their home and belongings burn and wondering what will become of them, Meg and Antoinette hear a familiar voice instructing them to board a carriage.  Joining Erik, they leave behind the world of ballet and opera, and eventually find themselves in Erik's childhood home, the place he fled years ago.
Meg, in this series, is talented and troubled. She is intrigued by Erik and compulsively followed him and provoked him in the previous book.
He is such a man of mystery. He alternates between kindness and cruelty in his dealings with her. Although she is a young woman, Erik treats her like a child. Now the three of them are all living together. Will Meg survive? Will Erik?
Ms. Bateman takes these beloved characters on some new and surprising adventures and in the case of Meg... sometimes VERY surprising.
If you are a Phantom Phan and looking for a book that will shake up what you think about Meg, Erik and Madame Antoinette Giry, then start with the Angel's Shadow and continue the story with The Angels' Flight.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Valentine's Book Exchange: The Honor Series by Kristen Heitzmann

This past Valentine's Day several friends and I decided to do an Elfster Valentine's Day Book Exchange which was a great success! I won the book exchange jackpot! I received a whole series from my secret Valentine (maybe not so secret: Kayla???):
 The whole idea of the exchange was to gift someone with a book YOU love, so this was a whole series someone loved. This series was by an author I wasn't familiar with, Kristen Heitzmann. The titles, in order were Honor's Pledge, Honor's Price, Honor's Quest, Honor's Disguise and Honor's Reward. They are published in the category of Christian fiction but don't let that get in the way of taking a chance on this series because I have to say, I fell in love with the characters and the world this gifted author created.
The series takes place in the late 1870s and revolves around a young woman, Abbie Martin, who is so engaging, you'd want her for your best friend. She is 17 at the start and someone who is brave, outspoken, a loyal friend, and not afraid to be herself. She is a tomboy who loves the land she's grown up on in and around Rocky Springs, Colorado. Her father owns the local newspaper and her mother keeps house on the farm they own. Abbie can ride and shoot and climb trees and catch fish with a spear, things she learned alongside her best friend from childhood, Blake McConnel.
This first story begins with Blake calling out a man by the name of Montgomery Farrel, a southerner who had bought a ranch in the area. He's ready to shoot Mr. Farrel for paying a little to much attention to Abbie in town that morning.
Abbie intervenes and the Sheriff hauls Blake away to a jail cell to cool off. Later she gets Monte Farrel to drop the charges which he does due to her insistence and her charm and... though she is oblivious to the fact, her beauty.

So begins this series that will have you reading one after the other to see what lies ahead for Abbie as she goes from this spitfire 17 year old to an equally headstrong young woman, falling passionately in love, having her heart broken more than once and racing off on sometimes heart-stopping adventures on behalf of those she loves.
 Along the way, a ranch hand, Cole Jasper, is introduced. He's just one of the many memorable characters you'll meet, and wish you could know in real life.
 Some things in this frontier life will surprise you, some things are shocking, and sometimes you'll shout "Oh No!" at the books or booohooo at other parts. If you are looking for something that will captivate you, grab your attention, and make you want to reread it from the beginning, then look no further than Ms. Heitzmann's Honor series!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Made for Each Other: "The Plus One" by Sarah Archer

Kelly Suttle is a robotics engineer and feels considerably more comfortable in that world than the one her wedding shop owner mother would prefer her to inhabit. That of the eligible potential dates for her popular sister's upcoming wedding.
Although Kelly is excellent at what she does at work, somehow, her parents can't see that as important and no matter how hard she tries to interest them at their weekly family dinners she can't seem to get their attention.
Maybe it's her parents unhappy marriage that set her on the path to independence and against romance but now she finds herself on the spot with her mother pushing her to find a plus one.  How can she meet and win over a suitable man in time for the wedding? There don't seem any men out there that will fill her very picky criteria on the dating sites.
Then she has an idea. She is currently working on the prototype for a companion robot, one that will care for and do the bidding of its human master. Why not take it one step further and build a boyfriend?
Ms. Archer's the Plus One is a brilliant debut. It is funny, touching and poignant. Kelly is an intriguing character, both sympathetic and abrasive. Ethan, her robotic boyfriend, is captivating and will win you over as much as he wins over his creator. This is one you'll think about long after you turn the last page. Highly recommended!
A Big Thank You to Edelweiss for the DRC

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Undeniable: "Prelude: Fin" by J. M. Smith

Spoiler alert! As this is the final chapter in the Prelude Trilogy... we must assume, if you are reading this review, you have read the first two volumes. If not...GO BACK! Read no further!!!
OK, then: When we last left Erik and Annie things did not look good for this duo. Annie, having lost a child that might have brought her and Erik even closer, lashes out at him, instead. Calling their love twisted and their relationship unnatural and blaming herself and Erik for Giles Giry's death, she runs from him leaving him alone and distraught.
Awakening the next morning and realizing what she has done, she races to Erik's Lair to apologize and finds no trace of him except a beautiful ring lying near the lake.
10 years pass. Erik has traveled the world, learned new skills and now found himself back in Persia, ruled over by his old friend Kevah and his sister, Yasmin, who has blossomed into a beautiful young woman. She is delighted to see him and embraces the man she kept alive through his long imprisonment under the last regime.
She is surprised and upset that Annie had not been overjoyed at Erik's return. Thoughts of his beloved Annie helped keep him going through that desperate time. Was there anything she could do?  Perhaps there was. Could he love Yasmin? Or would thoughts of Annie forever haunt him.
Should he return and see if there might be a chance to rekindle that extraordinary love they had shared? And what of his darling Little Giry? How was Meg doing after all these years?
And where are Christine and Raoul in this story? Aren't they kind of important in the world of Phantom fiction? Can they really not make an appearance in this last episode?
These questions will all be answered in this last chapter. If you enjoyed the love story of Erik and Annie in the previous volumes then don't miss seeing if they get their happy ending in Prelude: Fin!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Lost and Found: "Maiden's Blush" by Kayla Lowe

International translator, Jack Barringer, is on his way home one snowy winter evening when he happens upon what seems to be a crime scene. A man jumps into a shiny red Lexus and takes off, leaving behind something crumpled on the ground.
Upon closer inspection, Jack finds that it is a young woman, barely conscious and not dressed to survive the bitter cold night.
What to do? He carries her to his car while she comes to and struggles to escape his arms. Jack, a true gentleman, reassures her and she warily consents to his help. Who is this mystery woman and what led her to the attack in the woods that might have been her end?
So begins the story of Katrina Weems, a recent college graduate and Jack, her rescuer. Katrina finds herself a guest in Jack's house and as she slowly reveals more about herself she also learns more about her host, his staff, and a certain best friend who will be paying them a visit.
Beautifully told, romantic, and also a bit of a thriller, as well as containing a Phantom of the Opera theme, this first novel by Ms. Lowe was one I had to read straight through. Like Katrina, I found myself torn between two choices.  Will she get the happy ending she deserves? You'll have to get a copy of Maiden's Blush to find out!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Winner of the Bracelet Giveaway!

Congratulations to Cynder the Knight (AKA Carlene Michalk) winner of the 2019 Phantom LOVE Symbolic Charm Bracelet Giveaway! Three independent judges read through the entries to choose the winner! Thank you to all who entered!

Everyone else who entered will get a Valentine consolation prize, so, if I don't have your mailing address please email it or PM it to me!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

2019 Phantom Valentine's Day Charm Bracelet GIVE- AWAY!!!

I have been asked if I was going to do a "Phantom LOVE Charm Bracelet" Giveaway this year, and the answer is yes! I am late in posting this because of a cooking related thumb injury... and if you are right handed, you forget how valued a player that left thumb is in almost everything, including adding charms etc... but the show, or bracelet making, must go on!
This bracelet is especially beautiful and filled with hearts and love and a mask and portrait charm symbolizing Erik and Christine and now it can be yours! FREE! By following the steps below, you will be in the running, and eligible for this one of a kind Phantom bracelet!

One: Just sign up as a follower of this blog. Your name must appear as a follower to be eligible. If you are already a Militant Recommender follower you can skip this part.

Two: Share my Phantom's Lair Etsy Shop to 2 phriends

And 3: Post here in the comments section on this post, and, in just a line or two (please make it short so the judges will be able to read everything), share why Erik should be your Valentine.
All Entries must be received by Midnight of February 12th! Open to ALL PHANS!  Then my "secret judges" (I will not be one of them) will choose a winner on February 13 and the winner will be announced on Valentine's Day, that's February 14th.

Good luck to everyone entering. Make sure you email me your complete name and mailing address so I know who to send the bracelet to when the winner is chosen.

More images of this special bracelet:

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Dreaming of You : "Prelude: Scherzo" by J.M. Smith

So much happens in this third in J.M. Smith's Prelude series, that I have to start out this review of   Scherzo, with a spoiler alert. Well, if you've made it this far you'll already know that Erik is DEAD!
Wait, or is he?
Annie, hearing her beloved Erik has died in far away Mazandaran, where he had gone to design a Palace for the Shah, collapses from the shock. And Giles Giry is there to catch her. Puzzling over the news that her brother died in the place where Annie's fiancé was working as chief architect, he eventually learns the truth. And rather than turn away from this ruse, he sympathetically reaches out to her, sheltering her in his home, caring for her, providing what nourishment she will take and finding himself deeper and deeper under the spell of the beautiful ballerina.
Could Annie ever love this man, the polar opposite of the dark and troubled Erik?
And, aha! News of Erik's demise has been greatly exaggerated. Well, somewhat exaggerated, as he is locked in the Shah's prison, and has given up the desire to live.
Knowing he might never see his beloved Annie, again, and despising himself for his drug-fueled role as the Shah's Angel of Death, the Shah's executioner, he has accepted his fate. The hateful Shah forced Erik to operate the torture chamber he designed for him, executing not just criminals but political prisoners! What happened to that new Palace he thought he was commissioned for?
Refusing to eat and existing in total darkness, he is jolted back to some semblance of life when a beautiful young Persian girl, Yasmin, is instructed to take charge of his meals. Through her persistence, Erik reluctantly begins the slow road to recovery.
And this is just the beginning!
There is so much more to come!
J.M. Smith has given us a whole new spin (to the Recommender, anyway) on the Phantom story, not just giving us a plausible relationship between Erik and Antoinette, one that was hinted at in the Gerard Butler film of the ALW musical and more briefly in the stage version, but bringing to life a very likable Giles Giry, a man who is intelligent, handsome, loving and compassionate. We needed to see what kind of man Madame Giry had been married to... and we will find out how she became the widowed ballet mistress we all know and love. No more spoilers! If you love Phantom and all the versions such a great variety of Phan authors have graced us with, then you don't want to miss the Prelude series!
And don't forget, J.M. Smith is also the author of one of my very favorite Phantom books, The Secret Door! If you haven't read that one yet, you are in for a treat!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Phantom Returns: "Illusion" by Laura DeLuca

When we last met Laura DeLuca's character of Lord Justyn Patko and his now wife, Lady Rebecca Hope Patko, they were appearing in a summer theatre version of Hyde. They had their fair share of drama to get through before the happy ending and the birth of their son, Erik.
Now, some 8 years later, the couple have just completed a successful Broadway run of The Phantom Returns the sequel to Phantom. Set in Coney Island and filled with elaborate sets and costumes, the couple had been acclaimed as the embodiment of the characters. Passionately in love in real life they bring that extra dimension to the Phantom and Christine on the stage.
So famous were they that they have been invited to take the show to Australia. Two theatres were after the couple. Justyn  and Rebecca weigh the options and decide to grace the smaller venue, the Queen's Theatre in Melbourne, with their presence. The theatre had been after the couple for years, and have now made them an offer they can't refuse... they would like Erik to play Christine and the Phantom's son, Gustave. Highly talented and an equally adept musician, Erik is perfect for the role.
Before they leave, Erik has a nightmare. Could it be a premonition? Rebecca also worries that she may be aging out of the ingénue role and that some other Christine might take her place beside her beloved Justyn. Could she live with that? And what of Justyn's hoping to expand their family?
Illusion brings the Queen's theatre and its cast and crew to life and we shall soon see what lies in store for our favorite couple and their son in this thrilling first of a new series featuring Lord Justyn, Lady Rebecca and Erik. Personally, I can't wait to see what awaits them next!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Light and Shadow: "Godsend" by John Wray

John Wray's brilliant Godsend is the story of a young American who becomes a radicalized Muslim and sets off on a journey to Pakistan in hopes of eventually joining a jihadist group. That this person is a girl of 18 who has disguised herself as a boy in order to become a part of this movement is what makes this story such a compelling read.
Aden Grace Sawyer and her sometime boyfriend Decker have planned this adventure together. Both are able to speak Arabic and both are dedicated to the study of Islam. She has shaved her head and bound her breasts to make herself believe in her masquerade as much as anyone she encounters. They arrive in Pakistan and travel to a small Madrassa, a school for the study of the Quran, and which is close to the border of Afghanistan. She is accepted as Brother Suleyman and often just called Little Brother. She excels here and becomes a favorite of the Mullah. Though Decker will keep her secret he still has an attraction for her that she discourages. As the story unfolds we are taken deeper into the world of this school, its students and the call and attraction of the militant group, the Taliban, who are fighting just across the border. There are life changing choices confronting Aden and Decker. What happens to them will keep you riveted to the very end. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Cabin Fever: "Last Time I Lied" by Riley Sager

Riley Sager's the Final Girls kept me up till all hours because I needed to know who did what. This new book, Last Time I Lied, if anything, kept me up even later!
13 year old Emma Davis is sent to spend the summer at an exclusive girls' camp called Camp Nightingale. Her wealthy and neglectful parents have forgotten to even tell her she was going and as a result arrives so late there may be no cabin available to house her for the six weeks she will be there.
Then, the owner of the camp, Francesca Harris-White, or Franny as she wants to be called, a wealthy widow with two adopted sons, has an idea. She'll put her in the last space left, a bunk in a cabin with 3 older girls. These girls, Vivian, Natalie and Allison, will take her under their wing, especially Vivian, whose attention Emma craves. These girls and this summer will change Emma's life forever.
Fast forward 15 years. Emma is now an acclaimed artist. Her huge paintings each contain a secret. Painted beneath the trees and forest scenes three girls are hidden. The painted buried images of the beautiful and engaging Vivian and her two cabin mates are now all that remains of them, a mystery of three girls who disappeared that summer, and one that has haunted Emma ever since.
Could Emma have saved them? Was it her fault they vanished? What about the things she said, the accusations that ended up closing the camp and altering lives?
At a gallery exhibition a woman approaches her. It's Franny, the wealthy owner of the camp on the shores of a man-made lake called Lake Midnight. She has a proposition. Would Emma consider returning to the scene of what has traumatized her for those 15 years?
Franny is planning to reopen the camp and take the emphasis away from it being a camp for wealthy girls. It will now be free and merit-based. She would like Emma to be the art teacher. She has been forgiven for her part in that mystery.
Will Emma return for closure and maybe, just maybe, find out what happened to the girls who vanished from her cabin one night, so long ago?
If you're looking for the kind of intense read that grabs you and doesn't let you go until the very last page, then Last Time I Lied is the book for you!
Thank you to NetGalley for the DRC!
*note: in case you're interested, Riley Sager is the pen name of author Todd Ritter.