This is posted as part of Keishon’s TBR Day challenge, which is aimed at encouraging us readers with the towering TBR piles (you know who you are) to start tackling the books that have been languishing in there for eons.
Book: Night of the Phantom (contemporary romance)
Author: Anne Stuart
Copyright Date: 1991
Why did I buy this book? I read a couple of Anne Stuart’s older books last year and really liked them, so have been keeping my eye out for more of the same.
Why did it sit in my TBR pile for so long? I need to be in the right mood for reading contemporaries, because it’s not one of my favourite genres.
What is it about? Ms Stuart describes this one as “…a dreamy, erotic take on Phantom of the Opera crossed with Beauty and the Beast, with ghosts and crazed fundamentalists thrown in for good measure.” And that’s a pretty spot-on description!
Megan Carey discovers her father, a construction business owner, has been cutting corners and using substandard materials using designs by a famed but reclusive architect. Somehow, the architect, Ethan Winslowe, has discovered this, and is threatening to turn her father in unless he turns up in person at his house. Megan lets her father persuade her to go in his place and plead his case. What she hasn’t counted on is the fact Ethan lives in the middle of nowhere, the nearest town is populated with hostile people, and oh, he lives in complete darkness due to some sort of unspecified disability… or is it deformity?
So what did I think about it? I loved the gothic-ness of the storyline. How Ethan lives in complete isolation with only his faithful manservant for company, and how he hides himself away in darkness. And the build-up to Megan wearing Ethan down and him finally revealing himself – I was dying of curiosity to find out exactly how he looked!
Ms Stuart said in the foreword that she just let herself go OTT with this one, and the story did have some pretty fantastical elements. For instance, Megan is constantly moved between different rooms, each with a different theme – she starts off in a medieval dungeon-like room, is then moved to a castle room, a Southwestern-styled room, a Park Avenue penthouse, etc, etc. And the townspeople were just plain creepy.
What didn’t work for me though was the mystical connection between Ethan and Megan, and how they could hear the other “calling” them. It was working very well as a straight contemporary (obviously suspending your disbelief to some extent!), but once the paranormal elements came in, it changed the story somehow, and I just found myself flipping through the pages to get to the end.
Finally, as a side-note, although this is a contemporary, it was written in the early 1990s, so some elements felt slightly dated. For instance, there was mention of items not really used nowadays, such as traveller’s cheques, and lack of reference to everyday items, for instance, no mobile phones! This didn’t bother me, but it made me realise how many changes there have been to everyday life in the past decade or so.
My conclusion? I loved the atmospheric set-up, but the mystical parts didn’t work. I’ll still look out for more of Ms Stuart’s backlist, but this one wasn’t a keeper for me. C+.