Unmasqued: An Erotic Novel of The Phantom of The Opera
By Colette Gale
NAL Trade, August 2007
Reviewed by Andi
Before you run out and buy this book, it's important to note one very distinguishing factor of this story: it is erotica. As such, you can expect a lot of sex. Kinky sex. Sex that involves biting and being pushed up against walls.
Now, for those of you who automatically assume that I'm insulting everyone's intelligence with such a disclaimer, I can only say, you might be surprised. If you take a moment to peruse the Amazon reviews for Colette Gale's erotic offering, you'll find that many people seem to confuse erotica and romance. Unmasqued is not a froofy frolick through the daisies, but an intense and decadent romp through the opera house...naked.
Admittedly, I am not terribly familiar with Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera--it's been collecting dust on my bookshelves for at least ten years--nor am I terribly familiar with any of the written retellings and musical versions. In this case, perhaps, it's an advantage for me as I'm able to approach the tale of Christine Daaé and her opera ghost, Erik, with fresh eyes.
Christine is a performer in the Paris Opera House, and Erik is the disfigured outcast forced to disguise himself as the ghost to protect his identity and his livelihood. In the midst of his residence, he discovers and tutors the lovely Christine. As a result, Christine gains great acclaim as an opera singer and the two form an unbreakable bond and an irrevocable attraction...a love full of phyiscal passion, emotional connection and surrounded by turmoil. Problems really begin when the vicompte and compte become intertwined in Christine's life and begin to vie for her, body and soul.
In the past I've found myself with the opportunity to review short works of erotica, so I was especially excited when my signed copy of Unmasqued, in all its novel-length glory, bounded through my door. Colette Gale certainly has a way with the titilating in this novel as the story itself is brimming with passion, and the sex scenes are dripping with intensity and creativity. Perhaps I'm easy to please, but I was especially impressed with Gale's ability to pen sex scenes that ring true of the time period. That is to say, there were no "quivering members" or "hot boxes" but more period-friendly language to describe the erotic acts. I never felt as if I were tossed into the middle of Penthouse Letters in a mask and a cape.
While many a reviewer seems perterbed by Gale's license with the story, I can only see that this work is well-rounded in its own right and a really good time to read. I love that she's taken a classic and turned it completely on its head, but you probably already knew that I'm a sucker for reinvention.
While the story is not without its flaws--it gets a bit repetitive and outlandish toward the end--overall, I can't complain much at all. And I can certainly give Ms. Gale my highest honor in assuring one and all that I would pick up and review her next novel, Master--an erotic retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo--in a heartbeat.