REVIEW: Phantom Pleasures by Julie Leto
Dear Ms. Leto:
I’ve been anxiously awaiting this new paranormal series of yours from Signet since you announced it over a year ago. I’m intrigued by the premise and I liked parts of the story but overall, I felt like I was missing something when I closed the story.
Alexa Chandler is an heiress in control of a multi million dollar fortune and a four star hotel chain. She is used to being charge and making decisive decisions. Part of her inheritance is castle on a remote island off the coast of St. Augustine, Florida, that Alex wants to turn into a spectacular retreat for the most fabulously wealthy people ever. The island cannot be penetrated via air but in a flyover, Alexa spots an inland channel and rushes off to hire a charter. (Alex is very resourceful. Me heart Alex).
In her flyover, she also sees a ghostly arm waving from one of the windows of the abandoned castle. This is even more exciting for Alex because she loves ghosts and she thinks this adds some spectacular ambiance for her hotel/retreat. Alex takes a charter to the castle and somehow finds that her ghost has a corporeal form and that his magic or someone’s magic has locked her inside the castle.
Damon Forsyth is a man from th 1700s who was the son of a British baron and governor of a Gypsy colony. He had six brothers and a sister who was seduced or captured or somehow taken by Rogan, a man that Damon had once trusted. Rogan worked great magic and imprisoned Damon in a painting until Alexa comes along.
I felt like some of the story from the names–Damon and Alexa–to the descriptions–“flashing eyes”/”enchanting female”–to the internal monologue was old fashioned and a bit florid. Damon, especially, had a tendency toward melodrama in his internal monologues. I thought that it was done intentionally to show that Damon was from an earlier time but it didn’t read very smoothly for me.
Nothing would delay him.
Nothing and no one.
Not even the beautiful flame-haired woman who’d freed him from his prison.
The magic was unexplained and that is part of the charm and part of the frustration of the story. The magic is part of the whodunit or suspense of the story and thus it makes sense for the full construct of the magic to be doled out in bits and pieces. The frustration is that there are times when the story is unexplainable. I.e., when Alexa is at one point trapped in the castle and in another, suddenly freed. I backtracked a couple of times to see if I had missed something in the story to explain that but I hadn’t. You allow the reader to figure out the clues but I do find that frustrating at times. I liked, though, how this series is setting up to reprise past life roles and the mirroring of characters lends to the atmospheric qualities of the story.
Alexa was great. I loved her and her inhibited outlook on life. She did not sweat the small stuff. I guess my biggest problem was with Damon and his tendency toward the florid prose “The sound of a sensual, beautiful woman eschewing a fulfilled life so she could meet the expectations of society cracked his soul. Is this what the future held for him? A reversal of roles that would tear at his core.” I was also irritated by the comparisons to well known figures. The secondary characters were likened to “Indiana Jones” and “Jennifer Lopez”. Not that either Ford or Lopez aren’t smoking hot (well, Ford, back in the day and pre-Calista Flockhart), it’s just I like to envision the characters based on the descriptions rather than supplant the images with other well known figures. C+