Phantom Pleasures

Julie Leto
April 2008, Ghost Romance
Signet Eclipse, $6.99, 316 pages, Amazon ASIN 0451223659

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Hot

I like ghost stories. And, even if this one is a bit plot-y, it’s still a fun read.

Gazillionaire hotel owner Alexa learns she has in her family portfolio a German castle rebuilt during the 1940s on an isolated island off the coast of Florida. Always mysteriously drawn to castles – not to even mention her recurring fantasies of a ghostly lover – Alexa overcomes the obstacles and finds a way to get herself deposited on the island for a few hours to explore her new holding. While there, she discovers the castle’s secret: Damon Forsyth, an 18th century English lord, has been held prisoner there for more than 350 years by the magic of an e-e-e-v-i-l sorcerer.

Somehow Alexa brings him to life – or at least makes him corporeal – by touching the portrait and lickety-split the two have hot sex. There’s a powerful and possibly mystical connection between the two, see, so the instant sex kinda makes sense.

But Damon is still somehow in the thrall of that e-e-e-v-i-l sorcerer and it turns out Alexa just might be, too. It’s all got something to do with a necklace that Alexa’s e-e-e-v-i-l brother (and you can tell he’s e-e-e-v-i-l by page 18 because he says something “with a sneer”) gave her that was supposed to protect her, but does it really? And then there’s some other e-e-e-v-i-l types out there who also want the necklace and the power and all that stuff, too.

Remember, I said it was plot-y. And it is. Too, too, too much, quite honestly. Because – and I know you’ll never believe it – but this one is the first in a new series and it’s going to take a few books for all this e-e-e-v-i-l sorcerer and his minions stuff to get sorted out.

On the positive side, the connection between Alexa and Damon is fun and sort of believable. On the negative, there is w-a-a-a-y too much going on with the charms and this bad group and that other bad group and a secondary romance featuring Alexa’s best friend and an Indiana Jones type guy. I had a hard time keeping track of it all, to tell you the truth.

The prose style here is also not subtle. Those times in life when somebody actually sneers are really pretty rare, but there’s enough sneering in this one that I actually got distracted by trying to come up with TV's Number One All Time Sheer-er and, after some deliberation, I settled on Major Frank Burns.

All in all, though, I enjoyed Phanton Pleasures on a sort of B-movie level. I can’t say I’ll stick around for more, but this one was a lively enough read.

-- Sandy Coleman

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