Good Girls Do!


Private Lessons

Seducing Sullivan

What's Your Pleasure

Phantom Pleasures
by Julie Leto
(Signet, $6.99, R) ISBN  978-0451223654
From what I can tell, this book evokes a jumble of feelings very specific to each reader. Personally, it was pretty clear from the start that Phantom Pleasures was a two-hearter. In glancing over a few other reviews of the book, however, it seems that a lot of other people found it quite fascinating.

This is not to say that all of Phantom Pleasures was an unsalvageable mess. Julie Leto has a very mature writing style without too much cliche or an overuse of words and props that date the book, as is often the case when a high-powered businessperson is one of the characters. Her descriptions are vivid without overkill and each of her characters was very much his or her own person. In fact, the interactions between characters that were not romantically involved are some of the better scenes in the book.

Phantom Pleasures will appeal to readers with a strong appreciation for the fairy tale. Alexa Chandler is your typical poor-little-rich-girl who never lets up about how her childhood fantasies of being a princess have grown into very grown-up fantasies of a different nature. In fact, these fantasies are even affecting Alexa's practical side. She is, since the death of her father and stepmother in a car accident involving the three of them, the president of Chandler Crown Hotels. Her latest venture is a German castle rebuilt on an island off the eastern seaboard, and Alexa intends to turn it into a very posh and private resort for trendsetters with a taste for the paranormal.

On her first visit there, Alexa discovers that she won't have to fabricate a phenomenon; a man pops out of a painting, and the two fall into lust and go at it like bunnies. The man, Damon Forsyth, has been ensorceled in the painting for over two hundred years, courtesy of the story's "bad guy", Lord Rogan, who never actually puts in an appearance. He does, however, act through Damon when Damon's dumb enough to use Rogan's black magic. This leads to one of my biggest problems with the story – Alexa allowing Damon to treat her like crap just because he's being poisoned by this magic. I wouldn't accept a character being abused because her significant other was an alcoholic, and I don't like it here either.

So, Alexa keeps talking about how she's going to free Damon from the castle while Damon "recreates" the castle former glory with his magic, both of them supposedly working uber-hard to find Rogan's power source. The people actually doing most of the work are Alexa's friend, Cat Reyes, and Ben Rousseau, the son of the only known scholar of the Gypsy land and lore from which the castle sprung.

As if the author knew Alexa and Damon have a pretty boring one-sided (and that entirely sexual) relationship, she often flips back to what's going on with Cat and Rousseau, which tends to be much more exciting anyway. Instead of having sex – although their chemistry is far superior to Alexa and Damon's – they are actually investigating even as they rush to find Ben's father, who has been kidnapped by a cult that feels they are the heirs to Rogan's power.

There is one pretty good plot twist and one painfully obvious one at the end of the book when the characters are all finally brought together for the showdown at the castle. Of course, since Damon was one of six brothers he now feels were similarly trapped in time, there are some ends left dangling for at least one follow-up story. I wouldn't trouble myself with that one, having learned my lesson properly from Phantom Pleasures. Maybe if Ben and Catalina had been the main characters I would have enjoyed it more, but even with that, I probably couldn't be so enticed. As it is, they're the only reason the review wasn't for just one heart.

--Sarrah Knight

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