Monday, February 9, 2015

'Masque: Choices (Gaston Leroux Phantom of the Opera Romance Series)' by Caridad Martin

Book Blurb

Erik is dying. Not once in his life has anyone ever loved him, not even his mother. Every day his heart fails him more and he is desperate not to die alone. He hides his face and past sins behind a mask. Erik is dying and has fallen desperately, obsessively in love.

Christine Daaé, a rising start at the Paris Opera is kidnapped by Erik, her voice tutor. When her childhood sweetheart attempts to rescue her, he gets trapped in Erik’s torture chamber. Erik gives her a choice, marry him or watch her lover die an agonizing death. Defeated, she agrees to the marriage in name only.

The Persian has intimate knowledge of Erik’s bloody past. He followed him, across continents to keep a check on Erik’s sanity. Erik asks for his help to marry Christine.

Erik doesn’t ask for much:

“A living wife. A companion for a short while, before I die...A few months at most. We both know I am at the long can my heart hold out? Pain grips my heart, threatening to shred it to bits. Even I,” he said after a slow, reflective pause, “even I, deserve a little joy before my wretched life comes to a close. The desolation alone is killing me.”

The Persian's soft heart drives him to agree to support Erik’s last chance for love. Alone with Christine for a few moments, he feels he must warn her: “If he ever comes to believe that you have betrayed him, he will hurt you, Christine…If you ever need my help, wear red, as much red as you can find.”

Erik finally has the companion he has always dreamed of, he cannot hope for more…but he does. His heart, though failing, dreams of romance and love. With her soft caresses and innocent brushes against his body—he thinks she desires the marriage bed as well as the marriage. Is he reading more than he should into her actions? Though he yearns for her love and lusts after her body, Erik knows they’re forbidden fruit for someone like him.

Christine is determined to honor her marriage vows, though she’ll love Raoul forever and has promised herself to remain faithful to him. But, the more time she spends with her husband, the more she’s drawn to him, falling under the spell of his music and the tender wounded soul he desperately tries to hide behind his mask. An orphan for years, she longs to have a home of her own. Could she come to consider the house by the lake her home? Although she gave Raoul her heart and soul, can she put aside her past with Raoul and give her tormented husband the compassion he needs?

Vicomte Raoul de Chagny, has loved Christine for years and refuses to let his title stand in the way of their happiness. He is even willing to defy his older brother to be with her. Despite his love, Raoul fails to save her from Erik. When Raoul meets Christine again, he tries to free her from the bonds of marriage. Raoul, dashing and impetuous, will not give up his quest to save his fiancé. He is determined to fight the Phantom himself, to be with Christine.

Erik finds his mask cannot protect his heart from the anguish of unrequited love and he explodes in a jealous rage, his obsession spiraling out of control. His passion for Christine has brought him to the brink of insanity and threatens to destroy them both.

Christine wants both men for different reasons, setting off a personal crisis, but she must choose: fight for her husband’s sanity, her marriage and the life they have made together in the dark or go with the handsome Raoul to live in the light

This love story, is a gothic thriller that explores the resiliency of true love, the dignity of the human spirit and challenges our perception of sanity and beauty.

Read the prologue:

Paris Opéra, Box five, 1878
The voices wafted up slowly, only to crash as they reached him. He could feel the tedium piercing his mind, slacking every muscle in his body. He massaged the back of his neck, straightened his posture and leaned forward slightly, straining toward the stage, but remaining just out of sight in the opera box. He picked at the red stains under his nails. His pipe and favorite blend lay in his coat pocket. He wished he could smoke his pipe just now, but the rising smoke would give him away.
The chorus girls were attractive, but undisciplined, the men dull and cocky; mediocre singers, all seventy-eight of them. He sagged in his seat, popped another bonbon into his mouth and slowly sipped at his champagne. He stretched his long legs and kicked off his slippers, placing his feet on a small stool in front of him. With care, he untied the mask covering his face and placed it on the stool next to him. Fresh air hit his face and he inhaled deeply. Everything was as he liked it in his opera box. He would leave a tip as always for Mme. Giry, and even add a bit extra for a pair of new ballet slippers for his concierge’s young daughter. A tapping sound brought his attention back to the stage.
“No, no, no,” M. Legafe, the instructor, squeaked. He tapped the baton on the music stand. “You are not watching me. From the beginning, Mesdemoiselles, Messieurs. Maestro, if you please.”
The pianist blinked quickly and began to play once again.
M. Legafe smoothed his mustache with one hand and held up his baton with the other, gave the signal, and a cacophony of voices filled the opera house. Once again the managers ignore my advice about the lack of talent in the chorus, and with the usual catastrophic results. They waste their money, my time, and irritate my hearing!
A small figure approached from the left wing and the voices trailed off. All heads turned toward the young girl entering.
Ah, a distraction. Looks about eighteen. Pretty enough overall, wheat-colored hair, a mite too flat in the chest, not tall enough, and her dress—looks—shabby, even from up here. From which nest did they drag this little songbird in from?
“Ah, impressively late, Mademoiselle. Charming, if you were at a society ball—but you’re not!”
The latecomer’s cheeks bloomed with color as she barely squeezed in between two girls. She cleared her throat and said in a soft voice, “I apologize, Maestro, it is just now I was asked to report to you. I was in the office of Messieurs Debienne and Poligny.”
Typical. Every girl they hire for the chorus has the same mundane good looks…and this one will have the same mundane voice. I will send a short note to the managers expressing my boredom with their newest choice.
“I see.” Legafe scrunched up his face and eyed her as if he were inspecting a moldy piece of bread. “So it is the fault of our dear managers, Debienne and Poligny, that you are late. May we continue? Your gab is taking up our precious time.”
“I thought I should apologize,” said the girl, her cheeks again showing her embarrassment.
“Come now, your name, Mademoiselle?”

“Do you happen to have a surname?” He cleared his throat and blew out his breath dramatically.
She raised her head slowly and looked directly into the man’s eyes. “It’s Daaé, Monsieur.”
Up in the opera box, he sat up, planting his feet firmly on the floor. Daaé! Did she say Daaé? Could her father be Alphonse Daaé? He had heard the violinist play many years ago when on a break from his work at the Palais Garnier. A tiny angel stood by Daaé’s side and accompanied his music—and what music that was—music from heaven. This young woman would be the child with the short golden hair that entranced the entire fair with her singing. He had stood so far back in the crowd, that he had not realized the child was a girl. Alphonse Daaé had impressed him that day by refusing to take any of the money the public offered, as if he had been playing for God alone.
“So, Mlle. Daaé, since you like being the center of attention…” He looked around at the chorus for approval, but just found bored, fed up faces. “Let us hear you sing on your own.”
“Oh no, Monsieur, I couldn’t,” Christine protested. She grasped her hands in front of her and rubbed them.
“You can and will, Mademoiselle. Maestro…from the beginning…the…ah…the Ave Maria. If you are any kind of singer, you will know that one!” He smoothed his mustache again.
“I really…”
“Step out and sing!” he shouted.
The girl swallowed hard and stepped out from the group. She grabbed a handful of cloth from the sides of her skirt, opened her mouth and began to sing.
From the moment the first sound escaped her lips and wafted up to his box, he could tell that her voice had been trained by a pedestrian teacher—ignorant of what he’d had in his possession. For the same reason, M. Legafe would not recognize her gift. Since that fair, he had not heard a purer sound in song. His eyes almost closed in pleasure, but the plain, heart-shaped face was the perfect background for that voice. He would not miss a moment of this double delight.
“I see we need a lot of training, Mlle. Daaé. Rusty, but there is…”
“Shut up and let her sing, you idiot.” The sound reverberated throughout the stage.
The chorus gave a collective gasp.
“What the…” M. Legafe looked around the opera house, but he saw no one, all the seats were empty. He looked up into the rafters—only Buquet, a stagehand, stood leering as he looked over the new girl—and that voice was certainly not his.
“It’s the ghost, Monsieur,” said a slim dark-haired girl dressed in a long white tutu peeking out from behind the right wing curtains on the stage.
“What? Nonsense,” the instructor replied.
“But it is,” the girl insisted.
“Let the girl sing!” Again the voice was everywhere at once.
“Please Monsieur, let the new girl finish her song, or…there will be trouble,” the ballerina insisted.
“This is all pooh! Bah!” M. Legafe hesitated, but signaled to Christine. “Oh, go on, finish.” He swallowed and nodded to the pianist, but the blanched musician was squinting and looking up into the boxes.
She did not wait for the music to start and continued to sing the Ave Maria a cappella.
He leaned his head on the back of the chair. Unwillingly, his eyes fluttered closed before tears escaped his eyelids.
This is the voice I have been waiting for all these years. I never imagined—Daaé’s child. Awkward, that it’s a girl. Regardless, I will train her voice correctly, make her a diva, the best opera singer the world has ever known. My own, my very own, beautiful angel to instruct and to perfect.

Buy links

About the Author

Caridad Martin grew up in New York City after leaving her native Cuba. She started writing at age seven and has continued creating people on paper that talk to each other--she refuses to admit that sometimes on a silent, moonless night, she can hear them.

Despite getting a B.A. in Creative Writing from CUNY, she went on to become an educator. She has taught bilingual and special needs students. Currently, she works as an educational coach, helping teachers improve their pedagogy. As part of her job, she has published several articles on the use of technology in education. Online, she has written novels and short stories since 2005 under the pseudonym of Phantasmarose. This is where the idea for was first born for Masque.

She is a voracious reader and at home can be found in one of two places, reading on her favorite chair or pottering around the garden. She has travelled extensively throughout Europe, Latin America, Taiwan, and the Philippines. She was married and lived in England for several years. She loves camping and in the US she has travelled coast to coast backpacking on her own and in an RV with her family. She is an avid collector of lanterns and put her collection to good use when Superstorm Sandy hit.

Caridad lives in New Jersey, where she can watch the ebb and flow of New York Bay. Her family puts up with her eccentricities and her need to hide away for hours writing. Her oversized black and white Coon Hound, lying nearby snoozing

Twitter @CariMartinWrtr

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