Unmasqued: An Erotic Novel of The Phantom of the Opera
Some books are like car accidents. You stop, look, and continue on your way, but deep down you really want to know what happens next. Colette Gale’s new interpretation of The Phantom of the Opera goes way beyond morbid fascination and straight into revulsion. I can only imagine that Gaston Leroux is spinning in his grave.
Most people know the classic story of the chorus girl who becomes a singing sensation due to the Angel of Music. Her Angel is actually a facially scarred man who hides in the depths of the Paris opera house and has become obsessed with his student to the point of near madness. After the opera’s resident diva is scared by the opera ghost, Christine Daee is given the opportunity to become a star. As soon as she completes her first performance, her teacher comes to her not as an angel, but as a man…and shows his gratification at her triumph by using his hands on her in very sexual ways.
Erik, as she comes to know him, shows his appreciation many times over, including the use of some interesting props – a mirror, a harp – to introduce her into the delights of his new way of teaching. He assumes through music and some very inventive, and thoroughly S&M based lovemaking that she will come to love him regardless of the mask he wears to hide his deformity. Christine wants to know what Erik looks like under his mask, but when she eventually takes it off, is horrified by what she sees.
A multitude of other characters are intended to add flavor to the story. Madame Giry, the dancing teacher of the chorus, is a blatant nymphomaniac. In order to keep Erik a secret, she gives her body to both of the managers of the opera. Like the sex between Erik and Christine, the sex between these three is S&M sex. And then there are the new owners of the opera, the Changy brothers. When Raoul, the younger brother, sees Christine on the stage, he quickly becomes enamored and wants to marry her. But older brother Philippe is appalled and prefers that Raoul become her protector so he too can enjoy Christine’s charms. The brothers share everything – including Philippe’s wife – so when Christine joins them, she too partakes in their little parties (orgies).
Philippe is also into S&M, but he’s more nasty and unpleasant about his proclivities. Little brother Raoul – who in the original version of the story is the hero – will do whatever big brother wants. Christine finally comes to the conclusion that she loves Erik – or rather the fantastic nookie they share. Unfortunately the Changy men stop Erik and Christine’s escape and they all engage in an S&M scene that I found chilling. One specific scene in particular disturbed me: The brothers tie up Erik, and as he watches helplessly, Christine is forced to engage in a ménage a trios. Raoul also tries to debase Christine by forcing her to perform a certain sexual act on him…and then on Erik.
I found no redeeming qualities to any of these people, even Christine. She endures constant sexual traumas; her mind says “no”, but her body says “yes”. Please. I also found her indecisiveness between Raoul and Erik annoying because it seems to based mostly on who makes her “pip” feel the most pleasure. And Erik, who should be the most seductive of them all, is so one-dimensional that if he had disappeared from the story, I would have not missed him in the least.
There are not many books that I can say have made my stomach turn, but Unmasqued is definitely one of them. If Gale had written a more contained story between Christine and Erik – even if Christine was also involved with Raoul at the same time – I would have been more accepting. I am a fan of erotica in general but this was an unsettling, never-ending sadomasochistic tale filled with amoral characters.
I will at least give Gale some credit for trying to give the fans who always wanted Christine and Erik to be together their ultimate fantasy. But it wasn’t enough and instead, I can only recommend Leroux’s masterpiece, which has romance, undying love, and horror that will give you chills a good way.