Phiction Spotlight: The Sultan’s Favorite

The Sultan’s Favorite is a book that I’ve known about for years, and I’ve always meant to read it, but I kept putting it off in favor of other Phantom books. I typically favor Erik-Christine books and modern retellings, but at the prompting of many fellow Phans, I finally decided to give this one a read.

I’d heard nothing but great things about it from other Phans, and they were not wrong! I wish I’d read this book much sooner. It has soared to the top of my list of phavorite Phantom books. It’s that good!

Setting

One of the most distinctive aspects about this novel is the setting. It’s set in the dangerous world of the Ottoman Empire. It’s a life-after-the-Paris-Opera-House type of story. Erik has been rejected by Christine. He’s bitter and feels like he’ll never love again, but somehow the will to survive keeps him going. He’s channeled all his passion into his architecture. Can you guess? His masterpiece is to build a beautiful palace for the sultan and his wives.

Alexandria

Speaking of the Sultan’s wives…

Alexandria is the heroine of this book, and if you haven’t guessed it already, she is the sultan’s favorite. The sultan has other wives, but Alexandria becomes his favorite. She is different from the other women in that she is highly intelligent and doesn’t live only to serve the sultan. While she’s not thrilled about being married to a man who has other wives, she’s resigned to do her duty to protect her deceased husband’s empire.

It’s not long before our Phantom finds himself drawn inexplicably to her as well…a dangerous situation indeed.

The Sultan

Part of what is so great about this book is the way the author makes us feel for the sultan too. By all rights, we should hate him. He has more than one wife. Alexandria deserves so much better. Yet the author explains him in such a way that you come to realize how tied he is by his customs. It seems that he truly does love Alexandria, and I must admit that a time or two I even found myself rooting for him. Ironic that the sultan actually has much in common with Erik back in his Phantom days at the Opera Populaire. You’ll see what I mean…

The Phantom

The Phantom…I LOVED how Anne totally got the Phantom’s character. She nailed him. He is moody and irritable. He can be downright mean. Yet underneath his hard exterior is a heart that beats and feels more than anyone knows. This is the Phantom that I look for when I read Phantom books — the one that can make your heart skip beats with his dangerous allure.

A Must-Read

Masterfully woven together, The Sultan’s Favorite is a must-read for all Phantom Phans. It gives us a viable ending to the Phantom’s tale. It’s the sequel that we wish would have really happened.

About the Author

Anne Burnside is the author of this compelling tale. She’s totally down-to-earth and a joy to chat with. If you’d like to learn a bit more about her, check out this interview she did on Blog Talk Radio: All Things Phantom.

Phiction Spotlight: The Master of Illusion Series

So much like the Phantom, and yet he’s not the notorious Phantom of the opera. Still, the child who comes to be known as Angel gleans much inspiration from the much-rumored Phantom of the Paris opera house. From the get-go, you can see some similarities between the classic tale of The Phantom of the Opera and Master of Illusion. Yet, this series is unlike any Phantom of the Opera-inspired series I have read to date—and I mean that in a good way.

In this first novel, we follow the blossoming friendship between a young ballerina, Elise, and Angel, a nameless boy who can’t remember his past. Two kids with a thirst for justice in an imperfect world. Will their noble endeavors land them in trouble, though?

Their story is so vastly different from what we’re used to reading in Phantom-inspired literature. It was like a breath of fresh air. Never could I say the plot was predictable. It kept me on my toes the entire time, for I never knew how things would go or what would happen next. This first book in the series definitely grabs the reader’s attention and establishes a solid foundation for the rest of the series to be paved upon.

This second books delves further into Angel and Elise’s curious relationship. I don’t want to offer spoilers, but I’ll admit that I was always wondering if a romance would blossom between the two. Their lives seem to be so irrevocably entwined no matter what they do. They’ve hurt each other, but can they manage to move past the pain and hold onto their childhood friendship? Could there be more between them?

This third book in the installment was one of my fave’s. Elise’s character has evolved into an exemplary example of womanhood, and Angel has finally learned a few things about his past and himself. He’s found a new reason for living too, but warning! This book is fraught with many tragedies. So many things happen. I know I’m being vague in my review, but I don’t want to give too much away. Let’s just say you might want a box of tissues handy at the end of this one!

I had thought that the third book of the series would be my favorite, but this last one is even better. That is the thing about Rouen’s series. It gets better and better with each book. This one tells the story of a generation or two after our initial characters, and yet somehow Rouen manages to still keep the initial storyline as a central guiding post of the books. Set amidst the turbulent times of WWII in France, this book is one that history buffs will love.

Final Thoughts

This series is expertly tied together. Even though each book is vastly different, they all follow the same central theme and tie back to the first one. Part of what I loved most about these books was how they were written. Rouen has her own unique writing style. It’s charming and witty. Her stories are dialogue-driven in a style that fits the eras she’s writing about.

The author’s love for the French language and culture really shines through in this series, and I appreciated the authenticity in the way she included French turns of phrase.  I actually learned a few that I didn’t know, and any time an enjoyable work of fiction can teach me something too I am always happy. Plus, these books are sprinkled with enough real history that they are made even more believable.

Romance, intrigue, espionage, suspense and even a bit of the supernatural. These books have it all. They’re definitely a recommended read for any Phan who’s craving something different and wants to break away from the typical Phan Phiction mold.

If you’re not already convinced that this series is worth the read, you will be after you consider that the author won awards for it. Anne was the winner of the Global Ebook Awards Silver (2014) & Bronze (2016) Medals for Modern Historical Literary Fiction for this saga. She also won Silver (2018) and Bronze (cover) (2018) awards.

About the Author

Anne Rouen is one of the sweetest, most down-to-earth authors I’ve ever had the pleasure to call my friend. She was beyond patient with me as it took me a while to get this spotlight up due to external commitments. She’s one of the kindest souls you’ll ever connect with, and I sincerely congratulate her on her accomplishments with this series. If you’d like to connect with Anne, you can do so via her Facebook profile, and you can also find out any updates by following her on Amazon. You can also check out her personal website: www.annerouen.com.

Phiction Spotlight: An Unexpected Kindness

An unexpected kindness. Such a beautiful thing. A thing that has the power to totally transform someone’s life.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for some time now, but my to-read list is so long and ever-growing, it kept getting pushed to the back burner. Finally, I said, “No more!” and bumped it up to the top to give it a read, and I was not disappointed.

The title captivated me right off the bat. It was different. Original. It set the theme for the entire book because this book is certainly different and original. It’s not like a lot of Phan phiction out there, and I mean that in a good way.

The Heroine

Our heroine is Madeleine, and she’s blind. Following a series of unfortunate events, she comes to be in the employee of the notorious Phantom of the Opera (who’s currently in love with – or obsessed with, your call – Christine and doing everything he can to woo his young ingenue).

Madeleine is as kind a soul as you’ll ever meet, and she’s wise and practical with a good head on her shoulders. The extra challenges she must face living day to day life as a blind woman immediately endeared me to her and caused me to stand in awe of her strength and bravery.

The Phantom

What I liked about Webster’s version of the Phantom was how it was realistic in his devotion to Christine. When Madeleine first comes into his employ, he is wrapped up with Christine, so much so that he barely even notices Madeleine. You would think he’d be grateful and awed at another person’s willingness to tolerate his existence, but he seems to block out everything but Christine. Fittingly, when Christine rejects his love, he is suitably crushed, and it takes him a while to get over her. That definitely earned this book some points in my eyes because I do so hate it when Erik gets over Christine too quickly. I mean, he devoted his life to tutoring the girl and became obsessed with winning her love. I don’t think it’d be so easy to forget her.

Webster also does a great job of capturing the Phantom’s precarious mental nature. She shows us in one climatic scene in particular just how close he teeters on the brink of madness and delusion. Of course, as the old saying goes, “With great genius sometimes comes madness,” and Erik was a genius if nothing else with his many talents.

The Metaphors

If I had to choose one single thing that I liked most about this book, it would have to be the author’s liberal, witty use of metaphors. Perhaps it is because Madeleine is blind, but her character certainly explains many situations well with metaphorical language. As a reader, I am one who is always delighted when something is explained to me in a new and exciting way that I’d never thought of before. That happened many times throughout this book.

A Beautiful Read

Fresh and wonderfully articulated, this book was a beautiful read. It’s in a league of its own in the Phan phiction realm in that it was so original. I shan’t say more because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I think I’ve given you enough to discern that this is definitely a Phantom book that’s worth the read. I found myself frustrated with Erik at times and my heart aching for Madeleine at others. The fact that the book could evoke such an emotional response from me meant it was a success in my book. Suffice it to say, it’s not one that I think I’ll be forgetting any time soon.

The Author

Mary Webster, much like her heroine, is a kind soul. She’s a true pleasure to chat with, and her writing leaves readers feeling charmed and satisfied. You may connect with Mary via her Facebook account.

In an unexpected kindness (pun intended), when I reached out to Mary asking her permission for me to do this Phiction Spotlight, she instructed me to mention that her book is free on FanFiction.net, stating that, “…in fairness you should also tell people that it’s now available to read free on fanfiction.net” and that “…I care more about getting it read than making money from it.”

As honest as our dear Madeleine, I thought it very noble and thoughtful of her to be willing to share this so that those who don’t have the funds to purchase the book may read it for free here: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11803547/1/An-Unexpected-Kindess

Phiction Spotlight: Seductively Ever After Box Set

Seductively Ever After Box Set by Kim Carmichael

This fiction spotlight is of USA Today bestselling author Kim Carmichael’s box set: Seductively Every After. Kim’s books initially qualified for the Phiction Spotlight due to the first book in the series being directly inspired by The Phantom of the Opera, but after reading the others, I am convinced that all Phans would love the entire series.

Kim’s Seductively Ever After series consists of four books:

  • Facade (inspired by The Phantom of the Opera)
  • Fantasy (inspired by Cinderella)
  • Fascination (inspired by Beauty and the Beast)
  • Forever (inspired by The Prince and the Pauper)

The entire series centers around the members of the rock band, Spectre. Each book is the love story of a different band member. Basically, a tragic accident caused by defective pyrotechnics during a concert left all of the band members maimed or scarred in some form or fashion. Each one struggles to regain a sense of normalcy and ultimately finds his salvation is his respective heroine.

Facade

I remember reading Facade before. I loved it the first time I read it, but it’s been a couple of years, so I had forgotten much of what happened. I loved it just as much this time around (if not more so) than I did the first time.

Erik is our Phantom character. He was the lead singer of Spectre until the disaster left half his face disfigured. Consequently, he wears a half mask just like our beloved Phantom from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical. He just so happened to buy a theater and set up living quarters in it.

Christine is, of course, our ingenue. She’s tragically homeless and an orphan to boot. She sings backup in a band that is composed of a guy who seems to be crushing on her a bit (the Raoul character) and a diva lead singer (the Carlotta character).

Their band breaks into Erik’s supposedly deserted theater to rehearse, and Christine ends up seeking shelter there. Captivated by her voice, Erik allows her to stay and becomes her anonymous mentor and protector.

Facade expertly brought The Phantom of the Opera into the modern age in a manner that I could believe. It held to the main theme of our beloved tale while modernizing certain elements to make them relevant to today’s world.

I liked how Erik had that dark, Phantom-y aura, and Christine was young and naive, yet she wasn’t stupid.

Fantasy

Fantasy is the charming tale of two lost souls who find solace together in the wooded area of a piece of land that both are unknowingly tied to together. In this reverse Cinderella story, Nash (who was once the guitarist of Spectre) falls for the heiress to a huge company, but insecure about his limp that was caused by the pyrotechnics disaster, he finds himself hesitant to reveal his true identity to his Petals (the nickname he dubbed his love the first time he saw her; it’s a long story – you’ll have to read it to find out *wink*).

Little does Nash know that Petals totally digs him too, even so much as to fantasize about Knight (what she calls him; again, long story – read to find out) day and night.

Their clandestine meetings in the woods ultimately culminate into passion that could change their lives irrevocably if they only have the courage to reveal their true selves to one another.

As much as I loved Facade, I really loved this book too. I loved the fairy tale-esque vibe to Knight and Petals’s story in this reverse Cinderella story brought into the modern age. Both trapped by something, they found freedom in each other even when they didn’t know each other’s names. Poignant and such a striking metaphor that really brought to light the different between knowing someone’s surface identity and knowing someone’s soul. Does a name really matter so much once you know the true being within?

Fascination

This third book in the Seductively Ever After series had to be one of my very faves. About Upton, the drummer of Spectre, this one expertly crafts us a modern Beauty and the Beast that we can totally fall in love with.

Upton was horribly burned in the disaster during the band’s last concert. Rather than wear a mask to cover his scars, though, Upton chooses to simply become a recluse, holing himself up in his mansion and shutting out the daylight. He throws himself into work and generally becomes a beast to everyone. He seems pretty taciturn and bitter – until a beauty shows up who might be able to thaw his frozen heart.

Alaine is our Belle, and she’s as beautiful as she is kind-hearted. To save her father’s floundering publishing business, she agrees to live for one year with the person who holds the deed to their property and write a biography of his life in exchange for all her father’s debts forgiven and the deed to their property, and that beast is none other than (yes, you guessed it) Upton.

Part of what I loved about Upton was that he was a great Beast character, but yet he was also a great Phantom character as well. He was kind of like a mixture of the brooding Phantom and stubborn Beast, and I loved his darkness, which only made it that much more interesting when Alaine attempted to bring him into the light.

Fantasy

Oh gosh. I want to tell y’all about Forever so bad, but I’m not going to write anything about it for fear of providing you with spoilers that will affect your reading of the previous three books. All I will say is that this book was inspired by Mark Twain’s beloved tale, The Prince and the Pauper, and that each book in this series got better and better and that after reading this book, you’ll probably have the insane urge to be a glorified fish sitter. (Trust me. It’ll all make sense when you read the book.)

I never thought I’d like one of the books that was inspired by a tale other than The Phantom of the Opera more than that one, but I have to admit that I liked each book a little more than the previous one in this series. Kim’s stories just got better and better as the series went along, and I would be hard pressed to choose my favorite book among this series.

About the Author

Kim Carmichael is one of the most personable authors I’ve ever had the pleasure of connecting with. She’s real. She’s raw. She’s down to earth. She’s a USA Today bestselling author and without even having read all of her books, I would recommend any of them based on this series alone. I’m excited to see what else lies in store for Kim throughout her writing career and look forward to reading many more of her books.

To learn more about Kim or find out more about all the works she’s published, you can follow her on Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram, BookBub or Facebook. You can also explore Kim’s author site at www.kimcarmichaelauthor.com/