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Phantasmagoria by Madelynne Ellis


My wife keeps telling me that our relationship is like a historical romance: the passion ended centuries ago. I always laugh when she says things like that. And then I hide her medication.

Phantasmagoria is a historical romance with a heavy dose of erotic content. I was going to try and blend the words “historic” and “erotic” and “romance” to produce a fantastic neologism that described this genre. Sadly, the only word I could come up with looked like a “hysterectomy romance” and that’s not really applicable.

So, let’s start this thing properly, shall we?

Phantasmagoria is the latest title from the incomparable Madelynne Ellis. Madelynne Ellis, as you should know, is the brilliant author behind titles including A Gentleman’s Wager, The Passion of Isis, Dark Designsand now Phantasmagoria.

In Passion of Isis Madelynne’s narrative stretched to the sandy stretches of Egypt and incorporated the myth and mystery of pyramids, punishment and desert debauchery. In Passion of Isis it wasn’t just the Egyptian sun that was hot.

In Dark Designs Madelynne whisked readers away to a remote Highland castle for a contemporary wedding. Dark Designs blended everything erotic from genres of Yaoi, gothic romance and hardcore passion.

In A Gentleman’s Wager Madelynne transported her readers back in time to the late 1700’s and introduced us to Lucerne, Bella and Marquis Vaughan Pennerley. Now, with Phantasmagoria, Madelynne returns to the 1800s to tell us what Lucerne, Bella and Vaughan did next.

I’ll be honest here and admit I know very little about history. I used to think Stephenson’s Rocket was some sort of sex toy. I still haven’t worked out how America was able to become populous from just Pilgrim Fathers travelling on the Mayflower: surely a couple of Pilgrim Mothers and some Pilgrim children would have been needed?

But, fortunately for me, Phantasmagoria doesn’t require an in-depth knowledge of Georgian British history. All I needed to do was sit back and enjoy this exceptionally well told tale.

You also don’t need to have read A Gentleman’s Wager to enjoy this story. Madelynne includes just enough back-story to bring new readers up to speed with the characters and their relationships, but this novel concentrates on how the three protagonists move forward from where A Gentleman’s Wager left off.

The story begins about an hour before 1800. The novel’s hero, Marquis Vaughan Pennerley, is one of those guys who doesn’t like New Year celebrations. From personal experience I can sympathise with this character foible. And I understand that those New Year blues can be exacerbated when you’re looking at the start of a new century. Vaughan’s restlessness has caused him to have a busy evening. He’s a typical Byronesque Englishman and has defended his beloved Bella’s honour by slapping down a Lieutenant and has also had the opportunity to put a Frenchman in his place. But Vaughan is alone at the beginning of this story and away from the beautiful Bella and the other love of his life—Lucerne. Vaughan is also thinking that the new century should bring about some much needed changes.

The story fast forwards ten months and begins as Vaughan is making the first of those changes. The prologue’s metaphor of a shattering glass is appropriate here because Vaughan’s plans mean some things will be destroyed and others can never be the same again.

Writing about a ménage a trios is not an easy task. The dynamics of writing a simple romance are always complicated when a good author remembers that two different people have two different personalities and two different sets of ambitions and expectations. When another character is added into that intimate relationship, the dynamics inevitably become more complicated. Some authors manage this complication by diluting the strength and individuality of their characters. Others supply strong characters but in a weak story. The best authors tell a damned good story involving their three strong central characters. Madelynne Ellis falls into this latter category. She is simply one of the best.

When Vaughan leaves Lucerne and Bella alone, Bella pursues him. She learns of the phantasmagoria being held at Vaughan’s family home in Shropshire and hastily follows. The results are filled with Madelynne Ellis’s typical lust for irresistible men who are not afraid to kiss each other; a single-minded heroine with an insatiable libido and a breathtaking story.

Phantasmagoria comes from Black Lace books: renowned for imagination, excitement and quality fiction. The attention to historical detail in Phantasmagoria is exquisite, the depth of the characters is phenomenal and the tangled relationships of Vaughan, Lucerne and Bella (and all the other incidental characters) are a delight to follow.

If you enjoy erotic romance at its most passionate then you have to have Phantasmagoria.

Phantasmagoria by Madelynne Ellis
(Virgin Black Lace; April 2008; ISBN-10: 0352341688)
Available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK

© 2008 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

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