Senior year in Paris means dazzling architecture, gorgeous cafés, and a hefty workload. But no matter how busy her days, Emma Townsend misses her Coast Guard boyfriend, Gray. That lonely ache might explain the unsettling whispers Emma hears in the school's empty corridors, and the flickering images in her room's antique mirror. Her foreboding only increases as she reads Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera and becomes lost in the gothic masterpiece.
When Gray goes missing during a rescue at sea, Emma refuses to believe the worst. In her strange waking dreams, Gray is very much alive, drawing Emma into a mysterious otherworld beyond her mirror. Friends worry that she's losing her grip on reality. Emma half wonders if they're right. . .and if her own story will end in a way she never envisioned. . .
Praise for Eve Marie Mont's Unbound series
"Richly satisfying. . .a smart and rewarding ode to literature." --Kirkus on A Breath of Eyre (starred review)
"Exceptional and unique. . . A breath of fresh air for hungry readers looking for that special touch that makes a book stand out from the rest of the pack." --The New York Journal of Books on A Breath of Eyre
"A delightful story that makes classic literature appealing and relevant to today's teens. . .terrific." --VOYA on A Touch of Scarlet
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A Phantom Enchantment
By Eve Marie Mont
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Eve Marie Mont
All rights reserved.
They say you're only fluent in a foreign language once you dream in it. The summer I turned eighteen, I dreamed in French. In fact, I did everything French that summer—ate baguettes for breakfast, drank French coffee, read French novels, watched French films. The only thing I didn't do French was kiss, but that's only because my boyfriend was a thousand miles away and there wasn't anyone else in the world I wanted to share my tongue with.
Two weeks ago, Gray had finished "A" School and was now in California, completing the final step in becoming a Coast Guard rescue swimmer: his EMT training. Unfortunately, by the time he finished and earned his leave, I'd be halfway across the world about to begin my senior year in Paris.
I don't know why the physical distance bothered me so much—something about an ocean separating us, I guess. Over land, one could hop in the car and drive almost anywhere. But once I crossed the Atlantic, it was no easy feat to uncross it, which somehow made our separation seem more permanent.
The headmistress of Lycée Saint-Antoine had booked me a red-eye flight that left Boston at eleven P.M. and arrived in Paris at eleven A.M. Despite the late hour, I arrived at Logan Airport with a small entourage in tow: my dad, Barbara, Grandma Mackie, and my friends Michelle and Jess—now a couple. This fact made me feel a little less guilty about leaving Michelle, my roommate for the past two years, to fend for herself at Lockwood while I was off cavorting in Paris.
Jess announced, "If you come back with some phony French accent, we are not friends anymore."
"And you'd better not eat any horse meat," Michelle added.
Barbara, always one to remind me of the really important things in life, said, "And sweetie, don't wear your slouchy sweaters and jeans. You want to blend. Parisians wear black."
"Got it," I said with good humor. After all, they were only trying to help. "No accent, no horse meat, no scrubs."
"And what about some advice from your elders?" Grandma Mackie said.
"Of course, Grandma. What is it?" If there was anyone's advice I might actually listen to, it was Grandma's.
"French men," she said. "They're very charming, but in the end, all they care about is—"
"Grandma!" I said. "You don't have to worry about that."
"You didn't let me finish," she said. "All they care about is food." Michelle and Jess cracked up.
"Don't you think you're generalizing a little bit?" I said.
"Trust me, I know from experience," she said. "Learn to cook, and you can seduce any French man within a thirty-mile radius."
"Kilometer radius," I said. "Paris is metric. And why would I want to seduce any French men when I have Gray?"
"Emma," she said, "I love Gray as much as you do, but you are planning on having a little fun in Paris, aren't you?"
"If I must," I said, cracking a smile.
After checking my suitcases, we wandered to the escalator, where I mentally prepared myself for the next moments. I hated good-byes. Jess and Michelle hugged me, Michelle wrapping her treasured red scarf around my neck, even though it was almost ninety degrees out.
"To remember me," she said.
"As if I could forget." Even so, I studied her face, trying to memorize the features I knew so well—the penetrating eyes, the copper skin, the stubborn mouth.
Then she handed me a tiny gift bag. "This is from Darlene, but she wants you to wait until you get to Paris to open it."
"That was so sweet," I said. "She didn't have to do that." Darlene was Michelle's aunt and caretaker and basically the closest thing I had to a fairy godmother. I clutched the bag to my chest, knowing it would take every ounce of willpower not to open it the minute I got to the terminal.
At the last minute, my dad insisted on accompanying me to Security. "We should get going," he said. "Otherwise, you won't make it to the gate the recommended two hours before flight time." My chest tightened in a wave of traveler's regret.
Barbara hugged me, then kissed me on both cheeks. "Remember, one kiss on either side," she said. "It's the European way."
My grandma clasped those same cheeks with her open palms, something she'd never done before in her life. "You squeeze as much fun out of Paris as you can," she said. "This trip is a gift." And then she kissed me on the nose, quite a loony thing for her to do. I wondered briefly if she wasn't getting a touch of dementia.
Before I could properly respond to her, my dad grabbed my carry-on in one hand and my arm with the other, leading me away toward the escalator. I watched the four of them wave from below, their figures shrinking as my dad and I sailed upward.
I wasn't sure why my father had insisted on coming with me to Security since he wasn't exactly imparting any last-minute wisdom. He and I had an interesting dynamic—either we strained to have the most mundane conversations or we bared our souls to each other in emotionally wrenching heart-to-hearts. Knowing the security line of an international airport was probably not the best place to have an emotional heart-to-heart, we stood woodenly beside each other, trying to think of things to say.
"Thanks for letting me go," I finally muttered. "Not every parent would have."
"I almost didn't, but you wore me down," he said, loosening up a little. "So make the most of it."
"And write your grandma letters. She loves letters."
"And what about you?" I asked.
"I'll take what I can get," he said with a smirk.
My heart squeezed. This was what my dad had grown used to—taking what he could get from me. It was difficult to navigate our father-daughter relationship at this stage when all he wanted to do was cling and all I wanted to do was pull away.
"Be careful," he said, once we'd reached the front of the line. "Remember, you'll be in a foreign country. As much as I trust your judgment, I don't trust anyone else's. Use common sense."
"Of course," I said.
"We'll see you at Christmas."
I nodded, trying not to cry. I couldn't believe that my father, a man who hardly ever left Hull's Cove, let alone Massachusetts, let alone the country, was shelling out thousands of dollars to bring Barbara and my grandma to Paris for Christmas break.
"I can't wait," I said.
"It'll be here before you know it. I love you, sweetheart."
"I love you too," I said.
He hugged me a bit stiffly, and for a moment we both felt self-conscious, but then I leaned into his hug and closed my eyes, comforted by my father's arms around me. When I sensed the people behind us growing impatient, I pulled away and smiled bravely, showed Security my passport and boarding pass, and wheeled my bag to the conveyer belt.
I waited until I'd gotten through the checkpoint, put my shoes back on, then turned just in time to see my dad walking away.
I should have turned around sooner. I should have waved good-bye. But there was nothing I could do about it now.
I was on my own.CHAPTER 2
Well, not entirely on my own. Elise was at the gate, looking relaxed in a white cotton tunic with stylish jeans and knee-high boots, plus giant sunglasses and a plaid Trilby hat. Seasoned traveler and fashion icon.
If you'd have told me a year ago that I'd be spending my senior year in Paris with Elise Fairchild, I'd have said you were delusional. If you'd added that we would actually sorta-kinda be friends, I would have laughed in your face. Yet here we were.
"Hey," I said. "We made it."
Elise gazed at me through her immense sunglasses, no doubt sizing up my outfit. Then she propped the sunglasses on her head and said, "Emma, if I'm going to be seen with you in the most fashionable city in the world, we're going to need to work on your wardrobe."
"What's wrong with my wardrobe?" I asked, gesturing down at my Doctor Who T-shirt artfully accessorized with Michelle's red scarf, faded jeans, and Converse sneakers.
"Can you scream any louder that you're American?"
"To be fair, the T-shirt screams 'I'm British.'"
"And a nerd."
"Guilty as charged." I laughed. "Isn't the point that we're going to be hurtling over the Atlantic for the next seven hours and might as well be comfortable?"
Elise rolled her eyes. I was a hopeless case. We chatted a little about our summers. I'd spent mine researching colleges and pining for Gray. Elise had spent hers taking advantage of the fact that her parents were divorcing, thus each was trying to get the upper hand by spoiling her rotten. As if Elise needed any more spoiling.
"They want to prove once and for all who I love more," Elise said.
"My dad, of course. You've met my mom. Cruella de Vil has got nothing on her."
When boarding was announced, we got on the plane, and I gave Elise the window seat. Looking out plane windows always made me imagine engine explosions, fiery crashes, and watery graves. Better to get absorbed in a book and pretend I was on a train.
To calm myself down, I thought about Gray, scrolling through a mental record of our "greatest hits": our first kiss in his Jeep, dancing at the Snow Ball, me taking the prom to his house when he was on crutches and couldn't go, last summer when we'd been practically inseparable and had walked the beach together almost every night. This daydreaming must have done the trick, because eventually I fell asleep and when I woke, the flight attendants were already distributing coffee and breakfast croissants.
When we landed, Elise solicited a well-dressed gentleman to get her bag from the overhead storage bin while I wrestled my own to the floor. We disembarked and found a restroom, where I waited outside for Elise and texted my dad and Gray to let them know I'd arrived safely. Then we made our way to baggage claim and retrieved our checked luggage.
A hulking man stood a few yards away from us holding a sign that read: Saint-Antoine.
"I guess that's our welcoming committee?" Elise said. "He looks like a vagrant."
"He does not," I said. "He looks like Jean Valjean."
Well, like the world-weary Jean Valjean, who's just carried Marius miles through the sewers. Even with the slight hunch in his shoulders, this man was well over six feet and looked like he'd once been powerful and vital until some misfortune or trauma had sucked the life out of him. His weathered face was shadowed in stubble, giving him an almost tragic air. But his gray eyes, the corners etched with lines, looked like they had once smiled for someone.
He introduced himself as Monsieur Crespeau and said he was "l'homme à tout faire" for the school, which I roughly translated into "jack of all trades." As if to prove this, he loaded our bags onto a cart and, without a word, began walking briskly toward the exit despite a noticeable limp. When we got outside, he tottered a little on a ramp, and I ran ahead to stop the cart from careening out of his grasp. He didn't smile or thank me; in fact, he looked irritated and resumed his task with even more single-mindedness, shoving our luggage roughly into the back of a van.
"Whoa, be careful!" Elise said. "That's precious cargo there."
I knew she was joking, but Monsieur Crespeau didn't seem to get her humor. I explained to him in French, "I apologize for my friend. She's a bit spoiled. She thinks she's the most precious cargo of all."
He just grimaced and got into the driver's seat without a word. Elise raised an eyebrow at our unlikely chauffeur, and we hopped into the back and buckled ourselves in, expecting a bumpy ride. But surprisingly, Monsieur Crespeau took great precautions to look behind him for traffic before pulling onto the road, proceeding to drive about twenty miles per hour the entire way to the school.
I was glad for the slow pace, as it gave me a chance to see the sights. What struck me first was how all cities look alike, to a certain extent. Somehow I'd been expecting Paris to beguile me from the moment the plane touched ground, but as we crawled along the highway behind a trash truck, passing railroad tracks and gas stations, I began to feel I'd been duped by Hollywood.
Even when we entered the city limits, the landscape looked like urban America with its MoneyGram and telecom shops, ethnic takeout places, characterless office buildings, and of course, the omnipresent McDonald's. It was a bit disheartening.
Until we went below an underpass somewhere around Gare du Nord. Then it was as if someone had waved a magic wand and transformed the city right before my eyes. Here was quintessential Paris—old, ornate, and sprawling. The ivory buildings were all decked with wrought-iron balconies, window boxes full of flowers, and mansard rooftops gilded by the sun. And each street corner was flanked by a church, a statue, or an obelisk—some grand monument to the city's history.
We came to a giant circle bustling with people, and Monsieur Crespeau took one of the narrow avenues that spider-webbed from it. The road was tree-lined and framed by rows of buildings, houses, shops, and cafés. One building was so delicate and narrow I wondered how it didn't topple over. Another wedge-shaped building looked like a slice of wedding cake.
Elise told me we weren't far from Montmartre. In my mind I envisioned Sacré-Coeur's alabaster domes rising up against the blue sky, saw the painted ladies of Lapin Agile, squinted at the neon lights of Moulin Rouge.
We came to another circle with a statue of an armed woman in the middle, and Monsieur Crespeau mumbled something, I think "Tout proche" or "Very near." I glanced up at a street sign and saw we were on Boulevard du Temple, a broad thoroughfare that separated the 3rd and 11th arrondissements. Along this road, we passed dozens of cafés, patisseries, boulangeries, charcuteries—all of them with brightly colored awnings and outdoor tables beckoning us to sit down and relax, stay a while. I'd never seen more eating establishments in one city block. My grandma was right—food did make the Parisian world go 'round.
I could see the July Column of the Bastille up ahead, so I knew we were almost there, and then we turned onto Rue Saint-Antoine. Monsieur Crespeau nodded at a building about three storefronts wide and five stories high, distinguished from its neighbors only by its arched blue doorway.
"Voici," he said.
He pulled into a tiny alleyway behind the school and parked the van, then told us he'd bring our luggage to our rooms so we could report to Mademoiselle Veilleux, the headmistress, who was awaiting our arrival. When I insisted we carry our own bags, he waved me off with his enormous hand.
Elise and I stood staring at a stone wall with a massive iron gate, but all we could see through its slats were narrow little trees. But when Crespeau opened the gate for us, we walked into an immense courtyard with green lawns, cobbled squares, and manicured walking paths. Who would have thought that hidden away in the middle of Paris was this dream of a campus?
Since school wasn't in session until next week, the courtyard was empty, so it seemed more like a church cloister than a schoolyard. We followed the main walkway across the quad and entered the administrative building, then walked down a long hallway, all gleaming floors and domed ceilings. An arched doorway led to a spacious foyer with an even higher ceiling and a black-and-white-geometric-tiled floor.
A tiny woman came out of a hallway and began walking toward us, the click of her heels echoing off the walls. "Ah, bonjour," she said, her voice low and rich. "I am Mademoiselle Veilleux." She pronounced it Vay-oo. "Monsieur Crespeau just called to tell me you were here. Bienvenue, bienvenue!"
She kissed us both on each cheek and smiled warmly. Her black hair was pulled off her face in a bun, but instead of making her look prim and schoolmarmish, it made her preternaturally beautiful. Her porcelain skin seemed lit from within, and a rose-colored scarf only enhanced the effect. And as I'd come to expect from French women, she exuded style in a slim black skirt suit with impossibly high black heels.
"I am so glad you were able to come a few days early before the rest of the students arrive," she said in a charming French accent. "It will give you time to get acquainted with the building and its facilities and, of course, your schedules."
Excerpted from A Phantom Enchantment by Eve Marie Mont. Copyright © 2014 Eve Marie Mont. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a very good book,third in the series.
This one a 3.5 because it picks up later on but wow did it take some time for it to get there. We're talking drama this and drama with this third and final installment in this series. This time, based on the title, obviously involves the Phantom where as the last two had a bit of Jane Eyre and Scarlet Letter surrounding the modern story. The good things I liked was the character development with Elise and Emma. The descriptions of Paris and all that and two very important side characters it seems. This whole book got a little slow and just depressing at times. Emotions went thew the roof with this one. The not so good things was basically the love triangle I guess? And of course the drama and all that. Then again, how could it not when the last two had almost the same amount? Anyway, I did kind of like the ending. And was a little surprised with the direction it was going but in a didn't mind. Though at times, I took a little longer to read this. An okay but at times good and has its moments and not so good moments kind of read.
Readers who enjoyed A Breath of Eyre and A Touch of Scarlet, the first two books of Eve Marie Mont's Unbound Trilogy, are in for a real treat with A Phantom Enchantment. In this third book, Emma is spending her Senior year in Paris, along with her classmate Elise. Ms. Mont masterfully evokes all the charms of "The City of Light". As we follow Emma on her rambles through the city we see all the famous landmarks, but also get glimpses of the little alleys, squares, markets, and flower stalls only a local would know. We dine with Emma and her friends at sidewalk cafes and brasseries with dark wood, brass rails, and Art Nouveau decor. Our mouths water for iconic French fare like "croque-madame and a glass of Beaujolais". Readers are also treated to a tantalizing taste of the South of France when Emma and her friends take a road trip to Provence. The use of interspersed and wisely chosen French phrases adds to the credibility of the story, continuing to immerse the reader in the French ambience. As in the first two novels of the trilogy, A Phantom Enchantment has elements of the paranormal, this time with Emma slipping in and out of the pages of Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera. Delightful characters populate the story, as Emma makes a new set of captivating French friends. The arrival in Paris of Owen and Flynn, who are in Europe on a backpacking rock tour, spices things up for Emma. News of the mysterious disappearance of old flame Gray flings Emma, desperate to find him, on a dangerous and mysterious quest. Meanwhile she continues to keep up with a very challenging curriculum, reviving old strengths and uncovering new talents she never knew she had. An awakening of romantic feelings for Owen adds to Emma's sense of confusion and uncertainty. You don't want to miss the surprising and compelling conclusion of this engaging novel.