I also read and loved Carrie Hernandez's beautiful Angel of Music. I shied away from it for a long time because for some reason, those who'd left reviews on other sites blasted it terribly. In looking back, I think they were expecting some ALW-based, and that's not what you find here. In fact, I wrote a lengthy review of this book for another board, but will be happy to reprint it here for others who might be interested. I highly recommend it for lovers of all things Phantom and Leroux...
If you like your Phantom stories with a strong dose of Leroux, then this is the book for you. I bought Angel of Music more than a year ago, but for one reason or another, I held off reading it. Maybe it was because there was nothing on either the outside cover or inside to tell me what the stories were about -- besides the Phantom, that is. No little summaries, no little intros. I guess if I have a complaint against this book, it would be that. But I finally decided that, blurb or no blurb, it was time to read it. Now, I'm only sorry I didn't read it sooner.
There are three stories in the book -- a short story called "Little Lotte," and two longer stories called "Phantoms of the Mind" and "The Portal." All three, in fact, center around a main character named Lotte, and all three feature different aspects of the Angel of Music. The stories were originally written between 1994 and 1996, so you will see no references to the '04 movie. In fact, there's no ALW references at all that I could find. I don't want to give away the endings, but would like to fill you in a little on what the stories are about.
"Little Lotte" begins with a prologue set in 1869, with Monsieur Daaé and his eight-year-old daughter, Christine, traversing the Breton countryside. It's a page (or several) right out of Leroux, and is, in fact, a charming retelling of Christine's back story found in Chapter 6, "The Enchanted Violin" of Leroux's Phantom, in which young Raoul de Chagny rescues Christine's scarf from the sea and thus becomes a friend of the Daaés. As the two young people sit at Monsieur Daaé's feet, he tells them the story of Little Lotte.
The Little Lotte story is very much like a fairy tale. As a child, the Angel of Music comes to her. "I am the Angel of Music and have come because yours is a pure heart and good," he tells her. But Lotte questions her worthiness in receiving the gift of music from the angel, and when he comes back to her the next night, he says that now, she has to prove her worth. In order to receive the angel's gift, she must complete three tasks.
The first night, the angel tells her, "Bring me the song of the wind in the willow trees out in the marsh by the clear flowing stream." Undaunted, Lotte sets out the next morning and successfully completes her mission. Next, the angel tells her to bring him the song of the swans on the lake. This task is a little harder and its completion is accompanied by sadness, but complete it she does. Finally, the angel tells her to "bring me the music of the spring in the forest." After several unsuccessful attempts, Lotte finally figures out the answer and is on her way to take it to her angel when she encounters an unexpected problem that could ruin the outcome. I won't tell you anymore because I don't want to spoil the story for you.
The story ends with an epilogue, taking us from the magical world of Little Lotte, back to Brittany with Christine and Raoul eagerly waiting for another story.
"Phantoms of the Mind"
"Phantoms of the Mind" is a new take on a well-known story. It is told by someone named Charlotte, but who is better known as Lotte. When the story opens up, Lotte is a young girl. Her mother is dead, and she lives with an alcoholic and abusive father. When a circus comes to town, she sneaks off to see it. There she discovers the sideshow features a man with the voice of an angel, kept in a cage and living in squalid conditions, performing as "The Living Corpse." Yes, this is Erik as a young man.
In spite of Erik's terrible ugliness, Lotte befriends him. One night, she brings him a blanket since it is cold and she worries about him in his cage. Then she decides she must free him. Doing so puts her life at risk, and to thank her, Erik gives Lotte a special gift before he leaves -- he tells her that whenever she is lonely, she has only to think of him and know that he will always care for her. "I love you, too," he tells her. "And now, I will always be with you, like a guardian angel. Every night when you go to sleep, I'll be waiting there for you in your dreams."
Eventually, Lotte leaves home to live on her own. She discovers that she has a good voice, and now a young woman, she earns money singing at a tavern. It is here, on a cold winter's night, that she meets Jonas Daaé and his four-year-old daughter, Christine, wandering and starving. She takes them in, and over the following weeks, a tentative friendship follows. But the friendship appears to be only one way, and when she is assaulted by a drunken patron, Lotte learns how little Jonas cares for her in spite of all that she has done for him and his spoiled little daughter. Yes, Christine does not come across very favorably in this story.
The Daaés leave as the weather improves, and Lotte's heart is broken. "And I vowed then and there, on that desolate road, that no one would ever hurt me again." Still young, Lotte goes to Paris and throws herself into music. She works and studies hard, and reinvents herself. She creates a new background for herself, and becomes not Lotte, not Charlotte, but Carlotta.
There's much more to the story, but I'll leave off here. This story is the first one I have ever encountered that treats Carlotta in a sympathetic manner.
The final story is one called "The Portal." Again, the main character is a young girl named Lotte. She is the daughter of Christine de Chagny. The two of them live in the country, with few servants. Their house, you see, is supposed to be haunted.
Lotte has a wicked sense of humor, and is a terrible prankster, but she meets her match when she is introduced to the so-called ghost. I don't think it will surprise you to know that this ghost is, in fact, Erik.
Again, I'll leave you with that little teaser, but will add that the story has a bittersweet ending.
I just checked, and it is available on Amazon.com: