Recommended Read, Review

Review: Midnight Duet by Jen Comfort (2023)

Heat Factor: Coming like a fire tornado

Character Chemistry: They are so hot for each other and it’s fabulous

Plot: Gender-swapped Phantom of the Opera, with an HEA for the Phantom

Overall: I am utterly delighted

I think it’s best that I let our protagonists introduce themselves. 

Here’s Erika:

“I slept with my understudy’s boyfriend, and when she found out, she cursed me in dramatic fashion, which resulted in a freak accident that caused this scarring. An affliction which then exiled me from Manhattan high society and my theater career in one fell swoop, leaving me no choice but to retreat to this hellish shithole to wither away in solitary misery whilst ostensibly repenting for my many, many sins. Which I will continue to do until the opera house inevitably fails or I, presumably, die. Whichever comes first, I suppose.” Saying it aloud made it sound even more ludicrous.

Please note that Erika lives in a sex dungeon with her pet rats and floats around her dilapidated opera house slash brothel wearing billowing black silk lingerie and prefers to play her pipe organ (not a euphemism) during the dead of night. 

This is how I pictured Erika, except add a big ole scar onto her face.

Here’s Christof:

“For you, I will create the mightiest, most earnest power ballad you’ve ever heard,” he vowed. Inspiration was already sizzling through him…He strummed the chord he already had in mind, and it pealed through the hushed theater like a musical prayer at the altar of schmalzig glamour. Yes, this is perfect. 

“Christof? I’m serious! The only thing I hate more than power ballads are trite acoustic covers.”

She appeared vaguely panicked—no doubt worried he’d insult her by recording fewer than seven solid minutes of high-impact crooning followed by a two-minute solo guitar outro. Did she not know he was Christof Daae of Nachtmusik, a man whose sole purpose in life was to create music so epic it brought forth tears of glittering awe?

Please note that Christof is the frontman of a German hair metal band and aims to dress like a vaguely homosexual pirate at all times and thinks that his Excel spreadsheet with color-coded conditional formatting is badass as fuck.

This is how I pictured Christof, except with more eyeliner. And pretend that sword is a guitar.

Yes, I pictured an epic romance between Cher and Fabio, and it was both glorious and supported by the text. 

In other words, our main characters are extravagant divas. So in order to enjoy this book, you really just have to accept that this is what you’re getting, and then hang on for the ride. 

The basic story is that Erika gets bonked on the head by a falling light during dress rehearsal, is horribly scarred, and retreats to Paris, Nevada to atone for her sins. And then Christof and the rest of his band rent out the opera house, to provide inspiration as they write their next album, which will, of course, catapult them into international superstardom! Of course, there’s quite a bit of additional drama, what with a member of Christof’s band going MIA and an evil developer trying to buy up Erika’s opera house, but the important part is that Erika starts giving Christof singing lessons in the middle of the night and one thing leads to another.

I think the reason this book works so well is that Erika and Christof are just the perfect level of over-the-top that they invite you to laugh—but never cross the line into pastiche. Even when they are at their most dramatic, they are never objects of ridicule. I never laughed at them. Comfort employs a deft hand here. She winks at the audience but doesn’t beat you over the head with it. Let’s take the opening scene as an example. Erika is still a broadway diva, half-heartedly listening to a member of the chorus talk about her musical, and whether it’s too on the nose to show how evil the antiheroine is in the prologue. I don’t know Jen Comfort, is it too on the nose? I THINK NOT! 

I could probably spend many more words waxing rhapsodic, but what it comes down to is that I had a huge smile on my face the whole time I was reading this book. I also went around the house singing about angels of music for a week afterward. I highly recommend it, full stop.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Looking for something similar?

Retellings (that aren’t fairy tales or Jane Austen)

Angels of Music: Heroes | Heroines

What happens in Vegas…

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