Monday, August 6, 2007

Colette Gale Fires up the Phantom

Interviewed by Anna Campbell

ANNA: Colette, thank you so much for coming over to party with the Banditas today. I can't wait to hear about your new release Unmasqued, an erotic re-telling of The Phantom of the Opera. What an intiguing premise! But first I'd like to ask you about your writing history. Give us the goss on Colette Gale before she was published!
COLETTE: I'm ecstatic to be here! The Banditas have really made quite a name for themselves in such a short time--I'm completely impressed. Thanks so much for having me. Okay, the writing history. Well, Colette Gale is actually the pen name of my alter ego who writes historical paranormals, and who has been a guest here on the Banditas in the past. But Unmasqued is Colette's first book, and we won't talk about that other girl today, other than that she is multi-published. :-)
ANNA: I'm so looking forward to reading it and finding how you deal with the sexual tension between the members of the central triangle in the story. Can you tell us about Unmasqued?

COLETTE: Well, the story came about because of my dissatisfaction with the ending of Lloyd Webber's musical version of The Phantom of the Opera. I mean, he made the Phantom passionate and attractive, and showed us how much he and Christine loved each other--and even more so in the film version--and yet he has Christine leave the love of her life to run off with that milquetoast Raoul at the end! Quelle horreur!

(I must confess that I've seen the Phantom play many times, and that when the movie came out, I had this hope that maybe Lloyd Webber had tweaked it enough for it to end the way I thought it should have ended. But no.)

So I set about writing my version of the story, explaining why Christine left with Raoul, forsaking her passion for Erik (the Phantom). It started off being just a fun project for my alter ego, when she was between other books (those historical paranormals), but when she finished the book, her agent wanted to see it--and then she sold it.

The book is an erotic novel--not an erotic romance. There is a line between the two, in my opinion, and although Christine and Erik do have their happy ending, as one would expect in an erotic romance, and they do not have intercourse with anyone other than each other, the book leans more toward erotic fiction. In fact, when I sold this book, my editor and I--and all of her colleagues--had long discussions about where this book belonged.

Did it belong as an erotic romance (yes, because there's a love story at its heart and a happy ending), or a straight erotica (yes, because the sexual situations are more like what one would find in that type of novel)? It really is sort of smack dab between them.

The book is definitely not for everyone, because it's not merely explicit sex scenes between the main characters. The settings, the motivations, the situations, are all important to the story, yet they're sexual and erotic in nature.

(I talk more about my opinions on erotic romance v. erotica, and erotica v. porn during this interview at Bam's site.)

ANNA: I gather you're drawn to darker heroes (I'm sure that's one of the reasons we get on so well!). Tell us about your Phantom, and how he's different from Leroux's original creation, and Lloyd Webber's as well.
COLETTE: Oh, Erik is such a tortured hero--in all three versions! Leroux created a horrible, murderous genius, Lloyd Webber romanticized him, and I took it a few steps further and made him complete hero material. Hot, possessive (in a good way), honorable, and madly, madly in love with our heroine.

He is probably the most tortured hero that I've ever written. I loved doing it, because I knew from the beginning how much he loved Christine, and how much of a risk it was for him to reveal himself to her. He'd watched her from the shadows, gotten to know her and to love her through his tutoring--but to actually talk to her, touch her, be with her...he was risking everything. So at first, his fear is obvious through his need to control the situation, to keep her from really seeing and knowing him--because once she did, he feared her rejection. Yet, he can't stay away from her.

Yet, Christine was never afraid of him. Ever (well, except when she takes off his mask, but that's well into the book). She recognizes their connection, their kinship, their passion, and she wants to get to know him.

ANNA: Your byline on your website is "seducing the classics" which I think is brilliant. I notice your next book is a re-telling of The Count of Monte Cristo story. Can you tell us a little more about this?
COLETTE: Yes, my next book will be released in May and it's titled MASTER: An Erotic Novel of The Count of Monte Cristo. I loved writing this book more than I thought possible. The book by Dumas is fabulous--if unbelievably complicated and long--and it was a challenge to streamline it enough to focus on the love story between Edmond Dantes and Mercedes Herrera while explaining what else is going on behind the scenes, but I had a blast doing it.

For those who aren't familiar with the story, here's the back cover copy for the new book:

Betrayed by his friends, Edmond Dantes spent fourteen years imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit. Now, miraculously freed, he returns as the rich and powerful Count of Monte Cristo, seeking revenge on the four men who sent him to jail...and determined to have the woman he has never been able to forget.

Mercedes Herrera was devastated when the man she loved disappeared and was never heard from again. After searching for Edmond, she had no choice but to marry one of his friends...and for the past fourteen years, she's lived in an empty, abusive marriage, mourning the loss of her love.

When the Count of Monte Cristo arrives in Paris to put his plan of vengeance into play, Mercedes alone knows Edmond Dantes has returned. But this harsh, angry man sends chills down her spine even as his very touch reminds her of the passion they once shared. She realizes soon enough that his plan to avenge himself on the men who incarcerated him also includes another sort of revenge...on her.

From the seaside town of the exotic caves of Monte Cristo the glittering ballrooms of Paris unfolds an erotic battle of wills and unquenched passion between one of literature's most famous pairs of star-crossed lovers.

As I said, it was so much fun to write. And for those who are familiar with the story, I'll also divulge that Haydee has her own subplot, and so do Valentine and Maximilien.

In comparison to Unmasqued, I would say Master is a little less edgy and dark, though no less erotic. However, my goal when I write erotica is to arouse and titillate, as well as to tell a story, and I try to keep to the promise of at least one orgasm (the characters, not the reader!) per chapter--and I'd say that aside of one chapter in Unmasqued and one in Master, that pretty much holds true.
ANNA: Do you have any more classics in your sights? Why do you think people keep returning again and again to these archetypal stories?
COLETTE: I'm currently working on another proposal to my editor, and we have several ideas in mind for future classics that are just begging to be seduced. :-) I think the reason people like these kinds of stories, and like to be able to get more explicit, is because often the setting and situation are inherently sexy--but at the time they were written, sexual explicitness wasn't exactly mainstream.

For example, in the original Count of Monte Cristo, there is a scene in what is described as Aladdin's Cave (which is on the Isle of Monte Cristo) in which not only does the eating of hashish occur, but also an orgy. Yeah. But it's only alluded to, not described in detail. (I, uh, took care of that little detail when I wrote my version.) And there's lesbianism in the book as well, and a whole host of sexual innuendo--in Monte Cristo as well as in the original Phantom novel (don't try and tell me that Christine spent a week with the Phantom and nothing happened. Uh, no.), and other classics.

Now we have the ability to tell the stories that have always been behind and beneath the words in all their glorious detail.

Having said that, I know that I have certain literary favorites that I would hate for anyone to mess with in this way (Little House on the Prairie, LIttle Women, Pride & Prejudice)...and there are people who feel the same way about Phantom and Monte Cristo, and others. And that's okay. To each his own!
ANNA: Who are some of your favorite writers?
COLETTE: As far as erotic fiction goes, I've been influenced by Bertrice Small's Skye O'Malley books, The Story of O, Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty series, and Madeline Oh's PowerExchange.
ANNA: Can you give us some insight into your creative process?
COLETTE: I have no idea where I'm going most of the time, until I get there. :-) I write basically one draft, cleaning and revising as I go.
Do you think there's a difference between erotic romance and erotica? Do you have a favorite classic that you wish had gone further? Have you found yourself wanting to rewrite a book or a movie's ending? Which movies? Which books? Why?
Colette would love to give one of our honorary Banditas a copy of her new erotic novel Unmasqued. A comment will be chosen at random on Wednesday, 8th August. Good luck!


Helen said...

This sounds really interesting I have to put my hand up here and say that I have never read an erotic novel or romance I love Phantom of the Opera and the music from it and the next one about the Count of Monte Cristo sounds just as interesting I will be keeping my eye out in the book shops for these when they are released.As most people who come here will know that I read historical romance and lots of it and really enjoy it but I love reading a well written book. Really ejoyed the blog thanks again Guys.
Have Fun

Keira Soleore said...

Colette and Anna, what a great interview!! And O.M.G, what a jaw-droppingly gorgeous cover!!!!

The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers are the two classic books that I've read starting from picture-book abridged versions to all out door-stopper unabridged versions, because I just adored them so much.

Colette, now that you've written Monte Cristo, how about The Musketeers next?

No wait...Forget about the musketeers, that Richelieu is a worthy romantica or erotica hero, or at least a major sub-plot character, don't you think?

I adore the music from the Phantom. While Michael Crawford sure fired up my ears, Gerard Butler singed my eyes and my imagination. So my question to you is: Did you have a particular person's image in mind when you wrote your hero in Unmasqued? And if so, who was it?

I echo Anna in saying that "Seducing the Classics" is a fabulous author elevator pitch.

Stacy S said...

Great interview. Your books sound great. I've never watched Phatom of the Opera. I always mean too just haven't yet.

brownone said...

Wow..these look like they are going to be great. I love Phantom of the Opera and always felt bad for Eric. And I love the cover! I'm definately gonna check this one out!

Colette Gale said...

Thanks, Helen! I do hope you enjoy the book if you read it--consider it your first erotic novel!

Keira, thanks so much for your compliments about the cover! And let me tell's even more gorgeous in person.

As for The Three Musketeers...while it's not on the short list, it's definitely in the realm of possibility for a future book.

And, I must admit that I did have Gerard Butler's Phantom in mind--physically--when I wrote UNMASQUED. He was one hawt ghost, eh?

Cassondra said...

Hi Colette!

Thanks for joining the Banditas for this great interview!

I missed Phantom of the Opera on the London stage by just a hair when I studied there in grad school. $140 American was a little more than a poor college student could swing. I've regretted it ever since. I love the classics.

And I think it's so cool that we live in an age where we are free to do what you've done--something that was NOT so just a few years ago. We've come a long way baby! (grin)
I don't read much erotic romance but every now and then a concept intrigues me, and yours certainly has done so. Kudos to you for going with your gut.

My question to you is--did you face a lot of--or ANY--inner angst when you started this project? I admit that as I read the interview I thought of myself as a writer, and wondered if I wouldn't have been frightened off the project by this inner sense of "don't touch that, it's a masterpiece," whether or not I liked the way it ended in the original (and I did NOT like the way it ended btw).

Thanks again, and great job on the interview Anna!

Colette Gale said...

Cassondra, what a bummer that you missed POTO in London. That would have been a show to see! I never saw it with any of the big stars--I missed Colm Wilkinson in Toronto by one week, in fact.

Anyway, as far as any internal angst about "touching" a be honest, when I started writing this, it was really just for fun. For me. I truly didn't think it would ever be published, and then when I finished it, I thought maybe a small epub might pick it up.

I never dreamed that Penguin would want it--and what a wonderful surprise that they did. My editor really loved it, loved the love story at the heart of it.

So, the answer is, no, I wasn't worried about it at the time, because I didn't think it would go anywhere--and by the time it did, it was too late to worry.

However, I wasn't quite as blasé about it when I started The Count of Monte Cristo, for the reasons you mentioned. In fact, one of my dear writer friends threatened me (only half-joking) with murder if I screwed up my version of it. LOL.

I've been afraid to send it to her.

But, my editor loved it even better than Phantom, so hopefully my friend will find some merit in it.

jo lewis-robertson said...

Welcome to the Banditas' Blog, Colette!

I've often thought about the unwritten stories of the classics and the underlying passion not explicitly stated. Phantom and TCOMC are among my favorites.

Have you thought about reworking Lady Chatterly's Lover :-D. Pretty erotic for its time, but rather mild by today's standards, it's one of my favorites.

Trish Milburn said...

Hey, Colette! Welcome to the Bandit lair. I, too, have never read an erotic novel, so this will be my first. I'm going to check Borders for it today.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Thanks for joining us today at the Bandit Lair, Colette! It's always a pleasure to have you in any persona.

Okay, I'll fess up. I have read a few erotic novels and a few eroticas. Heavy on the word few. While most have little plot, I have run across one or two where the plot and the erotic are very well interplayed. The plot is dependent on and moves forward because of the erotic seduction and growth of the characters.

How hard is it to make sure the sexual scenes further the plot and aren't there just to add more sex?

A book I've always considered a classic is The Scarlet Pimpernel. Any chance that might fit in the "seducing the classics" motif?

I, too, am adding Unmasked to this week's shopping list at Borders!

Cassondra said...

Suzanne, you've hit the proverbial nail right on the head for me too--the thin plots and the sex for the sake of sex don't keep me in the story.

Of course, these are classic, well-writte stories to begin with, but the question of how to do the erotic writing and keep it anchored in a good story is of interest to me as well.

Jo Davis said...

Seducing the Classics is an intriguing idea, and I can't wait to read them! I enjoy erotic romance, especially those with a fresh take. They sound delicious!

It's funny this topic came up today. I watched "The Man in the Iron Mask" with my family last night (the Leonardo diCaprio version) and I thought about what wonderful erotic/romantic potential went unrealized in that basic storyline. Good twin, Evil twin. The hero imprisoned and kept from his rightful place on the throne, and those who risk all to expose the wrongs done to him and restore him to his birthright.

I asked myself, "What if Phillipe and the lady his evil twin brother (Louis) destroyed had fallen in love? What if she had developed a spine, and *she'd* been the one to risk all to help liberate him from Louis' cruelty?"

Hmm... What do you think? :)


Donna MacMeans said...

Colette -

"Seducing the classics" is absolutely brilliant. I'm definitely going to pick up UNMASQUED. Can't wait to see who you will seduce next. I'm meeting Madeline Oh a bit later and I'll let her know of your nod to POWER EXCHANGE. She'll enjoy that.

Colette Gale said...

Jo, thanks for coming by!

Trish *waving* congrats again on your sale! SOOOO happy for you!!

Suzanne, you make an excellent point about the sex scenes furthering the plot. I think the reader does need to be able to see what's happening, and/or changing, between the characters in each sex scene.

I believe I've been successful in that with UNMASQUED--at least in my editor's opinion. One of the things she said she loved about my book was just that: that in each scene, you could see/read the subtext of what was going on between Christine & Erik and their relationship.

As for whether it's easy or hard to do--well, sometimes it's either! There's a scene in the book where Erik and Christine are together and it's right after he sort of rescues her from the villain....but he's furious with her and angry at something that happened previously. I hope/think that all of the jealousy, grief, and anger--and love--he feels are all in that scene between them.

(For the curious-minded, it's the scene during the masquerade party.)

Sometimes, though, I don't care when I'm reading erotica whether the plot is that intricate or thick. I read it for the sexual fantasy aspect of it (isn't that why most people read erotica?), and I don't care as much about the plot.

But I do think that although the plot in UNMASQUED isn't the most intricate, that each sex scene does contribute--they're not gratuitous. The astute reader will understand the subtext and undercurrents of why things are happening the way they are.

Colette Gale said...

Oh, and, yes, as a matter of fact, Suzanne, The Scarlet Pimpernel is likely to be my next project, or the one following. So much fun!

I loved, loved, loved the movie with Anthony Andrews and whatshername (blanking--probably because my dh loves her--uh, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman). I think that would be a great erotic novel.

And, Jo Davis, someone out there in blog-land has been saying that my next project is going to be The Man in the Iron Mask (they got that wrong--it's Monte Cristo), but it's definitely got me to thinking! I'm not as familiar with that story, but I'm definitely going to check it out.

I'm actually planning to do Robin Hood next, in which Nottingham is actually Maid Marian's hero. I've been dying to do that for more than a year now, and I've just submitted the proposal to my editor for approval.

Colette Gale said...

Donna, please do tell Madeline! I really enjoyed POWEREXCHANGE, which she sent to me years ago.

Thanks for coming by!

sharon said...

Welcome, Colette. I did see Phantom of the Opera with my family in Toronto when I lived there. It was magnificent and memorable. Music was superb and Colm Wilkinson did a masterful performance.

anne said...

I enjoyed your interesting interview. It has been a favorite book of mine and when I had the opportunity to see Phantom of the Opera I was mesmerized by the music and the wonder of it.

Suzanne Welsh said...


I have no problem with Nottingham being Marian's hero...especially if I picture Alan Rickman playing him like in Prince of Thieves. He probably has a very, very wicked side to him!

Hello, Jo Davis! If you could cast The Man In The Iron Mask for an erotica...who would you choose, and NO, you can't choose Jon Bon Jovi!

Anne Mallory said...

Colette, I can't wait to pick up Unmasqued! And you know I'm totally salivating over Monte Cristo! :)

Caren Crane said...

Thanks for visiting with us, Colette! (Love the pseudonym, which I assume is a nod to *the* Colette!) I really just wanted to chime in that Alan Rickman (whose pic I used in vain yesterday on this blog *g*) would be a great Nottingham!

But I think you have lots of explaining to do for old Nottingham. He always comes off as such a power-hungry toadie. Can't wait to see how you redeem him!

Jo Davis said...

Do check out "Man in the Iron Mask"! Great dark, tortured hero and erotic romance potential! Super story!

Hi Suz! (waving)
Hmm, who would I cast as the hero in "Man in the Iron Mask"? Besides my love, JBJ... (he he)

Well, he'd have to be youngish. Louis is a young king, very lusty. So he must have sex appeal as well, and be able to play both the evil twin and the twin who is vulnerable, hurt. He must be able to speak with a European accent (which Leonardo did NOT at all!)

So, I'm going to go with Orlando Bloom! The man has all of those qualities and is just so darned yummy there are, ironically, no words. (fanning myself!)


Anna Campbell said...

Thanks for popping by, everyone. It's such an interesting premise, redoing TPOTO, isn't it? Had me intrigued from the beginning. I have to admit I haven't seen the musical. I do however absolutely love a REALLY obscure version Hammer Horror did in the 60s which occasionally used to turn up on late night TV here. It starred Herbert Lom of Pink Panther fame as the Phantom and it was fantastic. All that doomed romanticism. It was set in London in the Victorian era and nodded to Jack the Ripper. Really creepy. Although I haven't seen it for years so I mightn't feel the same now. The Phantom used to play the Bach Toccata and Fugue in the London sewers. OOOOOH!

It is a GORGEOUS cover, isn't it, Keira?

Colette, I ADORE Anthony Andrews in the Scarlet Pimpernel. They seek him here, they seem him there... I had it on video but I lent it to someone and it never came back. Grrrr! Don't you hate it when that happens? Thanks for playing in the Bandit Lair. This has been great fun!

Anna Campbell said...

Jo, I like the idea of spicing up Lady Chatterley (50 years ago, who would imagine that would be possible?). I love that book - I find it really romantic! Other Jo, I'd cast Richard Armitage in the Man in the Iron Mask. He can do good - North and South - and bad - Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood. And he's yummy in either guise! Although yeah, I'll take Orlando if Richard is busy ;-)

Suzanne Welsh said...

Colette and Anna, I bought a copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel with Anthony Andrews about 9 years ago. My middle daughter had read the book for a report for school and I wanted her to see the movie version. She and her younger brother watched it over and over. Then I found them having a "duel" one day. :)

FilmPhan said...

Oh my gosh, I love "The Phantom of the Opera!" It's my favorite musical. I even read the Gaston Learoux novel but I thought Raoul was way too prissy. He cried way too much. I love the movie and the stage play. I like the movie a little more than the play because you can actually see the characters' faces and Gerard Butler is in it. I mean, the man is gorgeous (I always picture him as the romantic hero). I always wanted Christine to pick the Phantom. He just seems so much more exciting than Raoul. I always sing to the music in my car when I'm alone because apparently, I don't sing that good. I even put together a Phantom costume to wear for Halloween (one of my favorite holidays). We usually have a big Halloween bash; costume required.

Your book sounds wonderful! I will definetly have to get a copy. I have never read erotic fiction so I think it will be an interesting change for me. And I think you said Robin Hood after the Count of Monte Cristo. Both amazing stories. I love it.

tetewa said...

Colette glad to see you here today. I'm looking forward to your take on both of these classics. I will also be at Borders tomorrow and will be looking to see if the book is there.

Christine Wells said...

Thank you for being with us on Romance Bandits today, Colette. What a gorgeous cover! And I love your tagline, too. I suppose in some of the classics you get the feeling they might have written the book differently if they hadn't been constrained by the mores of the time. I'll be interested to see what you've done with Phantom.

Thanks for a great interview, Anna.

Cherie J said...

Enjoyed the interview! This book sounds great and I love that cover.

Trish Milburn said...

Anna, honey, we are so much alike. I like Richard Armitage too. And funny you should mention Robin Hood -- I just blogged about this show on my blog at since I just finished watching the first season this weekend.

And Orlando -- fanning self. I'm half in love with him as Will Turner.

Beth said...

So glad you stopped by, Colette! Unmasqued sounds fantastic - I can't wait to pick up a copy *g*

Haven Rich said...

I have to echo Keira here. Wonderful interview and that cover is amazing!

Keira Soleore said...

Colette, oh, how cool is that! You thought of yummy GB in the role of your hero.

"Sync me, I'm a poet." Andrews is delicious as Sir Percy Blakeney, Foanna. Here comes another mention of the famed North and South. Is there anyone of the Banditas and honored guests who haven't seen the ooh-la-la Richard Armitage in this Victorian drama?

Helen said...

Colette I will class it as my first erotic novel and I love Robin Hood it is probably my all time classic love Erroyl Flynn in that role.
Have Fun

Kirsten said...

Hi Colette! Hope I'm not too late to leave you a comment. Just wanted to say that I, for one, do not read erotica for the plot. :-) I mean, it's a handy addition, but not entirely necessary.

(Reminds me a bit of the guys saying they read Playboy for the articles...)

Just thought someone had to admit it. (grin)

The book looks fabulous. I will definitely watch for all the Seducing the Classics! Thanks for being with the Banditas!

Helen said...

I have yet to see North and South I will have to get out and look at hiring it so as I can watch it for myself.
Have Fun

Kimberly L said...

Great interview. I haven't read an erotica so this will be a first for me too.

Colette Gale said...

Thanks so much to everyone for stopping by, and for your enthusiasm for the book!

It really was a labor of love...I just had to give Christine and Erik their happy ending. I hope that you'll enjoy my twist on their story!

And Kirsten--you're so right about erotica. Good for you saying what's already lurking in everyone's minds anyway, huh? :-)

I'll be back to answer any other questions and good luck, Banditas!

Anna Campbell said...

Helen, as Errol would say, hie thee to a DVD rental outlet and gettest thou North and South. Thou will nottest be sorryest!!!

seton said...

THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL is one of my all-time faves and I would love to see it get the erotic interpretation.

The very talented Gayle Feyrer wrote a sexy historical -- THE THIEF'S MISTRESS -- in which Maid Marian gets it with Nottingham. You might want to check it out to avoid comparisons.

I saw the original Bway production of POTO with Sarah Brightman and Crawford and was underwhelmed because Brightman was an horrible actress. A horrible example of uxorism. Totally ruined the experience for me. Much prefer the movie version because of it.

Anna Campbell said...

Seton, I have to say I admire a woman who can use 'uxorism'! Actually, speaking of Robin Hood stories, there's a great one called The Baron by Juliana Garnett that features the Sheriff as the hero and the heroine is Robin Hood's niece. A really emotional, passionate story.

Colette Gale said...

OOh, thanks for all the info on the twists on Robin Hood.

I heard Russel Crowe is working on a movie right now in which he plays Nottingham--as a good guy.

Apparently, this concept has been done before!

Seton,thanks for the suggestion about The Thief's Mistress....but I think I'll wait to check it out until my book is done. Then there can be no chance of similarities that weren't accidental! :-)

I had a blast with the Banditas....hope to see you all again soon!

Oh,and UNMASQUED is being featured at Borders this month with a $1-off coupon. Here's a link for those who are interested:

(You'll have to cut and paste it onto one line.)

Caren Crane said...

Thanks, Colette, for the wonderful coupon. Man, you are in quite a select group there. They are killing me with the "one coupon per person in the specified time period" thing, though. Lots of wonderful books on there! I, of course, will be buying yours. *g*

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annwouters765 said...

I just saw the 2004 film and I read the Gaston Leroux novel and both really triggered my interest in the story about the Phantom. Now, I've also read "Unmasqued" with relish. When reading the description of the Phantom I already thought I recognized Gerard Butler. Of all the phantoms he is of course the most pleasing to the eye. I thought his performance of "Point of no return" was also quite erotic, a good preparation for this novel :-). I just felt so sad for him when at the end he didn't get the girl. That's why I love the fact that in this novel he does.

I normally don't read a lot of erotic fiction but I do think I will also read your version of The count of Monte Christo. I read the book by Alexandre Dumas several times and I think Edmond Dantès is an immensely romantic character.