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Friday, January 13, 2012

Guest Post with Author Tori St. Claire and Giveaway

Today I would like to welcome to the blog author Tori St. Claire. Toni is currently on tour promoting the release of her erotic romance suspense book Stripped. Please everyone, give a big welcome to Toni.

The theme… the theme… egad the theme.

Where did it come from? Honestly? I have no idea. It is, hands down, a story that just presented itself. I had to work out a few details, and I’ll share those.

The idea of a romantic suspense novel in a strip bar hit me from a song. But I knew that was a pretty generic romantic suspense theme. I wanted something a little darker, a little different, of course.

I’ve always had a passion for Russia. This probably came from my mentor, who is a Russian immigrant. Add in the fact that I cut my teeth on movies with my father and James Bond, espionage came rather naturally. Only, I don’t tend to be that future-sighted to create fancy little gadgets like 007 has, so I had to steer clear of the fantastical.

Russia, Moscow especially, has a deep history in the mafia. Everything, for the most part, is tied in somehow. You want protection? You go to the mafia. You want retribution? Well… I think you get my point. So I did some research on what mafia groups (there are many as opposed to our US understanding of Italian mafias) were doing what, which were international threats as opposed to regional, and so forth. Enter the Solntsevskaya Bratva. Scary bunch, let me tell you.

I also have a passion for dark characters and dark plots, and I don’t think it gets a lot darker than sex trade, except for perhaps the trade of children. Especially if your heroine is participating in such. I really wanted a heroine who, in the initial presentation, might leave a reader questioning whether they really liked her or not. Morally ambiguous.

But if she was working for the United States… well… perhaps the reader ought to rally behind her, even if she’s walking a fine line.

Kidnapping strippers? Shipping them to sheiks? I really, really, really would like to have a response that would blow your socks off and leave you with the idea that I’m a genius or something. But truth is, I just don’t know. It came to me naturally, one paragraph after another as I outlined.

The opposite side of the equation came with the hero, Brandon, a man who’s prepared to cross whatever line necessary in the name of justice, but until he meets Natalya has no understanding what that might mean. She’s a product of everything he detests, of what he’s spent his life trying to overcome.

The erotic components fell together rather naturally. Two polar opposite people, both working to achieve the same goal unbeknownst to each other, but neither able to confide in the other because of the depth of their secrets. Danger around each corner, never knowing who to trust, and a whole lot of hot passion and forbidden pleasure in between… it spells HOT.

Natalya was a risk for me, and I’m glad I took it. Stripped turned out to be an excursion into a dark world that’s full of wicked deeds – both the unthinkable and the type that feeds fantasy. As I’ve worked with the series and the Black Opals, I’ve drawn out some even darker characters, as you’ll see in Lie to Me, which comes out in July.

I hope you enjoy Stripped and Natalya’s story as much as I do! And Brandon? Well… he’s one pretty damn hot man if I must say so myself.


Body of secrets…

As a member of the CIA’s elite, Black Opals, Natalya Trubachev must live a lie, working undercover as the lover of Dmitri, a Russian mob boss. His business is trafficking vulnerable Las Vegas strippers overseas for twisted sex games. Natalya’s business is to blow the ring wide open and bring down Dmitri and his American contacts. But the stakes are raised when she learns that the next target is her own sister Kate, a dancer in the famed club Fantasia. Only now does Natalya realize how personal her mission has become, and how far she’s willing to go to complete it.

Body of lies…

The manager of Fantasia is Brandon Moretti, an undercover detective who keeps a close eye on his girls, and an even closer one on his sinfully sensual hire. For Natalya, working the club could be the break she’s been waiting for. But for Moretti, Natalya is a possible link to a killer. Only he never counted on her being so lethally seductive or so dangerous to get close to. As every forbidden pleasure between them is stripped away, his own secrets threaten their security, but it’s Natalya’s that could destroy them both.

Places to Purchase:


He slammed the ball of his fist down on her desk. A box of chocolate-covered cherries jumped. He glanced at the white and red carton briefly, then dismissed it, locking his gaze with Natalya’s once more. “I’ll tell you about wrong ideas. Let’s start with how your boss told you not to dance, and you decided to do so anyway.”

“My boss?” Natalya laughed again. “Make up your mind which role you want to play, Brandon. You’re only my boss when it’s convenient for you. Otherwise you’re too busy fucking me.”

He clamped his teeth down on the stream of oaths that choked off his air. He couldn’t argue with the truth. Moreover, he caught the flat glint of her eyes. The unfeeling stare that told him the words were real enough, but the woman who said them wasn’t. For a moment, in the dancers’ lounge, he’d glimpsed that mesmerizing Natalya who drove him to maddening limits. While this shell made him every bit as crazy, he ached for the woman who prompted him into foolishness. She had been on the stage. She deserved the fight.

“Damn it, where are you?” Frustrated beyond all means, he swiped his arm across the desk, sending the chocolates flying into the wall.

She blinked. But not at him, he realized, as he followed the trajectory of her gaze. She stared at the floor where the box had broken open. Smashed chocolate-covered cherries coated the floor, sugary ooze pouring from a squashed corner.

Brandon straightened. Unease filtered through his angry haze. He’d hit the candy hard. But not hard enough to smash two entire trays of candies, each held in egg-shaped cups. That candy was already crushed, long before he’d hit it. And to accomplish that, while keeping the flimsy plastic cups from collapsing, someone had done it piece by piece.

“Who gave you that?” His gaze flicked back to hers, and he took a small measure of satisfaction at witnessing the truth behind her eyes before she once again snapped the shutters closed.

“I told you jealousy wasn’t a pretty color for you.”

He pursed his lips, ground his teeth together. With patience that defied his years of training, he gritted out, “No games. Who gave you the chocolate, Natalya?”

Defiance radiated in the proud jut of her chin. Sparkled behind her unblinking stare. Then, as she blinked, the facade crumbled. She shook her head. “It wasn’t here when I left for the stage.”

In the next heartbeat, the color drained from her face. He knew then, she’d made a connection. Associated the candy with someone else. Someone who had the capacity to strike fear into her fearless little heart.

Tori St. Claire grew up writing. Hobby quickly turned into passion, and when she discovered the world of romance as a teen, poems and short stories gave way to full length novels with sexy heroes and heroines waiting to be swept off their feet. She wrote her first romance novel at seventeen.

While that manuscript gathered dust-bunnies beneath the bed, she went on to establish herself as a contemporary, historical, and paranormal author under the pen name, Claire Ashgrove. Her writing, however, skirted a fine line between hot and steamy, and motivated by authors she admired, she pushed her boundaries and made the leap into erotica, using the darker side of human nature and on-the-edge suspense to drive grittier, sexier, stories.

Her erotic romantic suspense novels are searingly sensual experiences that unite passion with true emotion, and the all-consuming tie that binds -- love.

Places to find Tori:


Tori will be giving away a $25 gift certificate to 1 randomly drawn commenter during the tour. So make sure to check out all of Toni St. Claire's stops to increase your chances of winning. 

*Giveaway open until January 27th
*Must leave a comment along with your email address


  1. What a terrific excerpt! :) Sounds like an exciting novel. :)

  2. Very different plot theme in this book since we are more familiar with the very real foreign girls transported illegally to the US as sex slaves but not so much the reverse. It makes for an interesting sounding read.

    I've been reading the reviews for your book at Amazon. I know reviews are very important to authors and the acceptance of their work by readers. IMHO, reviews can be so subjective sometimes that I tend to distrust review sites that give nothing but glowing reviews to every book they review...not every book is 100% 5-star good every time! Just doesn't fly for me. In those cases, I'm more inclined to trust reader reviews at places like Amazon where I'll see a mix from love it to hate it. What do you think about this? What reviews do you trust the most?

  3. I love the idea of your book and how a person can be redeemed.

  4. Thanks for sharing with us today, Toni. I'm always up to a new book, one that isn't like every other one on the shelf, and this one sounds like it fits the bill! :D I'll be adding this one to my list!

    The_Book_Queen AT yahoo DOT com

  5. Perfect excerpt to give us that sense of tension and suspense, Tori.

    caity_mack at yahoo dot com

  6. I just love the cover on this book - so enticing with the face of the hero over the shadow.

    And I know this one is going to be so, so good because IMMORTAL HOPE rocked!

    cindersmaria AT yahoo DOT com

  7. This is such a great sounding book. I will definitely be getting it as soon as possible. Thank you so much for the post & Excerpt.
    manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

  8. Thank you for the excerpt. I'm loving this tour & already have STRIPPED on my wish list.


  9. Hi, May, MomJane, Cathy, June and Marybelle! Good to see you today. Glad you enjoyed the excerpt!

    MomJane, redemption is one of my favorite themes -- it can be so rewarding come the conclusion, and so full of conflict as the characters struggle. Very fun to work with as an author.

  10. Book_Queen -- it's definitely different. Natalya has a very different effect on about everyone who reads her. Rather interesting to sit back and listen, on my end. I hope you enjoy Stripped!

    And I'd love to hear comments from folks who do read the book, all. Feel free to email me anytime!

  11. Artemis! Hi!! You'll have to let me know a comparison/contrast between the two. Laugh. I'd be really interested in hearing which one you liked better, or if it's like comparing apples and oranges.

    So glad you liked IMMORTAL HOPE -- I do think you'll like STRIPPED.

  12. And Karen -- I have to save you for last because the response usually requires room :)

    Love the questions though!

    As an author, of course I love the glowing reviews, and the stinky ones sting. But I have to admit that I don't tend to put a lot of thought into what someone says in a review. For a couple reasons:

    a. I'm one of those people who are apt to avoid trends, just because they've become trends. So I don't necessarily want to know what folks say about a book I'm interested in reading.

    b. My opinion is usually nothing like the other opinions; and after all they are opinions only.

    c. A lot of reviews include spoilers, and nothing will make me more angry than hearing about stuff in abook I'd rather hear about as I read it.

    All that said...

    I think there's some merit in what you say. A lot of people rate a book 5 Stars (or at the other end 1 star) without a lot of thought over why. A lot more people don't like to put out a review unless it's positive. (Me. I won't write what I think about a book, unless I have uber-positive things to say. So I tend not to write reviews, period.)

    I do think if you're looking to make a purchased based on the collective opinion, or looking for a solid opinion for something you're on the fence about, a person needs to do some research on who is doing the review -- not necessarily where the review is posted.

    If it's a professional outfit, or a blogger who's known to have a varying opinion on many books, I think you can put more "merit" in those reviews, than say what "SuzieJoe" posted on her 225th 5-Star review.

    Amazon vs. goodreads though... I have a lot of great reviewers (note, that's the person, not the written opinion) on Goodreads who didn't post on Amazon. So I don't think you can necessarily count on one review bank versus another. Haveta look at the reviewers individually.

  13. I enjoyed the post and the excerpt; they were great reads.

    I look forward in reading Stripped.

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  14. This story sounds thrilling! I've always been fascinated by Russia and it's people myself too. Thanks for the giveaway!

  15. Love the cover and the story sounds awesome. I can't wait to read what happens next. Thanks for the chance.