Review: Immortal Trust

Reviewed by Jen

One of the things I like about The Curse of the Templar series is that each hero is deliciously tortured and alpha. Though admittedly, Lucan doesn’t come off as quite as tortured as Merrick and Farran, he made up for it with earnestness and charm.

This installment in the series is actually different in a few ways. Not only is our hero a bit less miserable than his predecessors, unlike them, he knows who his seraph is from the start. As the story begins, he is already seeking Chloe out at the archaeological dig she is leading in France.  Chloe doesn’t know it, but she is about to uncover a vital artifact to the Templars, the Veil of Veronica.  Not only do the Templars want the items, but so do the evil minions of Azazel.  The dark lord has infected her brother in order to get to the item by any means necessary.

Lucan is determined to handle his mating better than his brothers did. He is resolved to take things slowly, and to court Chloe properly.  It’s not that easy, though. Chloe has been plagued by demons for years. Between that, and a bad relationship in her past, she is dead set against a future with the man she sees as a representative from the Church at her dig.  Her brother’s negative influence makes it even harder for Lucan to gain any ground. But, of course, it’s only a matter of time until destiny becomes a reality.

I liked Lucan a lot. He is gentle and loving with Chloe and takes great care with her emotions. It’s nice to see a hero who isn’t so dominating that he loses sight of his woman’s wants and needs. It is frustrating at times to see the hesitation he has –as it will so clearly burn him in the end.  You see, both Lucan and Chloe hide the truth from each other for most of the story. Chloe keeps her demons a secret because she doesn’t think Lucan will believe her. And Lucan keeps the Templar truths quiet, because he fears Chloe may already be compromised by Azazel.  Secrets, as always, lead to misunderstandings, which can drive you crazy when you see them coming a mile away.

However, the romance is sweet, and I like that this is a bit different from the previous books, because that keeps the series from getting stale. The sexual tension is great and the bedroom action is definitely worth the wait!

We’re still keeping up with some of the other familiar knights… but I am coming to think Claire Ashgrove is only giving me glimpses of Declan and Tane to torment me. When will they get their books, for crying out loud???

Overall, it was sexy and sweet, though a little predictable.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Tor

Click to purchase: Amazon
Immortal Trust
by Claire Ashgrove
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Publisher: Tor Books

Guest Post & Giveaway: Claire Ashgrove

Farran de Clare, loyal member of the cursed Knights Templar, wants nothing to do with predestined mates. Even the Almighty won’t turn him into a fool again—he’d rather sacrifice his soul. Yet in the scientist Noelle Keane, a devout atheist, Farran meets the seraph designed for him.

Ordered by the archangel Gabriel to protect Noelle, the possessor of a sacred relic that could give Azazel incredible power, Farran swears to do his duty—but in name only. Fighting an attraction that grows with each day, he’s determined that he’ll never pledge himself to her.

As they war over her future, their mutual passion ignites a conflict far more damning. But before Noelle will agree to eternity with him, she demands the ultimate sacrifice – his heart.

Hello everyone! Thanks so much for hosting me today. We’re going on the third week Immortal Surrender has been on the shelves, and I’m so excited about this book’s release. Probably a little more so than all the other releases this year, combined.

It seems every reader I talk to has a favorite series. Whether that’s a vibrant historical family saga, or a clan of demons (or Immortal Templar Knights, right?), they are avidly chasing down the next book to come. And I think I’ve figured out why.

We bond as readers with hero and heroine. Series books allow us to keep those bonds intact. We don’t have to reinvest a whole new set of emotions for every new book each time we pick something up. When we read in series, often we meet continuing characters before we get to their book, and we are immersed in that world. We see our friends more than just once.

We’re also allowed more time to stay in touch with our world. We can spend more time in Rome, in Atlantis, on Mars, or simply in your own contemporary backyard. The author builds a fascinating setting, and we want to stay there longer! When the next book comes in series, we return to the fantasy world we feel like we’re a part of. It’s kinda like going home after an extremely pleasant trip. Comfortable, inviting, and familiar.

Sure, in some cases, its unresolved plot or subplot that draws us back. Sometimes we’re so addicted to the events we can’t stand the idea of letting them slip by. But at least for me, if I don’t have a bond with the world or the characters, I won’t return. There’s nothing holding me there. I read to return to the experience I had before. To lose myself again, and meet new, but familiar, faces.

What about all of you? Are you series driven too? What keeps you coming back for more? 

Answer Claire’s question in the comments below for your chance to win the book of your choice from her backlist (outside of the Templar series.) In addition, commenters’ names will be added into the tour-end drawing of a 25.00 Amazon gift card. Follow the tour – the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. Complete tour dates can be found here.

In the meantime, here is an excerpt from Immortal Surrender:

“Damnation,” he hissed through clenched teeth.He stalked back to the bed. No longer concerned for her injuries, he snatched up her fingers and inspected the scar once more. Nay, his eyes did not play tricks. She bore a dagger on her hand. It matched his as if someone had miniaturized the eighteen-inch-long weapon and scalded it into her flesh.

She belonged to him.

The door opened, and Farran’s head snapped up. He returned Louise’s pleasant smile with a glare. “You may undress the wench.” He shouldered past the aging caretaker, ignoring the way she spluttered.

So Gabriel sought to pair him with a maid, did he? ‘Twas no wonder the archangel did not forewarn him of her nature. Gabriel well knew Farran would rather swallow his own sword.

He took the stairs two at a time, in desperate need of fresh air. His fingers twitched with the need to pummel something. A seraph! His seraph! God’s teeth, would he be allowed no mercy? Could he not just leave this world and be done with life?

In the wide front room, Farran braced his hands on the table and squeezed his eyes shut tight. Duty bound him to accept the pairing. With the oaths they were fated to take, the Templar would gain much needed strength. Much as he would like nothing more, he could not walk away from the woman in the bed upstairs.

And yet . . .he did not have to stay either.

“Brother? Is something amiss?” Lucan’s voice drifted down the stairs.

Farran turned around and raised his glower to Lucan’s face. “You will go to her apartment. Fetch her cat. Fetch her things. Deliver them all to Mikhail.”

Lucan’s gaze narrowed with suspicion. “I trust you do not seek to have the maid to yourself?”

“Nay!” God’s teeth, nay. He would no more touch her now than he would touch a snake. He would say his oath, deliver her to the temple, and leave with the first light.

Cocking his head, Lucan studied him. Slow dawning filtered into his expression, and he answered with a thoughtful nod. “You recognize her mark. I shall have her mate sent here.”

Farran exhaled through his teeth. At his thigh, he clenched a hand into a tight fist. “There is no need for such.”

“Farran, you cannot be serious. She must be paired at once. ’Tis written—”

“She is mine, Lucan.” With the vile truth exposed, Farran stormed out the door.

Review: Immortal Surrender

Reviewed by Jen

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  It’s the second in Claire Ashgrove’s Curse of the Templars series.  And one of the things that I like best about these books is that each one features a tortured hero with a heroine who can save his soul.

In this case, our hero is Farran. Like Merrick before him, he doesn’t want a seraph. He thinks he is too far gone. He wants one of his brothers to receive the gift. Beyond that, though, he is still nursing a 900 year-old heartbreak brought on by a treacherous and unfaithful wife.

Noelle is an unlikely choice for a seraph. She doesn’t even believe in God, which makes the whole immortal Templar thing sound all the more insane to her.  She does, however, trust in science. She dates and authenticates ancient relics for a living.  She doesn’t have much of a life beyond her work. Apparently, Noelle is plain and flat chested and no man has ever really been interested in her.

Once the angel Gabriel does his thing and orchestrates a meeting between Farran and Noelle, he realizes immediately that she is his fated match. He decides he must speak his oath to bind with her, in order to honor his duty, but he will never allow anything real to grow between them.  He essentially kidnaps her, drags her back to the Temple and spends the rest of the book trying to force her to speak the oath back to him while he fights he growing feelings for her.

I like the world-building and the story is rich with great secondary characters. It gives the entire book such a great canvas.  I enjoyed the tender moments between Farran and Noelle, but he also frustrated me at times with his thoughtless comments designed to put emotional distance between them.  He wasn’t a bad guy, but he was thick-headed. And 900 years is a long time to hold a grudge against women.  As for Noelle, it kind of stretches credulity to think that any functional 29 year-old woman can be that innocent in 2012.  Beyond that, I liked her well enough. She has a sharp mind and demands the kind of proof that most rational people would need.  I just hated to see her feelings hurt so often.

When the walls finally start to come down between these two, the heat factor was fantastic.  The love scenes were great and there was a fair amount of action worked in –as well as enough intrigue to keep me guessing.  –Not everything is tied up neatly. There are definitely loose ends that will branch over to the next book. But the ending gives good closure on the relationship, so it’s by no means a cliffhanger.

I liked it. And I’ll read the next one when it comes out.  I’m hoping for Sophie’s story… with Tane perhaps? Or maybe Declan?  I’m looking forward to it.

Rating: B



*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Immortal Surrender
by Claire Ashgrove
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Publisher: Tor

Guest Post & Giveaway: Claire Ashgrove

After inheriting a portion of Spain’s Royal Inheritance, Cain left The Flying Gang for a chance at honest wealth. With the secrets of his piracy tucked away, he achieved his lofty aspirations. But when his partner and best friend betrays him to the Royal Navy, Cain’s dreams are ripped to shreds. He’s left with his ship, the tattered remnants of a stolen future, and a piece of Spanish mystery. Wanted by three nations and destined for the gallows, he returns to the legendary band of buccaneers for one purpose — vengeance.

Kidnapped by the formidable Cain, India Prescott discovers he intends to kill the man she’s to marry. Cain’s story reveals betrayal. Treachery that extends to her as well. Although she holds the key to retribution, India refuses to become another man’s pawn. Freedom lies before her, the liberty to shrug off propriety, make her own decisions, and claim her destiny. But when she uncovers goodness in Cain’s soul and he awakens passion in her heart, she must combat the chains of convention once more. Only this time India’s not fighting society. She’s battling a pirate bent on keeping her decency intact.

Morning, all! Thank you for hosting me today. I’m delighted to be able to share a little more about Bound by Decency with you!

I’m frequently asked what sort of research goes into any given book. With a historical, it’s all the more important to incorporate fact. And I thought I’d give you a peek at what was involved with putting Bound by Decency together.

Ships

Understand that I knew very little about ships and sailing when I went into this project. And this is by far, where I spent the most research time. I read a few articles that were preserved from the era about sailing and sailor’s life. But I also dug, and dug, and dug for the parts and pieces of a ship. I compared different types of sailing vessels… I spent HOURS looking for the name of one particular part that connects the rudder to the helm. Did I use that part? Nope. But I needed it to understand how steering worked. I plastered a diagram written in the 1700s on the wall after having it blown up by Kinkos, and another on my printer. And bit by bit, I was able to understand how ships functioned and what life aboard was like.

Pirates

I think most of us understand the basics of pirates. But I needed more than what movies, fiction books, and online research could grant. I wanted to know what these people ate day-to-day. In detail. I wanted to know what they drank, beyond rum. I wanted to know how they handled injuries and illnesses. And by gosh, I wanted to know what kept them all from randomly killing each other. So this time I went to Borders (still open then), and lugged home an armload of historical books. Learn it I did, as you’ve noticed if you followed this tour and read the pirate menu earlier in the month. I even tried Absinthe this last year, just to experience it first hand. An experience I don’t recommend. But hey, it warranted me much praise from the frat boys at the bar to see a woman trying the stuff. I started a trend that night. Laugh!

Nassau

Coming into the project, I knew bunches about Tortuga. But that wasn’t where I wanted to base my operations. And so it was time to hit the history books… and the period maps… for Nassau and New Providence. This was fun research, let me tell you! It’s simply a colorful, amazing experience. And while I am teased profusely for my ability to correctly pronounce Bimini, I can describe the islands now by heart. I also had great fun with the native wildlife. That incorporated a good day or two.

Spain

In general, Spanish history has never quite interested me. So it was a surprise that the “necessary components” led me to researching Spain’s rulers and heirs to the throne. But my treasure needed to come from somewhere, and the link between France and Spain’s monarchies provided the perfect tie. All that led to a very unentertaining study of descendants, offspring, and convoluted lineages that I wrote down for purposes of easy reference, and quickly brain-dumped. Still this took a good week of research.

And there you have it, folks – the core components of what I had to dig into to put this all together. All told, I spent about a month of solid research, 8-5 daily, if not longer, taking notes, watching documentaries, scanning written accounts that were difficult to read. With the exception of Spain, I thoroughly enjoyed it. But then… I love research… and that’s why I love historical romance.

Now, it’s your turn.  

What draws you to historical romance?

Claire will be giving away a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card to one random commenter during the tour.  Follow the tour – the more times you comment, the better your chances of winning!  Make sure you include your email address. Complete schedule can be found here. In the meantime, you can check out this excerpt of Bound by Decency:

     For a moment, he could do nothing more than stare. Richard had said his intended was lovely, but somehow, Cain had never pictured her as a beauty. Yet now, as she stood before him, her chest heaving with indignation and her hair a sopping mess, he realized Richard had once again played him false. India Prescott wasn’t merely lovely. She was breathtaking.
     “What in the name of Mary do you think you’re doing?” she snapped. “My father will see you hang for this.”
     Her sharp tongue yanked Cain out of his stupor. He collected himself quickly, and for the first time since his arrest, gave into a broad grin. “Indeed, he will have to get in line.”
     India’s eyes widened a fraction, but anger drew delicate brows downward, and those sky-blue eyes narrowed. “I see no amusement in this. Do you have any idea who I am?”
     As a rumble of laughter broke through the men within earshot, Cain’s humor subsided. His smile faded, and he reached out to twine a thick lock of her hair around his finger. Turning his wrist, he wrapped the silken length around his hand, slowly bringing her closer. So close that the wet fabric straining across her breasts dampened his shirt. The heat of her skin grazed his. “I know well who you are, Miss Prescott.” He ran the back of his free hand across her dainty collar bone, over the slope of her shoulder, then lifted it to draw his thumb across her parted lips. The audible catch of her breath ricocheted through him. So she was not unaffected by him. Good. He could use it to his advantage.
     His gaze held hers. A flicker of fear passed behind her eyes, but to her credit, she didn’t shrink away. She stood straight and proud, even as she shivered in the stirring breeze. Courage Cain didn’t often encounter from the gentle born. God’s teeth, men far stronger and larger than she didn’t hesitate to grovel at his feet. Yet she, no bigger than a lark, defied him with stubborn silence.
     Unacceptable.
     To drive her subservient position as his captive home, he tightened his hold on her hair until she winced. Leaning forward, he lowered his mouth to her ear. “You are the daughter of a powerful man and presently my prisoner, to do with as I will.” Stepping back, he untwined his hand and smirked.
     India’s palm cracked across his cheek. “Rot in hell!”

Review: Bound by Decency

Reviewed by Jen

The pirate Cain is on a mission of vengeance.  After two years of living a respectable life on land, he thought he finally had his disreputable days behind him.  But his friend and business partner turned on him when he refused to allow slavery into their shipping business. He framed Cain for a crime he didn’t commit, then told the world his true identity. He would have hanged if an old sailing mate had not rescued him.

Now Cain wants Richard dead for his deceit and disloyalty. Unfortunately, his prey went on the run as soon as he escaped the gallows. So Cain kidnaps Richard’s fiance, in the hopes she’ll tell him where her intended is hiding.

India is nothing like Cain expects. She is bold and full of spirit.  And she claims she has no idea where Richard is hiding.  While her character is strong, her body isn’t quite so tough. She is quickly plagued by seasickness and ends up with a terrible fever that takes her in and out of consciousness.  Cain has to nurse her back to health and becomes captivated by her beauty.  He gets even more entangled as he listens to her feverish dreams.

It’s Cain who India is dreaming about. Well, actually it’s Teddy, the alter-ego he took on as Richard’s partner. India never wanted Richard, but fantasized about the stalwart gentleman he described Teddy to be.  Once she boarded Cain’s ship and realized the men were one in the same, her fantasies and dreams finally had a face to go with the name.

After India wakes, she and Cain have a connection. But she fights it, insisting she remain true to her betrothal for honor’s sake. This is where the book dragged for me.  It seemed to go round and round for some time, with her fighting her feelings and Cain pushing for them to be together, then the other way around.  In the meantime, India is learning more about the life of a pirate and all the freedoms it entails.  The story follows her and Cain’s adventures on the sea, the push and pull of their affections, and of course the search for Richard.

Once they finally get together, the book really gathers steam.  After all that waiting, in a way, it made the intensity of their emotional connection more believable. And Lord knows, I was ready for the sex. (It delivers, by the way.)  The pacing really picks up here. We meet more pirates. We learn more about Cain’s history.  Our hero and heroine evolve both as individuals and a couple.  In the second half, the book really finds it legs.

I liked India. She was tough and smart… and at the same time, she was human and fallible. She makes mistakes –as does Cain. He was a sexy and good hearted hero, but he did have a bit of emotional baggage.

Overall, I enjoyed the story. I just wish it hadn’t taken quite so long to hit its stride.

Rating: B-

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Bound by Decency
by Claire Ashgrove
Release Date: August 1, 2012

Guest Post & Giveaway: Tori St Claire

Tori St Claire is joining us today in honor of her sexy new release, Lie to Me. Check out the blurb and hold on to your hats for a steamy sneak peek!!

A man of action…
After helping to break up a Russian human trafficking ring as part of the CIA’s elite Black Opal team, Alexei Nikanova’s newest assignment is to rescue one of the stolen women and return her to her father. When he arrives in Dubai, he discovers his target is Sasha Zablosky—a woman he knows all too well, and who has haunted him ever since their unforgettable time together in Moscow, two and a half years earlier. But he finds Sasha reluctant to leave her sheikh, the only true friend she’s ever known. Only Alexei can’t give her a choice.
A woman of deception…
With their yearning roused by intrigue, Alexei and Sasha can no longer resist temptation, and spend night after night in forbidden pleasure. Soon Alexei finds himself falling for her, even as he battles a shadowy menace to protect her. But Sasha is no innocent. She has a past darker than she could ever admit, one that Alexei could never forgive. And it is about to explode into her life once more. As the lies they tell themselves—and each other—pull them deeper into a perilous desire, what began as simple passion becomes a love certain to destroy them and end the lives of countless innocents.

Here is an excerpt:

He swallowed down the sound, and his kiss took on more languor, aggressive demands ebbing into a gentle play until his mouth left hers altogether and he lifted his head. His lustful gaze scorched into her. The hard fall of his breath stirred the fine blonde hairs on her forehead. He pressed his cheek to hers, grazed her sensitive skin with the coarse stubble along his jaw.

The pleasant friction sent another bout of delightful shivers surging through Sasha’s body. She dropped one hand to his waist, plucked his shirt free, and slipped her fingers beneath to explore his warm flesh.
“Ah, Sasha,” he murmured against her temple. “Tell me you don’t hate me.”
Her hand stilled at the base of his spine. Hate him. How could she explain that feeling had never once struck? If she confessed to the truth, she’d look weak, sound like a fool. She should hate him. And yet . . . she didn’t. After everything, even after all he’d done to destroy her life, she could not hate Alexei. Turning her head, she met his gaze. “Alexei, I—”
He closed his eyes, but not before he could shutter away a flash of anguish in those green depths. “Lie to me, princess. I need to believe.”
It was a plea he hadn’t needed to utter. She lifted up into him and caught his lips with hers. “I don’t hate you,” she whispered against his mouth.
A low snarl rumbled in the back of his throat a second before his mouth crashed into hers and claimed her savagely. His hands speared into her hair, holding her head in place, imprisoning her to the fierceness of his desperate kiss. She met the stroke of his tongue eagerly, tugged on the hem of his shirt, pushing it up, exposing his abdomen, equally desperate to feel the warmth of his skin against hers.
When that moment of blissful contact came, Sasha let out a plaintive mewl. Blessed torture. Perfect.
Nowhere near enough. She hooked an ankle around his calf and levered her hips into his, stroking herself against his hardened cock.
Alexei tore his mouth away with effort. “Easy, princess,” he rasped. Bracing his hands on both sides of her shoulders, he lifted his upper body away from hers. The faintest hint of a smile touched the corners of his mouth. “Don’t ruin me for the race. I’m already halfway to the finish.” The faint smile disappeared as he lowered his head and grazed his teeth along the delicate shell of her ear. “I want to be inside you when I come,” he whispered. The tip of his tongue flicked against her earlobe. “I want you to come around me. I need that. Can you give it to me, princess?”
By Tori St Claire
 

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

Thank you so much for hosting me today. I’ve been looking forward to dropping in for several weeks now.

I hope you had a safe and happy holiday. The biggest hit here, as it is every year, are smoke bombs. Something about those pretty colors just makes my little demidemons uber-crazy. To the point that I now double-up on what I would plan to buy, so I don’t have to do what I did a few years ago – drive around and scout every tent for smoke bombs, only to discover the entire city was out. Ugh.

I’ve seen a lot of 4ths. To the point that sometimes I’m a little “blah” about the actual celebration thereof. I have some great memories, some wonderful things to reflect on as my children age, and some sweet moments of my own. But there’s one romantic 4th that sticks in my mind the most when I think about this holiday. And surprisingly, it’s the one that had the littlest long-term effect on life.

So I was around… 10, give or take. Each year the city I grew up in held a local festival complete with fireworks. We went every year, hung out for the day, and around dusk Dad would trek to the car for the lawn chairs and blanket, Mom would fish the bug spray out of her purse and douse me (liberally) with it. Then we’d find a spot on the grass, close to someone they knew, and they would chat while I wandered around, close but just far enough away to make me comfortable.

This particular summer, I ran into one of the boys I went to school with, a good friend who I had a huge crush on. And, despite lacking any proof to lend credence to my beliefs, was quite convinced he had a crush on me and just hadn’t said anything. (A delusion I entertained myself with until junior high.) Anywho, I ran into this particular boy that evening. He ended up sitting on my blanket, watching the fireworks with me and my folks, so close that our hands were almost touching. And I was thrilled beyond all rational explanation. To

You see… he chose to sit with me! (Never mind there probably weren’t other folks around). And he was the cutest boy in school! And he liked me but just hadn’t said anything. And he liked me so much more than his brother did too! (Again, by my own creation, but I didn’t hesitate to inform his brother of such in line to the fountain once.)

Anyway… it was an innocent evening, a page straight out of childish fantasy, but something that I’ve never forgotten. He probably had no clue what that night meant to me. But what if that night had held meaning he didn’t (or couldn’t) share?

Alexei and Sasha, in my just-released-yesterday book, Lie To Me, experience a similar situation—although theirs is by no means so benign. Two years ago, they fell into each other, only to have life and demands larger than themselves, force them apart. Neither could speak the truth in their hearts. Even if they could, nothing would have changed the course of events.

When they run into each other all over again, when Alexei is once more forced to up-end Sasha’s life, their emotions are bared open, and all the confessions of their hearts bubble to the surface. But deeper, darker, more damning, secrets plague them. And sometimes, lies are far easier to stomach than the truth. Especially when confronting the truth means finding true acceptance.

I hope you’ll check it out! Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your favorite 4th of July memory!

Tori will be giving away a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card to one random commenter during the month of July.  Two additional commenters will receive a basket of swag.  Follow the tour – the more times you comment the better your chances of winning!  Complete tour dates can be found here.

Review: Lie to Me

Reviewed by Allison

In Tori St. Claire’s latest romantic suspense adventure, we find Alexei Nikanova hooking up with the girl of his dreams, Irina…only to drug her & toss her in a van headed to Dubai so she can be sold into slavery via a human trafficking ring Alexei is a part of. When Irina (real name: Sasha Zablosky) wakes up from being knocked out & she finds out what Alexei is involved in…all she asks is that he doesn’t dose her with the heroin he’s got in his hand because she doesn’t want to become addicted.

WTF.

Even though she was already looking for a way out of Russia, who is okay with being forcibly sent to a sheikh known for taking sick liberties with his women? No one.

BUT, I stuck it out.

We catch up with Sasha two years later as she tells us of her trusted position with another sheikh who has been nothing but wonderful, never made a pass at her, & how she dreams of Alexei & wishes she could tell him that she’s glad he stole her away from Russia, from her father who wants to kill her. Little does she know, she’ll soon have that chance since Alexei has been hired by MI-6 & a Black Ops team from the CIA called the Black Opals to reunite her with her father, a Russian Nobel Laureate with whom she has some bad history. Alexei has arranged a “meeting” with the sheikh…but really his intention is to break Sasha out, only he doesn’t know Sasha is Irina. The “meeting” translates into a threesome between the respectable sheikh, Alexei, & Sasha (blindfolded per Alexei’s request). Both Alexei & Sasha spend the entire time wishing it were the other & when Sasha’s blindfold slips in the heat of the moment & their fantasy becomes reality, Sasha loses control & utters his name – much to her sheikh’s surprise. Alexei knows that the only way out now is to kill him & grab Sasha. So he does. Sasha feels torn because she truly cared about the man who kept her prisoner, as he was her only friend, but her desire to be with Alexei is stronger. So, they book it out of the palace to meet Alexei’s partner who awaits them in the getaway car & so begins the race to find out who they can trust, how they get back to England, & how best to keep their secrets safe while discovering each other & their passionate connection.

I think what it really comes down to with this book is while I really enjoyed the plot, the twists & turns, & the action, I wasn’t sold simply because I didn’t like Alexei & Sasha. Not only did they complain about how the other was totally perfect for them but that they would never deserve the other because of their deep, dark secrets (that took entirely too long to reveal not only to the reader but to each other) but I don’t feel that they learned anything through their trials & tribulations. I need solid characters to convince me of what they’re feeling, to tell me the story, to steal my attention – but they didn’t.

I did appreciate that although the first book is Stripped & the main characters do reappear every now & again, I never felt lost or like I was missing history. And I do fully intend to read Misha’s story because he was my favorite, very sexy & mysterious but still managed chivalry.

Rating: C+ because the sex was smokin’, the action was great, but I couldn’t connect with Alexei & Sasha.


*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Lie to Me
by Tori St. Claire (Claire Ashgrove)
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Publisher: Berkley

Guest Post & Giveaway: Claire Ashgrove

Help me welcome the talented Claire Ashgrove to the blog today.  She’s giving us some of the background on her sexy new book Immortal Hope.  Check out the blurb & some dish from Claire.  Plus, she’s got some info on how you can win an Amazon Gift Certificate.

Templar knights defied the archangels and unearthed the copper scroll, revealing the gates to hell. Cursed for their forbidden act, they forever roam the earth protecting mankind from evil. But darkness stalks them, and battles they fight bring them ever-closer to eternal damnation. One promise remains to give them salvation – the return of the seraphs.

Embittered by his purpose, Merrick du Loire must honor an ancient pact and bring peace to his cousin’s soul. When he stumbles upon history professor Anne MacPherson, he discovers she possesses a sacred artifact that marks her as a seraph. Duty demands he set aside his personal quest and locate the knight she’s fated to heal. As he struggles with conflicting oaths, Anne arouses buried hope and sparks forbidden desire that challenges everything he’s sworn to uphold.

Anne has six weeks to complete her thesis on the Knights Templar. When Merrick takes her to the Templar stronghold, he presents her with all she needs—and awakens a soul-deep ache, he alone can soothe. Yet loving Merrick comes with a price. If she admits she’s destined for him, her gift of foresight predicts his death.

It’s All in A Creepy Old Building

I never set out to have Immortal Hope take place in Kansas City. Truth to tell, for some unexplainable reason, I really don’t care to write about my home town. I do, because I know it, but if I can plot my book otherwise, it will be far removed.

Problem is, as I was trying to think of what the Knights Templar North American Temple would look like the scene where Merrick takes Anne there for the first time would not leave my head. I saw, very clearly, what the Temple looked like from the outside.

Creepy.

Inspiring.

What better place to hide a temple than right beneath the public’s nose, in a dilapidated old building, that’s plagued by rumors of ghosts. They can get away with almost anything – everyone will just blame it on the spirits not at rest. Add the real temple underground… and yes, well suddenly my series was based out of Kansas City.

Real quick, a bit of history on this old building. But before I note the one striking coincidental fact, I think it’s important to say that when I wrote the novel this building was just the “Creepy old building up by Liberty.” And just about everyone I know recognizes it by that “name”. In fact, just the other day I was talking about this, gave that description, and the person I was talking to exclaimed, “Oh! I Know that building!”

Turns out, this year, I’d learn the truth of that old building. A paranormal outfit got hold of it and began running ghost tours. They made the news. And as I was wandering into my kitchen, my creepy old building was on television. It’s the Odd Fellows Home, and the building I chose in particular was a hospital for widows and orphans.

The kicker… it has always been owned by a secret society. Those widows and orphans were the wives and relatives of the secret society, and the society paid for their care.

Now how much more fitting could that possibly get? I nearly fell out of my chair when I did a little more research and stumbled across that particular tidbit.

As it stands now, it’s The Odd Fellows Home, and there are regular ghost tours going on, some that include a wine tasting prior to the event. They don’t tour the house I chose to write about (there’s several on the property), but ghosts are certainly active. And for this paranormal author, the combination of historical record, plus the imagery of what remains of a once-grand building, it became the perfect playground to build a word.

So the next time you’re in Kansas City, and you happen to take a drive up I-35, and you see that creepy old building off to your left – you’ll know instantly once you see it – maybe, just maybe, if you see an unexplainable light its an immortal Templar knight, heading out to combat demons. Or maybe, he’s looking for his seraph.

Out of curiosity – have you seen any old buildings in particular that have made your imagination run wild? I’d love to hear about them!

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

Twitter: @ClaireAshgrove
Claire will be giving away a $25 Amazon.com gift certificate to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and a second $25.00 Amazon.com gift certificate to a second randomly drawn commenter at the end of the tour. Be sure to follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning! Click the Blog Tour badge for a complete list of blog stops. To give you something to talk about, check out this excerpt from Immortal Hope:
“What do you wish to know?”
“You,” the answer popped out before she could stop it. But in that instant, she couldn’t think of anything more truthful. She wanted to know about him, not archangels and nails. Seeing a thin white scar that spanned across the back of his hand, she traced the mark with her nail. “I want to know about you,” she added more quietly. “What caused this?”
Merrick looked down to where she touched him. Using his opposite index finger, he traced the same path her fingernail had taken. Briefly, their fingertips touched. “ ’Tis a mark from a lance.”
“A lance?” Anne struggled with the urge to twine her finger around his.
“Aye. ’Twas a battle that came to us unexpectedly. I was not given time to don my armor before the riders set upon us. The knight struck me there, and here.” He touched his ribs beneath his right arm.
Anne’s gaze lifted to the vulnerable spot and pictured the battle as it might have occurred: Merrick standing down an armored knight on horse back, the sharp metal spear that punctured his flesh, the way his face might have contorted as he bit back a painful cry. Impulsively, she gathered his hand in both of hers and lifted it, bringing it to her lips to place a gentle kiss over the scar. “I’m sorry.”
Merrick said nothing, and in his silence, she began to question maybe she’d taken one too many liberties. They’d hardly begun to get along— what if her unchecked impulse just crossed some invisible boundary? Slowly, cautiously, she lifted her eyes to his. What she found in his  fathomless dark eyes, however, said nothing of anger or annoyance. They gleamed with startling intensity, light bright enough to make her catch her breath.
“Do not be sorry,” he murmured. His eyes canvassed her face, lingered on her mouth. “ ’Twas a scar borne from duty. An order I was sworn to obey.”
The husky quality of his voice sent shivers coursing up and down her spine. She tried to look away, ordered her eyes to settle anywhere but on the sudden softening of Merrick’s expression. But her body refused, leaving her unable to do anything but choke down a dry swallow. When her thoughts cleared enough to form coherent words, she sought to lighten the moment with a bit of humor. “Orders can do that to you, I guess. Like now, you’re stuck with me.”
“I cannot say I find these orders entirely displeasing.” Merrick lifted his free hand to push a length of her hair away from her shoulder.
The back of his hand grazed the side of her neck and goose bumps scattered down her arms. “No?” She closed her eyes a heartbeat too long, time enough for Merrick’s thumb to stroke the line of her jaw and heighten her awareness of his touch.
When she looked again, Merrick had moved closer. Or maybe she had, she couldn’t say. But his thumb caressed the same sensitive spot a second time, the slow stroke oddly gentle for the strength in his hands. “Nay.”
He was going to kiss her, she knew it in the core of her being. Common sense screamed for her to stop him. Longing she’d buried for five years demanded she sit utterly still and wait for the fall of his lips against hers.
Anne chose longing. Afraid the moment would pass before she could fully savor it, she held his gaze, accepting what burned in the dark light of his eyes. One kiss. She’d gone five years without one. She wanted this, wanted his.
Time moved slowly as Merrick leaned forward. Her lungs tightened, her pulse bounded so fiercely she thought her heart might leap out of her chest. His long eyelashes lowered, his fingers cupped the side of her face. And then his mouth brushed hers, warm and soft, hesitant and seeking.
Anne’s breath caught.
OK.  We want to hear from you.  Tell us what you think of the teaser or answer Claire’s question about old buildings. Your comment will put you in the running for that gift card.  A big thank you to Claire Ashgrove for visiting the blog today!!

Review: Immortal Hope

Reviewed by Jen

Long ago, nine men –Knights of the Templar– unearthed sacred relics best left hidden to humanity… one of which was the scroll that reveals the locations to the portals to hell on earth. As a punishment, they were rendered immortal… cursed for their souls to darken as they fight demonkind. Their only hope for the redemption of their souls is to find their seraph –the fated woman to bring light to each knight’s darkness.

Anne has spent her life studying the Templar Knights, but never dreams she’ll actually meet one face to face. Of course, she doesn’t know her boss is the angel Gabriel either. Gabe knows that she is not only a seraph, but the very first one that has been found for the knights. And she will lead the way for the other women yet to come.

A string of events lands her in the midst of the knights, with her destiny revealed. To find her mate, she must match the tattoo on her body to the knight who bears the same mark. She is assigned one man in particular to help her through the process. That man is Merrick.

Of course, Merrick is the man she is supposed to be with, but she is afraid to tell him. You see, Anne has visions and she’s had one of Merrick that shows him dead. She fears that their official joining will set off the chain of events that lead to his death, so she keeps her mouth shut. At the same time, Merrick stays mum on the fact that evil will take over her mate’s soul if she doesn’t join with him soon. Communication barriers abound, leading me to great frustration.

The book was slow to reel me in. But once it did, I was hooked. When Anne and Merrick realized and accepted their attraction to each other, the sexual tension and eventual payoff was really, really good. Merrick is such an honorable man. And he thinks that Anne isn’t his, so he fights his need of her… making it all the more satisfying when he finally gives in. Deeee-licious.

Hoarse and thick, his voice held torment. “Wrong it may be, but I can no longer fight this. I will choose shame and disgrace if it eases the ache that consumes me.” His onyx eyes flashed with something she couldn’t recognize. It reached in deep, wound its claws around her heart, and held on tight.

Quietly, he murmured, “Touch me, Anne.”

(*fans self*) Where was I?

There’s a great cast of secondary characters found in Merrick’s fellow knights. Each, a great tortured hero in the making. (I’m holding out for Tane’s story, myself.)

The book’s not perfect. Like I said, it took me a little while to really warm up to it. The secrets our main characters kept were frustrating. And I got lost once or twice in the Templar background and world building. My biggest question was why there ended up so many knights immortal and in-need of a seraph if only nine were originally cursed. But it was still a really engaging read. Sexy, with a lot of heart. And I will definitely be reading the next installment. 4 stars.

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Immortal Hope
by Claire Ashgrove
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Tor Books