Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Erotic romantic suspense
Pages: Paperback, 403pp
(Received for an honest review from Berkley Heat)
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Tori St. Claire (Claire Ashgrove) on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter
Excerpt from Stripped (WARNING: This excerpt is inappropriate for readers under the age of 18 years.)
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, 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 newest 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 secrets that could destroy them both.
Stripped is the new erotic romantic suspense novel from Tori St. Claire. St. Claire is no stranger to the publishing world having written historical and paranormal fiction under the name Claire Ashgrove for some time now. Stripped takes it's plot line straight from the headlines, with an intense look into the world of human trafficking. St. Claire gives readers a book with fast-paced action and sizzling romance. A combination that is literally combustible!
Tori St. Claire has written a novel that readers will find satisfying in a lot of ways. Not only is the sex really hot, but the suspense is really riveting. It is amazing to me as a person that the kinds of experiences that St. Claire's characters are having in this book still exist. It's hard to fathom that slavery of any kind still goes on, especially the kind of sexual slavery this book depicts. I think St. Claire did a fabulous job of showing the reader the kind of environment that is conducive to this and the type of people who could allow it and work to support it.
When most people consider reading a erotic romance, several factors enter into which book they ultimately choose. It might be a steamy blurb on the back of the book, a cover that gets them interested, a writer they've always wanted to read, but I would say nine times out of ten it isn't the fact that the book might make them think about how they view the world. Tori St. Claire's book, Stripped will probably do all those things and make the reader consider "if the ends always justify the means."
St. Claire's characters are so well developed that the reader will even feel sympathy for the bad guy, Dmitri. Despite the terrible crimes he has committed, he loves Natalya and ultimately she will betray him. It's rare that a writer can bring out that kind of emotion. I thought her portrayal of Dmitri as well as Natalya and Brandon was spot on and very well written, but one of my favorites is still Natalya's very stalwart and determined partner Sergei. There is just something about that character and the secrets of his own that he is keeping that draws the interest of the reader. I doubt we've seen the last of him, I hope so anyway!
St. Claire's book introduces readers to Natalya Trubachev, a CIA operative under deep cover on a human trafficking case. Natalya has spent the last three years building her cover and her case against a Russian mob boss. As readers would probably expect Natalya has had to do a few things that were probably not on the up and up as she has gone along. In this case, it has meant that she allows herself to get close to the girls that Dmitri intends to kidnap and sell into the human trafficking market. So Natalya has been indirectly responsible for several women being sold into that kind of world. Readers will have to decide for themselves if they think the ends justify the means in this case. Though she helped to sell some women, she is in the long run trying to make a safer future for others. It's definitely a thought provoking question.
Brandon Moretti is the manager of club Fantasia in Las Vegas where Dmitri's next victim is working. Natalya is being sent to get close to the woman and Brandon is looking for a den mother of sorts to watch over his girls. The strip club isn't always the safest of places to work obviously. When Natalya finds out that the next stripper Dmitri intends to kidnap is her own fraternal twin sister, she knows that she must act quickly. What she doesn't realize is that Brandon is an undercover cop working the same case. The air around these two sparks right from the beginning. They are attracted to each other body and soul and it's electric. These are some of the steamiest love scenes I think I've ever read. It's something about the connection between these two, perhaps the danger of what's at stake that really ramps up the sex. Whatever it is... it's definitely HOT!
All things considered I liked this book a lot. I tend to read less romantic suspense than most genres, but I liked the plot of this one, the intensity and the romantic connection between the main characters. I liked the idea that an erotic romance kept me on my toes and made me think about what people sometimes have to do to keep us safe. Nothing is ever really black and white is it?... even right and wrong! I recommend this one to erotic romance readers and the mystery and suspense crowd. There is a lot going on here and I can't wait to see what happens with this elite group of operatives next. I loved the whole idea of the "Black Opals" and hope that St. Claire continues to write about them.
Stripped is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag.
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.