Interview & Giveaway with Tori St. Claire {LIE TO ME}

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Please welcome the fabulous Tori St. Claire (aka. Claire Ashgrove) to Novel Reflections. She’s here today to talk about her newest release, LIE TO ME (A Black Opals series novel).
 

Blurb: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 Zabloskyóa 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.

Welcome to Novel Reflections, Tori!

Please tell us about your latest release.

Lie to Me is the second Black Opals story, a dark and edgy series based on a covert group of CIA operatives who often find themselves in more trouble than their guns can handle. Oh, and did I mention they know the benefit of true pleasure and will give their all to achieve it? Yep, hot and steamy here!

What was the inspiration behind this book?

Alexei, the hero, inspired me to write this book, as cheezy as it sounds. He’d been hanging around in my head since I mentioned him in Stripped, and subtly trying to divert my attention. When I failed to listen, he became more demanding. I put some serious thought into what made the man tick and fell in love with his dark past and the damaged man he’s become. The more I thought about him, the more I tinkered with possibilities, the more life he took on. What he goes through in Lie to Me, what he has to confront — both internally and externally — and the place he has to reach to find happiness required a heroine who couldn’t be all goodness and light, but also had to have a lot of softness about her. The ability to break through his walls and chase away his demons, despite her own. When I had each of them roughly formed, the story took place pretty much on its own.

Can you tell readers who are not familiar with this series what the premise of the stories are about?

The Black Opal series is about elite CIA operatives, who walk a fine line between right and wrong. They aren’t “Superman” coming in to save the day. They struggle with things they’ve been forced to do in the name of duty; decisions they couldn’t make any other way. They’re hard and dangerous, bordering more on morally ambiguous characters. And as it says in the preface of each book: “To those who encounter them, they are professional killers. Within the CIA they are the rare Black Opals.”

Were any of the characters a challenge to write?

Nope. Oddly enough every character that has appeared in the series — and particularly in Lie To Me — came on the page fully developed. I didn’t have to struggle to make them fit together or fit the plot.

Without giving away spoilers, can you share your favorite scene from the book?

My very favorite scene is the argument between Sasha and Alexei after she’s made a break for it. There’s so much unfettered emotion in the exchange, and it was incredibly fun to bring all that out into the open.

With the book being part of a series, are there any character or story arcs that readers jumping in somewhere other than the beginning need to be aware of?

Given that each book is designed to stand alone, no. In the first book, our hero and heroine are Natalya and Brandon. They make a brief appearance in Lie To Me, and there are some inside jokes written in. It might help to understand those remarks better if someone had read STRIPPED, but those instances are in no way detrimental to the story arc for Alexei and Sasha.

What do you feel makes your characters unique?

We see a lot of heroes and heroines who are trying to overcome the lives they’ve lived, or who are brooding over their ‘dark’ qualities. My characters are in the midst of situations that are often alluded to in backstory of other characters. They are in the thick of things, working in assignments that would make someone’s toes curl. I’ve brought these situations front and center, as opposed to leaving them as the past. Which often presents them as morally ambiguous — a type that I simply adore. Are they good, are they bad? You decide.

What can readers expect next from you?

Rumor has it the next Black Opal book will make an appearance around November. Meanwhile, as Claire Ashgrove, I have a historical releasing August 1, and my second Templar Knight paranormal romance releases September 25th!

Can you leave readers with a little teaser from LIE TO ME?

Sasha rolled over, propped her head up on one elbow. “Who do you work for, Alexei?”

That was certainly the last question he’d ever prepared for. Chancing a glance at her upturned face, he debated how to answer. She’d told him she worked for FSB; she undoubtedly knew he was an American agent—virtually all of Dubai knew. But tell her about the Opals? Let her in?

What the hell. They’d already named themselves in front of her. She knew their director’s name. He stared at the television as he answered, “A special division within the CIA known as the Black Opals. We’re the ones they send when it’s real dicey and they need to delete someone with the press of a button.”

“Delete?”

More quietly he added, “We don’t exist.”

He crossed opposite ankles and folded his hands behind his head, leaning back against the headboard. Waiting for her to make the association between his vague explanation and the truth of his work. When she did, shock would stop her questions.

Instead, Sasha’s palm fitted over his belly, gentle sweeping motions that rumpled the fabric of his shirt and offered more comfort than Alexei had known could exist. “Isn’t that . . . difficult?” she asked softly.

“Difficult? The missions are never ea—”

“No. Not existing.” That delightful little palm slid higher, caressing the lower part of his chest. “I mean, don’t you ever crave life? The simple things like owning a house and paying someone to rake your leaves.” The heel of her palm worked into his tense muscles. “Like sleeping in on a Saturday and having breakfast in bed.”

More than she could understand. He tensed. She was getting too close, treading too far into murky waters he didn’t want to disturb.

Dropping to an almost inaudible whisper, her voice washed over his body. “Have you ever been in love, Alexei?”

Danger. Combustion imminent. Alexei covered the sudden trip of his heart with a harsh chuckle. “Love’s not an option in my line of work, princess.”

She was silent for a blissful moment, leaving him with the conclusion he’d scared her off. As luck would have things, however, when she did speak, she didn’t traipse around uncomfortable, she plunged in headfirst. “You only call me princess when I’ve hit a nerve. So tell me, Agent Nikanova, are you afraid of the fall, or afraid of the loss?”

Author Bio:National Bestselling author 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.

Where can readers find you on the web?

website: www.toristclaire.com
blog: http://toristclaire.blogspot.com
Alternate Pen Name, Claire Ashgrove Website: www.claireashgrove.com
Twitter: @ClaireAshgrove

Giveaway Details:

  • 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.
  • Please leave a meaningful comment or question for Tori, along with your broken up email addy.