Friday, December 30, 2011

Guest romance author Claire Ashgrove!

The Lure of Darkness

One of the things that enchants me, as an author, about paranormal romance is the ability to draw on dark characters, dark motives, and dark plots.  If you think about it, that’s the dominant theme to most paranormal romances – vampires, werewolves, demons… darkness everywhere!

Why do I like the dark?  It gives me more freedom to work with intriguing set-ups.  My characters don’t necessarily have to fit what we would find acceptable if we were face-to-face with the hero or heroine.  I also find it’s a perfect breeding ground for suspense, as well as sexual tension.

On January 3rd, I have two different titles, under two different pen names releasing, and both incorporate my love of the darkness, although I incorporated that fascination in different ways.

In the first, my paranormal romance IMMORTAL HOPE, I played with the age-old battle between darkness and light. 

Templar Knights, fighting against the most unholy, Azazel.  Only I twisted it a bit more and fell deeper into the lure.  My knights must not only battle the darkness surrounding them, but that within as well.  Each time they fight and kill, their souls become compromised, pushing them further away from their sworn path and into the control of Azazel.  Their salvation?  An ancient prophecy promising the seraphs return.  Only, the modern-day women the knights encounter may not be so willing to accept their preordained fate.

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.

With IMMORTAL HOPE, as the plot took shape, I was able to really dig into unique character traits and flaws.  Not only with my main characters, but my secondaries as well.  I was able to craft some truly gruesome scenes without jeopardizing the overall, and, given the nature of the players, add seduction in on top of everything.  The constant threat of danger left plenty of room for action, and the underlying goal of Azazel’s, plus some incidents that happen amongst the Knights themselves, allowed me to maintain a level of suspense throughout.

Dark romance.  Dark characters.  Dark settings… yum!

But as I said, IMMORTAL HOPE isn’t the only place you’ll find my fascination with the darker side.  My Berkley Heat release, STRIPPED (written as Tori St. Claire), also allowed me to play to my heart’s content.

With the Black Opal series, I was able to look at another side of mankind and play with my favorite character type – the morally ambiguous character.  It’s erotic romantic suspense, not paranormal, but the dark themes are still very present.  After all – who could really say they’d want their children to grow up and become elite killers?

Natalya, the heroine in STRIPPED, challenged me on many levels, as did her counterparts within the Black Opals.  I had to redeem her, to the best of my ability and her character design.  Which isn’t easy when she’s as proficient at lying as she is with a gun.  When she’s acted against her own gender in the name of National Security.

But here, the dark underworld of sin and pleasure was a perfect means of creating suspense, of keeping the action alive, and, of course, maintaining the erotic elements.  Really, I can’t think of anyone who could understand the meaning of pleasure better than a Black Opal, who could cease to exist at any given moment.

It was a fascinating write, a challenging write, and I think the part that I found most enjoyable was cracking Natalya open and revealing the one thing she’s kept hidden away – her heart.

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.

So what about all of you – what draws you to the darkness?  What is it about these vampires, these werewolves, these demons and the special ops with edgy backgrounds that makes you fall in love?

Let me know in the comments, and I will send one random commenter a copy of both STRIPPED and IMMORTAL HOPE. 

Meanwhile, if you drop in on either of my blogs, you’ll see I have two virtual tours starting in January, and both have opportunities to win Amazon Gift Cards.  Throughout the month I’ll be talking about each series, introducing you to some characters, and discussing what drew me to the ideas even more.  I hope I’ll see you there.

Thanks, Laurie, for letting me stop in today!

~Claire Ashgrove

~Tori St. Claire


  1. I guess most of us have darkness in us somewhere, but usually we keep it hidden .It's good to read about the darkness in books because it lets us get a peek at what could be instead of what normally is. I think we feel, or I at least do, that when I read these kinds of books, I'm living vicariously through the characters. I can feel all that is happening and maybe even enjoy it without anything bad happening to me.


  2. I have to agree with Joanne's comment. I think everyone has a draw to the darker side of life. There are many people in the world that lives those lives, but I'd much rather read about them instead. It allows me to somewhat "experience" them and come back to my life when I close the book.

  3. I also concur with the idea that everyone has darkness in them. I think this is the healthy way most people experience it. Otherwise we'd all be locked up somewhere... although I'm not entirely certain what that says about us authors who write about it actively. Hm... :)

  4. The secrecy, the sheer mystery of not knowing, the dramatics not to say the sex appeal of the heroes.

  5. The push pull between dark and light is always intriguing. Like a good jazz solo, it's all about tension and release. How far can a character move toward the darkness and still be redeemable? Banging against boundaries where what is heroic becomes a bit blurred is a fascinating topic to explore.

    All dark or all light characters are boring. As others have so rightly said, we all wrestle with dark within ourselves, so naturally it is interesting to read about. Good luck Tori and Claire on your upcoming releases.

  6. Diane, the heroes definitely do have great sex appeal. I guess that harkens back to the teenage days for me when the guys who were always in In School Suspension made me the most curious. Laugh!

  7. Derek! That's my favorite question! And my favorite characterization approach. How far can I push them... Mmmm.

    Thanks for the well wishes and stopping by!

  8. I have had my eye on Immortal Hope ever since I heard about it. But never really looked at Stripped, both sound very good! Hope they both do wonderfuly for you!

  9. We're like twin souls, Claire. I love darkness too! And, as a reader of most everything you've written (especially the dark stuff), I'd have to say you do it very, very well. Can't wait until these are released and readers everywhere get to enjoy them. Congratulations and best of luck!


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