Self’s Blossom by David Russell — Book Review

Disclaimer: Received book for review by author. Jill

self's blossomSelf’s Blossom is literary erotica. That is the only way I can catagorize it. It is literary, lyrical, and poetic. The main character, Selene is on a journey of sexual self-discovery. Mr. Russell’s descriptions of exotic places, pristine beaches, and deep blue seas are hypnotic. You are drawn into the story with descriptive passages and deep characterization.

We are allowed to be Selene’s eyes and senses as she discovers herself through encounters with a young man and an older gentleman. I found myself rooting with Selene to throw off her conservative shackles and embrace the new her she would become.

star_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_empty A great read. Literary, but lyrical.


Jill James, author of contemporary and paranormal romance
New Releases – Defend My Love and The Lake Willowbee Series, Books 1 – 3

Guest – Claire Ashgrove/Tori St.Claire

Everyone, please welcome mega-talented writer, Claire Ashgrove, who also writes as Tori St.Claire.

Hi everyone!  Jill, thanks for having me today!  I’ve been looking forward to it since we talked earlier this month about the guest stop.  I hope everyone’s holidays went well.

2012 is just around the corner, and Jill invited me to stop in and talk about my new projects.  Both release on January 3rd – which has made for a crazy December, let me tell you!  I’ve been writing for a while now, but these are both my debut releases in the world of traditional publishing, and both have become series that are very near and dear to my heart.  So I’m really excited to get to share them at last.

The first is a dark paranormal romance, IMMORTAL HOPE.

As a historian, I’m fascinated with unexplained historical myth and happenings.  I’ve always been equally fascinated with the Knights Templar – long before Dan Brown introduced their fascinating history to fiction readers everywhere.  I knew, before I ever put word on paper in paranormal, that my series involved the Knights Templar.  It just took a while to flesh it out, to figure out which aspect I wanted to work with, and how I could pull the fabled knights into a paranormal romance.  Try… it took a year of almost solid research and letting things percolate before I felt prepared enough to do the base idea justice.

In the end, I chose to work with not the question of what they found (although that plays a role in IMMORTAL HOPE), but what happened to the Knights Templar.  For that matter, what happened to the entire network, not just the men brandishing swords, that totaled over forty-thousand strong and seemingly vanished overnight?

How is that possible?

Well, according to the legend of the archangels… it’s not.  The Templars are among us today.  Fighting an immortal purpose, battling for the salvation of their souls.  And for one knight, Merrick du Loire, Commander of the North American Knights Templar, salvation comes with a price…


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. WhenMerrick 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.

If you’d like a preview, you can read the first chapter on my website.

But sexy knights struggling to overcome the call of evil, weren’t quite sexy enough for me.  I wanted something darker, something even more passionate, and Tori St. Claire came into being, as well as the Black Opals, and STRIPPED.

I’ve always been fascinated with the characters who walk the line between good and… not.  Many of the books I love the most have characters who come from backgrounds where they’ve seen, and done, things we’d rather not acknowledge.  And I thought, “What the heck, let’s go there.”

So I did.  The Black Opals are an elite team of CIA operatives, specialized in making threats disappear.  Only STRIPPED doesn’t begin with that life being part of the past.  Natalya is smack-dab in the middle of a mission, embedded so deeply she’s forced to sacrifice her own morals for the good of Country.  Committing acts that are only legal because of who she works for.  And even then…

But beneath all Natalya’s dark duplicity, what’s at the core of her being is heart.  When she meets a man who awakens her to all the things she’s buried (including a good deal of pleasure), that weakness threatens all she understands.  Secrets, lies, and passion – double yum!

STRIPPED challenged me on so many levels.  Beyond the fact it was my first venture into erotica, the intricacies required to write the suspense I wanted to achieve, the softness I needed to embed in both hero and heroine, and the many layers to the other players all pushed my limits as an author.

In the end, it led to…

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 vulnerableLas Vegasstrippers 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.

Again, if you want a preview, I have an excerpt posted on my website.

If you’d like to know more about IMMORTAL HOPE or STRIPPED, on January 1, I kick off virtual book tours under both pen names.  Throughout the course of both, I’ll be talking about the characters, introducing you to special players, and discussing the writerly-side of crafting both novels.  I’m also giving away Amazon Gift Cards as well.

Click the badges below, to learn the details of each.

Thanks again, Jill, for letting me drop by!  And to all of you – may your New Year be rich and bright!

~Claire Ashgrove


Thanks very much for stopping by, Claire/Tori. If you have any questions about Claire, Tori, or her blog tour, leave a comment. Or just leave a comment to say hi!

Jill James