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.
Black Opal operative Natalya Trubachev goes undercover at a Las Vegas club called Fantasia. She walks a delicate line as she juggles the needs of her crime boss Dmitri, her own safety and her growing fascination with Brandon Moretti. Brandon is actually an undercover detective, but Natalya doesn’t know this and she suspects him of being the contact she needs to neutralize.
I suspect that this is one of these books that readers will either like or dislike intensely because of the subject matter and the heroine’s occupation/past history. While deep undercover Natalya has killed and also lead innocent women into a life of drug addiction and prostitution. She feels deep remorse for the acts she has committed and this both shapes her and snaps at her heels, putting her under deep mental pressure. If she fails in this mission, more women will suffer the same fate, and this time her twin sister is the chosen victim.
While I could understand the heroine’s motivations, I didn’t like or enjoy the plot. That said, STRIPPED packs a real punch. Ms. St. Claire writes fresh, vibrant prose that the writer in me aspires to, and the sexual tension between Natalya and Brandon crackles each time they meet. I swear smoke poured from my iPad each time I opened this book! If you prefer a sweet romance then this isn’t the book for you. Stripped has numerous explicit love scenes, which showcase the hero and heroine’s growing relationship.
Characterization, check! Both main and secondary characters are rounded and real with clear motivations and conflict. One small problem I had was the familial relationship between Brandon and Sergei. While I could buy that Natalya and Kate were sisters it seemed a little too convenient that Brandon and Sergei were long-lost brothers too. I had to stretch my imagination to accept this coincidence.
While the plot didn’t do it for me, this is an interesting story where the characters are racing to beat a ticking clock. It’s full of danger and passion and characters with much at stake. The author’s voice grabbed me, and I’ll definitely be looking for more from Ms. St. Clare. Luckily for me there’s a sequel due out later in the year. Fans of romantic suspense—give this one a try.