DESIRE IS THE DARKEST MAGIC OF ALL
Three centuries ago, vampire Jason Rourke succumbed to temptation with a wizard’s lovely daughter—and that brief taste of pleasure earned him a powerful curse. Trapped within a painting, unable to quench the hellish thirst that torments him, Jason has given up hope of escape until Karinna Adams purchases the painting and unwittingly frees him.
At first, Jason plans only to enlist Kari’s help in navigating this strange new world so he can find and punish the wizard who entrapped him. But Kari’s enticing sensuality and innocence incite a growing need in Jason to touch and taste her, to possess her utterly. For the gulf between them—and the danger that awaits—is nothing compared to a potent, primal hunger that will last for all eternity…
There was nothing the least bit remarkable about the old Underwood Art Gallery located on the corner of Third Street and Pine. And nothing particularly remarkable about the paintings displayed inside. For the most part, the works of art were uninspired scenes of landscapes and seascapes and an occasional still life, except for one rather large painting in the back of the gallery. It depicted a tall, fair-haired man wandering in the moonlight through a heavily wooded forest that bordered a calm blue lake.
The painting was by an artist named Josef Vilnius, and was aptly titled “Man Walking in the Moonlight”. Karinna Adams had never heard of Vilnius, but it was an interesting piece in that the colors seemed to change depending on the time of day - the blues and greens and golds bright and cheerful when she observed the painting during the afternoon, the hues more somber and subdued when she arrived at the gallery in the evening. The changes in hue were especially puzzling since they had nothing to do with the gallery’s interior lighting and seemed to be some anomaly inherent in the painting itself. It was most peculiar, and it had drawn Kari back to Underwood’s time and time again.
Tonight was no different. Kari stood in front of the mysterious painting, her gaze moving from the old rowboat tied up alongside the narrow wooden dock to the gray stone castle perched high atop a grassy hill. A shaggy black and white dog slept in the shade on the north side of the castle, a gray kitten frolicked in a bed of flowers. A lamp burned in an upstairs window. Swirls of blue-gray smoke curled up from one of the castle’s many chimneys. A white horse grazed in a large grassy field, its coat shining like silver in the moonlight. The horse looked so real, she wouldn’t have been surprised to see it galloping across the greensward.
Kari had visited the Underwood gallery every night after work for the last two weeks. And every night, the man in the painting had either been in a different pose or in a different location, first walking in the moon-shadowed woods, now fishing from the boat under a starry sky, now looking out at the night from one of the castle’s second-story windows, now resting on a large rock near the water, now sitting on the edge of the dock.
Tonight, he was astride the horse, his head turned to look back at the castle on the hill. Moonlight shimmered in his hair, which fell past his shoulders. He wore a loose-fitting white shirt, snug brown breeches, brown boots, and a long black cloak that fell in graceful folds over the horse’s hindquarters. His hair was dark blond, as were his brows above deep blue eyes. He had a sharp nose, a sensual mouth, a strong, square jaw line. He was a remarkably handsome creature, and she often wondered if the artist had used a live model, or if the figure had been drawn from the artist’s imagination.
Kari moved closer to the painting, trying to determine how the figure of the man moved from place to place. So far, she hadn’t been able to determine how the artist had managed such a remarkable feat. At first, she had thought the man might not be a part of the painting itself, but perhaps a cut-out figure that could be moved and posed at will. But she had quickly dismissed that idea. He had to be a part of the painting, just like the boat, the dog, the kitten, the horse, and the castle. She wondered if the artist had painted several versions of the same scene and the gallery owner changed them from time to time, just to mystify the public, but that hardly seemed likely. Perhaps Vilnius had just used the same technique that made it seem as if the eyes of a painting were following you, like the ones in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.
With a shake of her head, Karinna glanced at her watch. The gallery would be closing in a few minutes. She could scarcely believe she had been standing in front of the painting for almost an hour!
When she looked back at the canvas, the man was staring at her.
Startled, Kari took a step backward, then leaned forward, her eyes narrowing as she studied the figure. His lips seemed to be moving, forming the words, “help me”.
That did it, she thought. She was losing her mind; that was the only answer. Painted figures did not move, nor did they speak. Filled with a sudden cold fear, Kari turned and ran out of the gallery.
She was breathless by the time she reached her car. Sliding behind the wheel, she locked the door, then drove home as if pursued by demons. It wasn’t until she was safely inside her own house, with the front door securely locked behind her, that sanity returned. She was behaving irrationally, letting her imagination get the best of her. People in paintings didn’t move. They certainly didn’t speak. Tomorrow, she would go back to the gallery and the man would be walking in the moonlit woods, where he belonged. He wouldn’t move, he wouldn’t look at her, and he definitely wouldn’t speak!
Blowing out a sigh, she went into the bathroom, turned on the water in the tub, and lit a blue candle. Blue, for serenity and harmony and to soothe a troubled mind. And her mind was more than troubled. It just wasn’t normal to be so obsessed with a painting. And, as if it wasn’t bad enough that the man in the painting dominated her thoughts during the day, he had started haunting her dreams at night.
With the candle glowing softly and the bathtub filled almost to over-flowing with fragrant bubbles, Kari stepped into the water for a long, leisurely soak. She had been working too hard. That’s all it was, just job-induced stress combined with a vivid, over-active imagination.
She closed her eyes. It was just stress. Nothing to worry about. Lots of people suffered from it these days and it was perfectly understandable, what with the state of the economy, the high price of gas, ever-growing tensions in the Middle East, and the ongoing investigations into the questionable benefits and possible risks of several high profile, over-the-counter drugs. Add to that the ever-increasing number of floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes that were pummeling distant parts of the earth and it was a wonder the whole world wasn’t going quietly insane.
Kari blew out a sigh of relief. Stress, she thought again. Of course, that's all it was. She wasn't going crazy after all.
IMMORTAL SINS is witty, fun and passionate. A perfect romance!
Check out Steven's review of IMMORTAL SINS and blog at Steven's Cybrary
Buy it here: Zebra Books
Also available on Kindle
Bobbi Sinha-Morey at The Specusphere said:
Amanda Ashley, who gave us A Whisper Of Eternity and After Sundown, now brings us another paranormal romance. Kari, the central character, is enraptured by a picture in an art gallery. There is a man in the painting who wants to find his way out: his name is Jason. The story has something of the effect of a Night Gallery episode. or of the Meg Ryan movie Kate And Leopold. A sweet relationship slowly grows between Kari and Jason. It’s even a bit silly at times, which adds to the entertainment. We especially come to love Jason. He’s a fully rounded character. He knows how to rough it and has a few tricks of his own, but he's soft and tender around Kari, and very much a gentleman. He takes the time to know Kari, and he’s very patient with her. He’s beguiling, a smooth talker, especially when he’s around other women! Another character, Ana Luisa, is also an object of fascination for the reader.
The story does illustrate certain concepts about the differences between men and women. Men, we are shown, are ruled more by logic than women are. Furthermore, Kari and Ana Luisa are very refined, gentle and feminine; the sort of things we are told men generally look for in a woman. It’s easy to like Kari and Ana Luisa, and it’s engaging to see how Ana Luisa grows as a character. The relationship between Kari and Jason becomes a strong one, and when one of the major highlights comes it has a profound impact on the reader. It’s moving, not the least bit overdone, and it shows how a virtuous woman feels. Aside from this, the author gives the romance a modern-day twist, which adds extra appeal. The story also imparts a message: that lives are sacred and shouldn’t be wasted.
Overall, despite its somewhat clichéd characters and situations, Immortal Sins is is more than a paranormal romance. It has moments of horror and dark fantasy as well. Not only is the story exciting and magical, but it's also poignant. Those who like a dark, enchanting tale about vampires will enjoy this; it’s Amanda Ashley at her very best. She’s stirring and emotive, and the story is like a gripping, suspenseful nighttime soap opera. Readers will lap it up and hope for more.
Pamela Denise at Romance Junkies said:
Jason Rourke has spent the last three hundred years trapped inside a painting, watching from his limited view through the glass, as the world changed with each passing year. A fleeting moment of assuaging his arousal and taste for blood on the young beauty that turned out to be the daughter of a wizard had caused him years of unspeakable torture. The wizard found Jason with his daughter, and in a fit of rage because she had given her virginity to a vampire, cast the two lovers into two separate paintings. The only way to break the enchantment is to be called forth or wished from the painting.
Karinna Adams is drawn to a mysterious painting she happens upon in a shop. She goes by every evening to view it, noticing that each time the painting has changed. The man is always in a different place. Frightened that her sanity is slipping, but fascinated at the same time, she ends up purchasing the painting and taking it home. She begins to believe the man is communicating with her and she wishes him there with her. Suddenly, the painting falls to the floor, and Karinna is shocked to find the handsome vampire Jason Rourke now out of the painting and standing in her living room.
After telling Karinna his story of how he became trapped in the painting, Jason enlists her aid to help him catch up on modern times while he plans his revenge against the wizard. However, his twenty-first century tour guide entices him more each passing day with her innocence and alluring features. Karinna is drawn to Jason like a moth to a flame, but fears the complications of him being a vampire. As their feelings grow for one another, danger closes in on them, as the wizard who entrapped Jason has plans of his own.
IMMORTAL SINS delivers romance, excitement, enchantment and more. Amanda Ashley’s spin of the classic vampire tale is fascinating. The addition of wizards, witches and curses brought a nice fairytale touch into the picture. The main characters caught my attention from the beginning and only grew on me more as the story progressed. One of the things I liked most was Ms. Ashley bringing human emotion and characteristics across in her vampires,yet obtaining the more classic qualities at the same time. She is always a favorite to read and an author I recommend to both old and new fans of paranormal romance.
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