Janine Ashbless talks moral ambiguity, in ‘Prison of the Angels’

 

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You might already know that I’m a fan of Janine Ashbless. She’s one of our boldest, most inventive storytellers, blending elements of folktales, the magical and supernatural with erotic themes. As well as writing masterful short story fiction, Janine has created the Book of the Watchers trilogy, drawing on the Biblical theme of the angels cast from Heaven, and the eternal struggle ever after. Her themes are sweeping: the nature of good and evil, but also the nature of power and freedom, and our search for fulfilment.

Serious themes but, in Janine’s hands, the series is a supernatural thriller, ‘hot and frantic’. She explains, “The characters grapple with real problems of culpability, freedom, empathy and forgiveness.” Moreover, all the sexual relationships are complicated, purposefully ‘morally murky’, so that we, as readers, are obliged to draw our own conclusions, to decide for ourselves how we feel about each character’s actions.

Janine Ashbless quote

As Jacqueline Brocker writes in her review of In Bonds of the Earth (the second in the series), none of Janine’s characters are wholly sympathetic. In a tale exploring the battle between eternal forces, it’s the reader’s job to discern where good ends and evil begins. Except, of course, as in all of the most masterful of stories, there is no simple answer. We, being flawed ourselves, are in little position to judge.

Janine tells us, “My heroine Milja has to make a series of increasingly horrific and difficult choices following on from the first, momentous one: to free the fallen angel imprisoned by the Heavenly powers beneath her home. Milja is a nice (Orthodox) Christian girl, or at least she’d like to be. She has faith in a Good and Loving and Just God. But she can’t bring herself to accept that it’s fair or right that Azazel is bound in suffering and torment for thousands of years, whatever his crimes. So, against all the precepts of the Church and her family, she frees him … and then finds herself living with the consequences.”

“She’s motivated by compassion, right? Oh, and the fact that she’s fallen in love with this prisoner… which is not so laudable. But wait – you could see Milja as an abuser. (She does! She‘s guilty that she’s made sexual use of Azazel when he was powerless to resist.) But equally – as Egan, rival for her affections, points out – it’s also possible to make the case that Azazel has been grooming her from childhood, through her dreams.”

“Poor Milja spends the whole trilogy trying to pick her way through the dark moral maze of a supernatural war, without a light to show her the path ahead. Once you’ve rejected the dictum that “Whatever God decrees must by definition be right”, what are you left to fall back on? Your conscience? That’s far from infallible, especially when you’re young and in love, or incredibly ancient and physically superior to the entire human race.  Azazel kills without compunction – for him Might Makes Right, and he barely registers that inferior beings have any right to agency. Well, he learned that one off his Creator.”

PotA finalThe Prison of the Angels is the final novel in the Book of the Watchers trilogy: the story of a young woman who releases a fallen angel from centuries of imprisonment. Purchase directly from Sinful Press

or from the following retailers: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Google Play, and Kobo

 
Milja Petak’s world has fallen apart.

Her lover, the fallen angel Azazel, has cast her aside in rage and disgust. The other contender for her heart, the Catholic priest Egan Kansky, was surrendered back into the hands of the shadowy Vatican organization, Vidimus, after sustaining life-threatening injuries.

She has killed and she has betrayed. She is alone, homeless, and at the end of her tether – torn apart by guilt and the love she has lost. But neither Heaven nor its terrifying representatives on Earth have finished with Milja. Both of her lovers need her in order to further their very different plans, and both passionately need her, though they may try to deny it.

Milja is once again forced into a series of choices as she uncovers the secrets Heaven has been guarding for centuries. But this time it is not just her heart at stake, or even the fate of a fallen angel.

This time, the choices she make will change everything.

This time it’s the End of the World.

 

Praise for this series:cropped Angel

Book 1: Cover Him with Darkness

Book 2: In Bonds of the Earth

 

“An absolute must-read.” — Rose Caraway, The Sexy Librarian

“Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, only much better written and with much more sexiness involved.” — Clitical

“Damn, if Dostoevsky wrote smolderingly hot erotica about fallen angels, he’d be Janine Ashbless.” — Samantha MacLeod

“The first two books of this series are smart, sexy, literate, gripping, and moving. I can’t wait for the third.” — Jaqueline Brocker

“Oh it’s incredible. I love this series and the final book is a masterpiece.” — Anna Sky, Sexy Little Pages

 

Janine Ashbless
Janine Ashbless, photographed by David Woolfall

Janine Ashbless is a writer of fantasy erotica and steamy romantic adventure – and that’s “fantasy” in the sense of swords ‘n’ sandals, contemporary paranormal, fairytale, and stories based on mythology and folklore.  She likes to write about magic and mystery, dangerous power dynamics, borderline terror, and the not-quite-human.

Janine has been seeing her books in print since 2000, and her novels and single-author collections now run into double figures. She’s also had numerous short stories published: by Black Lace, Nexus, Cleis Press, Ravenous Romance, Harlequin Spice, Storm Moon, Xcite, Mischief Books, and Ellora’s Cave, among others. She is co-editor of the nerd erotica anthology Geek Love.

Her work has been described as: “hardcore and literate” (Madeline Moore) and “vivid and tempestuous and dangerous, and bursting with sacrifice, death and love.”   (Portia Da Costa)

www.janineashbless.blogspot.com

www.janineashbless.com

Goodreads

Janine Ashbless Facebook

Amazon UK Author Page

Amazon US Author Page

 

Excerpt:

I was bootless and naked, almost knee-deep in a drift. I still had my panties in my right hand, but they seemed purposeless so I tossed them away with an uncomprehending laugh, starlight fizzling against my bare flesh. I shook out my hands and lifted my arms to the moon, feeling its glare lap me like a cold tongue. Every particle of my flesh was filled with its glow.

My hair unwound itself from its braid and spread out on the air, a dark cloud.

“Milja?” It was Egan’s voice, all resonance flattened by the snow. “Are you okay?”

“I’m just fine! Over here! Look at the aurora!”

He waded into sight between the small trees, looking around himself in confusion; up at the laden branches, down at his hands. “I can see every flake,” he said wonderingly. “I could see where you danced in the snow.” He finally caught sight of me properly. “Ah.”

I came to him through the snow, feeling the squeak of its compression beneath my bare soles. He was muffled up in all his outdoor gear, and I recognized my discarded clothes in his gloved hand.

“You’re not cold then?” he said faintly.

“I’m hot,” I giggled, pulling the garments out of his hand and dropping them aside, then catching his gloves and drawing them off to discard too. I put his hands on my waist so that he could share my body-heat; they felt cool to me.

“I can count your eyelashes,” he whispered. His pupils were hugely dilated, making his eyes look black and empty.

“I’m impressed,” I laughed, drawing his hand up to cup my bare breast, where it belonged. “My eyes aren’t even down there.”

He made a valiant effort to lift his gaze back to my face, but failed. He seemed hypnotized by the sight of my naked body, by the in-curve of my waist and the swell of my breasts. “Oh God. That mead was spiked. There was something in it—I don’t know what.”

“Angel blood.” I quivered as his fingertips found my erect nipple. “It’s made with blood.”

“What’s it doing to us?”

“Don’t worry.” I stretched up to brush my face against his, and the press of my body forced him to move his hands around to my back and my ass, skin gliding over skin, testing the slopes and curves like they were snow mounds he dare not deface. “Just enjoy.”

He made a broken noise in his throat, but his hands were everywhere.

I brushed my cheek against his, teasing his lips with the promise of my own. His frozen breath had formed a crust of rime on his stubbled jaw and I kissed it away.

“Milja.” The word was thick with desire. “Don’t.”

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