Release Me (The Stark Series #1)
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120 of 130 people found the following review helpful
If you are a fan of erotic novels with BDSM elements, then you are going to LOVE Release Me by J. Kenner. It is a well-executed, deliciously sensual romance between two emotionally wounded yet surprisingly well-adjusted protagonists. While there are some similarities to the Fifty Shades and Crossfire series, Release Me is much less angsty and the characters and their relationship are MUCH more realistic.

Nikki Fairchild and Damien Stark are wonderfully developed protagonists with dysfunctional pasts. Damien is a former tennis star turned bazillionaire entrepreneur. He is intense and domineering but he is also quite charming. Damien is a very private person who goes to great lengths to keep his personal life out of the limelight but he does reveal certain aspects of his past in order to maintain his relationship with Nikki.

Nikki is a delightful breath of fresh air. She is a strong character that is self-sufficient and independent. While she does have submissive tendencies, Nikki is no shrinking violet. She stands up for herself and she does not allow her relationship with Damien to interfere with her career goals.

Although the story takes place over just a few days, Nikki and Damien's relationship never feels forced or rushed. They take the time to get to know one another outside of the bedroom and there is not a creepy obsessive quality to their burgeoning relationship.

The sexual relationship between Nikki and Damien is slow growing and full of exquisite anticipation. While Damien takes the dominant role he is willing to relinquish control to Nikki. The BDSM aspect is fairly light and consists of bondage, role playing, phone sex and spanking.

Release Me by J. Kenner is an entertaining romance that is quite captivating. Nikki and Damien have their share of flaws and insecurities, but their characters are three dimensional and fully fleshed out. Not all of Damien's secrets are revealed and an intriguing and vaguely threatening exchange at the end of the novel sets the stage for Claim Me, the next installment in the series.

I received a complimentary copy for review.
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2013
I had a hard time trying to figure out how many stars to rate this book and after some thought I eventually decided on an one. This is the lowest I have ever scored any novel and here's why. To start the author takes a group of interesting characters and but does very little with them. There is neither depth nor growth for these characters. Whenever there is opportunity to show any sort of depth for these characters the author runs the other way. The side characters are all but forgotten due to Damien and Nikk's romance. In fact after the beginning they only ever make an appearance in the story to help with NIkki's increasing relationship with Damien.

At some point we find out NIkki's two best friends (who have been there for her countless times) end up sleeping together even though one of them is currently engaged. Afterwards we hear nothing about them because NIkki doesn't want to be caught in the middle and instead chooses to put her focus on Damien. At the very least this makes her selfish and a bad friend for ignoring something that in so many ways is a big deal.

Still even though this is annoying it is not why I gave only one star. Nikki and Damien's relationship (in my opinion it should be called a business transaction) begins when Nikki accepts Damien's proposal to do a nude painting for a million dollars. She stipulates that it must be done within a week so its fair to say the story takes place in about a week and a half. So we're clear Nikki sells herself to Damien and he makes sure that she knows he owns her. So as a reader I am supposed to be ok with two people suddenly falling in love in the course of a week given the way the basis of their relationship. This I find annoying. Damien turns out to be an uber stalker but given his looks and wealth we're supposed to overlook it. He knows things about NIkki that would never turn up in a regular background check. And when she's confronted by this with her best friend she tells him to cut the big brother act and doesn't look any further into it. However the thing that really got me was when Damien tracks down her old boyfriend who broke her heart 5 YEARS AGO and gets him fired, Nikki is only pissed because he never told her before he did it. Not that he would even do it at all. This is a man she hasn't seen or had contact with since they broke up and she justifies Damien's actions by saying he only wanted to protect her. Her old boyfriend was not a threat so what exactly was he protecting her from? To round it all out the sex scenes are repetitive and boring and not very descriptive which wouldn't be a problem they weren't over quickly. All in all this book falls flat on soooo many accounts.
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102 of 115 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2013
Nikki Fairchild is a recent business school graduate from Texas, now living in L. A. and working as an assistant for a successful businessman who is a rainmaker for technology innovators and he's a bit of a sleaze. Damien Stark is the head of a powerful business empire and educational foundation. When Nikki and Damien meet at a party, which is a business function for her, their first contact was emotionally charged and bizarre.

The comparisons to the 50 Shades and Crossfire trilogies by E. L. James and Sylvia Day, respectively, are unfortunately true. I deliberately didn't read any of the reviews so I could form my own, unbiased opinion and still ended up with the same conclusion. At times, I thought of the main character as Eva, the heroine in Bared to You, since the first-person narrative was almost dead on to her. If I hadn't read these two series, I might have enjoyed this book more but there was nothing new or fresh here to keep me engaged or invested in Nikki and Damien.

Putting aside the likeness to the other trilogies (and that's difficult to do), I at first found Nikki to be a potentially interesting character. She's a former participant in the beauty pageant circuit who escaped her mother's insensitive clutches to pursue her educational goals and is pretty smart in her own right. Nikki has lofty goals and is right thinking in her approach to achieving them. This all seems to fall apart when she meets Damien at the party and from there on out she seems to be in a lust-filled haze anytime she's around him. Damien was a former tennis star who was also (surprise) damaged as a young child and has transformed into a brilliant, mega-rich, beautiful, controlling business mogul. Nikki is now his focus and the story becomes a tale of both, especially Nikki, trying to unmask each other to discover their dark secrets.

There's a lot of erotica and, while well written, not particularly inventive (there is one exception involving pearls on a thong...). It does define and advance Nikki and Damien's relationship so it works in that respect. Nikki's two best friends are an important part of the story, one a big Team Damien supporter and the other not.

Nikki does quite a bit of "I can't be with him, I must be with him" angst throughout the story, especially in the first half as she struggles to not sleep with him. Damien is pretty stalker-ish and while Nikki rightly calls him out on it, she caves every time. Each time she discovers something freakish in his background, she runs and hides or runs to him and confronts and then succumbs to him. This is a repetitive theme throughout the book.

The story ends rather abruptly, which leads me to believe this book is part of a series, though I couldn't find any information to substantiate it. If you haven't read either of the two trilogies mentioned here, this will be an interesting and appealing story as it's well written and edited. I might have rated it at least 3.5 stars if I hadn't but I felt like I was reading the same stories with only the names changed and the circumstances of the characters' past slightly altered.

(I received an ARC from NetGalley)
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2013
[edit]

Want to know why I am giving this horrible book 2 stars. The sex scenes.

That's all I liked about this book. I am a sucker for steamy reads and this book had a LITTLE in it..

First can we clear the elephant out of the room and state this author tried a little too hard to cash in on the Fifty Shades/ Bared to You band wagon.. Way too hard, and in my honest opinion she fell really really short..Let's add a rich man, who can fly planes and who likes a woman tied up in his bed, oh and don't forget he has MAJOR secrets.. Of course..

The girl in this story is CRAZY. Baggage is an understatement in what this girl carries around with her, she's a cutter of sorts and she needs mental help, I don't care why she does it, I just care that she is a freaking basket case and that's all I could see when reading about her. I didn't feel anything for her other than pity that she felt it was okay to do what she was doing and to snap at a man who obviously cared about her. The whole casting stones at glass houses thing came to mind. Who are you to point fingers when you slice yourself up? Not sure

Anyway, we spent a little too much time on other things, like the laundry, and Jamie and her sleeping buddies.. I guess I'm just in a not happy book mood

I didn't like it.. Will I read more, no I returned this because I found the 8 dollars for THIS to be a rip off.. I will stick with Christian and Gideon thank you very much
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2013
~Reviewed by ANGELA & posted at Under the Covers Book Blog

"If you like Sylvia Day's BARED TO YOU, Maya Bank's RUSH or Lisa Renee Jones' IF I WERE YOU, I'm am sure you will love Ms. Kenner's RELEASE ME." ~Under the Covers

We have to accept it; Alpha-Billionaire-Heroes are sweeping through the nations' literary world. I have read a good amount of these books but only a few good writers can pull off earning an average of four to five stars, Ms. Kenner included.

Nikki had just graduated from college, moved to California to learn the ropes. Though, her reasons are for independence then just "learning the ropes", her relocation from a small town in Texas to city life in California was a brave move. But who can blame her. She has a very controlling mother who raised her to be a beauty queen. Nikki is very determined to prove to herself she's more brains than beauty.

Damien Stark has become a millionaire on his own merits. He was a successful tennis player and now a successful entrepreneur. Mr. Stark is handsome, rich, and debonair. On the surface, he is perfect but this billionaire has a kink and a dark side to go with it. To me, their dark sides are the most intriguing part. They are characters with issues but these issues brings them back down to a more realistic and believable persona.

Damien Stark and Nikki Fairchild both raised to be someone they are not but now living on their own terms. They've done a wonderful job until they meet, then, all control explodes to mind blowing relationship. Stark was right when he said, "...this isn't just heat, it's a goddamned conflagration. Not chemistry, but nuclear fission." The things they did were off that charts and had me fanning for air. Their relationship was a bit complicated at times but only because of miscommunications and lack of trust. But I think it will get worse before it gets better. I cannot wait to read more about Damien. He is so sweet.

There were a couple of things that prevented me in giving this book 5 stars. The first is the limo scene that in my opinion came too soon. It was a pretty erotic act but it would be nice If they knew each other longer. The other reason is the million dollar proposal. I thought Nikki was independent enough not to accept or demean herself with this offer and I thought there was no need to bribe Nikki as she has fallen for him at this point of the book. Please note that this could be a personal preference not necessarily a bad thing for other readers.

If you like Sylvia Day's BARED TO YOU, Maya Bank's RUSH or Lisa Renee Jones' IF I WERE YOU, I'm am sure you will love Ms. Kenner's RELEASE ME.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2013
Nikki Fairchild: former beauty queen, tormented and controlled by her controlling stage mother and damaged by her sister's suicide. Turns to self-mutilation (cutting) as an outlet for pain. She flees to California to escape her mother's control and runs into...

Damien Stark: former tennis prodigy and champion turned business mogul and bazillionaire. He's devastatingly handsome, and controlling in the way of all handsome bazillionaires and meets Nikki at a Hollywood art showing/cocktail party where...

They are instantly attracted. Of course.

Thus begins Nikki's annoying push-pull, should she or shouldn't she dilemma: does she entertain his advances with their strong overtones of control (just like Mama!), or does she walk away. After all, she is a SERIOUS business woman now. After some serious eye-f**ing, shadowed groping and tonsil hockey, her mind is made up...

Of course she'll pose for a nude painting for his offer of 1million dollars. That'll show him!

He's got secrets and a painful past, she's got secrets and a painful past and somehow they are "perfect" for each other. I wearied of Nikki's wallowing self pity and her shallow attempts at retaining her own control and dignity and then doing an immediate 180 degrees to hand it over to Damien because he "needed" it.

BE WARNED: This is part one of a series. I don't plan to buy the second book.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2013
3.5 stars Reviewed on [...]

Release Me brings us yet another dark, intense and controlling hero with a past as well as a heroine who despite being a tortured soul exudes confidence. The comparisons to, yes I have to say it, Sylvia Day and EL James ran through my head several times and I am of no doubt they will too for anyone reading this book. The similarities are quite apparent.

The story was intriguing, emotional, sensual and sexy but didn't offer anything new to me. I did enjoy it but the premise of this story; in this genre has now been re-created and re-told so many times that as a reader I feel like I needed something new to add to the mix. A surprise twist that hasn't been told before. However, seeing as this is book #1 perhaps this is yet to come with the sequel, Claim Me due to release in July 2013.

In Release Me we have our super loaded Damien Stark who is a former Tennis Pro. Upon retiring he has become an impressive figure in the business world and made his billions as a ruthless force to be reckoned with. Damien is possessive, dark and intense with a relentless need for control. He has his imperfections yes and the word "No" does not feature in his vocabulary. His difficult and torturous childhood, of which we get a few glimpses, have however left him with that endearing vulnerability that our arrogant hero's need.

Our heroine Nikki Fairchild is a girl with an attitude and a hard outer shell that screams don't mess with me. However, she is so broken and scarred both on the inside as well as on the outside that she needs this armour. Her need for pain to release her demons is quite heart-breaking. She is quite a strong heroine and she made me laugh at times with her sarcasm.

Damien and Nikki meet at a party and their instantaneous attraction is palpable. Their intense and emotional story begins from the word go which for me was almost too full on. There was no build up as such. I don't want to spoil anything, which is very easy here, but once I got over half-way I realised why this was instantaneous, but I would have liked to have understood this more in the beginning.

"Possess. Have. Hold. Enjoy. Control. Dominate. Pick your verb, Ms. Fairchild. I intend to explore so very many of them."

This story has some really beautiful and heart wrenching moments as well as pretty intense sensual scenes. I personally wouldn't class this as BDSM; in fact I'd class it as sexy kink. Despite it not leaving a huge mark on me, overall, I did enjoy it and I will definitely be picking up book #2 when it comes out.

ARC courtesy of Random House via NetGalley
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2013
This book could have been a winner if the author took time to develop the characters and an original story.
I struggled to read this book it was SLOW and predictable. What waste of time. Do yourself a favor and read FSOG or the Crossfire series. This book will be a big disappointment!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2013
It started wonderfully, very enticing, the female character sounded well thought out,strong, and intelligent but quickly fell apart without even an interesting story line to help the very poorly developed characters .
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Rating: B+ ... Heat: Sizzling

"Will it be a drama? A rom-com? Not a tragedy, I hope. I love a good cry as much as the next woman, but I like you. You need a happy ending."

Right now there are many, many novels coming out that feature a young lady falling for a rich, handsome billionaire--and said billionaire is usually broken and controlling while the young lady is... Not. You know what I'm talking about. So what makes Release Me different? Why should you read this take on a rich, dominating billionaire falling for the unlikely heroine? Here are my reasons why.

For one, and maybe my most important reason of all: Nikki is smart--the girl has brains and she uses them. She's also incredibly witty and resourceful. And even though Nikki might waver or not quite stick to her guns, she's not weak. Or a pushover or a doormat.

Nikki Fairchild has not had an easy life, by any means. She had no childhood to speak of because of her mother's crazy (and I do mean crazy) desire to have a perfect, perfect daughter. Thankfully, Nikki is finally out from under her mother's thumb and more than a few states away. Nikki is starting over in California with her best friend, Jamie. New home, new job. And on her first job assignment for her new boss, she meets Damien Stark.

Which leads me to reason number two: While Damien has his secrets, and they are dark and myriad, he isn't a complete mystery. Nikki and Damien talk, they get to know each other, and they share--even if there is more of that from Nikki than Damien.

But considering that Damien is in the public eye, and has been ever since his childhood, I don't blame him for not opening up right away. A child prodigy in tennis at six years old, Damien has been scrutinized and... used... one too many times in his life to be an open book. So he is a bit ruthless and dominating and, yeah, he likes to control things. But he's never domineering or disrespectful.

"But so what? What straight female on this planet isn't attracted to you? I'm still not going out with you." "I get what I want, Nikki. You should know that about me right from the start." "And you want dinner with me? I'd think a man in your position would want something a bit more impressive. Like to colonize Mars." "Dinner is just the beginning. I want to touch you," he says, his voice low and commanding. "I want to run my hands over every inch of you. I want you wet for me. I want to finish what we started, Ms. Fairchild. I want to make you come."

And, together, Nikki and Damien make up reason number three: Their chemistry is undeniable and undeniably hot at that. There are so many scenes between these two that left me tingly and flushed. I'm surprised I wasn't saying `Yes!' and `More!' out loud. *wink* And, just to warn you, Damien is a phone sex aficionado. Holy wow.

But just in case you're worried it's only sex, sex, sex (are you crazy?!), there is much more to this story than that. And is my reason number four: there is also humor and heart and mystery throughout. Don't get me wrong though, if you read this book you should enjoy sex, and lots of it, in your romance. The kinky, dirty, naughty kind--which I happen to love!

Release Me was a fabulous beginning to what I hope will be either a trilogy or quadrilogy. I can't wait to see more of Damien's dark side. The edgier, kinkier side. Please, Miz Kenner, explore that to your hearts content.

If you enjoy rich men with a penchant for using scarves to tie their lady to a bed, heroine's who know computer coding and have ambitions of their own, and romance that is sure to leave you desperate and needy--then you won't want to miss Release Me!
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