This review applies to all three books in the trilogy:
I guess I am currently on a billionaire glomming spree. After reading RK Lilley's “Up in the Air” trilogy, I immediately started on J. Kenner's series and got totally involved in Damien Stark and Nikki Fairchild's story.
After reading the first verb in the present tense, I had to swallow some serious cussing. I really don't like reading books written in the present tense, and I often make a very conscious decision to not read an author because of this choice, no matter how highly the book comes recommended. Luckily for yours truly, “Release Me”, crept right around my radar and totally convinced me that the eeeevil present tense is actually not that bad. I forgot about it most of the time and that's really something, considering the trilogy encompasses roughly a thousand pages. I attribute that right to J. Kenner's splendid writing style which is very polished, captivating and got right under my skin, making my pulse speed up and my concentration totally focused on the story (and not the shopping list).
The sex scenes are very very hot, sizzling and burning, showing me an interesting take on the concept of sadomasochism. Nikki is a cutter largely due to a micro managing, controlling mother who schlepped her daughter to beauty pageants all her life. Only at the age of eighteen Nikki has learned to distance herself from her mother and find solace in the addictive form of pain. Personally, I find the SM aspect of the trilogy very mild. I have read so many books in the BDSM genre, that a few whips and spanks and bonds do not make a SM story for me. I am talking from a layman's perspective here, but I imagine the pain from serious cutting is way stronger than from four or five carefully delivered spanks. Damien Stark is a very dominant person but in my opinion not really a character who is truly into D/s or SM. Don't take me wrong, they work very well together as a couple and the chemistry is seriously hot, but considering Nikki's affliction, I had the impression that she needed more pain than he delivered. The “Up In The Air” trilogy, too, dealt with a SM relationship and while I still wouldn't consider that one hardcore there was true pain involved.
Damien is a very sexy hero. Beautiful, possessive, protective, sometimes a little bit over-bearing but without the stalker-ish compulsion of Jesse Ward, hero of the "This Man" trilogy. My problem with Damien lay with his sheer superhuman richness and power. I do like reading about rich heroes who go all boinkers over the heroine, but Damien was shown as too omnipotent with business interests all over the world and literally every possible venue. For my personal tastes that's just too much, especially considering he's only thirty. I am not talking about the reality factor here as I consider this kind of books great escapism romance, but I don't find a superhero as a partner all that attractive. Damien shows a lot of vulnerability, especially considering his hurtful past which is slowly revealed during the trilogy, but a little less omnipresent power would have been more. So far, Abigail Barnette's “The Boss” hero, Neil Elwood, is unsurpassed. He is rich, yet understated, he doesn't flounce his wealth but doesn't hide it either, and he doesn't have tons of paparazzis and tabloid reporters following him every step.
One last comment concerning the third instalment. This one is partly set in Germany and the author has done a good job of letting Munich and its Maximilianstrasse and Hotel Kempinski come alive. Very nice, especially since I know the city quite well. However, we don't use the term Fräulein anymore, it's the German equivalent to Miss. While Miss is still very much used in English, in German it's considered to be old-fashioned and only used for old maids over the age of eighty *g*.
Dear J. Kenner, you've gained a new reader, because my enjoyment factor when reading your trilogy was really soaring. I absolutely adored the sex scenes and the constant sizzle between Nikki and Damien which kept on being hot for over a 1000 pages. That's a masterstroke. And when I thought nothing "big" would happen anymore my anxiousness got right revved up again, making me bite my well manicured fingernails. Also, kudos that part #1 and #2 of the trilogy don't end with a horrible cliff-hanger! A strong B+.