Release Me: A Novel

Release Me - J. Kenner 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)