Nikki Fairchild has recently moved from Texas to Los Angeles, taking a new job at a burgeoning technology company where she feels she can learn and share her smarts. Her new boss Carl is slimy but Nikki can deal with him for the betterment of her career. Carl drags Nikki to a gala art exhibit to use her as bait to attract and reel in ex tennis pro turned billionaire entrepreneur Damien Stark. Carl wants Damien to invest in a new program he hopes will be a huge moneymaker for his company. Nikki met Damien 6 years previously when she was a beauty pageant contender, she never forgot him. Nikki was also the recipient of the Stark International Fellowship for 4 out of 5 years of her university education. She has no expectation that the handsome, charismatic, reclusive billionaire will remember her. She is mistaken.
When she sees Damien, there is an instant sexual attraction, much like a hum that zings across the room mesmerizing them, he then completely shuts down. When they are introduced he embarrasses her by being rude and snubbing her, but later he approaches her again and makes amends, sort of. Damien makes it evident that he wants Nikki. I liked Nikki’s spunk and snarky comebacks, she holds her own against Stark’s formidable personality. There is some eroticism that first night but the other thing I really liked is the pacing of the relationship development. There is an aspect of an “indecent proposal” in this one, but Nikki doesn’t prostitute herself, Damien’s offer involves something quite different there is, however, a sexual component in the mix.
Nikki Fairchild has significant body image issues and is terrified of sexual intimacy. Kenner effectively demonstrates her fear when Damien attempts to seduce her. He proves to be surprisingly compassionate and sensitive and in what I found to be the most poignant scene of the novel he soothes her fears so Nikki is able to trust Damien and open herself to passion. There is explicit sexuality and some light D/s but Kenner doesn’t overburden us with page after page of carnal encounters. My only niggle was limousine sex which is portrayed on a couple of occasions, it makes me want to scream “get a room”, and I’m tired of limo sex scenes in erotic novels involving billionaires.
I enjoyed Nikki’s two best friends, Orlando “Ollie” McKee, a lawyer who is engaged, and Jamie, her promiscuous roommate. These two are fun and very supportive and protective of Nikki. We are also introduced to Elizabeth Fairchild, Nikki’s narcissistic “mommy dearest” from hell.
There are a number of conflicts, Damien does have control issues, business problems and his own dark secrets, which aren’t revealed in Release Me. Kenner, left plenty of room to continue building what is to be a trilogy of stories. I liked Damien he is giving; lavishing Nikki with expensive gifts, he respects, understands and pretty much worships her. They are kindred spirits—you’ll see why if you read the novel.
I didn't find Release Me overly melodramatic and I loved that Damien was supportive and able to restore Nikki’s self respect and confidence in her sexuality. This story was an addictive read with well-developed characters, an interesting plot and bittersweet moments. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the Stark trilogy.