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Apple

Stark series of books and novella's

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I thought long and hard before posting this rather extensive review, mainly because the genre of book isn't universally well liked on the site, and I personally have contributed to less than favourable reviews on similar books in this genre. But something about these attracted me. I was practically forced to read FSOG and the first three Crossfire books by a well meaning friend who thought I would really like them and generally speaking I didn’t so right back when these first appeared I didn’t bother with them, initially dismissing them as just more cringeworthy drivel and not worth bothering with. Despite that original assessment and decision I would like to say at this point that I picked the first three books in this series up of my own free will, (no I hadn't completely lost my mind - although that thought did cross my mind when I first bought them!) A couple of years or so later I came across them whilst browsing and  partly because they had attracted some decent reviews with favourable comments and many of the reviews had commented how they were head and shoulders above FSOG – which lets face it wouldn’t be hard to achieve but nevertheless that sparked my interest plus I was kind of curious to see just how many variations of rip off could be achieved but the deciding factor was the fact they were ridiculously cheap, at that point I had acquired a kindle and the initial trilogy was stupidly cheap at that time in kindle version so I didn’t feel as though I had lost anything if they were crap.

 

My reason for finally deciding to post it now is I recently re-read a couple of the better novellas, you see after reading the totally outstanding All Souls Trilogy, I wanted to read something but to put it bluntly nothing could follow those books and I felt anything new wouldn't get a fair unbiased reaction after those books. So I took the decision to do a quick re-read and the novellas fit the bill nicely, which led me back to the fact I had never written a full review for this extensive series of novels and novellas, I remembered the stories reasonably well and so this what I've came up with.

 

So first of all here is a review of those original three books:

 

The first three books were:

1.      Release Me
2.      Claim Me
3.      Complete Me
 
When the first three books in this series came out around the time of Fifty Shades of Grey (E L James) & the Crossfire series (Sylvia Day) I thought - oh god here we go again!. Another erotic romance trilogy about a gorgeous too hot for his own good billionaire businessman and the girl he sets his sights on. The titles didn’t strike me as too promising as they were very similar names to other stories in this sector. This time the story is set in Los Angeles and the surrounding area and the obscenely rich entrepreneur is Damien Stark, a former top of his game child tennis prodigy and now wealthy business man. Damien is handsome, magnificent you know the usual thing and like the other exceptionally rich leading men in similar stories he has a dark side. The first thing which was different though was the fact he had one physical flaw, a damaged eye, a blown pupil which gives his eye the impression of being completely black.

I have to say though I did like Damien’s love interest Nikki Fairchild. She was a refreshingly original character who is well educated with degrees in both electrical engineering and computer science – to me this was a really refreshing difference. Nikki was a former child beauty pageant participant, forced to compete by her overbearing selfish mother. Nikki is a straight A student who has plans for her future and those plans involve launching her own company, but despite that ambition and strength there is a vulnerability to her and it’s that vulnerability which manifests itself in some very dark and distressing behaviour.

I really wish this story had been written before Fifty Shades of Grey, because it was actually reasonably well written and had a degree of intelligence to it and it had a much deeper and darker feel to it. Both characters are strong and likeable, the back story is that they both endured hideous childhoods of varying degrees and were forced to do things which neither of them really wanted to do, leaving them both with scars (mental and physical). I would agree that it is undeniably head and shoulders above FSOG and the equally nauseating Crossfire series. There was a significant difference in the story as there was a slightly controversial aspect involved where Damien offers Nikki a substantial amount of money to pose for a commissioned painting, a portait - a naked portrait, now this could easily have been portrayed as sleazy and dirty but it was actually very well written and tastefully done. The sexy scenes were not too cringeworthy and the characters had chemistry together and the sex wasn’t totally overdone, BUT despite all that it feels formulaic, this premise has been done and done to death with the market being saturated by similar books jumping on the now overcrowded bandwagon. Obscenely rich but dark billionaire with secretive and troubled past (are there any other kinds?) meets young college graduate with equally troubled past and her own raft of mental health issues, some hot and steamy moments ensue, a little kink is thrown in for good measure, there is the inevitable appearance of a bad person who causes trouble for the couple not to mention a misunderstanding that causes a temporary break up, they get back together, even more steamier sex scenes, and a happily ever after.

If you loved the Fifty Shades trilogy (yes there are people out there who did, and even I admitted that by the time I got to the last book there was something there which got into my head about the characters and their story) and are looking for something similar, then Release Me and its sequels are books you will most likely enjoy. If you are looking for a nice, reasonably well written romance with a touch of kink, and a few dark moments, you may also like these books. However, there is a but, although this was a very good readable story and you find yourself rooting for the couple, it inevitably had a sense of déjà vous surrounding it and that is a real shame.
 
After I had completed the trilogy I noticed that a number of short novella’s were written continuing the story as the original trilogy was now complete and curiosity got the better of me once more as these novella’s were all eBooks and some were free or only a matter of pence when I got them, I wasn’t expecting anything from them as I generally go by the saying – you get what you pay for.
 
The novellas after the main trilogy were:

1.      Take Me
2.      Have Me
3.      Play my Game
4.      Deepest Kiss
5.      Seduce Me
6.      Unwrap Me
7.      Entice Me
8.      Hold Me
 
Some were stand alone stories which didn’t have any link to the main story line which had been built, some were blatantly introducing new characters which would go on to get their own spin off series of books (which I haven’t read) but the majority had snippets which and when put together answered many questions but also raised many more some were good, some were ok and some were bloody dire.  In my opinion the majority could have been put together and produced as maybe two decent sized novels, but obviously that wouldn’t have been as lucrative and I felt these small stories were leading to another full novel at some point.  It was!  Anchor Me came along and after enjoying some of the short stories I decided to buy it.  It was good but not as good as the original trilogy, I don’t know if I was bored with the characters or if the entire story had just run its course or it was like my reaction to the original trilogy, that although good it had a sense of déjà vous.
 
The series didn’t end there, yet another novella and another full novel has since been released, the Novella – Please Me and the full novel Lost with Me are in my opinion the weakest of all the stories, they meander along and don’t have the depth to them and unlike the other stories these feel just like a money making exercise to milk this series that has now been done to death and that is quite sad considering how much better it was at the beginning. So, in conclusion – the original trilogy is worth a read if you like that sort of thing, and maybe the first couple of novella’s, after that it definitely becomes a manipulative attempt at marketing other series’ of books and just milking the original story.

Edited by Apple

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That's what I liked about these in the beginning, there was a much darker feel to them with some of the subject matter that was touched upon (and very sympathetically as well I might add) for example there is an on-going theme of self harming which runs through the books and child abuse and the repercussions of that.

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Damien by J Kenner

 

After the last installment in this series which I was totally underwhelmed with, I had decided enough was enough and I wasn’t going to read any more offerings in this long running series of novels and novellas.  BUT, this showed up in my recommended bit on Amazon and I clicked on it - just to see what angle Ms Kenner was going with this time, I would like to stress at this point I had no intention of getting it as, as I previously said in my lengthy review about this series, I believe this story has run its course and is now just being over milked to squeeze a bit more cash out of it.

 

The first thing I noticed that was different though, was that this story is written from Damien’s point of view, you allegedly get an insight into the mind of Damien Stark.  My reaction to this, Pff – still not interested, already been done with Grey, but then I stopped and thought about it, hang on, what did I love about this story at the beginning? I loved the fact both characters were different, it was darker and far better written than FSOG and The Crossfire series (in the beginning) and I wondered, maybe…???

 

I have no willpower (or sense!) it seems, as curiosity got the better of me and I clicked on it… and I read it… and to cut a long story short and to put it politely I was disappointed! I actually started to question about half way through if this was even written by the same author who wrote those initial stories as it was truly appalling, it was repetitive in the extreme, the same phrases used over and over, and the storyline (what little there was) literally just going round in circles and going nowhere. The sex scenes were crass and unnecessary, everything about it was just wrong, even the bit of jeopardy thrown in towards the end felt forced and contrived almost as though the writer thought I'd better put in a bit of peril,  it was bad, really, really bad, and in an odd way that upset me a little as I did genuinely like these stories back at the beginning and they offered a flicker of hope that books of this type weren’t all just unadulterated drivel, but all this story has done is kill any lasting affection I had for this series.

Edited by Apple

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    • By Apple
      Here we go again. Another erotic romance trilogy about a gorgeous too hot for his own good billionaire businessman and the girl he sets his sights on. I picked these up of my own free will partly because I was curious to see how many variations of rip off could be achieved but partly because they had attracted some decent reviews with favourable comments.
       
      This time the story is set in Los Angeles and the surrounding area and the obscenely rich entrepreneur is Damien Stark, a former top of his game tennis star and now wealthy business man. Damien is handsome, magnificent you know the usual thing and like the other exceptionally rich leading men in similar stories he has a dark side. I have to say though I did like Damien’s love interest Nikki Fairchild. She is a refreshingly original character who is well educated with degrees in both electrical engineering and computer science.  A former child beauty pageant participant, Nikki  is a straight A student who has plans for her future and those plans involve launching her own company, but despite that ambition and strength there is a vulnerability to her and it’s that vulnerability which manifests itself in some dark and distressing behaviour.

      I really wish this story had been written before Fifty Shades of Grey, because it is actually reasonably well written and has a degree of intelligence to it. Both characters are strong and likeable, the back story is that they both endured  hideous childhoods of varying degrees and  were forced to do things which neither of them really wanted to do, leaving them both with scars (mental and physical). It is undeniably head and shoulders above FSOG and the equally nauseating Crossfire series. The sexy scenes were hot and the characters had chemistry together, BUT it feels formulaic, this premise has been done and done to death with the market being saturated by similar books jumping on the now overcrowded bandwagon.  Obscenely rich but dark billionaire with secretive and troubled past (are there any other kinds?) meets young college graduate with equally troubled past and mental health issues, some hot and steamy moments ensue, a little kink is thrown in for good measure, there is the inevitable appearance of a bad person who causes trouble for the couple not to mention a misunderstanding that causes a temporary break up, they get back together, even more steamier sex scenes, and a happily ever after.

      If you loved the Fifty Shades trilogy and are looking for something similar, then Release Me and its sequels are books you will most likely enjoy. If you are looking for a nice, well written romance with a touch of kink and a few dark moments, you may also like these books  Although this was a very good readable story and you find yourself rooting for the couple, it inevitably had a sense of deja vous surrounding it and that is a real shame.
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