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.