A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for an honest review at SeductiveMusings.blogspot.com.
Nikki Fairchild and Damien Stark began their relationship as a game, where in return for one million dollars, Nikki agreed to not only pose for a nude portrait but to also belong to Damien, body and soul, for the span of time it takes for the portrait to be completed. But now that the time, and presumably the game, has ended, is their emotional connection strong enough to continue?
“Release Me”, the first book in the Stark trilogy, was the story of how two reinvented people found the one person who could help heal past emotional wounds. “Claim Me” shows what happens after the artificial boundaries of their original agreement fall away and how what remains will either make their love stronger or break them apart forever.
We found out in “Release Me” how Nikki had been emotionally and physically scarred by her mother’s relentless pursuit of molding her daughters into vessels for her own ambition. That ambition had killed Nikki’s sister, and had taken all of Nikki’s determination and will to survive on her own. As she became more open and trusting with Damien, he was able to show her that love didn't have to hurt, at least not permanently. As “Claim Me” begins, we see how Damien’s past secrets are even more damaging and painful to him, and by extension, to Nikki as their relationship becomes public. Secrets this awful can’t stay buried forever, and as they emerge, it will be Nikki who provides her hard-won strength to Damien in a way that neither he nor the reader could have possibly predicted.
Once again, J. Kenner has moved the Stark trilogy well beyond the BDSM Billionaire trope into something more compelling and meaningful. “Claim Me” is a tale of two strong willed personalities who may have come together under somewhat less than noble circumstances but have since cemented a mutual love partnership where each holds the other up when they fall, no matter what. The previous foreshadowing of terrible events to come was nothing compared to what Damien and Nikki suffer, yet the growing strength of their love and trust kept me confident that they would ultimately prevail. I especially loved how the author handled the one giant moment of doubt that I could see coming toward the end of the book, and she earned every one of my sad/happy tears by the final page.
“Claim Me” is that rare and wonderful middle book that actually improves on the excellent predecessor in a romantic trilogy. Once again, J. Kenner pulls off the unlikely feat of providing a cliffhanger with closure, where the reader is still keen to know what happens next, but not angry at being left hanging in the middle of an incomplete scene. I’m fully vested in Damien and Nikki’s future, and trust that the final book “Complete Me” will provide the Happy Ever After ending they and we deserve.
Sensuality level: 4 (light BDSM, semi-public sex, discussion of child sexual abuse)