Complete Me (The Stark Trilogy)
by J. Kenner
Published by Bantam
Genre: erotica; romance; mystery
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5
This is the third book of a trilogy, so here is a big fat warning for you: this review will contain spoilers from the first two books.
Oh, Damien Stark. You hot, hot, HOT man, you. So tortured, so gorgeous, so successful and rich and sexually sublime. Where are you in my life?
When we first met Damien in Release Me, he was a mysterious former tennis prodigy turned corporate superstar. He sees Nikki Fairchild across the room at a party he's hosting and he instantly is drawn to her. Those of us reading the book perhaps wondered why; Nikki's fine and all, a former pageant queen, but is she worthy? Of Damien Stark? Uh, no.
But as we get to know our happy couple into Claim Me, we could start to see the attraction. Both Nikki and Damien suffered abuse, albeit in very different forms. Nikki was used by her mother for pageant fame and success, forced into being someone she wasn't. Damien's abuse was physical and at the hands of his coach. Both reacted by needing control: for Nikki, it comes in the form of cutting herself; for Damien, it is manifested in his need for BDSM. They recognize this in each other and it cements their bond.
And now we come to the end of the trilogy, where we must face Damien's murder charges in Germany, onslaughts from a mysterious source, and Damien and Nikki's continuing need for each other and a "normal" relationship.
The plot is serviceable. We get caught up in the mystery surrounding Damien's court case, and by now we are fully invested in his and Nikki's relationship. We even like her more, if for no other reason than Damien does. His need for her is so immense that it almost overwhelms us, not to mention her. To her credit, Nikki occasionally is mystified by Damien's obsession with her. We hear ya, sister. However, even I can concede that she's good for him. She understands him the way he needs to be understood; she knows what he doesn't say as much as what he does, and she translates his facial expressions and small gestures.
Yes, there are some overwrought moments. We've come to expect those from this series. Nikki is a pageant queen from Texas, and if it's possible to overreact to something, she might just do it. Some of her problem-solving skills frustrate us to distraction, even as we know that she means well. She really does.
The mystery occasionally feels forced, as if Kenner thinks she needs it in order for us to keep reading. That part could have been better written, although let's be honest. We don't read these for the mystery hooks, do we?
Now, the sexy times. Girls, strap on your vibrators, because there is some super scorching headboard rockin' going on here. Damien doesn't just know how to bed a woman, he knows how to talk about it. His words get you as ready as anything he does with his hands and lips. And other things. The best part is that sex for Damien is a way to connect with Nikki and the way he knows to show her that he loves her. So her pleasure - how she feels when he's with her - is his priority.
Too bad he's a fictional fantasy, right?