Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
If you were to go back and look at all my Stark Security novel reviews, you’d probably see that I’ve rated them 4 to 4 1/2 stars. I’ve loved them all, partly because, as I’ve noted in other reviews, they are like “going home,” back to Stark and his right hand man, Ryan Hunter. I am a sucker for what I call “extended universe” series. To a certain degree, it make you seem like you’re watching a Marvel movie in the MCU with all of its interconnectedness. That’s a J. Kenner Stark book. And this series, doesn’t just give us access to the characters of her universe, she also creates romantic suspense that drives your reading forward. J. Kenner’s newest book, Ruined with You, does this well.
I have to admit that I went into this book with a preconceived notion based on the last book in the series, Broken with You. It seemed as though Liam, one of the main security folk, might find love with the singer he’s tasked to protect. In hindsight, Kenner doesn’t really allude to it, but it seemed rational for his story. Boy, was I wrong. Yes, Ellie Love, the singer that Liam is tasked to protect, figures dramatically into this story, but she isn’t his love interest; his love interest is Xena Morgan, Ellie Love’s personal assistant. And there are three things clear from the start of the story: (1) she isn’t who she seems to be, (2) Liam and Xena are drawn deeply to each other, and (3) Liam and Xena are going to fight their attraction to the end. With a set up like that, you know that angst is on the menu with this book. And Kenner delivers. There is a reason that out of the four books thus far, this is my first 5 star review. Here goes:
- The story. This is a heart-wrenching one, folks. I am not going to share Xena’s secret. It’s one of the best parts of the book as she tells her story. Just know it will break your heart.
- Liam and Xena’s chemistry flies off the page. I’m not spoiling this terribly by telling you this, but know that they act on that chemistry earlier in the book than you expect. It’s the “feelings” part of a relationship that takes the entire book for them to reconcile.
- This is, once again, romantic suspense. Liam and Xena, along with the other security force, are going after some bad guys, and it keeps you on the edge of your seat, literally and figuratively.
- Everyone is here, even Damian and Nikki at the end. But we get more information on the other couplings we’ve read about in the other Stark Security series. We also get more Dallas and Jane. This book figures in nicely to the Kenner Stark universe.
- Liam. I love him in this book, especially when Xena’s story is revealed. He’s compassionate and caring, albeit incredibly stubborn. For the most part, you’ll love him, but he will also frustrate you. He fights his connection with Xena more than she fights against his.
- The message. This book is an important one because it’s difficult to love yourself, to accept yourself, after you’ve endured trauma. Yet, Kenner helps her readers see that, with love, you can fully accept yourself as you are. It’s the message that won me over to the additional star for this book. For me, Xena’s story, along with Liam’s background, push this over the edge of “better” than the other books.
If you are a J. Kenner fan, then this book will remind you why you love her Stark series so much. Ruined with You is an important story about self-love and acceptance, but also allowing yourself to love after trauma. Kenner has a way with bringing you into her world and leaving behind a little bit of you in the midst of her stories.
In love and romance,