On My Knees
My one-word summary of this book is “pointless.” Nearly all of the exciting revelations and tension happened in the previous book; the resolution is postponed for the sequel. The only reason I can come up with for the existence of this book is to drag an extra $16 book out of the series. The author’s writing is good enough that I might be tempted to give another of her books a shot, but I would definitely look for a stand-alone.
Jackson Steele is a renowned architect (“starchitect”), and Sylvia Black is an executive assistant-turned-resort project manager for Stark Incorporated. Jackson and Sylvia have a history, falling in love and sleeping together during a project in Atlanta that collapsed. Sylvia, discloses to Jackson that she was molested as a teenager by a modeling photographer – the same photographer who is trying to make a film about one of Jackson’s projects that Jackson does not want made. So Jackson gets into a fistfight with the man in front of the paparazzi (who apparently stalk architects now?), setting off a firestorm. Jackson also confesses to Sylvia that her boss Damien Stark is actually Jackson’s half-brother. All of this sounds interesting, but unfortunately, it happened in the previous book, when they were the supporting characters.
Sylvia and Jackson are in an incredibly intense sexual relationship, according to the characters and according to the author. Personally, I never felt anything for them, since their backstory was just infodumped on me. They have a lot of sex, and again, I felt nothing. They fought for what seemed the sole purpose of having make-up sex, and the entire book ended up with them barely further from where they started. At times, I also felt as if some of the sexual activity that the author frames as Sylvia regaining agency (for instance, having Jackson photograph her) was problematic in the context of her past. There are two or so important moments in this book. Jackson discloses to Damien that they are half-brothers (not a spoiler), and Jackson tells Sylvia a bit about his past. When it all comes down to it, there is simply no justification for such a miniscule amount of plot to have its own book.
The decision to report a sexual abuser is extremely fraught for victims, but for Sylvia, it wasn’t fraught at all, and that felt like a plot decision rather than a character-based one. The author needed Sylvia not to go to the police so that a blackmail plot could unfold, so she decided that Sylvia would not want to prosecute. The logic for Sylvia wasn’t clear. I don’t think the statute of limitations had expired. It seemed as if her major motivation was to keep her privacy, but when someone started to reveal the photographs that excuse no longer resonated with me. The author also never addressed the fact that the distribution of any of these photographs of Sylvia would have constituted child pornography, and therefore the blackmailer’s threat to show them was a bit hollow (“Hey, if you don’t give in to my demands, I’ll do something you can get me thrown in jail for” is not a very well-thought-out scheme). Plus, Sylvia didn’t worry about the existence of other victims.
I’m not saying that Sylvia had to report – that is still, sadly, a terrible and difficult choice. I’m saying that setting on “no” for reasons which served the author but not Sylvia felt cheap.
Why not give this book an F? Well, for all that it’s a waste of time, it is technically well-written. Although this book failed, I actually would try another J. Kenner. But I don’t suggest that anybody try this one.