Under My Skin (Stark International Series #3)

Under My Skin (Stark International Series #3)

by J. Kenner


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553395235
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Series: J. Kenner's Stark Series
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 191,205
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

J. Kenner is the New York Times bestselling author of Release Me, Claim Me, Complete Me, Wanted, Heated, Ignited, Say My Name, On My Knees, and the novellas Take Me and Have Me. She spent more than ten years as a litigator in Southern California and central Texas, using her rare free time to indulge in her passion of writing. She lives in Texas with her husband and daughters.

Read an Excerpt


There is peace in these moments between sleep and wakefulness. In the soft minutes that seem to stretch into hours, warm and comforting like a gift bestowed by a benevolent universe.

This is a world of dreams, and right now it is safe. It is right. And I want to stay here, wrapped tight in the comfort of his arms.

But dreams often turn into nightmares, and as I move through the corridors of sleep, dark fingers of fear reach out to me. My pulse pounds and my breath comes too shallow. I curl toward him, craving his touch, but he is not there, and I sit bolt upright, my skin clammy from a sheen of sweat. My heart pounding so hard I will surely crack a rib.


I’m awake now, alone and disoriented as a wild panic cuts through me. I’m afraid, but I don’t remember why.

Too quickly though, it all rushes back, and as the memories return with wakefulness, I long to slide back into oblivion. Because whatever horror my mind would fabricate in dreams couldn’t be any worse than the reality that now surrounds me, cold and stark.

A reality in which the world is crumbling down around my ears.

A reality in which the man I love desperately is suspected of murder.

With a sigh, I press a hand to my cheek, my memory sharpening as I shake off the haze of slumber. He’d brushed a kiss over my cheek before slipping out of our warm cocoon and into the chilly morning air. At the time I’d been content to stay behind, snuggled tight in the blankets that still held his scent and radiated the lingering heat from his body.

Now I wish I had roused myself when he did, because I don’t want to be alone. Alone is when panic creeps closer.

Alone is when I’m certain that I will lose him.

Alone is what I fear.

And yet even as the thought enters my mind, the solitude is shattered. The bedroom door bursts open, and a dark-­haired, blue-­eyed bundle of sunshine races toward me, then leaps onto the bed and starts bouncing, her energy so vibrant I laugh despite myself. “Sylvie! Sylvie! I made toast with Uncle Jackson!”

“Toast? Really?” It’s work, but I manage to keep my voice perky and upbeat despite the fact that fear still clings to me like cobwebs. I give Ronnie a quick, tight hug, but my attention isn’t on her anymore. Instead, I am focused entirely on the man in the doorway.

He stands casually on the threshold, a wooden tray in his hands. His coal black hair is untidy from sleep, and he sports two days of beard stubble. He wears flannel pajama bottoms and a pale gray T-­shirt. By every indication, he is a man who has just awakened. A man with nothing on his mind but the morning and breakfast and the bits of news that fill the paper tucked under his arm.

But dear god, he is so much more. He is power and tenderness, strength and control. He is the man who has colored my days and illuminated my nights.

Jackson Steele. The man I love. The man I once foolishly tried to leave. The man who grabbed hold and pulled me back, then slayed my demons, and in doing so claimed my heart.

But it is those very demons that have brought us to this moment.

Because Robert Cabot Reed was one of those demons, and now Reed is dead. Someone entered his Beverly Hills home and bashed his head in with a decorative piece of carved ivory.

And I can’t help but fear that the someone was Jackson, and that soon he will have to pay the price.

We arrived in Santa Fe late yesterday afternoon, both of us feeling light and happy and eager. Jackson had intended to spend the weekend with Ronnie and then go to court on Monday in order to set a hearing on his petition to formally claim paternity and establish that he is Ronnie’s father in the eyes of the law. That plan, however, was sideswiped when local detectives met our plane, then informed Jackson that he was wanted back in Beverly Hills for questioning in Reed’s murder.

The afternoon shifted from a happy, laid-­back reunion to a frantic flurry of activity, with calls between New Mexico and California, lawyers squabbling, deals churning.

At the end of it all, Jackson was permitted to stay the weekend, on condition that he go straight to the Beverly Hills Police Department Monday morning. In truth, Jackson could have garnered much more time—­unless the police wanted to actually arrest, their leverage was limited—­but his attorney wisely advised against it. After all, playing games isn’t the way to win either police cooperation or public opinion. And while we don’t yet know what physical evidence the police have collected, there’s no lack of motive for Jackson to have killed Reed.


The word sounds so clean compared to Reed, who was a dirty, horrible man.

Not only had he abused and tormented me when I was a teen, but he’d recently threatened to release some of the vile photographs that he’d taken of me back then if I didn’t convince Jackson to stop trying to block a movie that Reed wanted green-­lit. A movie that would expose secrets and deceptions—­and that would thrust Ronnie, an innocent child, into the middle of a very public, very messy scandal.

Did Jackson want the movie stopped? Hell, yes.

Did he want to protect me from the horror of seeing those pictures flashed across the internet? Damn right.

Did he want to punish Reed for the things he’d done to me so many years ago? Absolutely.

Did Jackson kill Reed?

As for that one—­I truly don’t know.

More than that, I’m not allowed to ask. According to Charles Maynard, Jackson’s attorney, it is very likely that the police will interview me, too. And there is no privilege for girlfriends. Which means Charles wants me to be able to honestly say that Jackson was under strict orders from his attorneys, and that he didn’t say anything to me about whether he did or did not kill Reed. Not yes, not no, not maybe. Just nothing.


I know what that means, of course. Nothing is code for probably.

Nothing is code for that way you can’t later incriminate him.

Nothing is code for we’re trying to forestall the worst.

Just thinking about it makes me tremble, and I sit up, my back against the headboard and my pillow tight in my arms as I watch the man I love set the tray and the newspaper on the small table tucked in beneath the still-­curtained window.

It’s a small task, but he performs it with confident precision, just as he does so much else in his life. Jackson is not a man to let circumstance get the better of him, and he is not a man who will let an injury go unavenged. He is a man who protects what he loves, and I know with unwavering certainty that the two things he loves most in this world are his daughter and me.

He would, I’m certain, kill to protect either of us, and that’s a thought that sends a little shiver of pleasure through me. But it’s tempered by fear and dread. Because Jackson would go even further; he’d sacrifice himself if he thought it would protect us. And I’m horribly afraid that’s exactly what he has done.

And, honestly, if Jackson ends up behind bars, I don’t know if I’m strong enough to bear the guilt.

He comes over to sit on the edge of the bed and is immediately assaulted by a three-­year-­old cyclone demanding to be tickled. He smiles and complies, then looks at me. But the smile doesn’t quite warm his ice blue eyes.

I reach for him and take his hand in mine. How many times in the hours since we arrived have I searched for the perfect words to soothe him? But there are no perfect words. I can only do my best. I can only just be here.

“Anything about you in there?” I ask with a nod to the paper that he’s left on the table.

“No, but since that’s the local Santa Fe paper I wouldn’t expect there to be.”

I frown. “Do you want me to look?” I’m not talking about the local paper, and he knows it. I’m offering to hop online and scope out the various gossip sites from back home, especially those that focus on Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and all things murder and celebrity.

He shakes his head, and his response only deepens my frown. He told me yesterday that he didn’t want anything to mar this time with Ronnie, and I get that. But we’ve already got the cloud of a murder hanging over us—­and knowing the gossip means being prepared.

I argued as much last night, but I’m willing to make my case again. In fact, I’m opening my mouth to do just that when he presses his finger to my lips. “I looked this morning,” he says gently. “There’s nothing.”


“Really,” he confirms. He squeezes my hand, then holds out his free one for Ronnie. “I got on my tablet and looked while this little one was making toast. Didn’t I?” he asks, as she scrambles into his lap. “Didn’t I?” he repeats, then tickles her until she squeals and says, “Yes! Yes!” even though she clearly has no idea what we’re talking about.

“Your witness seems a little tainted to me.” I fight a smile. He’s such a natural dad, and the ease with which he’s slid into the role awes me a bit.

“Maybe. But the testimony is all true.” He kisses the top of her head, then pulls her close, the action so full of wild, heartbreaking emotion that it almost shatters me.

“You should go on outside with Grammy,” Jackson tells the little girl. “Fred’s probably wondering where you are.”

At the mention of the puppy, her blue eyes, so like Jackson’s, go wide. “You’ll come, too?”

“Absolutely,” he promises. “Let me talk to Syl while she drinks her coffee and then I’ll come find you.”

“And eat your toast?” she asks, her earnest question aimed at me.

“I can’t wait for the toast,” I say. “I bet it’s the best toast ever.”

“Yup,” she confirms, then shoots out of the room like a rocket.

Jackson watches her go, and I watch Jackson. When he turns back, he catches me eyeing him, then smiles sheepishly. “It’s hard to believe sometimes,” he says. “That she’s really mine, I mean.”

I think about the little girl’s dark hair and blue eyes. Her cleverness coupled with a vibrant personality and fierce determination. “Not hard to believe at all.”

I had hoped to coax a smile, but still he just looks sad.

“There was really nothing?”

Customer Reviews

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Under My Skin (Stark International Series #3) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am all about a Stark novel. This one, however, was a bit disappointing. It was predictable. While I was reading, I had A LOT of eyerolls going on, which is not a good thing! Overall, I would say that this was the weakest of the trilogy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another great series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the story & the steam- Ms. Kenner never disappoints! Thank you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An emotional, tumultuous ending for Jackson and Sylvia, but at the same time, a wondrous beginning. The characters have come to life. One cannot help being drawn into the lives of Damien and Nikki and Jackson and Sylvia. J. Kenner is a masterful story teller.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this story and the other 9 books in the Stark series as well as the 3 Wanted series j. Kenner is fabulous writer. You should read them all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it!!
jeanniezelos More than 1 year ago
Under My Skin, Stark International 3,  J. Kenner Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews Genre:  Romance, I had such high hopes after the wonderful story of Nikki and Damien.  This started well, but in my review of book two I thought it was a series that would work better as two books, that it felt padded and repetitive and now we’ve got the final part and I’m definitely feeling that way. I felt this final part of the trilogy just wasn't that great. Too repetitive, too predictable, too much sex...and I love sex in a story ;- )  but once again found it was all the story, dominated it far too much.  I loved Damien and Nikki, but sadly Jackson and Sylvia didn't cut it for me.    A good read of course but just not great, as I'd hoped. It seems that their answer to every problem is sex, media attention – lets have sex, upset   over Ronnie – lets have sex, bad phone call – lets have sex, problems at work – lets have sex...and so it seemed to go. It got to the point where I   was betting against myself as to what would come next – and yep, it was sex. All that, plus unnecessary recapping of past events led to the book    feeling for me fluffed out, stretched just to fill space. Throw in that right from book one I’d guessed who Ronnie was, who was behind events,    just how Jackson and Damien were linked, and it all became just too predictable and not what I’d hoped for. Maybe its me needing to stay    away from J Kenner’s reads for a while? Usually when I find an author whose books I love I like to read whatever they write – doesn’t mean I’ll    always enjoy them but this time the main events in this trilogy were just too foreseeable for me, and it was too padded with sex and other filler    for me to really love it. Its a good trilogy, just not a great one as the past books from JK have been. well, for me anyway, though of course    everyone feels differently and there will be lots of people who adore this trilogy. Stars: Three, a good read, just not a great one. ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers  If you enjoyed my review I'd love it if you would please click “Like” and if you didn't I'd love to know why, in case I've inadvertently added a spoiler and need to edit.
LynnLTX More than 1 year ago
3.5 Stars The third and final book in the Stark International series hits the ground running. Sylvia and Jackson just can't seem to catch a break. Someone killed Sylvia's childhood abuser turned blackmailer Robert Cabot Reed, and she is very afraid it was Jackson Steele, the man she loves with every beat of her heart. As seen in the previous books, both of them have dark and difficult pasts but have found a home in each other. Complicating all this angst is Jackson's determination to get custody of his very young daughter, and his desire to have Sylvia raise his child should he go to prison. Add to that, someone is sabotaging the Cortez project, so they are bombarded from all sides. So much of their lives are played out in the press and Jackson's temper doesn't help matters. He is surprised that his half-brother, Damien Stark, turns out to be a supporter. They bond in part over their mutual loathing of Jeremiah Stark who has managed to damage more than one family. The turmoil and multi-layered challenges of this book will keep readers on an emotional roller coaster. There is much high drama interspersed with steamy scenes as that seems to be the only place this couple can connect without a disaster happening. However, they both have to realize that for a relationship to thrive, not just survive, it’s essential to overcome the past and not let it predict the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am solo in to this series I can't put them down once I start reading
MichelleKemp More than 1 year ago
Love it !!! What a great series I fell in love with Jackson and i am so glad that he got his daughter and the movie wasnt made. Jackson and Sylvia get to have a happy ever after and i am so glad she is pregnant .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gina04 More than 1 year ago
Love that the book picks up where it left off in #2.. We learn who murdered Reed, who’s been sabotaging the Cortez project and whether Sylvia and Jackson will finally stop running away from each other to make a life together. Love the roller coaster ride Kenner took me on again with this Tril.
tsmb02 More than 1 year ago
The third and final book in this series picks up with Jackson being accused of murdering Robert Cabot Reed, the man who is blackmailing Sylvia over pictures from her past and the man who wants to make a movie about the Fletcher House which could put his daughter in danger. I loved the suspense of who killed Robert Reed. I loved how throughout this horrific time, many key players were brought together. Besides the strong connection of Jackson and Sylvia I loved the developing connection with Jackson and Damien. I'm sure these two together could rule the world! Jackson's daughter, Ronnie is adorable. I loved how she just fit into the story so well. I loved the tender interactions between Sylvia and her brother, Ethan, especially in regards to Ronnie. I really enjoyed the final reveal of who killed Robert Reed and was glad to see something positive come out of the whole mess. The happy ending was perfect! I sure hope there is more to these characters. Would love to see Ethan's story! Thanks for a great series to read!
marincheto007 More than 1 year ago
WOW!!! What an end to the story! I was left reeling for quite some time after finishing the book. The end of Jackson and Sylvia's story is fascinating, full with twists, sprinkled with humor and spiced up with a healthy dose of heat and sexiness :) Jackson and Sylvia are still their enchanting selves, but their characters are even better described and even shown in a new light. If you've read the previous the books in the series, you know that Jackson and Sylvia never had an easy relationship. Their feelings for each other are strong and they are pretty much close to inseparable once they found each other again, but their connection is tested at every corner. There are hurdles constantly thrown in their direction and it is no different in this final installment in this trilogy. After the unexpected ending of the previous book, this one picks up the story pretty much from the place where the previous one ended. In my opinion, the characters are presented in a whirlwind of emotions, fears and passion. The chemistry between Jackson and Sylvia is simply off the charts, but in this book I was able to see also a much more vulnerable part of each one of them, but also the inner strength each one of them possesses. The story is also filled in with twists and unexpected turns that will leave you reeling and wondering what's going to happen next. Even though, I have some thoughts on what's going to happen in the end (and it turned out, I was right), J Kenner so skillfully wrote the story that at some point I was pretty much convinced that I was wrong ;) I was just kept guessing through the whole duration of the book. And as you all know that's a feature of a great book :) So, if I have to summarize, I loved every single word in this book. It was a great ending in the trilogy and definitely a worthy read. The story line is definitely intriguing and written in a way that will keep you guessing till the very end. The Sylvia and Jackson are still their incredible and interesting selves but there are still new strokes added to their characters. And let's not forget the incredibly hot interactions between them :) I can guarantee you will be left hot and bothered after some of the scenes ;) As a whole I would say that this series is definitely a must read, pretty much as every book by J. Kenner. And that's why I can't wait to find out what she will come up with next :) This review was originally posted at Living In Our Own Story Book Blog. I received an ARC of the book in exchange of an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you have read the original stark books, then you have read this series. There were SO many similarities it was rediculous!! Waste of time and money. Very perdictable and boring. Skimmed through most of the last book.
tinaleeharris More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars As we pickup with Jackson and Sylvia, they are in for the fight of their lives; can they win against a past that seems to continue to haunt them? Jackson is the prime suspect in the murder of Reed but did he really do it? Sylvia knows that Jackson would do anything to protect her and Roni but murder? As Sylvia fights with herself, even if he did kill that man, she knows there is no where she would be but right beside the man that she loves. Jackson is trying to protect his family. He would do anything for them. As Jackson comes to terms with the fact that he may not be here to see Roni like a father should be, that he will not be able to hold and love Sylvia like he has been, he knows without a doubt that he regrets nothing. There are still lots of twist and turns and the past continues to haunt them but once the truth is revealed, will Jackson and Sylvia be standing side by side? Will the trust be too much for them to survive? And what will come of the resort that they have poured their souls into? Will it be a lost cause? This entire series has been suspenseful and intriguing. I love the writing ability of Author J. Kenner. She is able to weave a web of words to keep you up all night and turning the pages until the last one…..then you will want to start over just in case you missed something. I look forward to future books from her.
Sandy-thereadingcafe More than 1 year ago
: UNDER MY SKIN is the third installment in J. Kenner’s contemporary, adult Stark International erotic romance series focusing on billionaire architect Jackson Steele, and personal assistant Sylvia Brooks. The Stark International Trilogy is a spin off from J. Kenner’s Stark Trilogy (Damien and Nikki Stark). UNDER MY SKIN should not be read as a stand alone as the storyline is the culmination of the events from the previous two installments. NOTE: If you have not read the first two installments in The Stark International Trilogy, my review may contain some spoilers. Told from first person point of view Sylvia, as well as some third person perspectives UNDER MY SKIN picks up immediately upon the events of book two ON MY KNEES where Jackson Steele has been implicated in the death of Robert Cabot Reed-the man threatening blackmail against our storyline couple. While Jackson and his defense team struggle with the realization that Jackson could go to jail for a murder he did not commit, Sylvia battles the demons from her past when her father requests a few minutes with the daughter whose life he destroyed years before. UNDER MY SKIN is the fulfillment of three storylines that follow the building relationship between Jackson and Sylvia, and the lengths to which someone will go to protect the people that he or she loves. The back and forth, push and pull of Sylvia and Jackson’s co-dependency upon one another is a virtual minefield of personal walls and private fears. Jackson’s need for Sylvia borders on obsession as his sexual urges, and quick temper finds our hero in a constant state of arousal whenever the world begins to implode around him. Sylvia is a woman in love with a man who would do anything to protect the people that he loves, and in this Sylvia is unsure as to Jackson’s innocence or guilt in the death of the man trying to destroy Sylvia’s life-a second time around. There are a couple of secondary storylines that take some of the focus off of Jackson’s murder suspicion. The construction of Damien Stark’s Cortez Island Resort has hit a couple of walls including malicious damage meant to frighten any prospective investors. It is the Cortez Island project that brought Jackson and Sylvia back together following a five year separation. Jackson’s desperation to bring Ronnie into his home and his life finds our storyline couple at odds as how to proceed with the future. The murder conflict resolution and reveal was a foregone conclusion as the information and premise pointed to the guilty party in book two-ON MY KNEES-but the author chose to prolong the declaration while building up the mystery and suspense using Jackson Steele’s temper as a means to point suspicion in the storyline hero’s direction. The murderer was painfully obvious and yet the main characters, never once, questioned the possibility or looked in another direction. The $ex scenes are numerous, repetitive and graphic; provocative and intense. Jackson and Sylvia use $ex as a distraction; a means to hide from their problems, and bury their emotions with hot, aggressive $ex. J. Kenner’s use of strong language leaves nothing to the imagination. I did have an issue with the author’s need to use a certain four-letter word (in most of her books) that I find unnecessary. In my opinion, there is nothing remotely romantic or sexually stimulating with its usage. UNDER MY SKIN revisits many of the previous events; recapping history and backstory so that the reader’s mem
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some said there was TOO much sex? I can never have enough. Loved this trilogy, can't wait for Dallas!
10520406 More than 1 year ago
I love J. Kenner's books! Her writing is superb and keeps you guessing. Under My Skin is a great finale to the story of Jackson and Sylvia.
TammyS32 More than 1 year ago
This book starts where the second left off, I would recommend reading them in order. Plenty of drama, action and suspense. Oh and yes steamy sex. This is an excellent addition to this wonderful series, I could not put it down and didn’t want to see it end. Great Read!
aprilrenee1976 More than 1 year ago
Under is Revealing in the finale--Great Work By Kenner Well, the short wait was worth it, folks. “ Under my Skin” picks up right where “On My Knees” left off and thank goodness, otherwise I think I was about to die from the waiting. If you are new to this series, then you better go back and reread the previous books to get the background with this series, otherwise. You should be ok to dive right back in. In the finale, we find out Jackson and Sylvia learn the hard way that in order for their love to withhold the test of time aka the past, they will have to fight for their love and it is NOT pretty. So if you haven’t read book 2-----------DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER-----CONTAINS some SPOILERS-------- Ok so when the 2nd book ended, we found out the Reed was killed and when book 3 picked up, the police show up and bingo-Jackson is the main suspect. Back to California, to Beverly Hills and high price lawyers and police there so they can questions Jackson. Endless questions over who killed Reed and during this time, the Paparazzi is stalking Jackson and Sylvia. . Remember, there is a killer on the loose. And yet even though there is a horrible killer on the loose, Jackson and Sylvia are committed to each other, rediscovering each other and what it means to making each other happy- one erotic , sensual, luscious move at a time. OMG this was such a fantastic reading pleasure. I was sorry to read the last word. I enjoyed the heck out of J Kenner’s work and hope there will be another spin off in some way here. It was so good, that this author needs to continue to work on these spin off or at least give us a glimpse at the family with a follow up book. The MC growth in the final book was wonderful ; Jackson and Sylvia made this book super great and their emotional growth was one of the best around. I bet you are wondering who the killer is? Would you like to know? Well… Go read the book and find out like I did **A gifted copy was provided by the publisher for my honest review** My rating: 4.5 stars ****
SummerSnowFalls More than 1 year ago
Before we begin this review, I must state – You need to read this series in order! Each book builds upon the plot and character development of the previous novel. Before reading UNDER MY SKIN, please read SAY MY NAME and ON MY KNEES first. As such, this review will make reference to – but not spoil – plot points covered in prior novels in the series. After the bombshell dropped at the end of the last novel, Sylvia and Jackson are reeling. Everything around them is falling apart – the Cortez resort, Reed, Ronnie. Nothing is going right and the stress is beginning to put a strain on their relationship. Sylvia must learn to face her long-held fears with Jackson rather than continually pushing him away. Yet she must then turn around and also push Jackson to channel his own fears and frustrations into a healthier, more sensual outlet. This constant push-pull which has plagued Sylvia and Jackson culminate in the final installment of the series. Unfortunately, Sylvia spends a lot of this book internally whining to herself (and sometimes Cass) about whether or not Jackson really loves her and if she is “good enough” to be with him and Ronnie. After three books of Jackson constantly showering her with love and affection, you’d think Sylvia would have realized this by now. However, I had to keep reminding myself that Sylvia is the victim of decades long emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, which went a long way towards explaining her self-recrimination and doubt. I loved the bonding between Damien and Jackson. After being at odds for so long, it was heart-warming to see these two powerful men finally become brothers. Ronnie is an adorable ball of sunshine and I would love see see future novellas featuring this precious child. And, of course, I liked that we found out who the killer and saboteurs were and that Jackson and Sylvia finally got their HEA. A little rushed towards the end, but overall a great finish to another fantastic trilogy by J Kenner! I sincerely hope this is not the last we see of Sylvia, Jackson, Damien, and Nikki. The characters are complex, the sex is scorching hot, and there are just so many possibilities to explore. Loved it! Originally posted at Plot Twist Reviews [dot] Com I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.