Mistress at a Price, by Sara Craven

>> Saturday, March 08, 2008

TITLE:Mistress at a Price
AUTHOR: Sara Craven

PAGES: 185
PUBLISHER: Mills & Boon Modern (usually published in the US as Harlequin Presents)

SETTING: Contemporary England
TYPE: Series romance

REASON FOR READING: I checked out a bunch of Sara Craven books from my library after reading and enjoying The Count's Blackmail Bargain.

She just wants to be his mistress...

Cat Adamson is intoxicated by Liam Hargrave when they share an explosive night of passion. Cat agrees to be Liam's mistress - but that's all. However, Liam's a man who always gets what he wants - and he wants Cat - all of her!

...and he's willing to play her game -for now!

Cat starts to realise the game she's playing is dangerous - especially now she's falling in love. She wants Liam. But how can she change the rules that she made - and what price will Liam demand?
MY THOUGHTS: This one was certainly an unexpected read, after the utter retrograde crap that was The Forced Bride. It's not even like The Count's Blackmail Bargain. In fact, it doesn't much read like an HP at all.

Cat Adamson is the daughter of two successful actors whose private lives (and those of pretty much everyone else in her family) have left her with an extreme cynism about marriage and long-term relationships. When she meets the handsome Liam and they share a very intense night, Cat refuses his overtures to continue their relationship in a traditional way. Rather than having lunch together on the way to London and then meeting for dinner, and so on, getting to really know each other, Cat proposes that they have a no-strings-attached affair. She wants them to meet regularly for sex at what she calls "a neutral location" and not exchange any private details at all.

Liam, who seems to like as well as desire Cat, and to truly want to get to know her better, indignantly refuses. However, after a few days and a very awkward accidental meeting, he shows up at her appartment to say he'll do it. But when their affair gets going, Cat realises it's not enough, and that she actually wants more of Liam than anonymous sex.

Why do I say it doesn't read like the typical HP? Basically because of the heroine. Cat is pretty sophisticated, wholly unvirginal and has a great job she's very successful at and enjoys. And by the end of the book, this is still the case. She's also very much not a doormat for her parents. They try to roll over her a few times, but she quickly sets them straight. Then there's how Liam is clearly completely into Cat from the very beginning, likes her and wants her and would love to have a relationship with her. It's Cat who refuses, who's a commitment-phobe. And "mistress"? What mistress? If anyone's a mistress in this book it would be Liam! The only HP-ish thing was the implied age difference between them, but that's something that could have been so easy to leave out.

Things start very well. At around the half-way point, once the situation is set and Liam has -very reluctantly- accepted Cat's conditions, I was very excited, thinking this could be a wonderful book. I looked forward to seeing Cat slowly realising that she did want more from her relationship with Liam, and Liam showing her why she should want this, the good things about having a real relationship with him.

But things start to derail right then. Cat immediately (and I do mean immediately) starts to regret those conditions and feel almost used. Not after a couple of encounters, right from the first one. Huh? And Liam, rather than trying to subtly subvert the rules, becomes more Catholic than the Pope and acts as if they had been his conditions in the first place. And then comes that whole soap-opera with Cat's mother, and that's when things went really bad. So unnecessary, and in the end, there was no payoff at all in the relationship. No nice, satisfying scenes where Liam makes clear that he loved her from the very beginning, etc., etc. Too bad.

MY GRADE: I'll go with a B-, as an average between the B+-verging-on-A- of the first half and the C- of the second one.


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