“Mistress At a Price is perfect for my Dangerous Hero Addict Support Group movie challenge, because it has a 9 1/2 Weeks feel. I needed a book for that movie, and I got one here. This is quite different for a Sara Craven book, IMO. The heroine is a more 'worldly' woman than she usually writes. She's the one who wants a no-strings attached sexual relationship with the hero. The reasons are quite interesting. She is deathly afraid of emotional attachment, because of her parents' disastrous marriage and the subsequent string of marriage and affairs they have both had afterwards. She feels that she's better off staying single and focusing on making a life for herself and a career outside of emotional attachments with men. While she's not inexperienced, it's clear that she is also not a serial 'hit it and quit it' dater. She has some vulnerability that isn't quite as well-hidden as she thinks. She uses brittle armor to try to keep Liam at a distance, and she's not very nice to him at times.
We don't get Liam's point of view, so one has to guess how he feels about everything, but I suspected that he always had strong feelings towards her, and he was taking it slow so she wouldn't be scared off. I think that backfires, because he gives her the impression he is just after sex with her and seems almost predatory in that sense. I think that even when he shows objections initially to Cat's plan, she felt it was because he wasn't in control of their relationship parameters, not because he could have wanted more from the relationship. This is one of those books that I wish the characters would stop playing games. I don't have a lot of patience for that, honestly. This dynamic is not romantic to me. For me, a romance book has to show the emotions and the bond between the characters that goes beyond physical to the emotional/mental level. Otherwise, it's empty for me. I'm not saying that Craven doesn't bring that to the table. You get the impression that there is a lot more going on, but I was frustrated at Cat because she should have just been real and told Liam that she wanted more than what she originally suggested. While she enjoyed making love with him and spending time with him, deep down, she felt rejected and unfulfilled because she wasn't getting what she needed emotionally. It was kind of like when you get a Quarter Pounder with Cheese Large Size meal from McDonalds. It might satisfy at the time, but afterwards, the regrets surface. I realize she was afraid, but it was clear she wasn't happy with what she was getting with their 'no-strings' fling.
One thing I liked about this book was how it showed the change for the better in Cat's relationships with both her parents. Those old wounds were being healed in the best way possible. She was seeing her parents' regrets about their broken relationship and their efforts to make amends and to fix that relationship, because they still loved each other. Also they worked on seeding love into their relationship with Cat. I think they could finally see how damaging their antics were to their oldest daughter. The ending was very poignant, and that definitely enhanced my opinion of the book overall. A good way to end things, and felt almost like full circle.
I didn't enjoy this book as much as most of the others I've read by Sara Craven. I know it's a 'me' thing. I am not big on the no strings attached/affair theme, so of course, I'm not going to get as much out of this as someone who is more attracted to this storyline. I did like that Craven delves into the emotional impact of this kind of relationship on a person who is not jaded about relationships and believes in sex without emotional involvement. I don't look at sex that way, so for me, anytime I read books where sex is treated as something that can be indulged in without an emotional impact, I don't feel it's truthful, at least in my perception.
The writing was good, and I felt the emotions and the poignancy of Cat's situation. I didn't see as much romantic payout, which is why I read romance, so that's part of why I couldn't rate this higher.
Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.