Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Why I Buy Books from Mills & Boon UK, Part 1:...

Mills & Boon is the UK arm of the Harlequin publishing house. I don’t understand the publishing schedule of books between Mills & Boon and Harlequin North America. What I do know is that buying from M&B is a losing proposition for me. You see, MB has this line called “Modern” which somewhat overlaps with the Harlequin Presents line. The first of every month, MB loads its new books and often these are books that won’t be published in the North America for several months. Because of the exchange rate, I generally pay more for the exact same books I buy at MB, although it is not a tremendous loss. Further, because I have a subscription to Harlequin Presents which is, I believe, $25, for 8 books, I often end up paying twice for the same book. And even having a subscription is a loss for me as Amazon usually sells the Harlequin Presents bundle for $9.99.   (Note, I have been informed that these bundles are no longer available at Amazon).

So why do I buy books from Mills & Boon? Because some books I want to read now. I guess it is the curse of the early adopter. I pay more now to read something that you can all enjoy three months later but you know what? I don’t regret it in the least because I’ve read and re-read portions of Katrakis’ Last Mistress a dozen times and when it comes up for sale in North America in March of 2011, I’ll be able to tell you all to run out and buy it. But really we are a global reading community and for many others, Mills & Boon is one of their primary shopping sites so let me tell you why I loved Katrakis’ Last Mistress and why shopping at Mills & Boon might be in your future.

Katrakis' Last MistressKatrakis’ Last Mistress by Caitlin Crews came to my attention over at the blog of Meljean Brook. Now, while I love Meljean’s books and her writing, I haven’t always loved the books she’s recommended. I recall that she loved India Grey and it took four books of Grey’s before I found one that I enjoyed. Meljean wrote that Crews’ book kept her up until 2 am. What caught my attention was that the hero was emotionally stunted and the heroine would not give up on him. I had to try it.

This book has high emotion, a lot of agnst, great dialogue and a meaningful character arc. It does not have a sappy, baby filled epilogue. In fact, the epilogue or last chapter, really, added the perfect texture to the story, providing you hope for the couple’s future without any saccharine.

Tristanne Barbery has a helpless mother who has racked up crippling debts and an asshole for a stepbrother. Unfortunately, Peter Barbery controls access to Tristanne’s trust fund. In order to have access to such funds, Tristanne must date a wealthy and powerful man while Peter attempts to close a funding deal for the family business. The possibility that Tristanne may marry more wealth will put investors at ease. Peter has no care for Tristanne, her pride, or her reputation. He merely says that she must use what “assets” she’s been given and help her family for once.

She decides to approach Nikos Katrakis, a man she’s always kind of lusted after but has never had the nerve to approach because somehow she knew that being within a hand’s distance of Katrakis was like putting herself in the mouth of the lair of the dragon. (She uses the dragon comparison throughout the book). Nikos is fiercely glad to be approached by Tristanne. He has had a vendetta against the Barbery family, particularly Peter, and for years has slowly eroded the Barbery fortune by a careless word here and there to the point that Peter is on the brink of ruin. He just needs a slight push. Nikos had no intention of using Tristanne but decides that fortune has placed her in his hands and he’ll exorcise this lamentable attraction toward her and wield her lust for him in a triumphant finale that will humiliate the Barbery’s and bring their illustrious name to ruin.

But Nikos is not prepared for Tristanne and her indomitable spirit. Initially she gives herself to him on a superficial level which makes Nikos want what she holds back and as they delve deeper into a relationship, Nikos has to keep reminding himself of his need for revenge.

I thought that Crews did a great job of showing exactly why Nikos was so broken. Toward the end, he tries to explain to Tristanne that he doesn’t believe in love and he goes on to explain why. Nikos was abandoned by his wealthy father to be brought up by an unfit mother. When he was orphaned, he sought out his father and as his father had no heir, his father reluctantly brought Nikos into the family, all the while telling Nikos he wasn’t fit to be a Katrakis. Nikos had a half sister and he longed to be her protector, to be loved by her (in a familial way) but she despised him too, even when she was at her lowest, she still saw him unfit to wipe her tears and comfort her broken heart. Nikos had never known love, didn’t trust proclamations of love, and knew as fiercely as he knew the sun would set tomorrow that Tristanne could never, ever love a man such as he.

There is a scene at the end in which Nikos does something so awful that you think redemption cannot be convincing yet Nikos’ actions make total sense because Tristanne has to see Nikos as his worst and still love him for Nikos to believe that the world may indeed be round when all his life, he has believed it to be flat.

In this story, Tristanne is the one with the strength and resolve even if Nikos is portrayed as the alpha male. She stands up to Peter and in many ways, stands up to Nikos. Her willingness to accept the joy now and deal with the pain later is all believable because you (or I) as the reader believed in Tristanne’s personal strength of will. Nothing could crush her, not even Nikos even though he tries his very best. Make no mistake. Nikos is cruel to Tristanne in this book. Yet, we see his internal struggle with pursuing his revenge and his bewilderment at Tristanne and the person that she brings out in him:

Was that her game? To make him betray his own vows to himself? If so, he was appalled to see how well it was working. What was next? Would he break into sobs in the center of the village piazza? Weep for his wounded inner child? He would more readily saw off his own head with the butter knife that rested on the crisp white linen tablecloth before him

The dialogue exchanges in this story are priceless, some funny, some witty, and some very poignant. For example, Tristanne boldly asks Nikos to kiss her, as a “favor.” Nikos questions why he should kiss her when there are so many other women on the yacht he could be kissing:

Surprise shone briefly in her gaze, then was replaced by something else. She swallowed, and then, very deliberately, smiled. It was a razor-sharp society smile. Nikos did not mistake it for anything but the weapon it was.

“Surely there are points for asking directly,” she said, her distractingly strong chin tilting up, her accent an unidentifiable yet attractive mix of Europe and North America. Her dark lashes swept down, then rose again to reveal her frank gaze. “Rather than lounging about in inappropriate clothing, hoping my décolletage might do the asking for me.”

and the exchange continues:

“But I am not in the habit of kissing strange women in view of so many,” he continued, his voice pitched for her ears alone. “It has a nasty habit of ending up in the tabloids, I find.”

“I apologize,” Tristanne murmured. Her clever eyes met his, daring him. “I was under the impression that you were renowned for your fearlessness. Your ability to scoff in the face of convention. Perhaps I have confused you for another Nikos Katrakis.

“I am devastated,” he replied smoothly, his eyes on hers. He moved closer, and something inside him beat like a drum when she still did not step away. “I assumed it was my good looks that drew you to me, begging to be kissed. Instead you are like all the rest. Are you a rich man’s groupie, Miss Barbery? Do you travel the world and collect kisses like a young girl collects autographs?”

“Not at all, Mr. Katrakis,” she replied at once. She tilted her head back, and raised her brows in that challenging way of hers. “I find rich men are my groupies. They follow me around, making demands. I thought to save you the trouble.”

Later when Tristanne decides that Nikos needs her as his mistress:

“How long will you stand there?” Nikos asked casually, without looking up from his paper. His voice was like a touch, a rough caress that made her shiver. “Why do you loom about with that serious look on your face, as if you are attending your own execution? This cannot be how you think mistresses act, Tristanne, can it?”
Hateful man.

“I am calculating your net worth,” she replied coolly. She arched her eyebrows when his old gold eyes met hers, and ruthlessly tamped down her urge to squirm, to look away, to submit to the command in even his gaze. “I imagine that is the favorite pastime of most mistresses, in fact.”

In part what makes it such a joy to re-read this book is the lovely prose Crews employs, her elegant compilation of words into sentences. Nikos tells Tristanne at some point that mistresses don’t look poised and Tristanne replies that she will strive to keep her hair “in a great tangle.”

I can see this book not working for some, particularly if the mistress angle or the revenge angle bothers readers but this book is full of such emotion and great characters, that I do not regret buying it early at Mills & Boon and I won’t mind when it shows up in my March Harlequin Presents subscription.

Best regards,

Jane

Book Link | Mills & Boon |Amazon

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

36 Comments

  1. Tweets that mention Why I Buy Books from Mills & Boon UK, Part 1: Katrakis’ Last Mistress by Caitlin Crews | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 13:25:28

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Trish Wylie, dearauthor. dearauthor said: NewPost: Why I Buy Books from Mills & Boon UK, Part 1: Katrakis' Last Mistress by Caitlin Crews http://bit.ly/aSW1sl [...]

  2. Christina
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 13:33:16

    So why do I buy books from Mills & Boon? Because some books I want to read now.

    That’s why I bought Kelly Hunter’s books from Amazon UK (saving Red-Hot Renegade — I hate to say good-bye to those Bennetts). I didn’t even think to order from M&B — probably because I could just order in advance from Amazon UK and it would ship without me having to check back. I still end up buying the HP when it comes out.

    I’ll keep this book in mind. I read very few Presents. The ones I’ve bought have usually been based on your recommendations, Jane.

  3. Christine Rimmer
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 13:50:44

    It does sound yummy. I’ll be watching for it when it comes out in March. I gotta love a contemporary book where a guy can use the word “devastated” and not have me thinking of Robin Williams in The Birdcage.

  4. Christine Rimmer
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 13:59:27

    Oh, wait. I mean, Nathan Lane. ARgh

  5. Jane
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 14:26:44

    @Christina: I’m sure it is available from Amazon UK now or maybe even Book Depository. I should put up a link for that.

  6. Maili
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 16:09:55

    I’m surprised to see American grammar usage in those excerpts of a M&B. Is it common nowadays?

    Although I haven’t read M&B Presents for years, I truly enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

  7. Brian
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 16:31:40

    Are you buying M&B books as ebooks? Last time I tried that they were geo restricted so folks in N. America couldn’t buy them. If so what workaround(s) are you using?

  8. MaryK
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 17:23:54

    I buy M&B books through Book Depository whenever there’s one I want to be sure not to miss. I love India Grey and console myself with her books in the absence of a new Napier. But one of her books didn’t make it to the US at all and M&B doesn’t have it anymore. I’ll eventually have to buy a used copy from the UK.

  9. Kelley
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 17:38:08

    I’m still lamenting the loss of my Presents and Blaze Amazon bundles. It’s significantly reduced my HQ buying mostly because I wouldn’t have bought all of them otherwise. sigh

  10. Jane
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 18:01:53

    @Brian: I’ve never used any work around and I buy at the mills & boon site. Have for a long time.

  11. Anon
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 18:52:51

    I recently bought about $35 worth of M&B and I really tried to like them, but I couldn’t even get past the first chapter in nearly all of them. I bought 8 novels in a mix of different series as ebooks.

    I bought some that were given high scores on this site, and wish I’d bought the physical books so I could give them to the local hospital or something for free reading material. I’m disappointed. The covers, the excerpts and blurbs looked so good, but the stories weren’t interesting and the characters were flat.

    It also makes me wonder about the ratings of books on this site in general. What are the prejudices of reviewers and who/what series are they most likey to give high scores? And if they’ve given such high ratings to books I couldn’t even get through, then I find it difficult to base buying choices upon the scores.

    In fact, I feel that I won’t use the reviews at all for such a thing. I’ve been burned.

    I wish there was a way to get your money back with ebooks or books in general in Australia, but there isn’t unless the book is damaged.

    It’s a high price to pay for dissatisfaction because I won’t be buying any M&B series again. I wonder if there could be an electronic marker which proves you’ve read past the first couple of chapters, and if you haven’t you could get your money back.

    I guess I’ll have to chalk this one up to experience which is a shame because not so long ago, I used to love series and I also like reading the reviews of this site. I saved up some money to go ahead and purchase some recommended books and wish that I hadn’t.

  12. Jane
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 19:45:46

    @Anon It may be that the opinions of the readers here don’t work for you. Everyone’s reading tastes are personal and what works for one may not work for another.

  13. Sarah_Florida
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 19:56:51

    MaryK

    Which India Grey book are you missing? My mom (in UK) subscribes to the monthly pack and when she is finished she mails them to me here in Florida. If I’ve got it I can give you it. I usually just file them in boxex when I’m done :)

    Sarah

  14. MaryK
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 20:58:32

    @Sarah_Florida: Really? That would be awesome!

    It’s Spanish Aristocrat, Forced Bride from 2009. I can paypal you the postage if you want or you could offer it to me through PaperBackSwap and get a credit for it.

  15. Sarah_Florida
    Nov 13, 2010 @ 22:00:00

    @MaryK: I’m on Paperbackbookswap – How do I offer it through there? If I add it to my account and your not the first on the waiting list…. If there are usernames it’s either this one I use here or sarahgat

  16. Niveau
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 00:43:07

    Getting books earlier is good, too, but when I’ve paid more for UK versions from Book Depository it’s because M&B’s covers and blurbs are often better than Harlequin’s for the Modern/Presents line. The way NA Presents are packaged focuses so much on the hero, even when the heroine is clearly what the book revolves around, which I find annoying. Also, the UK blurbs are less likely to use the word “tame” than the NA – you tame pets. Women are not pets. I cannot tell you how much it pisses me off to read that word again and again and again. *sigh*

  17. Amy
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 02:43:50

    @Christina: Are you saying you can order books from UK Amazon and have them shipped to the US?

  18. Edie
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 08:10:22

    @Maili: In the last couple of years American grammar and spelling has slipped into most of the M&Bs. *sob*

  19. Christina
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 10:04:14

    @Amy: Yes, you can. You can even use the same user id and password.

    However, it can be expensive. The shipping was twice the amount of the book (there is no Amazon Prime). The last book I bought, the total bill came to USD 16.29 (GBP 10.17).

    As you can imagine, it’s not something I do very often.

  20. Ros
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 13:17:14

    @MaryK: Spanish Aristocrat, Forced Bride is one of India’s best and totally worth getting. But I happen to know that it is due out in the US some time next year under a different title – I think, ‘The Society Lady’, so if other people are trying to find it without success, just be a little patient!

  21. Ros
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 13:19:37

    @Amy: You’re better off buying from the Book Depository rather than Amazon.co.uk though, because they have free shipping worldwide.

    Also, great review! I’m in the UK, but I buy from both Harlequin and M&B depending on price and release date. You do have to be careful to check whether or not you already have the book under a different title, though.

  22. MaryK
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 13:40:28

    @Ros: Thanks! The US version usually comes out within a year so I’d given up on it. I may even have asked HQN about it on twitter – unless I was asking about another book, it’s been a while.

    I wish wish wish that HP/M&B authors would keep their websites up to date. It’s the only way readers know about the title changes besides comparing character names in blurbs! Annie West and Abby Green have great cross-references on their sites.

  23. Kate Hewitt
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 18:31:52

    @MaryK: This is coming out as The Society Wife in the US in January.

  24. Kate Hewitt
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 18:34:23

    @Edie: M&Bs have American or English grammar/spelling depending on the author and how they are edited. If an author is from the UK, they are edited with UK style rules. If the author is from the US, then US style rules. What you are probably seeing is more US authors in M&B lines. (I happen to be an anomaly to this, as I live in the US but am edited according to UK style, but only because I started writing while living in the UK!)

  25. Edie
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 19:16:20

    @Kate Hewitt: Actually I first noted it on an Australian author, and the air turned blue. It was also in her next couple of books as well, it was the same for the next lot of British authors I picked up.
    I thought they might just be cutting down editing-repackaging fees. :(

  26. MaryK
    Nov 14, 2010 @ 19:56:37

    @Kate Hewitt: January, huh? I was thinking that was the US version of Her Last Night of Innocence but now I see the cover image is the same as Spanish Aristocrat.

  27. MaryK
    Nov 15, 2010 @ 11:10:34

    @Sarah_Florida: I sent a PM to a Sarah in FL who seemed most likely to be you. :)

  28. Kate Hewitt
    Nov 15, 2010 @ 13:05:52

    @Edie: Hmm, that’s strange. I know when I first sold my editor asked me how I would like my books to be edited–ie, US vs UK spellings, grammar, etc. I can’t speak to other authors’ experiences or books, though.

  29. Maili
    Nov 15, 2010 @ 13:48:53

    @Edie and @Kate Hewitt: Thank you for the info. I can’t deny that I’m disappointed in M&B over this.

  30. Brussel Sprout
    Nov 25, 2010 @ 06:32:58

    I got this on the strength of the review here, and because I am a big India Grey fan, but this was a wallbanger for me. First off, what I didn’t get was why the heroine didn’t get her mother onto a plane for Canada pronto, where there is a damn fine health service. In fact, all over Europe, there is a damn fine health service – the woman shouldn’t have medical bills coming out of her ears. So my willing suspension of disbelief kicked in from chapter 1. And even if there were bills, any bank worth its salt would have loaned Tristanne the money on the strength of her trust fund. Apart from which, her stepbrother would have had other executors – the whole at the mercy of the half-brother was really implausible.

    Additionally, the whole mistress thing – guys, even rich guys, have girlfriends, not mistresses. There are prostitutes for casual sex and girlfriends for affairs. Which sometimes become long term or even marriage. And there isn’t some ‘mistress’ code. If this had been set 120-150 years earlier at the time of the grandes horizontales, I could have bought it, but not in the 21st century.

    There are books out there with much more interesting angsty heroes. This one just didn’t work for me.

  31. Jane’s 2010 Best of the Year List | Dear Author
    Dec 31, 2010 @ 12:01:45

    [...] Last Mistress by Caitlin Crews Review by Jane I loved the angst in this book, the somewhat imperfect hea and the [...]

  32. ayay
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 20:54:42

    To be honest,

    I skipped this book a while ago. I must search for it now..

  33. Jane
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 22:35:49

    @ayay It’s out now in North America under another title but I recall it still has Katrakis in the title.

  34. xoxo
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 16:01:23

    does mistress always mean adulterous woman? especially in most M&B books? just confuse -.-

  35. Jane
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 16:06:04

    @xoxo: I always understood it to be “kept” woman rather than adulterous woman.

  36. xoxo
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 12:54:18

    ooh so does it necessarilyy mean that the man already has a wife? thanks anyway :)

%d bloggers like this: