Mistress & A Million Dollars
by Maxine Sullivan
(Silh. Desire #1855, $4.75, PG-13) ISBN 0373-76855-9
**
Mistress & A Million Dollars is a convoluted story about a feud within two families that is probably much better if you have read one of the two previous installments in the “Diamonds Down Under” series. Harry Blackstone and Oliver Hammond used to be partners, until Harry married Oliver’s sister Ursula. Harry and Ursula had a child, James, who was kidnapped and has never been recovered. Harry accused Oliver of having something to do with it, since he and his wife were unable to have natural children. After the birth of their third child, Ursula committed suicide, and on the night she died, a very rare and expensive diamond necklace was stolen. Harry also blamed that on Oliver. Their feud was on.

The children are all grown now and Jarrod Hammond, one of two adopted children, is a successful lawyer. His brother Matt just lost his wife Marise in a plane crash. She was in the company of Harry Blackstone, who also died. Following the crash, it was discovered that Harry changed his will and left some jewelry to Marise, creating the speculation that they were having an affair. He also left a trust fund for Matt and Marise’s son Blake, causing speculation as to Blake’s true parentage.

Despite the estrangement between the two families, there are blood ties and many in the younger generation want things to be better. When Kimberly and Ryan (Harry’s other children) invite Jarrod to one of their weddings, he attends almost out of a sense of curiosity. He runs into someone who has intrigued him for years.

Briana Davenport is Marise’s sister. She is a model and has been the face of Blackstone jewelry for a few years. Marise had always been an opportunist and Briana and she were not extremely close. Briana is almost at the end of her contract and is hoping that Blackstone will renew with her despite the scandal about Harry and her sister. She needs the money. Her old manager, Patrick, “invested” her funds and basically lost all of her money. It was not illegal but it was definitely not wise. Briana realized she was taken in by Patrick and his looks. She fired him as her lover and her manager. She also discovered that her father had embezzled one million dollars from Harry and needs money to pay it back before it is discovered.

She is instantly attracted to Jarrod and always has been. Jarrod is determined to get to know Briana better, hoping to find out more about Marise so he can help his brother. He offers Briana the chance to be his lover for a month and after some haggling, they settle on a cool million as payment.

This was a difficult story to follow. There is a lot of back-story and much of it was convoluted and hard to keep track of because of all the complexities in the relationships. This might be easier for people who have read the story from the first installment. I disliked Jarrod at first and couldn’t understand why Briana would degrade herself to go to bed with Jarrod for money. The whole situation was couched so that it wasn’t really prostitution, but it wasn’t exactly romantic either.

Finally, it was hard to believe all the changes that had to take place to make these two be fully able to say I love you and not have all the baggage involved. Since it was a struggle, I have to add my warning of think twice before picking up Mistress and a Million Dollars.

--Shirley Lyons


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