Books to the Sky

Recap: The Italian Boss’s Mistress of Revenge by Trish Morey

Posted on: October 19, 2008

Like Pretty Woman in Australia, only with less prostituting and more REVENGE!

Like Pretty Woman in Australia, only with less prostituting and more REVENGE!

Line, Publication Date: Harlequin Presents, 2008
Cover Steaminess: 7. A shirtless guy and a girl in a pink negligee are making out on a bed in front of a window that shows a city skyline.
Series/Back of Book Description: Red Hot Revenge. “All that stands in the way of Dante Carazzo and revenge is Mackenzi Keogh. Mackenzi will do anything to save her hotel—something Dante uses to his advantage: he’ll reconsider if she becomes his mistress! Mackenzi knows she shouldn’t trust Dante, but the pleasure he gives her is too intense to resist. However, their bargain is compromised when Dante learns she is pregnant…”
Flowery Language Quotient: Medium. Nothing egregious, but typical romance novel-y exaggeration and euphemism during the sex scenes. (At one point, his chest hair curls “possessively” around her fingers, for instance.) And there’s this description of orgasm: “She came apart like the force of a skyrocket, exploding into myriad tiny stars that sparkled and shone and floated on the breeze as they drifted back down to earth.” That’s pretty typical of the writing style in this book, always taking the description just a step too far.

It’s a filthy night in Australia and Dante Carrazzo is in a filthy mood. He’s driving around trying to find a boutique hotel that is apparently hard to find. And he has plans for this hotel. (Filthy plans? Dirty plans? Naughty plans? Okay, sorry. But this is a romance novel. We already all know where this is going. Wanna place bets that the innkeeper is an attractive woman?)

Dante arrives at Ashton House, the hotel. Words he thinks of to describe the old mansion-cum-hotel: “sinister,” “unwelcoming,” “brooding,” and “resentful.” Sounds like a place you want to stay, right? Or like the freaking Bates Motel. (Although, “resentful”?) He goes in and tells the night clerk his name, which is how it’s revealed that Dante recently came to own this particular house of horrors. Sounds like it’ll be a good investment. The property once belonged to Jonas and Sara Douglas and it took Dante 17 years to get his hands on this particular gem. The acquisition of the hotel is a key piece to an unspecified revenge plot against the Douglases. But it’s late and rainy, so Dante just wants to go to sleep. He strips off his clothes intending to do just that and finds… a naked woman in the bed!

Dante does what anyone who discovers a naked woman in his bed would do: he assumes she’s a prostitute hired by the hotel, so he grabs a condom and gets ready to go. He starts to make out with her while she’s still asleep and gets to third base before she moans the name “Richard” and he decides he should probably wake her up.

Ya think?

The woman is, of course, the improbably spelled Mackenzi, the hotel’s manager. She’s having a recurring dream about a lover who comes to her only at night, and she’s reluctant to open her eyes because she doesn’t want the dream to end, even though it feels so real. The Richard whose name she muttered earlier is Romance Novel Pet Peeve #4: The ex who told the heroine she was a frigid bitch who was no good in bed.

She wakes up, sees Dante, and, predictably, freaks out. She knows who he is but he doesn’t know her. She says she should go, but then there’s a lightning flash and she sees that he’s naked, and her body acts of its own volition. She tells herself, “He’ll never know it’s you.” This is bad idea jeans. They totally do it anyway. Afterward, she freaks some more and and sneaks out as he’s falling asleep, determined that, when they inevitably meet for business reasons, he not recognize her (how she thinks this is possible remains a mystery) even though she totally wants to have sex with him again, because she’s a romance heroine and has never had good sex before and Dante is, clearly, her True Love despite the fact that he almost raped her in her sleep.


Mackenzi pulls a Clark Kent and pulls up her hair and puts on some glasses for her business meeting with Dante the next morning. When she introduces herself, there’s some stupid gender confusion. (“What kind of name is Mackenzi for a woman?” Do you know any male Mackenizies?) Mackenzi then expositions about the hotel’s history and… zzzz.

Dante’s an asshole, and after Mackenzi badgers him about what he has in mind for the hotel now that he owns it, he informs her that he intends to destroy it “because I can.” He gives Mackenzi 3 months to fire everyone and close the hotel. She gets all, “I can’t let you do that,” so he says he’ll fire her immediately if she doesn’t. She quits, but then makes the mistake of giving him a speech about how he’s a heartless bastard and she doesn’t know how he sleeps at night. “Is that why you provided the woman?” he asks. Oh, geez. She’s all, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He assumes that she hired him a whore to soften him up so he wouldn’t close the hotel, but then he recognizes her as said whore, because only Lois Lane is stupid enough to fall for the old glasses ruse. She storms out of the restaurant.

He follows her to her office. She continues to stupidly deny it was her in the bed, Dante accuses her of using sex to get her way. It’s, of course, never explained why she was naked in the bed to begin with. Also, stupidly, when she figures out she’s not fooling anyone, she goes along with what he thinks and then insults his sexual prowess. This, of course, gives him a reason to want to prove he’s the alpha-est of alpha males and so he tells her that, if she quits, the hotel’s definitely closing, but if she continues to sleep with him, he’ll think about keeping it open. When she balks, he threatens to tell her staff that her failure to cooperate with him is why he’s closing the hotel.

Mmm, delicious sexual harassment. And this is the hero?

She agrees to sleep with him, so he immediately pushes her against the desk and pulls up her skirt, but she puts the breaks on it by calling him a caveman, and they have a staff meeting to go to anyway. At the meeting, Dante tells the staff he needs two weeks to make a decision, and when the happily still-employed staff disperses, Dante tells Mackenzi to pack her bags because she’s coming with him to various cities to close business deals.

On the flight to Melbourne, Dante badgers Mackenzi into telling him about Richard who, as it happens, was married to another woman when he and Mackenzi had their affair. And Richard, who was merely adequate in bed, had told Mackenzi she was an ice queen. Apparently “frigid” translates to “bad in bed.” Mackenzi also thinks a lot and gets in touch with her submissive side, I guess, because she more or less decides that she’s aroused by Dante bossing her around. Ew.

Dante meets with some dude, it comes out that he has no intention of keeping the hotel, Ashton House, open. Oh, the dude is his assistant, Adrian. Think Jason Alexander’s character in Pretty Woman. Mackenzi instantly dislikes him. Ten bucks says he tries to assault her later.

That same day, all three of them fly to Auckland. They arrive at 3am and Dante installs Mackenzi in a ginormous suite before getting sucked into more meetings, so when she wakes up the next morning, she discovers that he had never come to bed. Then something kind of fishy happens and, after a whole day of being resentful that he was forcing her to have sex with him in exchange for agreeing to stall on his hotel decision, she gets resentful that he doesn’t shag her rotten when he comes into the room. Instead, he tells her to use his money and go shopping. Oh, man. This book is the Australian Pretty Woman. The next scene even involves a board meeting after which Dante invites the client, Quinn, out to a fancy schmancy dinner to which Mackenzi will come. Think her charming banter will seal the deal?

Mackenzi, meanwhile, is bored to tears back at the hotel, and when Dante comes home back to the suite in a pissy mood, she gets mad and tells him she’s leaving. They fight. She finally yells at him to stop playing games and just fuck her already, but she says it nicer. So he basically attacks her (in a “sexy” way with much rending of garments and slamming against walls) and his thoughts are all, “I’ll show her,” but he’s dumb because that’s what she wants him to do. (She actually thanks him after they do it the first time in this chapter.) In all the rush to make with the passionate lovemaking, they forget about condoms. Mackenzi tells Dante she’s on the Pill, but then she goes to take hers for the day and notices she missed one. Even if we hadn’t read the back-of-the-book copy, we’d know where this was going.

So they go off to dinner with Quinn. He’s a boatbuilder, not unlike the Quinns of Nora Roberts’ Chesapeake Bay series, just so we’re aware of how little original material is actually in this novel. (That might be my favorite Nora Roberts series. Good romance exists! The Italian Boss’s Mistress of Revenge is not it!) Quinn is in deep to a bank that Dante owns a controlling interest in, and Mackenzi is all, “Give the guy a chance!” but Dante is a Ruthless Business Man, and it seems he plans to bankrupt Quinn for sport. (And we’re supposed to like this guy because…?)

Anyway, at dinner, Quinn’s wife comments on how unusual the name Mackenzi is. Okay, no. When I was a camp counselor in the mid-90s, half the girls at camp were named MacKenzie or some variation thereof, so, like, every third girl born in 1988 was named MacKenzie. It is not an unusual name, just an unusual (and stupid) spelling. Please stop reminding us that it’s a weird name. But, so, dinner. Mackenzi pitches a compromise deal between Quinn and Dante that would mean they’d both develop the same plot of land rather than Quinn bankrupting himself or Dante buying the whole thing and turning it into apartments. Dante is, naturally, livid, and negotiations stall. He tells Mackenzi off back at the hotel and tells her he doesn’t get her. She says she’s only with him to keep the hotel open. He says she’s only with him for the good loving.

So they fight, and Mackenzi goes to bed alone. Dante stays up all night crunching the numbers, then goes to Mackenzi at 6am. He tells her she was right about the deal after all, but it’s not clear to me whether his apology is genuine or if he’s just saying it to get her to have sex with him. Probably some of both. So they do it, then afterward, Dante orders half the menu for room service, including a gift: A big emerald necklace. Mackenzi is insulted, Dante is offended she won’t accept the gift, and they both get huffy. Yawn.

All seems to be forgiven on Quinn’s yacht later that day. Nothing really happens except that Dante tells his assistant Adrian to go back home then he asks Mackenzi to help him close the deal (with Quinn, and not in that way, ew). So the next day, they tour Quinn’s facilities, and Mackenzi is happy to have something to do. They seem to have developed a more friendly rapport, then when they get back to the hotel, they have sex in an elevator. Mackenzi’s feeling pretty good until she gets back to the room and sees that Dante bought her clothes. She tells him that his buying things for her makes her feel like a whore, so he tells her he doesn’t feel that way about her but she needs clothes so she can help him do business things because her wardrobe is so scant. He offers to take the money for the clothes out of her consulting fee for helping him with the Quinn deal, and how this does not make her a whore, I do not know, but whatever, Mackenzi seems okay with that.

A few days later, Dante is thinking about how much he admires Mackenzi’s business acumen when he gets an email from Adrian about Ashton House, and he replies that he still plans to close the hotel. Gee, I don’t see how this can ever backfire on him spectacularly.

Mackenzi takes a pregnancy test and it is, of course, positive. She goes to talk to Dante and first she brings up her hotel, and he tells her his decision stands. She’s hurt and tells him she’s leaving, and he says he wants her gone that day. Then she tells him she doesn’t understand why he won’t see reason, so he tells her Ashton House is different. The thing he’s trying to get revenge for better be really juicy.

So Dante storms out and that’s when Mackenzi realizes that she’s fallen in love with him (why, I have no idea). Dante gets outside, where it’s of course raining, but then he feels remorse, so he goes back. He marches into the suite and finds her in the bathroom, where she’s holding the pregnancy test. They fight some more, she tells him she still plans to leave but now everything’s different because she’s having his baby, so he won’t let her leave. Then Quinn calls, and bizarrely, Dante explains away his tardiness for a meeting by saying Mackenzi has just agreed to marry him.

Then it gets wackier, because Mackenzi says she’ll only marry Dante if he promises not to tear down Ashton House. This all seems like a solid foundation for a marriage, right? And he… agrees? It’s about the least romantic scene in anything I’ve ever read, because they fight their way through planning the wedding. And despite all this, Mackenzi is confident that Dante loves her and they’ll make it work. Okay.

So on her wedding day, Adrian comes to see her, and rather than skeevily hitting on her, he gives her flowers than tells her that Ashton House is still closing. She’s understandably peeved and runs off.

Mackenzi’s mother calls Dante to tell him that Mackenzi took off and said there probably wouldn’t be a wedding now. Dante calls around and pieces together that Mackenzi got confirmation that the hotel is closing. Then Adrian comes into Dante’s room. As Dante freaks, Adrian’s all, “You’re better off without her.” So. Is Adrian in love with Dante? That’s an interesting twist, I guess. (I’m probably reading too much into it and/or have been reading too much gay romance lately. I think Adrian is just The Villain, no character motivation required.) Dante figures out that Adrian told Mackenzi, and he fires Adrian. As Dante takes off to find Mackenzi, he realizes he loves her. *sigh*

He finds her at her house. Wow, such a great hiding place, Mackenzi. I never would have thought to look for you there. It’s clear that there’s some misunderstanding of what “closing” means. He talks her into hearing him out, so she lets him in.

Thus, we finally get the reason Dante seeks revenge against Ashton House’s former owners, the Douglases: Dante was given up for adoption and taken in by the Douglases, who didn’t want a son so much as a playmate for their son Jake, who later died in a car crash. The Douglases worked so much that they didn’t have time for the kids, so they installed them in a mansion. Dante’s (or “Danny’s”) sole purpose as to provide entertainment for Jake. So, when Jake turned seventeen, they wrote Dante a check and kicked him out without letting him say good bye to Jake. And it was all for naught because Jake died in that car crash, and Dante learned the real estate trade in London and became a better businessman than the Douglases, and so he started exacting his revenge. Ashton House was the crown of their holdings, and the site of Jake’s seventeenth birthday party.

Mackenzi gets it immediately and is all sympathetic. Dante adds that he’s closing the hotel but not tearing down the building: he intends for it to be a home for foster children and families. (Ugh, of course. This guy is an ass for 170 pages, but as soon as he says, “I care about children!” we’re supposed to swoon. I don’t think so.) Mackenzi buys it hook, line, and sinker, though. So he tells her he’s glad she ran out on their wedding because he didn’t know how much he cared about her until he thought he’d lost her. He loves her, blah blah.

They kiss and make up, then her neighbor barges in on them and mentions to him that he should cut back Mackenzi’s hours because she slept over the hotel all the time. Which gets him thinking about their first night together (you know, when he pretty much raped her), and he apologizes for that, too, but she tells him she wanted to have sex with him because it was so good and so unlike what she had with Token Bad Ex-Boyfriend Richard, who… knew that she’d been conceived via IVF and thus was not a real woman? Dude, can’t she just say that he had a small penis and have that be the end of it?

And then they get married. The end.


1 Response to "Recap: The Italian Boss’s Mistress of Revenge by Trish Morey"

That’s WONDERFUL. I love how little revenge has to do with anything, and how much mind-bending chauvinism does. That may be the best marriage proposal ever, though Elizabeth’s first two proposals from P&P have a special place (Collins – you want to marry me! Lizzy – um, no. Collins – By “um, no”, you mean yes! Lizzy – um, no. And then… Darcy – you’re totally not good enough for me, but your feminine wiles have won me over. Lizzy – … jerk).

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