Games for Sophisticates by Diana Hamilton
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Games for Sophisticates is a good name for this book, because it is about playing love like it's a game. Of course we know someone always gets hurt in that particular game. Quilla is put in the difficult situation of being asked by her brother to attract the attention of powerful businessman and ladies man Fraser McGill so that he will end his affair with her brother's wife. Quilla loves her brother and would do just about anything for him, but she knows she's out of her league making a play for Fraser. It turns out Fraser falls for the bait. His eye is on Quilla and he spends the rest of the book pursuing her, in various ways.
Quilla doesn't like Fraser at all. She has contempt for his love 'them and leave them ways' and she has to balance that dislike with the need to keep him on the hook so that her brother can repair his troubled marriage. Yet the more time she spends with Fraser, it grows harder to resist his seductive allure, and her feelings of dislike are conflicted by growing feelings of attraction to him. Occasionally, glimpses of the gentle, good man show through and gain her affection. However, she soon reminds herself that everyone knows (and he says it himself) he's incapable of staying with a woman and loving her. Quilla is a love and marriage (eventually) girl. She has no time or inclinations for an affair, even with a sexy man like Fraser. So, she makes it clear that all she feels for him is contempt as soon as she can. But Fraser is not a man to be played with. He gives her an ultimatum that ups the ante, and she has to show her hand or fold. But no one walks away from Fraser McGill.
This book is quite full of emotional/sexual tension. I liked that about the book. Set in the 80s, you can see the change in social mores and dynamics. While Quilla isn't sexually active, she doesn't come off as anachronistic in her personal morals. Instead, she's shown as a careful, somewhat introverted woman who has been focused on career and family, not playing the dating game. In that sense, it is not unbelievable that she would be susceptible to Fraser. However, she uses strength of will and cruel words to keep herself from becoming sexually involved with Fraser for most of this book. I didn't blame her for not wanting to get her heart broken by him. However, I did feel she was very mean and cruel in a lot of things she said and did to him. Usually, I feel that the hero is the one who is being mean to the heroine. In this case, Quilla takes that role. Fraser actually is quite nice to her. Of course, he's trying to get her to sleep with him, but he's not given the opportunity to truly know Quilla and her value system because she's stringing him along. He thinks she's up for the usual sort of relationship dynamic. When he finds out she won't be easily brought to heel, he resorts to some manipulations that aren't fair play, but considering the way she shuts him down continually, I didn't hold it against him. I felt that compared to how mean Quilla was to him, it was fair play.
I didn't rate this one higher because of the mind games and mean things Quilla said and did to Fraser. I understood why, but I winced at poor Fraser when he gives her something very beautiful and from the heart and she rejects it cruelly. I also didn't like how her brother was using his fairly sheltered sister against a known rake instead of manning up and saving his marriage the right way instead of manipulating his wife and her so-called lover. I felt that part was pretty immature and silly.
Overall, this is a good book. I liked Quilla's friend and business partner Nico. I couldn't quite figure out how he felt towards Quilla and wondered what his intentions were. I'm assuming he was respecting the friend barrier, but he would have taken things further if he had any indication Quilla was willing. That was one part I didn't mind, Fraser's jealousy about Nico, although it was mean on Quilla's part at the same time (she told Fraser a lie about their relationship). As I've said before, I like a jealous hero. I think that despite a lack of an on-the-page consummation, this was sensual and full of sexual tension. The end is very good, and I liked that for once, Quilla had to do the work in their relationship. Poor Fraser deserved as much.
A pretty good HP for readers who like their 80s output.
Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.
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