When a young, reckless and strong-willed seventeen year old Lady Sarah married Brinsley Cole, she though it was a great and passionate love they shared. Fighting nearly tooth and nail to get what she wanted, Sarah burned bridges with her family to achieve her goal of marriage. Unfortunately her thoughts of love were nothing but a smokescreen hiding her husband's true and cruel intentions. Now, ten years later, Sarah has constructed formidable and icy walls to shield her heart and exudes the prickly and prideful nature of a woman scorned but also one bound and determined to hold her head high. There's only one soul on earth that probes beneath her hateful layers to the passionate woman below and that's the utterly masculine Marquis of Vane. The man is danger in the flesh and Sarah has always felt his penetrating gaze to the very heart of her soul but she's also prided herself on her everlasting refusal to partake of the sinful pleasure that he's always offered her; always wanted from her.
Vane can't actually put into words the why or how of his infatuation with Lady Sarah Cole. Once, already years ago, he asked to form an arrangement with her but she shot him down with such cold precision that he couldn't stand to see for her many, many months. Even with the beating to his pride, Vane still could never turn his mind loose from Sarah. Despite her icy demeanor, Vane was sure that it shielded passion for her soul was nearly tangible to his roaming awareness. She plagued his thoughts and his body and her confounded husband only served to spark his intense anger over the fact that he wasn't the first to claim her heart.
When the very man that holds Vane's every desire approaches him with the horrid proposition of one night with his wife for ten thousand pounds, Vane is more then tempted but honor prevents him from accepting the offer. Yet surprisingly, Sarah arrives on his doorstep demanding an audience. Vane, thinking that she has finally come to him, surrenders his famous control and the two make love until morning. With fleeting thoughts of making Sarah his forever, he begs her to stay only to have the woman of his dreams demand her ten thousand pounds from him. Feeling the cold claws of betrayal, Vane lets her go with every intention of never laying eyes on the woman that broke his heart but murder would throw them together once again.
Desperate to prevent the truth of her whereabouts on the night of her husband's death, Sarah's only recourse is to swear vehemently that she's innocent when suspicious eyes turn her way. Despite the cruel fact that her marriage to Brinsley sunk her far below the high position within society that she once took for granted, Sarah will not allow her husband's death and the subsequent unveiling of her affair to tear her already delicate reputation to shreds. But when it's brought to her attention that Vane is being looked upon as a potential suspect, Sarah reveals her secret.
Meanwhile, Vane is trying desperately to provide an alibi for Sarah and has petitioned her parents. Vane knows that Sarah doesn't want her parents involved for not only could she not bare to sully their name, but her pride prevents her from allowing her parent's charity. Besides, after the bridges she's burned, why would they even want to lift a finger to help their child? But what Vane finds is a father's reluctance and a mother's stubborn drive to help Sarah. Alibi secured, Vane is then outraged when Sarah tells him that her secret is known and she is free of all suspicion.
In the face of Vane's anger, Sarah's icy demeanor falls into place and she decides to never allow him to know that she did it all to save him. But when Vane offers marriage as a solution to save her reputation, it's Sarah's turn to be outraged. But when his argument proves to be the only option left to her, Sarah unwillingly agrees. In truth, she tried her best to protect Vane from herself. She feels that he deserves an innocent beauty with every capability to love for in her mind, the woman of many years ago is gone and can never be again. She's lived so long with the determination to hate and she's clung so desperately to her pride that Vane would be getting an empty shell of a heart for a bride. But even beyond this, Sarah's greatness fear is that Vane has the ability to break through her barriers, strip her soul to its very essence and demand her love then with that manly accomplishment, he'll ultimately betray her for that's what men do.
Vane, in a way, can't help but rub his hands together in glee at the thought of finally possessing Sarah and despite her cool request that she have her own bedchamber and that she wishes to not be touched, Vane is confident in his skills of seduction. He's also confident that he can crack through Sarah's formidable walls but as time goes by he recognizes that he has ten years of pent up anger and distrust to deal with. He tries to see the woman within, walks down all avenues but is continually bombarded by the same result. Yet despite his frustration, he falls in love Sarah but when he's given proof that the only person Sarah can love is an innocent child that is not related nor in anyway in her control, Vane lets go.
I'll just come right out and say that I loved 'Wicked Little Game'. Not sure of the title...but the contents within were astounding. Wells wove a complex and intriguing story that I lapped up with urgent haste. Rarely do you find a historical that provides as many twists and turns as WLG with the added bonus of incredible emotional depth.
Vane....wow. He is an amazing hero, one that I never get tired of reading. I think he loved Sarah from the very first moment he laid eyes on her for it was telling with each and every action he made towards her. He stands up for her when he has no reason. He comforted her when he recognized despair. He let her rip into his soul time and again and continually came back for more even when all Sarah caused was pain. A lesser man than Vane would have given up on Sarah. She was so hard, so callous and so adept at keeping her icy cold mask in place. But Vane understood her core. He knew what she was protecting and he was determined to break through all her walls.
What is most unlike me is my love for Sarah. Typically I would dislike her character immensely. She's unbearably stubborn and ruthless in her pride. She would be a woman that I would have no desire to tangle with but the difference is that I understood her pain. Ten years of betrayal after betrayal from the man you fell in love with and married undoubtedly corrupts your soul and your ability to trust. She has no options, no outs. Instead Sarah finds solace in petty punishments she was able to dealt Brinsley. She gave him the illusion that anything he tried to throw at her wouldn't shake her impeccably cold heart when inside she's crying and railing at his callousness. Sarah knows immediately upon meeting Vane that he is the man that can reveal the woman within and I think Sarah was afraid of what even she might find when all her barriers were gone by his sheer force of will. Perhaps she really did have an empty shell of a heart. Knowing that, I think Sarah was more afraid of herself than Vane although she did her best to make him believe that it was him she feared.
I do wonder though if my opinion of Sarah would have been different if she hadn't forsaken her reputation to save Vane from being charged with murder. Her split second reaction showed then and there that she was able to make huge sacrifices for him without even having yet developed the incredible love that she does eventually hold for him. Luckily for her she did it and in that action she revealed that she still had the capacity to love and that she truly did deserve everlasting happiness.