Wicked Little Games by Christine Wells
Lucas Christopher St. John Morrow, the Marquis of Vane, has wanted Lady Sarah Cole in his bed and in his life since he first met her but unfortunately she is already married. Her husband, Brinsley Cole, is a womanizing, gambling, wastrel who flaunts his affairs and basically treats his wife like garbage (although no physical abuse is hinted at), but still Sara refuses to give in to Vane, despite her own immense attraction for him. The one thing that Sarah feels she has going for her is her pride and the knowledge that she can hold herself above Brinsley because she does not engage in the horrible behaviors that he does. Brinsley has a trick up his sleeve and he offers Sarah to Vane for one night in exchange for 10,0000 pounds. Vane refuses and instead gives Brinsley the same amount in exchange for leaving Sarah completely alone but Brinsley tells Sarah she must go to Vane and sleep with him. Sarah is furious and determined to have it out with Vane but instead she ends up giving in to her own desires for Vane and the two have quite the night of passion. Sarah is upset with herself for what she has done and feels her pride has been dealt a great blow, but she is even more upset when she returns home to find Brinsley dead- murdered.
Sarah is the first suspect but she only gives them her alibi until those at the Home Office bring up the possibility that Vane killed Brinsley. Vane knows that if word gets out that Sarah will be ruined so he asks her to marry him and knowing she has no other choice Sarah agrees- with the stipulation that they have a passionless marriage. Sarah feels immense guilt that while she was sleeping with another man her husband was being killed ands he feels like the only way she can survive is by clenching onto her pride with both hands. And of course this is what necessitates not sleeping with Vane again. Vane is determined to change Sarah's mind, but he wants to ensure that she does it out of her own free will and not merely give in to seduction. Meanwhile Vane is trying to help Sarah find Brinsley's bastard son, Tom, whom Sarah wants to take care of as she feels responsible for the boy. In addition there is the matter of who killed Brinsley, despite the Home Office covering it up as a suicide. Vane knows that he wants Sarah but he does not want a wife who is still wrapped up in her feelings of guilt and fear over being baren so he lays his heart on the line and asks Sarah to give him everything.
I really liked the plot where both of them have been harboring this great attraction for each other that's been just simmering beneath the surface for years. I can imagine it would be really hard to pull this off successfully and without getting overdrawn and Wells does it very well. When the two are together the scenes are literally just soaked in yearning and I loved it. This book is very emotion driven and as I stated previously Wells has a way with writing these emotions that avoids being overly angsty while still making it clear that these two people have some substantial problems standing in their way. Wells is also great at writing some great sex scenes that are emotion driven and still manage to be incredibly hot; although I will warn that there is one scene that features some mild bondage and "punishment" in the form of multiple orgasms. Not really a warning I guess, more an incentive to go buy this :). I also found myself really enjoying the mystery surrounding who killed Brinsley as it was an essential part of the story yet did not detract, in fact contributed to, the development of the relationship between Vane and Sarah.
I spent quite a lot of this book wanting to seriously slap Sarah across the face. At first I was fine with the overwhelming guilt she felt and I completely understood that she felt she had to do "penance" as of course what she does was, in the world she was raised in, completely out of line. But I wanted her to get over it faster as she seems like such a strong individual and yet she was just bogged down with these feelings for this utter (pardon) @$$hole, and it was just too much like that woman in "Oliver" who sings that she still loves the man who abuses her and wants to kill Oliver. I am not quite sure how I feel about her equating pride, self-reliance, and her ability to survive with managing to stave off Vane's advances and not succumb to animal passions. But even though these emotions were overwhelming I liked that she, in the end, had to confront these feelings and move past them in order to have a great life with the man she loved. This coincides with Sarah's desperate search for her dead husband's love child and, although it might last a tad too long, when she really is forced to confront her feelings about this it was quite something to read about.
Rating: I really enjoyed reading this book although the emotions did sometimes get the best of me. Great character development, great relationship, and a really great book overall.