Dear Ms. Wells:
This book was described to me as Indecent Proposal meets White’s but it really is an inspection of the meaning of love. Marquess of Vane has wanted Lady Sarah Cole for years. He met her too late, though, because she was married to Brinsley Cole at the time. Sarah’s marriage was falling apart, but she refused to enter into an affair with Vane when he broached the matter with her. Vane’s desire for Sarah did not wane with her cold rejection, but instead become a longing that he could not suppress, not with other women or with the passage of time. What Vane does not know is that Sarah wants him as well but the one thing that Sarah has hewn to is her pride and her principles. Brinsley might sleep around but she did not.
Brinsley, a lothario, gamester, general ne’er do well, recognized that Vane wanted Sarah and offered him one night in exchange for 10,000 pounds. It represented a fortune for Brinsley whose gaming had led to Sarah and his very reduced circumstances but nothing to Vane except that it gave Vane an opportunity to have the one thing that he wanted most. Vane is tempted but rebuffs Brinsley. Brinsley, however, lies to Sarah and says that Vane has demanded her body in exchange of a release of Brinsley’s vowels.
This leads Sarah and Vane to have one physically and emotionally charged night. That evening Brinsley is murdered and Sarah and Vane are forced to make hard decisions about their future.
There were very interesting concepts brought forth in this book. Sarah, even though she despised Brinsley, still ached for physical intimacy and even after she knew that he was cheating on her and their marriage had fallen apart, she still had sex with Brinsley. Sarah denies that she ever loved Brinsley, that he was the subject of a youthful, hot headed mistake; but she has to come to grips with the fact that she did love Brinsley in order to grieve him, heal and be ready to love again.
Vane has wanted Sarah for seven years but he didn’t think he loved her, after all, what did he really know about her. How and why Vane comes to love Sarah is less comprehensible than Sarah’s love for him. It’s as if his lust morphs into love the more that he has her.
For most of the book, Sarah tries to rebuff Vane for various reasons. She feels guilty that she was enjoying her physical liaison with Vane while her husband lay dying. She feels guilty that now she’s living a life of luxury. She’s been rebuffed in her marriage, a victim of her own bad decision making process. It’s fair to say that she’s had very little success in the man department and it’s also easy to see why she doesn’t want to give in to Vane. Sure, his desire for her is strong now but what happens when it fades. Her husband’s lust for her was strong as well.
Complicating Sarah’s lack of perception of love is her estranged relationship with her parents. When she married Brinsley, her mother disapproved and her beloved father disengaged with her. Full of pride, Sarah allowed her relationship with her parents to lapse and refused to accept any money from them. Sarah also has issues with her mother, having caught her mother in more than one indiscretion. Sarah has hard truths she needs to face about both her parents and the self righteousness she wrapped herself in.
Sarah is a somewhat polarizing character. She’s selfish, full of pride. She acts as if she is the only one with principles. But in the end, she does recognize how she has wronged people, particularly Vane.
I did feel that some of the characterizations were melodramatic and I could have used more action and less internal exposition. At times I became impatient with Sarah and felt that Vane was too much a martyr. The story used several misunderstandings to propel the plot forward and keep the conflict in place. Admittedly none of Sarah and Vane’s issues were going to be resolved with a forthright talking to. They were both too reluctant to reveal their inner hearts for fear of rejection. I really enjoyed the twists and turns to the conflict but wanted more action or dialogue. C+