Title: A Hint of Wicked
Author: Jennifer Haymore
Genre: Historical Romance
Publishing Date: May 26, 2009
Paperback: 432 pages
Summary: CAUGHT BETWEEN DUTY AND DESIRE . . .
Sophie, the Duchess of Calton, has finally moved on. After seven years mourning the loss of her husband, Garrett, at Waterloo, she has married his cousin and heir, Tristan. Sophie gives herself to him body and soul. . . until the day Garrett returns from the Continent, demanding his title, his lands-and his wife.
TORN BETWEEN TWO HUSBANDS . . .
Now Sophie must choose between her first love and her new love, knowing that no matter what, her choice will destroy one of the men she adores. Will it be Garrett, her childhood sweetheart, whose loss nearly destroyed her once already? Or will it be Tristan, beloved friend turned lover, who supported her through the last, dark years and introduced her to a passion she had never known? As her two husbands battle for her heart, Sophie finds herself immersed in a dangerous game-where the stakes are not only love . . . but life and death.
Stand Alone/ Series: Stand Alone
Why did I read the Book: Full Disclosure: I was offered a review copy by the author. I thought twice before accepting it because I am not a fan of love triangles and I thought the book would be outside my comfort zone, which ironically, is what made me say yes eventually.
Sophie James, the Duchess of Calton, is happily married to her childhood sweetheart, her friend and protector Garrett. As the book opens she is pregnant with their first child waiting for news of her husband who has gone off to Waterloo. The war is over now and she has been waiting for him to come home but… he never does. She realises that she must be strong to carry on her duties for the Duchy and for her unborn child. She does count with the support and friendship of Tristan James, Viscount Westcliff, the third party of their childhood adventures, who is also cousin and heir to Garrett. They are both devastated at the news that Garrett has gone missing and they spend the next years looking for him to no avail. 7 years later, Garrett is declared officially dead and Tristan becomes the new Duke and his relationship with Sophie progresses to something different, she falls in love with him (it turns out, Tristan always lover her ) and they get married.
They have been married for a good nine months, both Sophie and Tristan still mourn the loss of Garrett but they are, happily married. Until one day, they are having sex when someone bursts into the bedroom and separates them – to their astonishment, it is Garrett, resurrected from the dead, prepared to resume his life as the Duke and as Sophie’s husband. He promptly starts the legal process to declare Tristan and Sophie’s wedding void. Garrett is furious that Tristan has taken over his life; Tristan is furious that Garrett wants his wife back and Sophie….is torn between the two.
She loves both of them. She wants both of them. Her childhood sweetheart whom she never stopped loving and her new lover and confidante. Garrett has a good reason for having disappeared for so long which makes things even worse as they can’t hate him for being away for so long: he lost his memory in the aftermath of Waterloo.
A Hint of Wicked is not a book for everyone. It is especially not for those more traditional romance readers who want a clear-cut love story – you shall not find it here. What you will find here is a romance filled with angst. I can say with certainty: Jennifer Haymore has balls. She presents us with a fascinating heroine who is aware that she wants two men, makes no excuses for it and has sex , and good sex, with both of them (albeit not at the same time) in the short period of time covered in the book (we are talking one month approximately). I don’t think I ever read anything like that in a straight historical (i.e. not erotica) romance. Sophie even acknowledges that in a perfect world she would have both and at the same time. But she is also conscious that it will NEVER happen not only because the men would be against it (it is not THEIR fantasy) but it would be an impossibility given the fact that she is a Duchess and there is their standing in society to take into consideration not to mention the consequences of having a child whilst in a relationship with two men. I though these considerations were a historically accurate nod to propriety for which I was grateful for. After all, there is fantasy and then there is Fantasy.
I was, to my surprise since I am not a fan of love triangles, fully invested in the romantic aspect of this book. I sympathised greatly with Sophie and completely understood her torment. I felt her guilt as much as I felt her desire and love for both men. I also understood that the love she had for both stemmed from different aspects of their personality. The matter of “personality” is actually key to how matters evolve here. There were a great number of years passed since Garrett last saw his wife and there was the urgent need for Sophie to change in order to deal with the tragedy of losing someone she loved so much and become more her own woman. Plus, both she and Tristan always relied on Garrett’s protection when they were kids and they both had learnt to do things on their own after his departure. In that sense, she gained a regal posture, a fortitude and a self-reliance that makes her admit things to Tristan that she never did to Garrett and stand up to Garrett when the time was appropriate.
Even though she won’t take sides on the dispute I never saw this as weakness but as the inability to hurt the people she loved and to say goodbye to one of them. I did not begrudge her for that neither did one of her husbands, the one I was shamelessly rooting for in the end.
I also really appreciated the fact that the author did not take an easy way out by making one of the husbands a villain – quite the contrary. We are privy to their points of view as well and they are both honourable, interesting men which makes the choice harder.
Speaking of villains though- there is one in this book, part of a parallel story (regarding Garrett’s disappearance) that I thought was completely unnecessary and which not only dragged the story a bit but also added more (senseless) drama to an already dramatic book. It took so much of the pages, I found myself not caring about that part of the story at all and I wished that the internal conflict which was so rich, so unique hadn’t been muffled by a common-place story arc. I mentioned this before and I am sure I will again: this “Toomuchness” causes a disservice to certain sub-genres of romance novels which in my opinion work better when they are pure character pieces.
I also feel the need to mention that for such an erotic story, I felt the scene scenes were a bit banal – with the overuse of ”throbbing” and the “you’re so wet for me” that bores me to death.
In the end, though, despite these misgivings, I have to give kudos to Jennifer Haymore for a rare chance to read a story outside my comfort zone , making me care for the characters and above all to believe in the HEA between Sophie and the man she chose (which by the way, WAS the one I was rooting for – score!).
Notable Quotes/ Parts: The resolution. It was everything I hoped for and an odd mixture of heartbreak and happiness.
Verdict: Jennifer Haymore pushes the envelope with her love triangle story and surprisingly, makes you care for all three sides of it.
Rating: 6 Good.
Reading Next: Compromised by Kate Noble.