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.
KMontMay 18, 2009 at 5:19 am
For some reason I didn’t connect the convos on this book to the cover, which I found late last year and wanted to read. I really need to get back into historicals and give this one a shot. Thanks for the great review to get me started.
I don’t mind love triangles, they just need to be well-written, like any other kind of romance. Sometimes I wince when I see them, but in most cases I have been pleasantly surprised so I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.
I’m amazed at the heroines intimate levels with both men, but then that was one aspect that intrigued me at first, so I’m all for it. Can’t wait to read it now.
Gerd DuernerMay 18, 2009 at 6:03 am
Great review, sad to see that a mostly well thought-out book gets hidden underneath such a cover, it would have deserved better service in that department.
(Let’s face it, that cover is crap: I still try to figure out if she’s trying to scratch her behind or humping the couch)
AnaMay 18, 2009 at 6:05 am
Kmont – you keep promising to read historical but you never do! 🙁
Gerd – LOL> You know, I don’t think this cover is that bad and I am very picky. At least we didn’t get a shirtless man or two in this case.
Harry Markov~ Temple Library ReviewsMay 18, 2009 at 8:51 am
Oh, love triangles are always tough territory to tread on. I have read and seen way too many badly handled love triangles, but when it comes to historical romances it’s my guilty pleasure. This seems promising, but damn I am so not increasing my genre list with one more…
katiebabsMay 18, 2009 at 9:39 am
This is the next book on my TBR. Love triangles are hard to pull off. But again, what reader doesn’t enjoy a story where the heroine has two men wanting her! 😆
carolyn crane (aka carolyn jean)May 18, 2009 at 9:48 am
I love love triangles, and this book is coming…today? So I’m not reading your review. I just wanted to see your grade. Hmmm!!!
KMontMay 18, 2009 at 10:11 am
Au contraire, my English blogging bud. 😉 Well, you’re right, actually lol. But I AM reading one of Duran’s upcoming ones, so there’s hope yet!
I really do want to read this one. In fact, books like Duran’s and this one might save me from something I hadn’t realized I was missing till now in hist. romance: something different. Maybe that’s why I had not read one in a while.
Isn’t it funny how I can read all sorts of paranormals, etc. that people say sound exactly the same, and I feel that way about a lot of hist. romances. I think it’s just a funk I need to get out of. This book might do it.
And if I could read six books a week like I used to I’d read more historicals, I just know it lol.
Any freaking way – to get back on topic, your review still has me thinking about the book, so kudos to you!
KatiMay 18, 2009 at 10:52 am
I’m intrigued by this storyline. Enough so that I’ll be plunking down the cash for it.
Ana, in the end, did you buy the resolution? Looks like the book worked on some level for you, but not necessarily all. Were you satisfied in the end that things were as they should have been?
And dear Lord help us all, did she set up the “loser” husband for a sequel?
AnaMay 18, 2009 at 11:10 am
CJ and Kati: my 6 rated review is more to do with the secondary storyline and the not so impressive sex scenes rather than the Love Triangle itself.
In fact had the book been all about the love triangle I would have been a happy camper. Like, REALLY happy. The emotional punches were all there for me.
Yes, I did buy the resolution. After that emailing back and forth last week, I went back to re-read the final chapters and my impression did not change: she did make a clear choice before *insert spoiler here* and I bought the happy ending with the man she chose.
And yes, the loser gets his book next. And there is a cliff-hanger re, secondary storyline. *sighs*
TracyMay 18, 2009 at 1:23 pm
I have to say that you’ve piqued my interest and had planned on reading it but I’m so not sure. I’m going back and forth. Will the man I want her to choose be chosen? I would hate that I felt she chose the wrong man. hmmm..have to ponder.
AnaMay 18, 2009 at 1:27 pm
Tracy, honesly? I think you would want the right man to be picked. It’s an “easy” choice me thinks. 😈
TiahMay 18, 2009 at 1:39 pm
This one actually sounds good, not buy it good, but I’ll see if my library has it.
The cover is lame. Here look at my rose, I don’t want to turn around to show you, I’ll just jack my arm back!
EstelleMay 18, 2009 at 2:23 pm
*sighs too* Why can’t we get books in which an interesting male character will be left alone and won’t be back for an encore in his own book?
For me it always detracts from the intensity of the love triangle to see the “loser” get merry with another woman a few months/years after the first book is over. And it’s doubly annoying because it happens all the time. I love reading about a tragic character that will pine for the rest of his life. It makes for much more of an emotional impact. But we only seem to get those as minor characters (the father of the heroine who never looked at another woman after his wife died, the hero’s uncle who was in love with the hero’s mother until he drew his last breath etc…..).
This book did sound different when I was reading your review but knowing the “loser” will get his own book put me right off. Where are the standalones of old?
Pam PMay 18, 2009 at 3:48 pm
I like authors who take a chance on something different. Had this on my wishlist and still looking forward to reading it after your review, and I like that you say she didn’t make one of them out to be the villain.
Stacy ~May 18, 2009 at 6:46 pm
Okay, I just finished reading it and had to pop on over and see what you thought. Totally, totally have to agree on most of what you said, especially about the unnecessary villain subplot. I think it took away from a really complex and emotional situation that should have been front and center in this book.
It was a very bold move to write this story the way it went down, and definitely Ms. Haymore deserves credit for that. It took me out of my comfort zone because she didn’t back down from writing the “don’t go there” aspect. She did, in fact, go there.
Great review Ana!
AnaMay 19, 2009 at 12:33 am
Tiah – that was hilarious! 😆
Stacy – thanks! I was looking forward to hearing what you thought of the book: were you satisfied with the ending as I was? Did you like her choice?
Stacy ~May 19, 2009 at 5:34 am
LOL, I have to agree with Tiah. I don’t care much for the cover.
Yes, Sophie chose the man I would have chosen. I knew right from the beginning whom she should stay with, and yay, it happened! I was very happy about that.
Now I’m insatiably curious about Rebecca and what happened to her. I don’t it’s the next book though.
TracyMay 19, 2009 at 12:06 pm
Alright. I’ll do it. You’ve sold me. Thanks…I think. lol
Nicola O.May 21, 2009 at 10:44 am
I agree with most everything you had to say here, although I was OK with the villainous sub-plot. I think without it, the author would not have been able to take a pause in the sexual tension without losing steam in the pacing.
jennygirlMay 21, 2009 at 12:57 pm
From the cover art I would never know that there is this great love triangle hidden in the pages. It lloks like a run of the mill romance book. Your review is excellent and I will write this one down for my next trip to the bookstore.
carolyn crane (aka carolyn jean)May 30, 2009 at 6:16 pm
Okay, finally finished this! I really liked the villain subplot! Also, I really thought she’d go for the other man than she did. You know what made me think it? the comment on how he loved his fine fashion toward the beginning. I thought, ah, not a manly trait!
Anyway, I’m going to post on this, but wow, though I had some qualms, esp some of the prose around the sex scenes and other small issues, I was really happy with the way this book broke the rules, and kept me turning pages!
carolyn crane (aka carolyn jean)May 30, 2009 at 6:53 pm
Crap! I lost my comment!!! Sigh. Okay.
Uh, lost my will to recreate it. But, in a nutshell, I thought this was a good post, I like the villain plot, good observation on threesome issue, and I thought she would choose the other guy due to the unmanly garb of the one she did choose. WHew.