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book cover Limecello’s review of A Hint of Wicked by Jennifer Haymore
Historical romance published by Forever on 1 Jun 09

I heard a LOT of hype about this book, and I have to admit, love triangles are one of my favorite story lines. There’s something about them – I know a number of people don’t like them and don’t think they work… but I’m not one such person. The storyline of A Hint of Wicked seems familiar (both in general but also specifically) – but Jennifer Haymore’s story is different and unique. I’m definitely looking forward to more of Ms. Haymore’s novels.

Sophie, the Duchess of Calton, pretty much has all the characteristics of a perfect romance heroine. She’s beautiful, smart, desirable, funny, and sensible. She’s also incredibly capable, and able to compete with a man (any man) on a number of levels. She also happens to be married to two men. Quite the conundrum, but Sophie deals with the situation with an impressive amount of class and poise. I liked that Sophie didn’t become melodramatic or maudlin, and that she remained neutral. I believed that Sophie was as impartial as possible (although not uninterested) – and that she truly would not have done anything to hurt Tristan or Garret, or pit them against each other.

Tristan Westcliff is quite the hero – he’s charming, smart, respected by his peers, and more. He’s handsome, and an incredibly loyal friend and a good man. Tristan is the consummate gentleman and I wish any number of heroes were more like him. While I liked Tristan, I didn’t feel like I really got to know him. The reader is only given a little information as to his background, and most of it focuses on his childhood relationship with Sophie and Garret. However, I love how caring Tristan is, as well as possessive. He feels strongly, but he isn’t irrational either. Tristan is Garrett’s heir (yeah, it’s all pretty twisted) – but he’s not concerned with the materialistic aspect of the money and title. He’s also a little bit naughty, which I definitely enjoyed.

Garrett, the Duke of Calton, is an imposing hero. In a way, I found him the most interesting – I think because the most happens to him. The poor man suffers.I did think that Garrett fell to extremes, and seemed a bit unfinished. One second he’d be cold and unbending, and the next smiling and being completely different with his daughter. I felt badly for Garrett, but unfortunately I think the villain was a bit too obvious, which made his story a bit weaker. That, or I’m not enamored with the way his story ends (although I will say I hope that’s the last we see of him – other than a cameo appearance.) Still, he has a number of redeeming qualities, such as honor and loyalty to friends and family.

I liked that Ms. Haymore focused the story on the characters, and the plot. There was the potentiality of a lot of society gossip and the pitfalls of getting distracted or bogged down in an unnecessary or annoying secondary character, but thankfully that was not present in A Hint of Wicked. There was already so much going on between Sophie, Tristan, and Garret. The small group of secondary characters in the novel were more than enough. I like how everything tied together neatly. Ms. Haymore does a wonderful job of writing and describing the relationship between Sophie, Tristan, and Garrett. I believed how close the three of them were- and could be. It made Sophie’s actions and behavior much more believable as well.

I put the book down for a bit around chapter 15, because I just didn’t know where it was going, and was no longer interested. I admit I thought the book might end up as a menage for a while. (Yes, even a historical! Stranger things have happened!) Alas, no. I will say, I did figure who Sophie would end up with early on, which is why I think it affected how I felt about the book – so much of it then seemed to drag or was filler. The same with the villain – I found it frustrating that so many brilliant characters would miss what was right under their noses, and allow for so many more problems to occur. That, and I found the scene where Sophie and Garrett are intimate completely unbelievable.  Garrett is an absolute ass, and does something horrifying, and although Sophie is aghast, she falls into bed with him immediately.

I think there’s some historical/legal geekery showing through, but I was absolutely fascinated by the discussions as to what was going on in court and the legal arguments Garret and Tristan were presenting. I have to admit to being a bit disappointed or let down in the end when it wasn’t clear what would happen. How would it work even on appeal if Garret didn’t challenge? And what about the estates? Much to ponder there. I also really appreciate the fact that while it’s apparent Ms. Haymore did a lot of research on the subject, it doesn’t become pedantic, or weigh down the story.

I’ve been suffering from major book ennui, and the fact that I finished this book says something. (Something good!) I really enjoy the love triangle concept, and I think this one is resolved satisfactorily. This was a well written and unique historical novel, and I recommend all fans of the genre pick this book up and give it a try.

LimecelloGrade: B+

What happens when a lady desires not one man, but two?
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 best friend 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.
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.
Read an excerpt here.