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 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.
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.
I first heard about this book a few months ago from Lindsey, an online friend, and her reaction to the book convinced me I just had to read it. The backcover blurb reminded me of a story with a similar plotline that I really loved - "Twice Loved" by LaVyrle Spencer - and I admit that I was curious and wanted to see how this book would compare.
Essentially,"Hint of Wicked" is the story of Sophie, who had married her childhood sweetheart Garrett and tragically lost him - or so she thought - at Waterloo. Naturally, she's devastated, and grieves a long time for the wonderful man she married. Several years later, after Garrett is declared legally dead, she finds it within herself to love again, and the man who has captured her heart is Tristan, another childhood friend, someone who loved Garrett almost as much as she did. Together they begin a new life, one filled with love, and promise, and incredible passion.
But just as Sophie and Tristan have found happiness and are enjoying their new life, they are shocked by the return of a most beloved friend from their old one when Garrett returns to England, stunning them both. And it's no surprise that Garrett wants his life - and his wife - back.
Of course now that Tristan is married to Sophie, this causes a huge rift between the once close friends. Garrett and Tristan now look upon each other as the enemy, and Sophie is caught in the middle of the two men she cares for deeply, torn in her loyalties. While she's ecstatic and relieved that Garrett is alive, and loves him still, she married Tristan, and now loves him as her husband. But Garrett is determined to regain his life back and all that went with it, so he petitions the court to make a decision on who is Sophie's actual and true husband.
Garrett is not the same man that Sophie married. Time and his mental condition have changed him, as well as the fact that while he was away, he was not residing as the Duke he was, but rather laboring as a farmer in Belgium, unaware of his life and responsibilities in England. Yet once he begins to remember his former life, he immediately makes his way back to Sophie, only to discover his lovely wife has remarried his best friend.
And Sophie is not the same young, innocent woman she was when she married Garrett. Growing up, he was always her protector, the one who looked out for both her and Tristan, yet since his disappearance, Sophie has had to make many adjustments in her life, including raising a child on her own, and these changes have made her the strong, resilient woman she is now. Tristan has become her best friend, the person she tells her deepest secrets to, and he's the only other person in the world who truly understands the sense of grief and loss she experienced when Garrett never returned home after Waterloo. She falls in love with him and they marry. When Garrett does return home, she acknowledges that she loves and desires two men, yet refuses to be the one to choose between them.
Tristan has always loved Sophie, but never revealed his true feelings when it became evident that Garrett and Sophie loved each other. He stepped aside, never revealing the depth of his feelings for Sophie. But now that she is his wife, he refuses to step aside again, and vows to fight for the woman he believes should be his. But will this tug of war destroy them all?
My thoughts (possible spoilers):
I knew right off that this book was going to be a little different by the way Sophie and Tristan first learn that Garrett is alive, and it's incredibly uncomfortable and emotionally wrenching for all of them. This understandably sets the tone for future confrontations between the three, resulting in hostile, bitter exchanges that resolve nothing, and resentment stirs in both Tristan and Garrett. I'll admit I had to read this book twice before I could collect my thoughts and write this review, and it was easier the second time around, obviously because I now knew what to expect.
Sophie is perhaps my favorite character, infused with strength and compassion and the resolve not to hurt those she loves. It's been mentioned in other reviews about her refusal to choose between Garrett and Tristan, and how her decision is not based on inaction nor a weak nature, but rather because she does care so much for each man and cannot be the one to cause either additional pain. Sophie is determined to make the best of the cards that have been dealt, all the while knowing that her fantasy of loving two men will never come to fruition, and she must eventually make a choice as to which man is her true husband. And she does, but never once is it an easy decision. It breaks her heart.
Tristan is a man of honor, the friend who stood by years ago and watched the woman he loved marry his best friend. He cares deeply for them both and is at peace with his choice, if not exactly happy about what he's sacrificed, but he moves on and builds a life of his own, and he is content. He grieves as much as Sophie for the loss of Garrett, and believes in his heart that being with Sophie is something Garrett would have wanted. Throughout the story we see evidence of Tristan's honor warring with his heart's desire. His strongest impulse was to grab Sophie and the children and run away with them, but he knows he cannot, and that is partially why I loved him so much. He still did the right thing, even when it tore him away from Sophie. He could never live with himself if he broke her spirit.
Garrett. I had a heck of a time warming up to him in the beginning. There were times when he was cruel and unforgiving, though we learn the reason for some of his behavior later in the story. But when he first returns, he's cold, uncompromising, with a deadly edge to him. There is little of the old Garrett left, but Sophie clings to the belief that deep-down, he hasn't changed that much for the young man she fell in love with. And as we get to know Garrett, both from glimpses of his childhood as well as his experiences in the war and afterwards, I felt more compassion towards him. Here is a man who's returned home after being gone for eight long years, which must have felt like an eternity to someone who cannot remember his past. When he returns, it's not just to discover his wife remarried, but also to his seven-year-old daughter, and a sister who is no longer a child. And, there's a very good chance he's completely mad...
Ms. Haymore does not shy away from the intimacy issue. Here is Sophie, a sensual woman who's experienced sexual pleasure in the bed of both her husbands, and her desire does not cease to exist when her first husband returns, complicating her life greatly. In her deepest fantasies, she longs to experience the pleasure of making love to the two men she loves at the same time, yet rationally she knows it can never happen. Tristan and Garrett are not the type of men to share the woman they love. She knows in her heart she must say good-bye to one of them. The love she has for her two husbands is as much a physical part of her as it is an emotional one, and she expresses her feelings with her body as well as her heart. So yes, Sophie does have sex with Tristan, and later with Garrett, and it's deeply pleasurable for her each time. She doesn't let guilt or shame taint her time in their beds. Sophie is a woman who passionately loves two men, and she won't regret loving either of them.
I think this story would have been incredibly compelling if it had concentrated solely on the heart-wrenching dilemma between these three people, that it could have delved deeper into the emotional complications they had to work through. Instead, there is a secondary plot that closely enterwines with Garrett's return and partially explains his strange behavior. I wish there hadn't been so much time invested in this aspect of the story, even though it did make for interesting suspense, but I felt the story would have been more effective without all that subterfuge. Still, "A Hint of Wicked" is a powerful story in many ways, and while the romance angle is resolved, it is not without its share of heartache. Jennifer Haymore wrote an unforgettable story that stayed with me long after I put the book down.
I definitely intend to keep an eye out for Jennifer's next book, called a "Touch of Scandal".
And for some really great reviews that make me totally jealous of their eloquence, check out Ana's thoughts
at the Booksmugglers
, and Nicola's post
at Alpha Heroes
. These ladies each do a fantastic job of expressing the essence of the story.
Rating : **** out of *****
Labels: Jennifer Haymore