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Tuesday, May 26, 2009:
"A Hint of Wicked" by Jennifer Haymore (2009)


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.

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 *****



  1. Hey, Stacy! I think you did a great job with this review! I usually skim when I haven't read the book, but I was dying to hear what you thoughts on it.

    I'll be picking this one up today!! I'm liking the whole love triangle theme.

  2. It was refreshing to have a heroine like Sophie, not only enjoy sex, but engage in some questionable acts. The loves scene between Tristan and Sophie was smoking.

    I did a post over the weekend about love triangles and how hard they can be to write, especially in a single title.

  3. This one was on my radar before to pick up, but your review has pushed it up to the top. Thanks Stacy - great review!

  4. Hi Stacey ~ I am new here... thanks to Barbara! I loved the review you did!! I am trying to get my hands on it now!!
    I hope you don't mind a new tag-a-long!! I do love your place!

  5. Talk of the devil. I received promo material today from this author and it already stirred my interest. Now I am going to buy a copy because the three-way relationship really appeals to me!

    Thanks for your wonderful review Stacy.

  6. Thanx Barbara. I hope you enjoy it. I'll be looking forward to your review. Love triangles aren't my favorite, but I think this one was done really well.

    Kate, I have to agree with you. I liked Sophie a heck of a lot, and reading about her with Tristan was so hot. I like that she was a very sensual woman who didn't hide from her sexuality.

    Lori, talk about pressure LOL. Sure hope you enjoy it. I saw it at Borders on Saturday.

    Cecile, the more the merrier! Please stop by anytime. I've met a lot of great people from Barbara's blog too. She's awesome.

    Leontine, this book sure has generated a lot of buzz, and most if it is pretty good. I'm enjoying the various reviews I've seen so far.

  7. What a beautiful reviw Stacy.

    This sounds like a very unique touching story. As Barbara indicated, the love triangle and the heroines relationship with Trystan sounds like a must read.

    Thanks for sharing Stacy.

    Warm Regards

  8. Let me start by saying I had to skip the reading of your review when I saw possible spoilers. I truly want to know nothing when I start a book...except what the back says. That being said I'm vacillating on whether to read the book or not. I despise infidelity but yet who is she cheating on? Her old hubby? Her new hubby? Both. Ack! lol I guess I'll have to give it a whirl and see but I just don't know.

    When I make my decision to read or not I'll come back and read your review. :)

  9. Awww, thanks for the props! And this: 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. nails it, exactly. Nicely done.

    Tracy, without spoilering, I don't think you'll find this a book where fidelity is a troublesome question. Sort of the opposite, in a way!

  10. You did beautiful with the review Stacy! Sometimes I have a hard time putting things into words but you do it so great! I read a booklet on this and too knew this was going to be unique! I so can't wait to get this one!

  11. I think that was a very eloquent review Stacy - thank you! I'm not a huge fn of love triangles but this book has been added to my TBR list!

  12. Lea, it is a very touching story. Sophie has to make a choice, and it's heartbreaking for her. What a difficult thing to have to decide.

    Tracy, I totally understand. I'm not going to answer your question because the question of infidelity may differ in opinion, but suffice it to say, I despise it as well.

    Nicola, I loved your review and it really inspired me to think about what I wanted to say in mine without copying in any way. You challenged me, and that can be a good thing :)

    Hey Caffey, thanx! It can be difficult for me, but I enjoy reviewing. It's an extension of my love of reading, I guess. Thank you for your kind words :)

    Orannia, I am with you on love triangles. Not my fave. But this one was well-done. Now I need to go head over to your blog....

  13. Stacy, what a lovely compliment. Thank you!

    And now you know why I try not to read other peoples' reviews before I write mine, heh.

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