A Hint Of Wicked
by Jennifer Haymore, historical (2009)
Grand Central Publishing, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-446-54029-2
Our heroine Sophie was married to Garrett James, the Duke of Colton, until Garrett received the memo that all titled gentlemen in England must serve either as a soldier or spy so off he went with his shiny new gun to kill himself some Frenchmen in Waterloo. He was said to be dead, although his body was never found. Eight years later, she has married Garrett's cousin Tristan. Tristan is now the Duke of Colton and even better, he plays naughty mild bondage games with Sophie in bed, ooh. It is during such session when Garrett, with what I can only suppose to his newfound tricks of getting past the house staff without being detected, shows up and ruins the orgasm by pummeling the living daylights out of Tristan. He's not dead, and he wants Sophie back.
The best thing I can say about A Hint Of Wicked is that the plot is not your typical hee-haw romance set in England. Garrett is a bit of a whackjob at first, but Ms Haymore eventually tries to give him some depths and I appreciate that. Strangely enough, Garrett is probably the most well-developed character here. Sophie and Tristan are shown to have a pretty one-dimensional perfect romance, so they come off as pretty bland and flat compared to Garrett. Garrett is not perfect - his treatment of the woman he dumped after recovering from his amnesia and remembering his life in England makes me cringe because he's so bloody cold about the whole thing. Still, at least he has some depths to his character. Tristan and Sophie are just sort of being there in this story, both of them torn between their love for each other and their bond with Garrett.
However, the story comes off as rather clunky. Sophie will go on and on about how she loves both men equally and she even fantasizes about having the two of them in bed with her at the same time. I can't help feeling that this story was actually penned for publication under Jennifer Haymore's erotic romance alter-ego Dawn Halliday and it was meant to be a ménage à trois story, until she and the publisher realize that: one, it is more economically feasible to have the heroine pick one hero and let the other guy get his own story and, two, it is less of a bother to do this than to court angry flames from enraged romance readers who never expected a three-is-fun romp in a mainstream romance novel. On my part, though, I am led to expect a ménage à trois conclusion, and honestly, I won't mind such a conclusion as it seems to be a natural progression of the way the story is going. So, when I get an abrupt ending where the heroine picks one guy while the other one runs off to get his own book, I feel a little... disappointed.
But more importantly, I am disappointed by how it takes the machinations of a third party to solve the mess our main characters are in. I would prefer to see these three sort things out themselves, because it seems like the author is cheating a little and taking some quick short-cuts by having a villain contrive to pull off some stunts that force a resolution to happen. Sophie, who is determined to love both men equally (and this is praised by Tristan as a sign of her devotion to the ones she loves), can't make a decision and she would have stayed with Garrett once he's used the law to wrest her back from Tristan. Despite her initial lip service to love Tristan and fight Garrett to be with him, she turns out to be a passive heroine fought over by two men as if she's the last piece of juicy steak in the buffet parlor.
Despite my disappointment with A Hint Of Wicked, I can't deny that it is a very readable story with an interesting plot to make it stand out from the glut of formulaic historical romances out there. It will be interesting to see what the author has to offer in the future.
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