Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Hint of Wicked

A Hint of Wicked by Jennifer Haymore

Our book opens as our heroine Sophie, the Duchess of Calton, discovers that her husband, Garrett, is missing and presumed dead. When we flash forward eight years later Sophie has given birth to her and Garrett's child, Matilda, while Tristan, the former Lord Westfield, has succeeded Garrett to the dukedom and married Sophie after his own wife died while giving birth to their son Gary. The two had only been married for a year but Tristan had been in love with Sophie his entire life, but had given her up when Garrett had declared his own intentions to marry her. Garrett chooses an amazingly inopportune time to stroll back into their lives as he interrupts them engaged in kinky sex play, Garrett proceeds to beat Tristan to a pulp and Sophie is left stunned and tied spread eagled on the bed. Sophie loved Garrett the entire time they were growing up and the entire time they were married but for eight years she has taken care of herself and has fallen passionately in love with Tristan. Garrett vows to have Tristan and Sophie's marriage annulled and wants to have his own life back exactly as it was. Tristan is furious, partly at Garrett, and partly at Sophie who finds herself in torn between two men, both of whom she loves.

But life is different for everyone. No longer are Tristan, Sophie, and Garrett the best of friends, doing and sharing everything together. Garrett has a relationship to develop with his wife and his daughter and Tristan takes his son Gary and leaves. Garrett had amnesia the 8 years he spent wandering around Belgium and it was only with his discovery by one of the men in his military unit during Waterloo that he re-discovers who he was. Garrett trusts this man, Fisk, implicitly and relies on him for everything; he hands power of attorney over the man and it doesn't take long before Fisk finds a doctor who declares that Garrett is going insane and will be completely mad fairly soon. Neither Sophie nor Tristan trust Fisk or this Doctor MacAllistor but Garrett will not be swayed. Unfortunately Garrett's young sister Rebecca is quite taken with Fisk and Sophie doesn't inform her of her concerns which proves to be a disastrous mistake. Tristan sets off to discover the truth behind Fisk and hires an investigator to research Dr MacAllistor but it is Rebecca's actions that force things to a head. In the aftermath of the struggle Sophie realizes that she has known all along who her heart belongs to, but was too scared to admit it.

The book presents the first steamy scene right at the beginning and it is certainly memorable. While I have nothing against light bondage and maybe a little submissive role play in romance novels, something about this scene squicked me out. Tristan was just a little too dominant and controlling for my tastes with his commands including this exchange:
"It's what you want, isn't it? To be bound to my bed, subjected to my will."
"What was that?"
"Yes, Tristan. It's what I need. What I want."
I expected her to say yes master in response and was inordinately glad when she didn't. Apparently before our book opened Sophie had revealed to Tristan that being tied up (and completely submissive?) was a fantasy of hers though, so that did mitigate my feelings for it somewhat. It was the only scene like that in the book, although there were several other steamy scenes that push the limits of romance novel sex including some stuff I hadn't ever dreamed of reading in one. Without going into details, as they're delightfully surprising I'll just say that this book is not for those who are easily offended by kinky sex in any capacity.

Haymore did an outstanding job of presenting all three character's points of view. Garrett, Tristan, and Sophie are easily relate-able, lovable, sympathetic, and flawed characters. Even the young children are portrayed well; Gary is an adorble little boy, and Miranda is the precocious young girl who is so attune to the feelings of those around her. I would have liked a longer, more detailed description of Garrett's first meeting with Miranda and what he was thinking/ feeling during their meeting. Obviously the situation provides amazing opportunities for angst and there is no shortage of it in the book although, like everything else in the book, it's done so well it's not at all overwhelming. I also liked how we could see why Sophie made her choice: the book does a great job of explaining her emotions and letting us know what she wants and why. There was a loose end the book didn't clear up- was Garrett's solicitor a part of the scam with Fisk? It was something I wondered about while reading and the possibility was briefly brought up, but never concluded.

Rating: An outstanding book on literally every level. A little interesting in the sex department, but that just adds to the sheer awesomeness of this book. And of course I am very much looking forward to reading the sequel featuring the man who didn't end up with Sophie. (no spoilers in that department)

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