A Hint of Wicked
by Jennifer Haymore
(Forever, $6.99, R) ISBN 978-0-446-54029-2
*****
A Hint of Wicked is exhaustion waiting to happen if you start reading this wicked, witty love story anytime in the evening. I was so caught up in the plot that I didn’t want to put it down to go to sleep, even though I was exhausted. Books that are this entertaining are very rare indeed.

Sophie, the Duchess of Calton, is a strong woman. She’s survived the death of her husband Garrett at the battle of Waterloo, when she was left pregnant, young and naďve to mourn his terrible loss. Garrett’s cousin and best friend, Tristan, has stood by Sophie for seven years, at first as her friend and finally, as her new husband and lover. Sophie and Tristan have helped each other heal, and after just months of marriage they’re reveling in each other’s constant affection, support and sensuality.

Then, in one of the most painfully vivid scenes of the story, a man storms into their bedchamber one night, and who is it? Garrett, the long-dead duke. Sophie and Tristan’s emotions threaten to choke them as they consider this angry, battle-scarred stranger who was once their closest friend and husband. Garrett has suffered amnesia and he’s worked as a laborer in Belgium for the years he’s been gone.

He’s back, but he’s changed. Garrett now suffers from partial memory loss, violent rages, and nightmares. He’s convinced that Sophie’s been adulterous after promising to wait for him forever, and he won’t look at Tristan for fear of committing murder.

Now Sophie must make a choice between her sweetheart, the father of her child, who is wounded and hurting, or her friend and lover who has stood by her for years. Sophie loves them both, and they both love her and would do nearly anything to have her. Regardless of whom she chooses, someone will be torn apart.

A Hint of Wicked is richly layered with emotion mixed with drama.  The grief that Sophie feels for Garrett’s loss, even after many years, is beautifully written.  Tristan’s own grief and his love for his cousin are evident from early in the book as well.  Haymore manages to carry that depth of emotion from Sophie, Tristan and Garrett for one another throughout the book’s many twists, which serves to make it even more harrowing.

Sophie is a wonderful heroine. She’s caught between the sweet, young girl she was when Garrett left and the independent, stubborn lady she’s had to become in the intervening years alone, and then with Tristan. She is always honest with herself and with both men, which makes her a rare, imperfect gem with whom it’s easy to identify. Her conflicting emotions are easily felt by the reader.

Tristan is a man who has waited years to finally hold the woman that he loves, and his guilt and grief is nearly palpable. He loves Garrett and has mourned his loss for many years, and loves him still. But he won’t let Sophie go now without a fight.

Garrett is a tragic figure. He is enraged and stunned upon his return, having thought that his life would remain stationary while he was gone for so long. He begins as a great, monstrous shadow that leaps at Tristan and Sophie from the door of their bedchamber but swiftly garners sympathy for his tortured life since the war began. We also see a little of Garrett’s charm and generosity as he settles into his old life again.

If you love a romance with memorable characters, one which packs an emotional punch while delivering an intense love story, I advise you to pick up A Hint of Wicked.  You won’t be disappointed.  

--Amy Wroblewsky


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