Well drat, another author to add to my ever growing list of authors to keep an eye on (that list is really getting out of hand). In Jennifer Haymore's debut, A Hint of Wicked, she has brought readers a surprising new twist to the Return of the Dead Spouse plot device, and a new twist on an old plot always intrigues me. In the past when I have read this scenario it is usually at the time that their spouse is about to get re-married that the dead spouse returns and the two have to start all over learning about each other again while the almost spouse quietly leaves the scene. Not so here. In A Hint of Wicked, Sophie and Tristan have been happily married for nine months and enjoying a healthy sex life when Garrett suddenly returns from the dead, sparking a battle for the love of the woman they have both loved all of their lives.
Of course, the book wasn't without its flaws, and I can't say too much about it without giving away a lot of the story. For the first half of the book I was caught up in the emotional triangle of these three characters, and it was portrayed beautifully, but, it went on a little too long and Sophie's dithering over which man she was going to choose became irksome. Sophie could not make a decision because she could not hurt either man, even though she knew in her heart that one would have to be hurt. Sophie truly loved both men and since she couldn't decide between them her choice was to keep both men. Luckily for the reader Ms. Haymore only let Sophie have one small fantasy about that scenario and both men gave her an emphatic "no," but when the decision was taken out of Sophie's hands she took no responsibility for her actions thereafter, which I saw as a character flaw.
Then, of course, the standard bad guy, mystery plot that the characters were too blind to see was thrown into the works which bogged down the story because there were just too many elements in it. I was really into this unusual love triangle and all of the emotions that went along with it and then the brakes were put on and we went off on a sidetrack. After reading the included excerpt for the next book I understand the point of the mystery subplot, but it took up so much of the story that it disappointed me, especially in a book this long. Forty pages of the subplot and Sophie's dithering could have been cut from the story and it would have been close to near perfect.
The characters were well drawn and the author really made me feel their turmoil over the situation they were suddenly placed into after being apart for so long. She even got a reaction out of me over Sophie's decision inability. I was never bored with the story (just slightly annoyed) even when I could see where it was heading, and for once I did not spoil it by reading the end of the book early because I wanted to enjoy the journey that the author took me on.
Ms. Haymore rode a very fine line ensuring that the characters and their actions were true to the era and the laws that were in effect at that time and she never took it too far (almost, but never too far). Sophie, Tristan and Garrett were fully dimensional characters and there were times I liked them and was rooting for them, then there were times I hated them, especially Garrett. He was the hardest to like and in the beginning I was confused by his hardness, but as we learned of his past he became more likeable by the end of the book. Tristan was a good hero/secondary-hero - not only did he fight for his marriage, he also fought to save Garrett (in the sub-plot portion), the man who was once his best friend as well as fighting against his claim to Sophie.
If you are looking for something new in Romancelandia then pick up A Hint of Wicked. This debut book is an emotional roller coaster that had me rooting for Tristan one minute and Garrett the next, and in turns equally annoyed by them and by Sophie, and yet I am looking forward to good things from Jennifer Haymore.