Monday, June 29, 2009

Too Many Bros, Not Enough... Well. A Historical Novel Review.

A Hint of Wicked
by Jennifer Haymore

Cover: To be honest, I wouldn’t have known this was a historical romance just by looking at the cover. The dress is rather non-descript, and not really relevant to anything the character wears in the book whatsoever. But this book is making the blog rounds, both historical fiction and romance, so I picked it up last time I was at Borders.

Summary: Okay, I have to include the tagline that’s on the back of my book… What happens when a lady desires not one man, but two? That’s pretty much what this book is about. Also, it takes place in late Regency England, and there is a slight mystery involved. There, that’s it.

My Review: Romances should be easy to read in a sitting or two, at least from what I know of them. A Hint of Wicked took me almost a week to finish. This has less to do with its length (400 pages) and more to do with the drag in the middle. I want more romance in my romances!

Here’s what happens: Sophie, the Duchess of Calton, loses her husband Garrett when he goes to fight for Lord Nelson in the Battle of Waterloo. Left with his unborn child and only their mutual best friend Tristan, a lord in his own right, for company, she eventually realizes a new love for Tristan and marries him years after the incident.

But Garrett is not really dead! It turns out he was horribly wounded in the battle (a facial scar that acts as a veritable mood ring the only visible sign of this) and suffered amnesia. He has been working as a farmhand in Belgium ever since! Even though he barely spoke any French!

Garrett comes back at the fortuitous moment when Tristan and Sophie have gone to bed together and flies into a rage at the sight. He tries to throw Tristan out of the house and claim Sophie as his own again.

How has he suddenly regained his memory enough to come back and reclaim his title as Duke? That is the mystery that threads its way through the rest of the novel, and it may or may not have anything to do with the mysterious steward who has come back with Garrett, of whom everyone is suspicious from the first moment.

This was an okay read. The romance portion of the book was definitely intriguing, and Haymore made a good case for why Sophie could still be in love with Garrett, even after she has moved on to Tristan. The romance scenes were well-written, too, and devoid of purple prose, which is always refreshing.

This is not a regency romance in the style of Georgette Heyer, however. The historical aspects only act as a pretty backdrop for the characters to play in. Sophie is a bit more modern in her thinking than a typical Regency aristocrat would have been. At least marriage laws play in as a believable ploy into this story. Nevertheless, these characters are not at all products of their environment; rather, they seem placed a little haphazardly into the Regency era. They could just as easily have been placed in the 1960s.

The thing that I really did not like about this book was the mystery part of the story. It would have been enough just to learn about how Garrett had been injured, and perhaps a flashback to his journey home from Belgium. But instead we get a highly convoluted and set-up intrigue involving random characters, and it is of absolutely no consequence at the end of the book. I’m not a reader who automatically figures out a mystery at the beginning of the book; I tend to just get caught up in the story and follow along with the characters. This one, however, was blatantly obvious to me, and thus uninteresting for the remaining 300 pages.

Overall, I liked the characters (even despite anachronisms), I liked the dialogue, and I liked the style, but the plot meant very little to me.

In the end, I’m not sure if I will read the next book by this author. A Hint of Wicked contains a sneak peek at A Hint of Scandal, which reportedly will come out in 2010. I think I’ll wait to read other reviews, hopefully discussing some improvement on the author’s plotting skill.

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  1. hmmm...I would normally not even look at something like this, I love historical fiction but the ones with bodice ripping content just make me want to wretch. I'm not sure if I even want to pick this up although I thought your review was extremely informative. Hence probably why I'm not going to pick it up :) it's just not my thing. Thanks for the info!

  2. Yeah, romances are probably not my favorite genre overall, but I've read some that I enjoyed quite a bit... I still didn't like this one.