'Nother step in my journey to get acquainted with the romance genre:
Amelia Hathaway is scouring the backstreets of London looking for her errant brother, Leo. Thanks to an inheritance, Leo has been elevated to aristocracy (viscount). Instead of using his title and money for something useful, like the care and feeding of his siblings, Leo is schmoping in gambling- and whorehouses, mourning his lost love.
Amelia and the Hathaway family's manservant/houseboy/kinda-sorta brother, Merripen the Gypsy, start their search at Jenner's, an upscale gentleman's club. Outside the club, she and Merripen come upon a fight between two men. A third man, Cam Rohan, breaks up the fight, which is between two of the club's well-heeled patrons. Cam Rohan, as it turns out, runs Jenners. He's also the tall, dark, and smoldering hero. Like Merripen, he's a Gypsy. Amelia and Cam set eyes on each other and it's tight-in-the-trousers/wet-in-in the-panties, lust as first sight.
Which...I confess is where the story lost a lot of interest for me. I'm not a fan of love (lust really) at first sight. Especially since, as it does here, the narrative proceeds to spend loads of time in the characters' heads, telling me how hot they are for each other. There's no subtlety; no slow building sexual tension. No mystery, really. Just zero to five alarm conflagration in less than a second.
Cam helps Amelia and Merripen find Leo. They part, but not before Cam sneaks in a snog with Amelia. Which also didn't work for me. Especially, since later, it's made clear that Merripen is protective of the Hathaways, especially where Cam is concerned. But, uh, okay, they're really hot for each other and I'm missing the point ...
The next week, Amelia, Leo, and her sisters, Win, Beatrix, and Poppy hop in a carriage, destination Hampshire, and the Ramsey Estate, theirs now thanks to Leo's title. The house is terribly rundown, and to the Hathaway's credit (well, not Leo's, he's worthless), they get down to the business of sprucing it up. (And I find myself thanking Dog for vacuums and other modern housekeeping devices.) Amelia decides to walk into town to hire a gardener and ... surprise ... encounters Cam who is staying at the nearby estate of the Earl of Westcliff. Thus begins the stalking, erm, I mean romancing of Amelia.
Cam pops up everywhere, and easily manages to get Amelia alone for more snogging and smoldering touches. Which leads to my biggest gripe with the story. There's no significant obstacle to their love. I mean, isn't that supposed to be the point? Impossible love that somehow prevails? The ingredients are there. Cam is a Gypsy, and worse yet, a halfbreed, reviled by the nice white folks and cast aside by his Roma family as well. Amelia, for all her family's eccentricities, is still aristocracy. Amelia's people shouldn't want her within a mile of Cam's sexy self.
Instead, everyone is quite accepting of the relationship. Actually, the only people of consequence who don't approve, are her brother (who's a drunken idiot) and her ex-fiance. Initially Cam makes noises about wanting to be free--because he's Roma. But he gets over it. Amelia, who alternates between control freak and devoted caretaker to her family, is resistant to the idea. Well, if resistant is defined as "No means yes."
There were a few times, where I thought this might be a DNF. But the book has its charms. The trouble is, charm comes from the secondary characters. Amelia's sister Beatrix is adorable (I love her pet lizard. I wish she'd kept it.) Most intriguing were Win, the fragile sister, and Merripen's not-romance. Merripen obviously has a huge crush on Win and later in the story, it appears she feels the same way. Maybe because there wasn't so "much" of Win and Merripen, that the mystery of their relationship was compelling. Obviously this was a set up for another novel featuring their story. (In this case, it was a successful ploy, since I'll probably read that one.)