|Lisa Kleypas specializes in dark heroes both literally (they are rarely blond-haired and light-complexioned) and figuratively (their troubled pasts have hardened them to the healing power of love). Like many romance readers, I delight in seeing these complex, tortured men capitulate to the caring and strong-willed women Kleypas pens quite masterly. Unfortunately her latest hero, Kev Merripen, is a little too angst-ridden for me.
A gypsy, Kev has lived with the scholarly Hathaway family ever since they rescued him from near-death. At first he is resentful of their gadjo (or non-Romany) ways, but he quickly learns to admire and respect them. Happy to do all their odd jobs, he nevertheless resists all attempts to pull him deeper into the family hold. He is especially wary of the second daughter, Winnifred. Although he has been desperately in love with her practically since first sight and although Win obviously reciprocates his feelings, he knows any relationship is doomed. She is too delicate and too refined for a brute who is not even wanted by his own people.
Win, of course, will have none of it. She has been ill for far too long and now, after a three-year stint at a clinic in France, she knows how precious life is and how important it is to pursue her dreams. She lays her heart on the table, only to be rejected again and again. Her family intervenes as does her brother-in-law Cam Rohan, the half-gypsy gambler and financier whose romance is related in Mine at Midnight. Kev only relents when Win's betrothal to another man, Dr Julian Harrow of the clinic, becomes a real possibility.
Even then, however, Kev is not ready to give up the angst. He has a hard-time accepting newly-revealed secrets about his mysterious relationship with Cam. And of course, the perpetual brooder cannot forgive Amelia for another little sin. My opinion? The man seriously needs to get over himself.
Kleypas goes rather heavily for melodrama in this book. In addition to Kev, there is an over-the-top villain and at least two plot twists which are contrived and clichéd. Despite this, the book is not a total waste of time. Some of the warm-hearted family scenes temper the histrionic intensity, and most of the other characters make up for gloomy old Kev. Win's unlikely combination of fragile beauty and will of steel makes her a great heroine, and Cam, who had me from his first appearance in Devil in Winter, is as charming as ever. Then, of course, there is Kleypas's skill at making a period come alive. Here, she does wonders depicting the awe surrounding the 1851 World Exhibition at London's Crystal Palace. She also discloses meaningful snippets about Romany culture.
There is more than one story-in-the-making among the Hathaway bunch. For all my objections to this one, I look forward to more.
-- Mary Benn