San Francisco, 1890. Annette Tofler returns from two years studying art in Paris and returns home with a strong desire to paint professionally. Despite being the sheltered youngest daughter of a well-to-do Nob Hill merchant, Annette rents herself an artist’s studio (!!), offers herself up as a nude model (!!) for any artist willing to pay and even comes and goes to and fro with nary an eyebrow raised by her doting father and brother. One of her first modeling gigs is for painter Rolf Karman (she’d met him previously at a gallery opening and hated him on sight), and since this is a romance y’all know the sparks are flying between the two at the get go.
Annette’s father has been doing business of the dirtiest kind with the shady guys in town, and when it goes awry the angry mobsters are out for their money back – and if not well, I won’t spoil but you will see that one coming a mile away. The story continues with the Big Rescue, the Big Misunderstanding, and a long-lost family member with a deep dark secret (you’ll guess that lickety split). The characters were not terribly believable and didn’t always act in a manner that suited the period. I won’t spoil but dangerous situation or not, I couldn’t believe Annette was left alone with a man who was not her husband for days, nor that she and Cecily accepted their brother’s mistress with nary an eyebrow raised.
It is unfortunate, as at the beginning I had high hopes for this. I liked the writing at first, she even made good use of dialog for setting up the back history instead of those tedious info dumps. I know it is a romance and we’re not supposed to care, but unfortunately the big romance wasn’t much of one, Annette was…well…a bit too slutty at the start (she kind of had the hots for anything in pants…) and I really didn’t warm up to her. Romance or not, I was all set for a juicy tale of Old San Francisco, the Barbary Coast and its resident baddies, a heroine held captive by the meanest baddie of them all and all I ended up with was silly mess including a HEA with enough sugar and sweetness in it to set the alarm off on the glucose meter. Give this one a pass.