Katherine Malone is a grifter in a Victorian-age Europe. Born in England, her first memory is waking up on a heap of garbage with no memories before that. To survive on the streets, she became a pickpocket and common thief, then was taken in by Nuns when her patron was arrested and sent to the gallows. Adopted by a man who claimed to be her father, he taught her to read the Tarot cards and used her to fleece money out of the rich and gullible. But he drank himself to death and now Kate finds herself on her own in Italy.
Her one dream is to earn enough to buy her own house somewhere in rural England and have enough money to live comfortably for the rest of her life. She continues to dupe people using her Tarot cards because her "father" constantly told her it was either that or be a whore. And a common whore, at that. Because once when he beat her, it was badly enough to leave a permanent spider-web shaped scar over one side of her face. Kate is cynical, tough and sardonic, and not above a little thievery on the side.
At a party, she meets a man who is physical perfection, named Gian Urbano, who pooh-poohs her supposed "powers", but when she reads his cards, she finds herself saying things she did not intend but which apparently are no more than truth. And afterwards, she collapses in a swoon. When she awakens, she makes her way home and decides to spend the rest of the night just walking. When she bumps into an expensively-dressed man, she picks his pocket and finds an incredible windfall- an emerald as big as an apricot. But she could never sell it uncut...
When she takes it to a gemcutter, the sight of the gem drives him mad, and later that night, Gian appears and tries to take the gem from her. When she refuses to admit she has it, his eyes glow red and he tries to compel her to tell him where it is, but she is unaffected by his powers. When he finally leaves, she is accosted by a woman who also demands the stone, but Kate is similarly resistant to the woman's powers. The woman resorts to strangling her instead, but she is saved by Gino, who fights the woman.
As he does, the room goes up in flames, and Gino saves Kate from the fire, taking her to his house after she finally tells him where the stone is. He agrees to pay her 20,000 pounds for the stone, but the attack on her makes him take her to the one person who can keep her safe from the other vampires who seek the gem: his mother, who is also a Vampire.
When Kate works out what her rescuer is, he is able to foil her deductions by easily handling a cross. But his vampirism is due to an alien organism called "The Companion" that resides in his blood and keeps him alive. As they travel, Kate has more and more visions of the future, and in his mother's house, discovers that her reading about Gian was true... but his impotence is cured by their becoming lovers. While she is not a virgin, she has never had an orgasm, a situation he rapidly remedies.
Gian wants the emerald to return it to the Elder vampires in a Monastery in Transylvania, but it seems that the Emerald instead wishes to return to a temple located somewhere in North Africa. But it will take a return of Elyta, the female vampire who attempted to strangle Kate, Gian's imprisonment and torture by Elyta, and a rescue by Kate to convince him that Kate's idea might be better.
And when Kate visits Ian and Beth Rufford with Gian, both vampires, she begins to dream that they could have forever together... but with Elyta on their tail, can they manage to survive the trip to the temple?
I liked this book, primarily for Kate, the rather kick-ass heroine. In many books, the hero must save the heroine over and over again, while in this book, Kate saved Gian just as much as he did her, which was rather a refreshing change of pace for a romance book. I also liked the character of Gian, who was a strong hero without being an absolute prick, as in some romances. Very early on, he begins to genuinely appreciate Kate's unconventional upbringing, as well as her beauty, even with the scar.
I also purely loved the repartee between Gian and Kate, which made me laugh in places. Elyta is a villain that is only moderately deep, but comes off as batshit crazy. She had a similar upbringing to Kate, but of course this engenders no sympathy because of her wide-eyed whackaloony plans... which just might work given her vampire powers.
This is an unusual vampire series, but I do recommend it as something a little different from normal vampire lore.