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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

'What happens in London' by Julia Quinn

From the BLURB:

When Olivia Bevelstoke is told that her new neighbor may have killed his fiancÉe, she doesn't believe it for a second, but, still, how can she help spying on him, just to be sure? So she stakes out a spot near her bedroom window, cleverly concealed by curtains, watches, and waits . . . and discovers a most intriguing man, who is definitely up to something.

Sir Harry Valentine works for the boring branch of the War Office, translating documents vital to national security. He's not a spy, but he's had all the training, and when a gorgeous blonde begins to watch him from her window, he is instantly suspicious. But just when he decides that she's nothing more than an annoyingly nosy debutante, he discovers that she might be engaged to a foreign prince, who might be plotting against England. And when Harry is roped into spying on Olivia, he discovers that he might be falling for her himself . . .

This was so darn sweet; my teeth ached after reading (in a good way!).

This is a sequel to Quinn’s 2007 novel ‘The secret diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever’. The protagonist of ‘what happens in London’ was the best friend and sister to the two protagonists in ‘Cheever’ – in that book Olivia came across as quite flighty and ‘dumb blonde’, and I was a little dubious as to how she would hold her own. Quinn deftly addressed the issue of Olivia’s perceived stupidity with a great deal of care and compassion – turning it into an observation of women’s roles in the 1800’s.

Olivia admits that she has always been beautiful, and because of her beauty nothing has ever been expected of her – other than to act as a pretty China doll on display. And in the scenes when Olivia is out in public it is quite interesting to read her inner monologue versus the social ‘front’ she displays. Underneath her golden locks and porcelain skin, Olivia is a witty young woman entirely self-aware of her shortcomings and perceived perfections. I liked her instantly.

I also liked Sir Harry Valentine right away. He’s a very different leading man than I’m used to reading in regency romances, where rakes and cads are the preferred protagonists. Harry Valentine is a book-smart, quiet gentleman. He has moments of dashing heroics, but all in all he is not the typical Alpha male favored by romance writers – and that made him very refreshing and endearing. He’s sort of the ‘Miranda Cheever’ in this book. Where Miranda was plain looking and book-smart, compared to her dashingly handsome husband Viscount Turner; Harry Valentine is the plain-looking gentleman vying for the affections of the coveted bachelorette, Olivia Bevelstoke. It was a nice mix- up, and a welcome change of pace from the typically aggressive leading man.

The best thing about ‘what happens in London’ is the humor. I had quite a few ‘laugh out loud’ moments while reading this. Quinn makes fun of society belles, Russian princes, lurid gothic novels and much, much more. You don’t often get regency romances doubling as comedic reads – but in ‘what happens in London’ it is a two-for-one deal.

I only have 2 complaints about the book. The first is the lack of Miranda Cheever. I did love the book ‘the secret diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever’ and I appreciated that Olivia made reference to her sister-in-law and brother, but I would have loved them to make a guest appearance.
My second complaint is about the sex scene. There is only one, and it was so lacking in steaminess that I think I would have preferred there to be none at all. It didn’t do anything for me (ha!) and I just didn’t believe the spontaneous setting.

I did love this book, and I look forward to Quinn’s third novel ‘Ten things I love about you’ which is about one of the secondary (and hilarious) characters from ‘what happens in London’.

4.5/5

3 comments:

  1. I love your reviews, I like how much effort you put into and its easy to see how much you love reading :)

    when I wrote my last post I had forgotten that I had actually heard about the Crow Trilogy from your blog :) so, I edited the post to include a shout out to you hehe Thanks for introducing those books to me... They became my fave Trilogy of all time :)

    regarding the book you reviewed here, Im not a big fan of historical romance. Though I did give it a try with Goddess of Hunt. You made it sound so good. I liked it and actually bought the following two books. Though they are gonna be sitting in my TBR pile for a while hehe

    You should read the WMVP series. Its really great. not as amazing as the crow. but its a great read :)

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  2. I was waiting to read this book until I finished the Bridgertons, but I guess it's not set in that world? I'm going to have to go back and check her website to see which books I need to read before this one.....'cause I really want to read this one!

    (I second the WVMP series)

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  3. Oh Harry...so damn cute. I agree, needed more smex in it. But I LOVED Seb and his book reading - LOL. Can't wait for his book!!

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