REVIEW: What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
Dear Ms. Quinn:
Confession time. I don’t remember much about The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever. I vaguely remember Olivia, best friend of Miranda, younger sister of the hero but her flavor wasn’t with me when I started What Happens in London. I don’t know if that is good or bad but I highly enjoyed What Happens. It is sweet, funny and romantic. Can’t ask for much more from a romance book.
Olivia is the only daughter of the Earl of Rudland. She is very, very pretty. Has received a multitude of marriage proposals, all of which have been rejected and is currently being courted by a Prince. Olivia’s problem is that she is bored now that Miranda has married her brother and hied off to the country-side. Olivia finds herself gossiping with some nitwits who suggest her new neighbor killed his fiance. She has nothing better to do so for five days she spies on her neighbor while he is in his study. She notices that he wears a funny hat with plumes and that he furtively tossed a whole sheaf of papers in the fireplace! Olivia is intrigued.
Sir Harry is annoyed that Olivia is spying on him but not so much that he stops using his study. In fact, his annoyance kind of turns into entertainment as he debates internally how long she will keep watching him and why. This musing is ruined one day when he glances up at the window when he believes Olivia isn’t there. Olivia sees him looking at her and knows she’s found out so she stops spying on him to Harry’s bemused chagrin.
Sir Harry proceeds to get himself invited to a party that Olivia will be attending for the mere purpose of twitting her about her spying on him. She treats him frostily and he comes away thinking that she’s kind of bitchy. I loved that the two didn’t like each other much in the beginning of the book.
Sir Harry is a linguist and works for the War Office. The Russian Prince courting Olivia is under suspicion of possibly helping Napoleon and Sir Harry is ordered to follow him about. Because the Russian Prince is pursuing Olivia, this gives Sir Harry an excuse to follow Olivia.
Sir Harry and Olivia spar, find that they enjoy sparring with each other, that they enjoy a similarly perverse sense of humor and eventually fall in love. You can actually see the two fall for each other which helps the reader buy into the ultimate happy ever after.
My nitpicks included that there was big build up with Sir Harry’s father being a drunk but I didn’t really see how that had any impact on Harry and Olivia’s courtship. Maybe it was too subtly inserted but other than Harry refusing to drink, the issue of his father’s alcoholism and how that affected Harry’s view of family life didn’t seem to impede his desire for Olivia or his desire to marry Olivia once he realized that he loved her.
Another issue is that Olivia is kind of a regular debutante which I appreciated but then I felt she was given “smart” attributes to make her more appealing to the reader. She loves to read newspapers but not gothic novels. She loves political talk and isn’t good at needlepoint or any of those other debutante skills.
There are twists to the plot that I didn’t see coming and several places in the book where I laughed out loud. The ending is a bit treacly, but probably in keeping with the book. I suspect I’ll be in the minority over the ending as most people will say its one of the most romantic endings ever. If I had to use one word to describe this book it would be charming. B
This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers beginning June 30, 2009 but may be in bookstores now.