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Book Cover Lawson’s review of What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
Historical romance released by Avon 30 Jun 09

This book is the sequel to The Secret Diaries of Miranda Cheever, following Miranda’s best friend Olivia. I don’t know how many have been wanting this story, but I’m glad to see that Olivia got her story and perhaps her twin brother Winston will get his as well. There are some comic elements in this story, but don’t be scared away if you’re not a fan of “teh funnah” as it’s well done and not of the slapstick variety.

Olivia learns from her friends that her new neighbor, Sir Harry Valentine has a dreadful rumor passing around about him. Supposedly he may have killed his fiancee and Olivia could be living next door to a murderer. Olivia doesn’t believe it, but she decides to watch Harry from her bedroom window to see if she can discover anything about him. What she sees is him sitting behind his desk reading lots of papers, and sometimes wearing a silly hat. When she meets him in person after many days watching him, she takes a near instant dislike to him.

Harry knows his neighbor has been watching him for a number of days, but he doesn’t know why. Thinking she’s no more than a spoiled debutante, he writes her off, but when their paths keep crossing he doesn’t do anything to try to change his opinion of her. Instead he’s ordered by his superiors at the Home Office to watch her, as she is being courted by a Russian prince who possibly is in England to be up to no good. With Harry and Olivia thrown together more than either would like, their feelings of animosity change rapidly, though it’s possible the danger tied to the Russian could ruin everything.

I’ve never been a big fan of the dislike turning to love sort of story. What works in this one is that even though at first, and for a bit of time, Harry and Olivia don’t like each other, they still talk to the other. In this talking they start to learn about each other and the romance is able to blossom in a believable fashion. There are some hiccups along the way, but it doesn’t hamper the sweet and at times funny story.

Olivia, having been introduced in Secret Diaries as the opposite of Miranda. She’s bubbly, charming and very pretty. She feels though that people see the outward beauty and not what’s on the inside. Olivia, though, has her own quirks that make her a good character. Instead of reading gothic novels, she likes to read the newspaper, isn’t dazzled by a Russian prince just because of his title, and likes to get the better of Harry when she can.

Harry is someone of depth himself. He works as a translator for the War Department and his skills with language is why he’s ordered to watch Olivia and the Russian prince. He’s funny as well and has a good friend in Sebastian, whom he joined the army with to get away from his father, a drunk (though not a mean one). He has fun when he sees Olivia watching him through her window and his attempts at teasing her tend to not go as planned.

There’s a great scene involving the Russian prince, Sebastian, Harry’s brother Edward and the recitation and enactment of a lurid gothic novel that possibly could go over well in Russia. It’s a bit of comedy that’s not slapstick and a great moment that had me laughing out loud and chuckling over long after I’d finished the book. Comedy aside the intrigue with the Russian prince is placed in as more of a plot device and in the end doesn’t really seem to fit in the rest of the book, but it’s so minimal that it’s not overwhelming to the rest of the story.

Though the first half is a bit choppy, with the not liking each other, when Harry and Olivia talk enough to get past that it’s a charming story with some good comedy and a little bit of intrigue that delivers.

lawson-icon.jpgGrade: B+

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 a 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…
Read an excerpt.

Other books in this series:

Book Cover