i've written about julia quinn's books before. when he was wicked is probably one of my all time favorite romance books, it is one of the most poignant, most emotional books i've ever read. quinn's ability to express the constant yearning, the aching sadness her two leads live with is actually surprising, because when you consider the bulk of her oeuvre she's well known for her characters' witty repartee and comedic situations. i loved, loved, loved when he was wicked and i know that a lot of people don't, because they read for happy stories.
and that's usually why i read too, but i also like the stories to evoke something. and while quinn's other novels are amusing, i'm not usually laughing out loud. except i totally did while reading her latest novel, what happens in london, a delightful romantic comedy that leaves you just feeling happy at the end. we had first met the bevelstoke clan during the secret diaries of miss miranda cheever, quinn's first book post-bridgerton. at the time, i don't recall being particularly enchanted by them, because i know i haven't reread that particular novel and i continue to not have much interest in it. i think i found miranda cheever annoying. but that's beside the point.
this encounter with the bevelstoke clan showcases olivia, a delightful young woman who is blessed with uncommon good looks and a sharp mind. she isn't necessarily smart, but she is not the average debutante. our hero, harry valentine, is a war veteran whose knowledge of russian is integral to the plot. harry moves in next door to the bevelstoke's and when drawing room rumors prompt olivia to spy on harry who catches her at it pretty immediately, the story starts moving pretty quickly. olivia is suspicious of harry, harry thinks olivia is a bit of an idiot, but the more time they spend together [as in all romance novels] they come to realize that their first impressions shouldn't stick.
a running joke throughout the book, harry gifts olivia with a terrible gothic novel entitled miss butterworth and the mad baron, which previously made an appearance in it's in his kiss. [the smythe-smith girls and their musicales make another appearance here too, and the bridgerton family gets a small mention in a throwaway line.] the gothic novel ends up not only shedding light on the leads characters and their likes and dislikes, but also on the character of some of the supporting players. in a hilarious drawing room scene the book ends up being read aloud and much silliness follows.
interestingly, the person initially set up as the villan of the piece ends up coming off better from all the silliness and by the climax of the novel is revealed to be a non-threat. this is perhaps the only plot point that didn't work. harry and olivia were initially thrown together because of this, but the threat is dealt with rather quickly and the kidnapping and resolution all come off haphazardly and rushed. and the person ultimately revealed to be the bad guy is someone we never even knew was a threat.
the proposal at the end ties things together nicely, and i hope we get some more books set in the bevelstoke-valentine corner of london. some of the supporting players showed some hero/heroine potential. especially sebastian grey and winston bevelstoke, they seem as if they might be dreamy.
also, here is something i thought i'd share, apropos of nothing other than the fact that julia quinn is quoted in this usa today article. it's highlights that there are some seriously educated people writing and studying romance books. i think that this is really a great thing, and i can't help but love the fact that in spite of ted* [or maybe due to ted], harlequin is seeing sales growth.
images courtesy of juliaquinn.com.
* ted=the economic downturn