|Every Julia Quinn story that TRR has reviewed has gotten either three or four hearts and What Happens In London will not be the exception. I do have to note however, that if I were to rank the Quinn stories I have enjoyed, this would be on the lower end of the scale.
There isn’t much story here but there is plenty of fun, wit and repartee between characters. Quinn’s style makes the reader smile even while grimacing over some of the insanity. What sets it apart from the inane, however, is the power of the relationships that Quinn builds as her characters banter and participate in activities that delight.
In this tale, the activity starts off as innocent curiosity and ends with a couple that finds themselves fascinated with each other despite their best intentions. Olivia Bevelstoke is considered a diamond of the first water on the marriage mart, but she has not found someone who she thinks she can love. She also refuses to acknowledge that she is beautiful, preferring instead (as do so many of Quinn’s heroines) to use her brain and look for someone who has intelligence as well as money.
Her new neighbor, Sir Harry Valentine (who will inherit a baronetcy) has just moved in next door. Olivia observes that Harry spends a lot of time in his office, writing. She begins to watch him from her window, which looks into his office. She observes him wearing at least one silly hat with feathers, burning pages in the fireplace and generally indulging in behavior that causes her to wonder. She does this observation in a stealthy manner and thinks she is unnoticed.
But Harry just returned home from the war and in fact, is translating documents for the War Office. He is fluent in both French and Russian, thanks to his Russian grandmother who demanded he learn and would only speak to him in her native tongue. Harry has honed his own observation skills and notices Olivia without letting on. Many of his actions are just a way to amuse himself at her expense, even though she is unaware she is being made the butt of his little joke.
This observation goes on for five days, before one day, one of them miscalculates and it becomes obvious that Harry sees Olivia and Olivia sees that Harry can see her. This sets off a series of meetings where Harry teases and Olivia acts offended and in denial, even while acknowledging how quick Harry is and how attractive. When a Russian prince decides to pay his respects to a beautiful woman like Olivia, Harry is assigned to monitor their interactions to ensure there is nothing going on the War Department needs to know about. As with any story involving espionage, there is something going on and danger lurks just around the corner.
Olivia and Harry are well matched and the reader will pick up signs of their attraction and their growing fondness for one another well before the two characters catch on. They are simply cute together and as engaging as any couple that Quinn has developed. The problem is they are in a fairly weak story and this limits how engaging they can be. Cute works in the short term but I was definitely ready for the action to start when it did.
There are a few interesting side characters, none of whom are really developed well. Harry’s friend Sebastian could be a hero on his own and offered many intriguing traits such as a flare for acting and seeming debauchery. The Prince was both a good and bad guy and Edward, Harry’s brother, played a minor role too.
I did laugh as I was reading this tale and that is always a good sign. I wanted to keep reading at times, so that too signals that I was engaged. What Happens In London was fun, and even though it will not be at the top of my favorite Quinn’s list, just being on the list makes it worth a reader’s time.