What Happens In London by Julia Quinn

What Happens in London

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What Happens In London is Julia Quinn’s second book in the Bevelstoke Series.  While none of the Bridgerton characters are mentioned, it does take place in the same universe.  Our hero and heroine even get to attend the Smythe-Smith Musicale.  It goes without saying that Julia Quinn is a master of her craft.  Her authorial voice is distinct.  Her characters are always lovable, regardless of their flaws.  You will never pick up a Quinn novel and find anything but an exquisite romance novel.

That being said, an avid Quinn reader (such as myself) cannot help but compare this novel to her other works.  What Happens In London is a top-notch read.  It is not, however, Quinn’s best.

A bachelor has moved in next door to Olivia Bevelstoke.  According to the rumor mill, he’s a murderer, responsible for the untimely death of his fiance.  Olivia doesn’t believe it… but in such cases, it’s better to be safe than sorry. She decides to watch the man from her bedroom window- well-hidden behind the curtains of course. Her new neighbor may not be a murder, but he’s certainly up to something.

Sir Harry Valentine is fluent in English, Russian, and French, which makes him a valuable translator for the War Office. Harry isn’t a spy himself, but he is trained in the craft, and his suspicions are raised when the pretty debutante next door begins spying on him.  His suspicions are all but confirmed the War Office orders Harry to watch Olivia and the Russian prince who is courting her.  

What Happens In London hits all the high notes we’ve come to expect from a Quinn novel. 

Witty banter. Whip-smart heroines. Lovable heroes, and at least one rake hovering in the wings.

It really is a great book, but there were a few places it fell flat for me. 

One of the best things about Olivia Bevelstoke is her friendship with Miranda (the heroine from Book one), who is totally absent from this book. I found myself longing for more than a passing mention of Miranda, especially once Olivia started falling in love.  Wouldn’t she at least write to her best friend/sister-in-law?

The sex scene was also disappointing.  Quinn’s approach to sex is a bit formulaic.  There’s always a heavy make-out scene in which everyone gets hot and bothered, followed by a single sex scene, and sexy references thereafter. There are exceptions (When He Was Wicked, for example), but the rule is generally true.  Readers have come to expect a sex scene from Quinn, but this is a book where it just didn’t make sense.  Harry and Olivia are in love. They plan to marry. He’s a really good guy and NOT a rake.  She’s a virgin who isn’t rebellious.  You can’t convince me it was natural for these particular characters to have sex for the first time during a party at the Russian consulate. Third base? Sure. Sex? No way. Furthermore, the sex scene didn’t accomplish any emotional heavy lifting for this couple. It wasn’t even steamy. Frankly, it wasn’t necessary. I’d rather have no sex scene than a pointless, unsatisfying one.

Apart from these relatively minor criticisms, What Happens in London is a fun way to spend your weekend.  If you enjoy Julia Quinn novels, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy this one, too. But I do recommend tempering your expectations.  They can’t all be The Viscount Who Loved Me.

Content Warning: Alcoholic parents/siblings

Favorite Tropes: Enemies to Lovers; Love Triangle, Virgin Heroine

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