What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
When Olvia Bevelstoke's gossipy friends inform her that her new neighbor, Sir Harry Valentine, killed his fiance, Olivia can't resist doing a little spying to find out what he hides. Harry knows from the beginning that he is being spied on by the very attractive daughter of the Earl of Rudlend, but he can't figure out why. When Olivia realizes that Harry is completely aware of her exploits she is humiliated but determined to pretend she has no idea what had occurred. Things don't go precisely as planned when the two meet up at a random ball and they verbally try to run circles around each other. Both are left exhilerated and excited over the encounter although both claim to dislike the other. Shortly thereafter Harry receives word from the war office that his new assignment is to watch out for Prince Alexei, a Russian Prince who has taken a shine to Olivia and who has ties to Napoleon sympathasizers. Harry is more put out over having to spend more time with Olivia then he is with his new assignment, but on his very first excursion he runs into Olivia and realizes there is more to her than meets the spying eye.
Unfornately Harry can't let on to Olivia his true mission so he has to stand somewhat idly by as Alexei makes pitiful and apparently obscene (in Russian) attempts to court her. Harry and Olivia's romance is conducted through ballroom dancing, hiding from the Prince in said ballrooms, through morning calls to Olivia's house and, most fun of all, through some late night window chats where they read to each other. Not to long in to his investigation of the Prince, Harry receives the abrupt news that the whole thing has been called off and he is somewhat confused, but glad he can now devote himself to winning Olivia's affection. Things all come to a head the Russian ambassador's ball as both Olivia and Harry admit their feelings for each other and make plans to marry. Unfortunately someone still believes the Prince has feelings for Olivia and kidnaps her in an attempt to gain a large ransom from the royal. Harry is distraught and determined to save Olivia so the two can have the life they had imagined for each other just hours before.
I have read plenty of Julia Quinn and have never precisely understood why she is considered one of the best romance writers, nor why her books tend to be $1 more than most other romances. While I'm still not precisely an avid fan, this book went quite a ways to explaining why so many people like her, even though I can't see how they could from her other books. For one thing this book did not contain the typical large dose/s of references to previously happy couples that her other books do (the Bridgertons) although it does contain some fun little allusions (such as the Smythe-Smith musicale) that were sprinkled in and more fun than heavy-handed. This had everything I had been expecting from such a well-loved author. A great progression as the characters moved from outright dislike to a mutual respect and enjoyment of one another's company to admitting they loved each other. And she did it so realistically too as they got to know one another and spend time with one another. It wasn't riddled with sparring or outright animosity just some lively (and not annoying) banter/ jokes that progressed to something more.
Apparently Quinn is known for her "feverish love scenes" and while I have read at least one of her books that possessed these (When He Was Wicked) this was certainly not one of them. The kissing scenes were rushed and the ONE actual steamy scene was 320 pages into the book and over far too quickly without being anywhere near hot. This wasn't my main problem with the book though as the development of their relationship was enjoyable enough to make up for this. What I found weird was the completely bizarre, out of far left-field, was the kidnap at the end. I could not figure out what point that played in the novel except to stretch it out into the requisite 370 pages. Completely unnecessary, but I did manage to forgive her a little bit as the few pages following, where Olivia is forced to realize that there's quite a bit about the man she loves that she doesn't know, are quite good and the perfect amount of angsty. I was glad that the Prince Alexei/ kidnap/ Russian side plot weren't completely overdone and didn't overwhelm the novel, even if it did seem a little awkward in the book.
Rating: I very much enjoyed this book and, while annoying, the kidnap plot didn't throw me off all that much. Wish there had been more steam though.