This reading backward thing is getting to be a problem.
I wound up with a strip of Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn. Cute title, like the movie (duh).
Premise: Miss Annabel Winslow, coming from a minor and impoverished branch of an aristocratic family, has been brought to Town for a Season and to find a husband. Specifically, she's supposed to accept the aging (and rather disgusting) Earl of Newbury who is on the hunt for a fertile young wife due to the loss of his heir. At a house party, Annabel meets Sir Sebastian Grey - who turns out to be Newbury's newphew - and she hits it off with him. Now she has two suitors and they both loathe one another.
I'm not sure why, but I couldn't put this down because I was terrified Annabel would wind up marrying the vile Lord Newbury even though we are practically guaranteed an HEA because it's a romance. Something about the tension in the story. Some aspects of the story could have been better developed, especially why Lord Newbury always despised Sebastian because the fight at White's only scratched the surface. Also, it was never explained why Annabel thought Sebastian might not be able to provide for her because he was obviously not destitute (not as rich as Newbury but certainly better off than her family). I really felt for Annabel throughout much of the book - as a "generously endowed" woman I know exactly what it's like to have everyone staring at your chest/assuming you're slutty simply because your breasts are more than eye-catching.
I liked the many parallels between Annabel and Sebastian - they like to make lists, they both have some trouble sleeping (although due to different reasons), how they both seem to prefer plain-speaking. Sebastian's fishing for compliments about his book was pretty funny (actually, the whole "I find the plot implausible/but that's what makes it interesting" conversation with Louisa had me rolling on the floor because that's pretty much what a romance novel rests on - an implausible plot). At least I know now who wrote Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron in Just Like Heaven.
Backing up one book, I picked up Olivia and Harry's story in What Happens in London. So, Sir Harry Valentine (love the name) is an ex-cavalry officer and translator of Russian for the War Office who leases the house next door to Olivia's family. To the south. Olivia Bevelstoke - gossiping with her friends - is soon apprised that Sir Harry is rumoured to have killed his fiancee. She starts spying on him, which he notices immediately since she's not very good at it, and silliness ensues. When a Russian prince begins bestowing attention on Olivia, Harry is assigned to spy on the Russians (but not let them know he speaks Russian). Everything culminates in a ball at the Russian Embassy where Olivia is kidnapped.
For the record, the Harry-killed-his-fiancee thing is a total red herring. He didn't have one.
What makes this such a readable novel (unlike book 3 where I was unreasonably terrified Annabel would end up marrying The Wrong Man and therefore couldn't stop reading) are the little scenes between Olivia and Harry. Like the one about tea and sugar. In the alcove at the ball. Reading Miss Butterworth from their windows. It's very cute. (And then Sebastian - who is Harry's first cousin on the Russian side - does a dramatic reading from Miss Butterworth and cracked me up.)
And so I finally backed up to book one, The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever, which could have belonged to an entirely different series considering that Miranda and Turner make no appearances in the other two (Olivia mentions their children, that's it).
Miranda and Olivia are childhood friends and despite Miranda's resignation that she will not become A Great Beauty she has harbored a crush on Olivia's eldest brother Nigel, Viscount Turner, nearly all her life. Turner, who is nearly ten years older than Miranda, goes on to marry some hideous woman who breaks his heart then breaks her neck while riding out to meet her lover. Fate throws Miranda and Turner together and somehow (because I really don't think Quinn did her due diligence in this plot) they both lose their minds and have sex. And Miranda hies off to her grandparents' in Scotland when she finds out she's pregnant. And Turner comes hauling after her only to find out that she's lost the baby. And then they have to get hitched and Turner sill has jealously issues and Miranda loves him more than he deserves and the WHOLE PLOT DISSOLVES INTO ROMANCE-TROPEVILLE. *facepalm* Did I mention that Miranda keeps a load of journals, if that wasn't implied by the title, where she confesses her Turner obsession?
I wasn't much impressed. I liked Miranda as a character, but Turner I wanted to shake until his teeth chattered. His repeated endearment of "You little fool" didn't seem that endearing to me.
I so wanted Turner to finally realize that his inability to say "I love you" was utter crap and that Miranda wasn't Laetitia - on his own mind you, not because he thought Miranda might die.
Admittedly, reading these backward worked for me - if I'd read this one first I might not have felt the need to read the other Bevelstokes.
I wonder if Winton (Olivia's twin) will get a book.