By Julia Quinn.
Well, this is the first book I've ever seen where I found out how the main character kept track of how many times his father puked by book 4. That's...new. But there's a reason for it--good metaphor, even.
This book has its ups and downs. On the plus side, I enjoyed the hero and well, every other male main character in the book. On the minus side, this book could have used some more plot, especially with regards to the heroine.
Harry Valentine had a Russian grandmother and is fluent in the language. His dad was an amiable total drunk and his mother seems to have mentally vacated the premises, so Harry got the hell out as soon as he could, going to school and joining the military. These days he does translations for the War Office and attempts to look after his younger brother, who's sadly following in drunken dad's footsteps. Harry very sensibly does not drink a bit. I liked the dude.
Anyway, he's recently moved to London, where his hot blonde neighbor Lady Olivia Bevelstoke seriously has nothing to do but hang out with dimwits since her best friend became her sister-in-law and started having babies. Anyway, Olivia doesn't really believe the silly-ass rumor floating around Harry that he killed his fiancee (???), but she's bored enough with her life to start spying on him from her window. Harry notices it right off the bat and does a bit of dramatic playacting to ah, make it more interesting. Eventually there's embarrassment when she's really caught, she meets him in person and neither of them like each other, and then they get over that in a hurry.
The plot of this book, what little there is, is that Olivia is getting courted by a Russian prince, and the War Office orders Harry to investigate the situation. Harry rapidly falls for Olivia and is seriously annoyed by the prince. Especially after the prince says something very crude in Russian, not knowing Harry knows what he said. The prince comes off as quite the douche for most of the book--dude may annoy Harry, but he kind of freaks Olivia out when they're alone--but it actually gets pretty entertaining when Harry and the prince are together. Oh, the backbiting! I deeply enjoyed that, as well as the mystery of Vladimir the bodyguard and what he's up to. There is also one marvelous scene in which Harry, the prince, and pretty much everyone else in the vicinity are happily entertained by Harry's cousin Sebastian doing a dramatic reading (on a table) from a book called "Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron." So when it comes to the men in this book, I rather enjoyed those bits.
On the other hand, there is Olivia. Don't get me wrong, she's an okay girl. Seems pleasant enough. Her main quirk is constantly making short formal lists in her head, which I guess I was supposed to find cute or funny. They never were for me, so it just was a little irritating. Mostly I just felt like this girl would be more of a standout if she just had more to DO in this book than be the object of affection. Not her fault, really, but I found the parts of the book focusing on her to be fairly dull compared to the snark and backbiting and backstory angst that Harry had going on. I kept thinking that what this girl really needs to do is to go on a treasure hunt or investigate Harry as a possible spy or something. That would have given her more to do and livened things up considerably.
Overall, I'll give it three and a half stars. It had moments of fun here and there, I just wish there had been more plot than there was. These characters had more to give, and deserved more.