Unfortunately for future reviews, she wrote the perfect book, What Happens in London ( A | BN | K | S | ARe ), a couple years ago and now every Julia Quinn book I read suffers by comparison. So if I had read A Night Like This earlier, I suspect it would have gotten an A, but now I hold everything against the standard of What Happens In London and if no one is pecked to death by pigeons then it's just not the same. It's not fair, but it's a fact.
Since I know SBSarah is also writing a review, I won't dwell on the plot, except to say that it makes more sense if you read, or re-read, Just Like Heaven before you pick it up. NLT is part of a series regarding the Smythe-Smith family and the plot is very closely intertwined with that of the previous book.
Now that we've gotten all that out of the way, I very much enjoyed NLT. It was funny, it was touching, it was horrific when it was supposed to be and comforting everywhere else, and it featured a smart female lead who kicks ass (and other body parts) in realistic ways and much to her own surprise. The kids are hilarious (“Enough with the unicorns!”).
The book is well worth the cover price for Chapter Ten alone. Julia Quinn has a lovely writing style and the two main characters (David and Anne) get to develop in realistic and satisfying ways. There is some danger built in to liven up the story, but the most enjoyable scenes involve everyday life and the details of human interaction, both funny and moving.
Having said that, I have two problems with the book. On a personal level, I did not care for the hero, Daniel – in fact I took such a great dislike to him in the first chapter than I almost stopped reading the book. The reason I specifically list this as a personal reason is that I do think Quinn takes great pains not to conceal his flaws (mostly immaturity and being very self-centered). She takes the time to have him grow as a person gradually. So he's well written enough, but you as a reader have to be willing to put up with him being a selfish clueless twerp for a while and that requires more patience than I possess even though it's not actually a writing flaw.
The other problem I have is that, although I trust Quinn to be historically accurate, a lot of this book didn't quite ring true. Perhaps on the comments thread some people who are more knowledgeable about Regency than I can weigh in on this – would the young, unmarried Earl and the Governess really have spent so much time together unchaperoned? Often they are alone by accident (they run into each other in town, the kids are with them but the kids run off to do something, etc) but at one point Daniel, speaking in front of his mother, offers to see Anne to her room – really?
As far as his incessant flirting goes, he is supposed to be self-centered, but could he possibly be so clueless about the very real possibility of her losing her situation? What can he be thinking with this parade of compromising situations (and activities) that he initiates? I don't really believe in the HEA either, unless we accept the possibility that an Earl has money and power and therefore can tell society to stuff it. Quinn has relied on this theory before to justify some of her match-ups but for some reason this one in particular seemed unlikely. It would have helped to have seen some of the realities of David and Anne's marriage unfold.
I've been more successful at articulating what I didn't like than what I did like, but really the book was enjoyable, exciting, deeply touching, and roll on the ground funny. The next book is about Sarah and Hugh, which is a relief as I am terribly worried about him. I know he's fictional but I won't feel at ease until I can read about him becoming happy. That book comes out in May so it will be a long winter for me, I'm afraid. Meanwhile I can console myself by reading What Happens in London for the twentieth time and my newly beloved Chapter Ten from Night Like This. It's pretty good even without the pigeons.