Review: Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

Her Royal SpynessThe Agatha Award winner debuts a 1930s London mystery series, featuring a penniless twenty-something member of the extended royal family.
Her ridiculously long name is Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter to the Duke of Atholt and Rannoch. And she is flat broke. As the thirty-fourth in line for the throne, she has been taught only a few things, among them, the perfect curtsey. But when her brother cuts off her allowance, she leaves Scotland, and her fiancé Fish-Face, for London, where she has:
a) worked behind a cosmetics counter-and gotten sacked after five hours
b) started to fall for a quite unsuitable minor royal
c) made some money housekeeping (incognita, of course), and
d) been summoned by the Queen to spy on her playboy son.
Then an arrogant Frenchman, who wants her family’s 800-year-old estate for himself, winds up dead in her bathtub. Now her most important job is to clear her very long family name.” – Goodreads

Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie – that’s Georgie to you and me – is thirty-fourth in line for the British throne. It is 1932 and a penniless Georgie is living in the drafty family estate, Castle Rannoch, with her brother, The Duke of Glen Garry and Rannoch – also known as Binky – and her sister-in-law, Fig. When Georgie overhears Binky informing Fig that the Queen – referred to by “the family” as HM – has requested they host a party at which Georgie will be formally introduced to a certain foreign prince, in the hopes of becoming betrothed to him, Georgie hightails it out of Scotland and heads to the family home in London, Rannoch House. There she runs into faces from her past, who quickly become fixtures in her day-to-day life. Penniless, Georgie has few options:

At the moment it is a choice between marrying a ghastly foreign prince or becoming lady-in-waiting to a great-aunt, Queen Victoria’s last surviving daughter, in the depths of the countryside where the height of entertainment will be holding her knitting wool or playing rummy.”

Soon, however, Georgie is summoned by the Queen, who poses an unusual request: Georgie is to spy on her cousin David – also known as the playboy Prince Edward {who, by the way, is one and the same as he who later abdicated the throne in order to marry an American divorcee}. In the meantime, Binky arrives in London and meets with a shady Frenchman who claims he holds the deed to Rannoch Castle and is demanding to take ownership of it at once. Things get messy when Georgie subsequently finds the Frenchman drowned in the bathtub at Rannoch House, and Binky nowhere to be found. Soon Binky is arrested for the murder and it is up to Georgie to prove his innocence. It is not long before a series of strange “accidents” convinces Georgie that her own life is in danger – will she get to the bottom of this mystery in time? Or will her assailant prevail and Binky rot in the clink forever?

Her Royal Spyness is a humorous and charming novel, with just enough reference to historical figures and events to give the story an authentic feel. This is not to say the history is meticulously researched and presented such as it is in Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope series, but it is just enough to add a more realistic tone to Georgie’s saga. I must note that it does take a bit for the mystery to be revealed here. The groundwork for Georgie’s station and current situation must first be properly laid, and only then do things begin moving at a more speedy pace.

All right, so, not to brag, but… I am fairly talented at figuring out “whodunnit” in novels; if not the actual villain, then at least the general “evil plan”. In Her Royal Spyness, however, despite the fact that this is a light and funny mystery, I was guessing until literally the very last pages. Maybe I was having a “slow” day – or maybe Rhys Bowen is just that good. Regardless of what it was, I will definitely be seeking out the other novels in this lovely and delightful mystery series.

Be on the lookout for the seventh book in the Royal Spyness series, Heirs and Graces, out this August!

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Penguin/Berkley {via NetGalley}

3 thoughts on “Review: Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

  1. Barb Parker says:

    Ok, ok, I got the book. 5 stars – it should be pretty good, right? Well. . . YES it is! I am only 35 pages in, but am in love with Georgie already. Cannot wait to see what happens next.

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