Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’m on a roll, reading the first book in a series, again. At some point, I’ll read the rest of them, maybe. This one is fun and cute and well written – it may be the first in a series but it’s not a first novel, not by a long shot.
In Her Royal Spyness, Lady Georgiana (her whole name is too long to write out) is 34th in line for the English throne and in the 1930s that and a six-pence will get you a cup of tea. Which is to say that our member of the royal family, even though she’s well brought up, is broke. And times being what they are, most of her genteel friends are in the same position.
Georgie’s family tree is a bit complicated with a former police constable grandfather on the side of her commoner actress mother and the Queen herself as a direct relation on side of her father, the (late) Duke of Atholt and Rannoch in Scotland, a position now held by Georgie’s ineffectual brother Binky and his pain in the ass wife, Fig. Of course, even though they have no money either, it doesn’t stop them from continuing to live in the royal lifestyle.
As the book opens, Georgie is escaping from Castle Rannoch, a dull, dreary, drafty place and heading to London to try and seek her fortune and her own romantic future. Being a royal, there are limitations to who she can and cannot court and it seems everyone wants to set her up with people who are wholly unsuitable. Her best friend, a little more worldly wise, tries to steer young Georgie in the right direction when it comes to living life to the fullest but the Lady has her own way of doing things and that’s what makes this tale so much fun.
Sure, we figure out a number of plot points before our heroines does, but that’s okay. Her getting there is part of the enjoyment of the trip. Author Rhys Bowen delightfully invokes the typical misunderstandings and bedroom farce style humour which would hit the London stages a decade or two later than when this is set, but she does it without any trace of irony, playing it straight which let’s us enjoy these confusions rather than getting annoyed at how easily they could be cleared up if only someone would stop and think for a moment.
In a number of ways, this book is a coming of age story as well as a mystery and, like a lot of good mysteries, the characters drive the story as much as the plot. By the time the various murders are solved, sure, we’re interested, but we’re just as interested to see if Georgie is going to end up with Darcy O’Mara, a minor member of the Irish peerage, or if she’ll find a job to support herself or if she’ll continue working as a spy for the queen (actually, since there are more books in the series, we kinda know the answer to this one). And again, I like the Lady enough to stick with her through another adventure.