Kindling an affection for Her Royal Spyness

Her Royal SpynessMy storage problems have led me to buying e-books as an alternative to the ‘real thing’; e-books are also cheaper and if I’m taking a chance and reading a book by an author whose work I haven’t read before, e-books are a low-cost way to discovering new joys.

Last year I found myself, by a circuitous route of Amazon recommendations, reading the description for Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen. The premise: It’s 1932 and Lady Georgiana (Georgie) is a minor and thoroughly penniless member of the British Royal Family, 34th in line to the throne. The daughter of a Duke and an actress, Georgie is sent from the family’s cold and bleak Scottish castle to London on a mission for her great Aunt, Queen Mary. HRH wants Georgie to be her eyes and ears at a house party at which the Prince of Wales and his inamorata Mrs Simpson will be in attendance. In essence she has to spy on the Prince of Wales. It’s either that or  Georgie faces a very boring life being lady-in-waiting to the ancient Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria’s only surviving daughter or even worse marrying the cold fish Prince Siegfried.

Reluctantly Georgie accepts her mission and meets an unsuitable but delectable young man on the way. Oh, and someone dies.  Unexpectedly. In Georgie’s own bathtub. Georgie gets rather too close to the killer as she tries to clear her name and prove she wasn’t the murderer. No more spoilers, you can read it for yourself to see if she is successful in her spying mission.

When I first started reading this, the first in the series about Georgie, I was disappointed to have some Mitfordisms presented to me in the second chapter. “Next thing we know you’ll be teaching Podge to say ‘mirror’ instead of ‘looking glass’ and ‘serviette’ instead of ‘napkin’.” Hmm, I thought; the author was clearly influenced by The Pursuit of Love and Love in A Cold Climate. I was prepared to dismiss the book as a copycat of Nancy Mitford’s upper class social comedies, but kept reading on.

Like most modern books set in ‘Golden Age’ time (between the two World Wars), you know instinctively from the language both of the prose itself and which the characters speak that while it’s been well-researched it’s a new book, written recently. It’s a good romp though; the first book in the series introduces the reader to Georgie’s friends and helps Georgie solve her penniless predicament, with the unlikely scenario that Georgie decides that in order to make money she will become a cleaner.

Deep and meaningful literature it isn’t and it isn’t meant to be either, it’s very readable and Rhys Bowen has a nice touch in cliffhanger chapter endings. By the middle of the book I was thoroughly engrossed in this version of 1930s London – a London probably a little cleaner and kinder than the original methinks!

Bowen has written five books in this series now, and there is character development along the way, but each can be read separately to the others. Amazon’s Kindle store had all five in stock so now they are on my iPad ready to be re-read when I feel like it.

If you have read and enjoyed Nicola Upson’s series set in the 1930s featuring novelist Josephine Tey as the lead character, you will probably enjoy Her Royal Spyness.


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