Friday, September 05, 2008

Review: Her Royal Spyness

Just finished reading a cute, fun mystery set in 1930s London. Her Royal Spyness, by Rhys Bowen, follows spunky Georgie and her madcap adventures as a modern girl now on her own in the big city. I dislike recapping books during reviews, so here is a plot description from Bowen's site if you care to know:

"Georgie, aka Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, cousin of King George V of England, is penniless and trying to survive on her own as an ordinary person in London in 1932.
So far she has managed to light a fire and boil an egg...She’s gate-crashed a wedding...She’s making money by secretly cleaning houses...And she’s been asked to spy for Her Majesty the Queen.
Everything seems to be going swimmingly until she finds a body in her bathtub and someone is definitely trying to kill her."

The book met all my expectations of a fun, easy-to-read mystery with a likable heroine and a suitably eccentric characters. Fans of Chick Lit will probably like it, as would fans of historical fiction or anything to do with Great Britain.

Because Georgie is technically a royal (she's something like 34th in line to the throne), she moves in deliciously posh upper-crust circles and even has tea with the Queen (That's HRH "Her Royal Highness" in British 1930s slang). But because--as any good fan of historical fiction knows--not all royals are well-off, Georgie is relatable since she's a girl in reduced circumstances with no guidance other than a scandalous globe-trotting mother and a lovably unhelpful half-brother, the Duke of Rannoch.

The book takes a while to set up Georgie and her background story, so consequently you won't get to the murder and the actual mystery until at least 1/4 of the way in. This was OK with me, since it gives Bowen time to make the characters a bit more dimensional. Her potential love interest is suitably dashing; her best friend/fashion designer is suitably gosspiy and fabulous; her upper-crust British friends are suitably British-y; and her lower-class Cockney granddad is suitably loveable and dependable.

In the end, I kept reading more for the characters than for the mystery or suspense. I figured out who dunnit about halfway through the book. This isn't to brag; you'll probably be able to figure it out fairly easily, despite a few well-placed red herrings. Plus the bit about her spying for the Queen? That is a fairly minor subplot throughout most of the book and feels kind of tacked-on toward the end. I'm partial to spying and had hoped that would be more of a major plot element--particularly since it's also in the book's title. The ending did have somewhat of a bang, but--and maybe this is just me--is it too much to ask for a long, drawn-out denoument with danger and possible death and weapons/a cliff/a sinking boat/a burning house and a "murderer explains why he/she did it" speech?

If you're looking for a creepy, atmospheric mystery--this is not it. But if you like fun heroines who attend glamorous parties and do a little bit of sleuthing on the side, you'll like the book. The next installment, A Royal Pain, is just out and the plot looks good. More royals + more mayhem = good entertainment.


Margaret Donsbach said...

I enjoyed your review. This mystery has been on my TBR list since one of my guest reviewers reviewed it for my Historical Novels website at

Chad Aaron Sayban said...

Nice job with the review. I liked it!