Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

The mystery genre can be confounding to me. There are so many strange niche mysteries. Seriously, there are cat mysteries and scrapbooking mysteries, chocolate lovers mysteries and mysteries for people who play sudoku. Some mysteries even come with recipes or home decorating tips. I have wanted to read a good mystery for years, yet was put off by the silly titles and assumed lameness.

Not too long ago, I had the chance to own some mysteries (A little bookstore miracle known as a strip). Her Royal Spyness sounded like it could be amusing. It turned out to be a quick read, and I actually surprised myself by enjoying the book.

The book is set in Great Britain in 1930, when the country is suffering from the Great Depression. Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie (Georgie) is 21, thirty-fourth in line for the throne, single with no prospects, and completely bored with life. When her half-brother Binky cuts off her allowance and the Queen starts making arrangements to blackmail Georgie into marrying a Romanian prince, she decides that it's time to start making some decisions for herself.

The first decision is to leave Castle Rannoch for the family's vacation home in London. Georgie even travels without any servants, since no one could be spared because of the harsh economy. She learns to cook and dress herself and even light a fire. Eventually, Georgie decides she needs a job to secure money and ensure that the Queen, HRH, can't force her to marry said prince or serve as companion to a boring old great-aunt. After a disastrous day as a shop girl, Georgie starts her own house-cleaning business. It's a great risk, as the royal family should not be working at all, but especially not as a cleaning woman. She cleans a couple houses and makes a little money. Everything seems to be working out until Georgie finds the body in the bathtub.

Now, Georgie must find the killer and clear her family's name. If that wasn't enough to deal with, HRH has commissioned her to spy on her son and his scandalous already-married American girlfriend. To complete the trifecta of woe, Georgie keeps encountering penniless but tempting Irish Darcy O'Mara. Adding a fourth problem, someone is trying to kill her. She just has to figure out who and why.

As I already stated, I enjoyed this book much more than I had expected. I was worried that Georgie would be another annoying and overprivileged female protagonist. She turned out to be kind of endearing, a lot of the weaknesses in her character stemming mostly from societal norms of the 1930s and from the pressures put upon even distant members of the royal family. I also liked the way the book mentioned the class system, how Georgie was treated differently as a maid or shop girl and how being in need of money made her view her grandfather and the other struggling members of the lower class differently. This book surprised me so much that I am seriously thinking about checking out the rest of the series because I would like to find out what happens to Georgie (and her badly nicknamed British relatives) next.

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