Wednesday, August 16, 2017

On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen: Reading Room Review


Oh, Lady Georgie! You do make me so happy that I'm a reader and that I found Her Royal Spyness series four years ago. Having a new Royal Spyness book to look forward to each year is a guaranteed favorite read for the year. Rhys Bowen is a born storyteller that charms readers with her fascinating characters, witty dialogue, captivating settings, and suspenseful story lines. Always fun reads, there is still the serious undertone of a murder to be solved. On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service is the eleventh book in this series, and each one is a treasure of exceptional narrative.

It is 1935 and Lady Georgie is still in Ireland at her fiance Darcy's castle after they both helped exonerate Darcy's father from a murder charge. But, Darcy has jut left for another of his "secret missions," and Georgie decides she needs to return to London to check on her request to the Queen. The request is an important one, a relinquishment from Lady Georgie of her place in the line of succession to the English throne, which is currently 35th. It must be granted before Georgie and Darcy can legally marry in England, as Darcy is Catholic and a royal cannot marry a Catholic.  Upon her arrival in London, Darcy finds two letters waiting for her at her brother's house, which used to be her house, too, and both of those letters end up working together to send Georgie to Italy. Georgie's friend Belinda is hidden away in Italy awaiting the birth of her baby and has asked Georgie to come stay with her, and the letter from the Queen is an invitation to tea, which results in the Queen giving Georgie a mission of her own while in Italy. Georgie is to act as spy at a house party given by a past school chum of hers where the Queen's son, David the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Simpson are to be guests. The Queen fears that the couple are using this house party as a cover to marry.

After seeing Belinda, Georgie is off to the house party of her old school chum, who really wasn't quite a chum. It is an odd assortment of fellow party guests that Georgie encounters, with the first surprise being her mother Claire and her mother's fiance Max, a German industrialist. There is a German general and his aide and a couple of more German soldiers present, too. The hostess of the party has married into a wealthy, distinguished Italian family, and her husband is Mussolini's top aide. A very strange gathering for a house party indeed. And, one of the Germans is blackmailing Georgie's mother, who, of course, asks Georgie for help. The dynamics of Georgie's and her mother's relationship are always interesting to follow, but our dear Georgie is learning how to stand up for herself a bit.  The catty banter between Claire and Mrs. Simpson is something to not be missed, too. 

With secret meetings and locked doors, there is much to cause suspicion that there is more than just a house party occurring. Then, one of the Germans is murdered, and the stakes become life and death for everyone. Lady Georgie must not only try to determine who the murderer is, but she is determined to help her mother as well. As Georgie works frantically to put the puzzling pieces into a complete picture, she is barely one step ahead of her own demise. And, will Darcy take any part in this killer party? Well, you might want to look for some early signs of that.  Georgie and Darcy always have an entertaining way of showing up in the same places.

It is amazing how many things a book in this series can do. From entertaining with humor to thrilling with a murder mystery to sharing pivotal moments in history, the Royal Spyness series satisfies many appetites. The characters in these books, both old and new, are full of fascinating quirks and witty words. Of course, there is a masterful hand guiding all of these elements, and so kudos to the brilliant Rhys Bowen once again. On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service is a smash hit!

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