The Ladies' Tea Guild

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book Summary and Review: Her Royal Spyness, by Rhys Bowen.

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Her Royal Spyness, the first book featuring heroine Lady Georgiana Rannoch, set in 1930s England and Scotland, is a mystery with charm equal to the writings of Agatha Christie, in my opinion. Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie (otherwise known as Georgie), great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and daughter of the 3rd Duke of Rannoch, is 34th in line to the throne of England and has the royal reputation to uphold. The problem is, her father died penniless, and she has no money to use in upholding the royal image.

When her small income from the family estate is withdrawn upon her 21st birthday, and she is unable to find a likeable man among the aristocratic suitors chosen for her, Georgie determines to take her future into her own hands. She moves to London and begins a double life: spying on the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson for the Queen, and earning a small income (disguised as a maid) cleaning houses for the upper-classes while they are away. This is a difficult job for a girl who’s never been without servants, herself!

Then, a man who claimed to own the deed to her family’s estate in Scotland, is found dead in the family’s London house, and Georgie’s brother, the current Duke of Rannoch, is arrested for the murder. Georgie has to identify the real murderer, clear her family’s name, and dodge attempts at her own life, while avoiding the Queen’s efforts to marry her off. Meanwhile, she re-connects with some old friends and meets an attractive, but penniless, Irish aristocrat.

I found this story to be a very enjoyable read. Her Royal Spyness contains an interesting and believable plot, with personable characters who are skillfully rendered. The solution to the mystery is neither immediately obvious, nor impossible, and the author has combined her "artistic license" with the right amount of historic details, so that the characters and situations, while fictional, don’t seem overly modern, faults which I have found in too many contemporary "period" novels. I recommend this book as perfect for curling up with a cup of tea!

The author, Rhys Bowen, was born and raised in England and Wales, and is the creator of three series of mystery books, including the Lady Georgiana Rannoch mysteries. Mrs. Bowen has won seven awards, including the Agatha and the Anthony Awards, and has been nominated for every major mystery writing award. She is currently located in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she has lived for many years with her family. She is also a fan of tea! I met her on a tea-related Internet group, and she has expressed an interest in meeting The South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild! So, mark your calendars for September 12, and our Tea with Rhys Bowen! Tickets will be sold until Saturday, September 5; e-mail for more information. To learn more about Mrs. Bowen, visit her website at

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)