“A Royal Pain – Her Royal Spyness #2” by Rhys Bowen

“A Royal Pain” follows on from the first book in the series “Her Royal Spyness” but gets even better, with a stronger plot and a wider cast of characters.

It’s still 1932 and Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie (Georgie to her friends), a minor Royal, cousin of King George V of England, and thirty-fourth in line to the throne, is still struggling to make her way in the world. Georgie was educated at a Swiss Finishing School, knows all the right people, but has no money and has only recently started to learn to look after herself without the help of servants.

Georgie hits upon a scheme for making money (Coronet Cleaning Services) by opening up the London house of the upper classes prior to their arrival. Having no staff to deliver this service, Georgie dons a maid’s outfit and takes on the work herself incognito. What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile, the Queen asks Georgie to host a Bavarian Princess that Queen hopes may divert her son’s attention from the completely inappropriate Mrs Simpson. As Georgie escorts the Princess around London and to parties with the rich and privileged, people around her start to die in suspicious circumstances, one is even stabbed to death. As Georgie, at the Queen’s request, rather haplessly tries to find out what is going on, she gets into more and more trouble.

I thought the plot worked very well. It kept me guessing as to who had done what and why. It surprised me and it delivered an action-packed denouement.

The book also continued to develop a likeable ensemble cast around Georgie: her irrepressible best friend, Belinda, who takes lovers, wins at casinos and runs her own fashion house; the tall, dark, and more than a little mysterious son of an Irish Peer, Darcy who Georgie suspects of being either a spy of a thief; and Georgie’s commoner grandfather a Cockney, ex-Met Police Constable, now retired and living in a semi in Essex.

The new characters, both the ones from Bavaria and the rich young men of the London party set are well-drawn. providing suspects for the plot and more than a little social commentary on the side.

The humour in the book is all-pervasive without being obtrusive. It starts with Georgie’s character: brave, inquisitive and driven by duty but inexperienced and often surprisingly innocent. It moves on to be powered by the manners of the day, the put-downs the participants offer each other and the messes that Georgie’s well-meaning but inept efforts at detection put her in.

These books have become my preferred comfort reads. They’re perfect for listening to on long car rides or just for amusing myself when I need to sit quietly with a cup of something warm and let the world pass by.

I’m especially impressed by how accomplished the narrator, Katherine Kellgran, is. She brings these books alive by giving distinctive and appropriate voices to each character and by pacing her delivery perfectly Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.

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