‘Heirs and Graces’ – Her Royal Spyness #7 by Rhys Bowen

“Here I am thinking the education I received at my posh Swiss finishing school would never come in handy. And while it hasn’t landed me a job, or a husband, it has convinced Her Majesty the Queen and the Dowager Duchess to enlist my help. I have been entrusted with grooming Jack Altringham – the Duke’s newly discovered heir fresh from the Outback of Australia – for high society. The upside is I am to live in luxury at one of England’s most gorgeous stately homes. But upon arrival at Kingsdowne Place, my dearest Darcy has been sent to fetch Jack, leaving me stuck in a manor full of miscreants…none of whom are too pleased with the discovery of my new ward. And no sooner has the lad been retrieved than the Duke announces he wants to choose his own heir. With the house in a hubbub over the news, Jack’s hunting knife somehow finds its way into the Duke’s back. Eyes fall, backs turn, and fingers point to the young heir. As if the rascal wasn’t enough of a handful, now he’s suspected of murder. Jack may be wild, but I’d bet the crown jewels it wasn’t he who killed the Duke….”

The Her Royal Spyness series is a comfort read for me but one I haven’t been back to in a while. Summer has finally arrived here and I wanted something that I could sit in the shade and relax with, knowing nothing terrible is going to happen but that there’ll be a mix of humour and mystery that will keep me entertained, so I read the seventh book in the series, Heirs And Graces.

The start was a little slow but that worked for me this time as it let me get comfortable with Georgie again before the mystery plot started in earnest. This time, Georgie is a guest in a very posh country house where, at the request of the Queen, she is helping out a Dowager Duchess by coaching her newly discovered grandson on the manners expected of him as a Viscount and heir to a Dukedom. The coaching is necessary because the grandson was born and raised on a sheep station in Australia.

I’d expected this to be a book that was heavy on the social faux pas that an out-of-his-depth Australian station hand might make and light on plot. I’m pleased to say it wasn’t like that at all. Yes, the Australian was out-of-his-depth but the resulting humour was pointed as much at the absurdities of the daily routines of the country house life of the aristocrats as at the odd behaviour of a ‘wild colonial’.

The biggest surprise was that this episode of Her Royal Spyness actually has a pretty good mystery at its heart. The current Duke, a thoroughly objectionable man who has given everyone around him a reason to be glad to see him dead, is found murdered in the grounds of his estate with the Australian’s knife in his back. I thought the characters of the family and guests who make up most of the suspect pool were well-drawn. I was at a loss to know who had killed the Duke and why. As Georgie investigated, I bounced from suspect to suspect without ever once figuring out what really happened. I was kept guessing almost until the final chapter. When the truth was revealed, it made a lot of sense but I hadn’t seen it coming.

I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Katherine Kellgren who won an Audie for this performance. Her narration is a big part of my enjoyment of the Her Royal Spyness books. She has given the recurring characters such distant voices that I always know who is talking even before a character’s name has been given. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.

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