Alright, I'm going to intersperse these with other books, but I'll probably do two at a time. More or less. The first book is a novella and the second book is actually the first official book.
Masked Ball at Broxley Manor
Title: Masked Ball at Broxley Manor
Author: Rhys Bowen
Page Number: 44 pages
Genre: mystery, historical fiction, cozy mystery
At the end of her first unsuccessful season out in society, Lady Georgiana has all but given up on attracting a suitable man—until she receives an invitation to a masked Halloween ball at Broxley Manor. Georgie is uncertain why she was invited, until she learns that the royal family intends to marry her off to a foreign prince, one reputed to be mad.
When the prince, dressed as the devil, rescues her from an embarrassing situation at the ball, Georgie is surprised to find her unwanted suitor to be a dashing, charming man—especially when he pulls her aside and gives her the kiss of a lifetime. But as the time comes for the unmasking, Georgie’s rescuer vanishes and the party is thrown into chaos, making it clear that everything at Broxley Manor is not as it appears…
This is a quick novella that you don't have to read to begin the series. I actually read it after reading about ten books in the series. The novella begins at Rannoch House, located in the illustrious Belgrave Square. Is Belgrave still super expensive? Probably. The year our book begins is 1929, in October. This is the same month and year of the Market Crash of 1929, which kicked the Great Depression into hyperdrive.
The family Rannoch, composed of Georgiana (Georgie), her brother the Duke (Duke of Rannoch, known in the family as Binky) and the Duchess (known as Fig) are in the morning room of the house. Georgie has just completed her first season (and most likely only season as she has limited funds) at the age of nineteen. Two letters arrive for Georgie, one from Lord and Lady Merriman at Broxley Manor who have invited her a masked ball at their house. The other is from her cousin, the King and Queen of the UK, inviting her to a reception at Buckingham Palace.
I have to be honest, I know very little about the monarchy in the UK (or whatever it was called back then...Empire?) The King/Queen in this book are the parents of the guy who did a bunker from succession and his brother (the man from The King's Speech) became King. If that helps. In the book, Georgie is a cousin through a fictitious (and additional) daughter of Queen Victoria who married the Duke of Rannoch. There isn't a real Duke of Rannoch as far as I remember, but there is a real Rannoch in Scotland, composed of beautiful lands and lakes (moors and lochs).
Anyways, the Queen and King have invited Georgie to meet (and perhaps make a match) a few Prussian princes. Keep it in the family and whatnot. The first part of the book deals with Georgie meeting one of the princes and the Queen and King at Buckingham and then traveling up to Broxley Manor. In the car ride over to Broxley, Georgie meets a reoccurring character named Wallis Simpson. Wallis is a real historical figure and she's written fairly venomous in the books. I find British authors tend to paint her quite viciously, in real life Wallis might have been awful but she had quite a few interesting friends in America...who liked her far more than they liked the Prince she ended up with. A story for another day I suppose. In the books Wallis is a viper who takes an instant dislike to Georgie. They foil one another quite well through the series. David (the Wallis one) is at the Broxley party and one of the Prussian Princes is expected (Prince Otto).
The masked party begins (with a planned unmasking at midnight). Georgie is dressed as an angel and eventually meets up with a man dressed up as the devil who confesses to be a gatecrasher (although Georgie belives it to be Prince Otto). Georgie and he spend quite a time talking and drinking champagne. Of course, the mystery aspect occurs between poisonings and bombings. I don't want to give too much away.
The novella is cute but you don't have to read it to enjoy the series.
Her Royal Spyness
Title: Her Royal Spyness
Author: Rhys Bowen
Page Number: 324 pages
Genre: mystery, historical fiction, cozy mystery, romance
Publisher: Berkley an imprint of Penguin Random House
Georgie, aka Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, cousin of King George V of England, is penniless and trying to survive on her own as an ordinary person in London in 1932.
So far she has managed to light a fire and boil an egg... She's gate-crashed a wedding... She's making money by secretly cleaning houses... And she's been asked to spy for Her Majesty the Queen.
Everything seems to be going swimmingly until she finds a body in her bathtub... and someone is definitely trying to kill her.
This is the first full book in the series (and the first one I started with). Most of the reoccurring characters are introduced in the beginning of this book. Our main character is Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, fictitious great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, 34th in line to the British throne. Also known as Georgie or Lady Georgiana.
It's 1932, a few years after the novella, and Georgie lives with her brother Binky (the Duke of Rannoch) in Perthshire, Scotland. Her sister-in-law Fig (real name: Hilda) and Binky have decided to cut off her allowance. Not totally out of spite (well, on Binky's side) but because they have no extra money at all. The books are set during the Great Depression. We find out the Binky and Georgie's father has killed himself after gambling most of their money away and losing the rest in the market crash, leaving himself and his family penniless. Binky and Georgie have different mothers, not sure about Binky's mother, but Georgie's mother is an semi-retired actress who is described as flighty. She divorced her husband and spends her time with rich men (dating and marrying them).
Upon learning of a plot of her family's to marry her off to Prince Siegfried of Romania, Georgie lies and says she must go down to London unexpectedly to help a friend. She arrives in London and heads to Rannoch house without any staff. The Queen (Mary) learns that Georgie is in London and asks her to keep an eye on her son David because he seems quite enamored with the American Wallis. So throughout the book Georgie "spies" (or attends parties and listens to conversation) for the Queen, giving the title for the book.
Georgie's brother Binky shows up in London in a state. He has been sent a letter from a foreign man who claims that the previous Duke has signed papers signing away the rights to all unentailed land and other assets (basically all the meager money making assets Binky has, like Castle Rannoch). This was to cover a gambling debt. In a panic, Binky goes to his club and Georgie goes to her first job airing out a house. When Georgie returns to Rannoch house, she discovers a man in her bathtub. She is concerned it's Binky at first, killing himself over the loss of assets, only to discover it's the man claiming the debt. The murdered man in the tub is named Gaston de Mauxville. Level headed, Georgie looks for the document de Mauxville possess claiming the estate, upon finding it she destroys it. Georgie then goes looking for Binky but instead runs into Belinda.
They learn that Binky has returned to Scotland without telling Georgie, so they decide to call the police and investigate the murder...well, Georgie will investigate and Belinda helps but prefers to party. Investigating becomes more desperate on Georgie's end when Binky is arrested for the murder of Mauxville. The duo do party with a group of bright young things, including the dashing Darcy O'Mara.
The last section of the book is when everyone comes together for a house party celebrating a wedding. This also incorporates Queen Mary's wish for Georgie to investigate Wallis and David. Georgie drives up to the house party (at a house called Eynsleigh) with Tristram Hautbois, Wiffy Featherstonehaugh, Marisa Pauncefoot-Young, and Belinda. These names y'all. At the house they're meeting Imogen Montjoy (who is the bride-to-be) while David, Wallis, Georgie's mom, Prince Siegfried, and Darcy are coming later.
During the whole story after Mauxville is discovered, Georgie keeps escaping near death moments. Like being pushed out of boat or being pushed down the stairs, having heavy statues almost fall on her, etc. She also discovers that Prince Siegfried, her family's choice for her future, is in a romantic relationship with Tristram).
Georgie discovers that Mauxville has been blackmailing several people and had come to England to secure money. He also was one of three heirs to the estate of Sir Hubert (one of Georgie's mother's ex-husband). His death is connected to blackmail, and Sir Hubert's estate. The book ends with Georgie uncovering the murderer and also light spy-work on David and Wallis. When she arrives back to London, she is summoned by Queen Mary to report on David.