Rhys Bowen's Crowned and Dangerous (#10) and On Her Majesty's Frightfully secret SErvice (#11)
I've managed to stain my bathtub red and I think I'm going to have to bleach it to death to get it off. It was a bath bomb that did me in. I normally keep up with the tub better but I didn't really deep clean it after this bath because I was getting a migraine. And now it's set in a bit. Oh well.
I was just talking to a girl on bumble bff, we were discussing how nice it would be to have a month extra a year where we could just get stuff clean and all these extra chores done. Riveting stuff to be sure. There's just a backlog that doesn't seem to end.
Well, lets get on to the books. As we left the last one on a cliffhanger, it luckily resolves quite quickly. While both books begin in England, they move off to other areas. Both feature reoccurring characters and I quite enjoyed them.
Crowned and Dangerous (#10)
Title: Crowned and Dangerous
Author: Rhys Bowen
Page Number: 307 pages
Genre: cozy mystery, romance, historical, fiction
Publisher: Berkley, an imprint of Random Penguin House
With Darcy driving me out of London in a borrowed motor car, I soon discover that he isn’t planning to introduce me to the pleasures of sinning in secret—as I had hoped—but to make me his wife!
Of course, there are some quibbles to be dealt with, such as my needing special permission from the King to marry a Roman Catholic and the question of where we might live after the honeymoon. Though he will inherit a title, Darcy is as broke as I am. Even his family’s Irish castle has been sold to a rich American who now employs Darcy’s father as a hired hand.
Throwing these cares to the wind, nothing could deter us from our mission—except perhaps the news that my future father-in-law has just been arrested. It seems the rich American was murdered and Darcy’s father had more than enough motive to do the deed. With the elopement postponed, we head for Ireland where he insists he’s innocent, and it’s up to us to prove it—for better or worse.
The covers always feature Georgie, but sometimes there's other figures in silhouette or from behind. This one features a man that's probably Darcy. I quite like these covers. They're a bit reminiscent of Tamara de Lempicka.
Anyways, the book begins in England with Darcy O'Mara and Georgianna running off out of the city in a borrowed car. Darcy has plans and Georgie is delighted, but a freak snowstorm makes them pull off to a village and inn. This is where Darcy discovers that his father, Lord Kilhenney is in peril (from reading a newspaper). The couple return to London and Darcy leaves for Ireland.
Once he arrives in Ireland, Darcy discovers that the situation is quite dire. In response he calls Georgie and breaks off their engagement so that her reputation will not be soiled by any connection to him. Georgie melts down in an overdramatic fashion (to be fair, she melts down over Darcy a bit...like every time he talks to another woman. It's the one gripe I have with the books at this point).
Eventually Georgie plucks up enough courage to go visit a friend of Darcy (and hers now) named Princess Zamanska (zou Zou). Zamanska is a Polish Princess in exile (without a crown but with access to her large bank account). Zamanska features in this book quite a bit. She's one of the minor characters that pops up in the overall series every once in awhile. After this meeting, Georgie is fortified and decides to go to Ireland (Queenie in tow). She's determined to see if she can help rescue Darcy and his father. This might be one of the first times that Georgie has actively sought to solve a case.
She arrives in Dublin and then heads to the village where Castle Kilhenney is (County Kildare). She discovers that Lord Kilhenney has sold his castle and stables to a rich American man in order to cover his debts. This is the Great Depression after all. The American man has retained Lord Kilhenney to oversee the stables (he's quite gifted with horses). Lord Kilhenney is known to have a temper and when the rich American is found murdered in the house, the Irish Garda have followed the evidence to Lord Kilhenney. Darcy and Georgie team up to try and clear Lord Kilhenney's name.
The action takes place in Ireland, either in this village or in Dublin (Darcy calls in political favors). Queenie finds a temporary home with one of Darcy's family members, named Lady Oona. Lady Oona and her husband live an eccentric life in the country but her temperament is more forgiving and teachable towards Queenie. I like Queenie as a character even though she's inept and clumsy, and totally unprepared for her role as lady's maid. Georgie can't teach her (knowing nothing herself) and Queenie's family is harsh with her. Lady Oona is gentle and eventually turns Queenie around (and into a great cook). Queenie remains clumsy and uninterested in the social strata...but she really starts her growth here.
This book briefly hints at the political shape of Ireland at the time. Lord Kilhenney has discarded his British citizenship and become Irish whilst Darcy has retained his British citizenship. Ireland found for independence only a short time before this book is set. The end of the Irish Revolution was 1921, this book was set in 1934. Rhys Bowen doesn't dwell to much on that, I just thought it was interesting about the split in the family (its' like how Benjamin Franklin's son refused American citizenship and returned to England).
We learn quite a lot about Darcy and his family. The relationship between Darcy and Georgie is laid bare and it's really a lovely completionism to this sub-plot. Obviously, the next stage of their courtship begins (the public engagement). The mystery itself is more simplistic than others Bowen has done and it almost fades behind the character development. While Darcy and Georgie actively investigate, they grow as people and mature in their relationship.
On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service
Title: On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service
Author: Rhys Bowen
Page Number: 293 (with a bonus section for the next book)
Genre: fiction, cozy mystery, romance, historical
Publisher: Berkley, an imprint of Random Penguin House
When royal sleuth Georgie Rannoch receives a letter from her dearest friend Belinda, who’s in an Italian villa awaiting the birth of her illegitimate baby, she yearns to run to her side. If only she could find a way to get there! But then opportunity presents itself in a most unexpected way—her cousin the queen asks her to attend a house party in the Italian Lake Country. The Prince of Wales AND the dreadful Mrs. Simpson have been invited, and Her Majesty is anxious to thwart a possible secret wedding.
What luck! A chance to see Belinda, even if it is under the guise of stopping unwanted nuptials. Only that’s as far as Georgie’s fortune takes her. She soon discovers that she attended finishing school with the hostess of the party—and the hatred they had for each other then has barely dimmed. Plus, she needs to hide Belinda’s delicate condition from the other guests. And her dashing beau, Darcy is (naturally) working undercover on a dangerous mission. Then her actress mother shows up, with a not-so-little task to perform. With all this subterfuge, it seems something is bound to go horribly wrong—and Georgie will no doubt be left to pick up the pieces when it does.
This book begins with Georgie on a dual mission. She wants to visit Belinda, who is convalescing near the Italian/Swiss border, and the Queen has asked her to go undercover at a house party where the Edward and Wallis will be guests.
Belinda has found herself in a predicament. She is pregnant and is unmarried. She plans to give birth in secret. Belinda has picked a village near Stresa on Lake Maggiore. While this is an important aspect of Belinda's character, her story arc is in the background the the house party that Georgie has to attend. I do feel bad for Belinda. She's been having a good time but got pregnant by a total bounder (who left her to her fate) and everyone would blame her for getting pregnant. It's sad that she's getting shafted and not many people will feel bad for her. Georgie is a good friend in that regard. She's sheltered and a bit of a goodie-two-shoes, but she didn't abandon Belinda.
The concern from the Queen is that Wallis (possibly divorced) and Edward will elope. She wants Georgie to find out if they're engaged, or even to stop a marriage if necessary. This fills Georgie with dread, but she dutifully shows up at the door of the house party with her procured invitation. She knows her mother will be there but she doesn't know that the hosts are Paolo (seen in a previous book) and his new wife, Camilla Waddell-Walker (a school mate from Les Oiseaux in Switzerland) are the hosts. Paolo is the Count of Marola and Martini.
The other guests are Count Rudolf "Rudi" von Rosskopf, Georgie's mother and Max, the Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson, Paolo's mother and Paolo's Uncle the Count Cosimo di Marola, General Spitz-Blitzen and the General's adjunct, Lieutenant Klinker. Also included (but not technically guests) are a resident priest named Father Francisco and Camilla's lady maid, Gerda (an efficient maid from Austria). So, quite cast of characters. Lots of Germans and Italians. We also learn that Paolo's uncle, Cosimo, is the advisor to Il Duce (Mussolini) and King Victor Emmanuel.
Georgie also discovers that Darcy O'Mara, her fiancé, is pretending to be a gardener. He's on a secret mission to discover why all these Italians, Germans, and the Prince are meeting in secret. It's not just a house party, it's negotiations and power struggles. A total premonition to World War II.
Of course, while all this is going on, Georgie is looking for her mother's blackmail material in secret. She stumbles upon other people being blackmailed and other very odd things happening at the house.
Eventually, a German guest is murdered in the house (creating another closed house mystery). Georgie is far more active than passive in this book, since she's still looking for the blackmailer and the materials. She's also worried about Belinda, who's in a funk about her baby. The secret agents, secret meetings, political machinations, and prelude to WWII are really strong undercurrents moving this book along.
Rhys Bowen includes a historical note about the 1935 Conference in Stresa between England, Italy, and France. It was about ways to combat the encroaching Nazi threat. The meeting between guests in the book is in retaliation and fiction (although something like that probably did happen).
I would say this is very much a focus on Georgie. Her mother and Belinda make appearances, Darcy stays in the background, and Queenie is in Ireland still. This is really the first time that Bowen has attached any negativity to Edward, who has skated by on a charming demeanor in previous books. Here he's in deep with the wrong crowd.
Random Penguin has an excerpt on the book webpage, so that's always fun.
Leave a Reply.