I managed to get my kitchen mostly clean, it's still very dated in decor/looks but it's on the list for a renovation. I know some people managed to gut their house during Covid but I have not had the time to get that going. Also, I can't quite figure out what I want. Part of me wants a really basic white-neutral kitchen while the other part wants striking colored cabinets. Like black, green, or blue. Not yellow, orange, or red. Decisions!
Continuing on with this series. I've officially read all the books published in it so far (a new one is coming out...and I've put in a purchase for a pre-order). So one of these books takes place mostly in America and the other takes place back in London. They're both quite fun but I have to admit really enjoying the Queen of Hearts mostly for the Hollywood tie in. Malice at the Palace was also interesting, it has more of a true historical bent (far more royal as well).
Queen of Hearts (#8)
Title: Queen of Hearts
Author: Rhys Bowen
Page Number: 293 pages (paperback)
Genre: mystery, cozy mystery, romance, historical, fiction
Publisher: Berkely, an imprint of Random Penguin House (I've renamed them)
My mother, the glamorous and much-married actress, is hearing wedding bells once again—which is why she must hop across the pond for a quickie divorce in Reno. To offer my moral support, and since all expenses are paid by her new hubby-to-be, Max, I agree to make the voyage with her.
Crossing the Atlantic, with adventure in the air and wealthy men aboard, Mother all but forgets about Max and matrimony—especially when movie mogul Cy Goldman insists on casting her in his next picture.
Meanwhile, I find myself caught up in the secret investigation of a suspected jewel thief. Lucky for me, the lead investigator happens to be my dashing beau, Darcy!
Mother’s movie and Darcy’s larceny lead everyone to Cy’s Hollywood home, where the likes of Charlie Chaplin are hanging about and there’s enough romantic intrigue to fill a double feature. But we hardly get a chance to work out the sleeping arrangements before Cy turns up dead—as if there wasn’t enough drama already…
This book takes place in a ship and in parts of America (mostly California, but also NYC and Nevada). It's number eight in the "Her Royal Spyness" mystery, which centers around Lady Georgianna (Georgie) Rannoch, sister to a Duke but altogether penniless.
In this book, Georgie joins her mother on a trip to America via luxury ship. Georgie brings Queenie along with her as lady's maid. Georgie's mother is an actress and is oft-married. She is planning to go to Reno, Nevada for a quickie divorce. I hadn't realized that Reno was famous for quickie divorces (I assumed it was Paris, as all these silent movie stars went to France to dissolve their marriage via judgement).
Anyways, in order to get a divorce, a man/woman would have to stay in Nevada for a short time to establish a form of residency and then they could apply for divorce. Georgie's mother wants to obtain her divorce in order to marry her very wealthy German lover.
Georgie and her mother meet all sorts of people on the ship. One of those people is an Indian princess while another is the movie producer Cy Goldman. Cy is not a real person (sometimes Bowen puts real historical figures in the book) but I'm sure he's an amalgamation of several Hollywood producers of the era. This meeting is heaven-sent for Georgie's mother, as she's an actress. Cy offers her a possible role in her newest historical film based on the Tudor period of England.
While on the ship, the Princess's jewelry is stolen. The entire ship is searched by the jewels remain hidden. Georgie is visited by Darcy O'Mara, her boyfriend. Darcy has been sent by the British government to apprehend a possible jewel thief (that has been active in Europe, and most likely on the ship). Georgie is happy to see Darcy of course, but she realizes that he'll be close to her throughout the journey as her mother's set is full to the brim with jewels that will most likely be targeted by the thief.
Georgie, her mother, and Queenie eventually end up in Hollywood. First at a hotel and then at Cy's house. Queenie goes full tilt in America. Of course, there is a social class stature thing going on here, but it's different and it was alluring for her. She soon ditches Georgie for an American woman. Queenie really seemed changed from America (all that talk of equality of classes). She's willing to work for a living of course, but she really grows into herself here (and later in Ireland). I like her as a character, although she's absolutely a unique read.
Belinda also shows up in Hollywood and finds herself invited to Cy's house as well. Cy has created a really interesting party, filled with guests that include several Hollywood actors/actresses and Georgie. One of the actors is names Craig Hart, a full heartthrob looking for a leading lady for the gossip sheets. He has flirtations with Georgie and Belinda. Another actor there is the famed Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin isn't fully fleshed out here, but in real life he's very interesting. He was one of the founding members of United Artists with Mary Pickford. He also kept marrying young girls and women and ran afoul of J. Edgar Hoover. Great actor though.
While Darcy is looking for a jewel thief, Georgie finds herself in a different quandary when Cy is found murdered. This turns the later part of the book into a type of cozy house murder mystery. I don't know what that type of sub-genre is called. Like a locked room mystery...but locked house? Anyways, not important. Georgie more or less investigates, passively of course.
I found this book really fun, very much in the same vein of other Georgie books. The two mysteries in the book might not have been as well done as other Rhys Bowen books. They kinda end clunkily but I still enjoyed them. I read a lot so I wasn't too bothered by the mystery not being as well done, but if I only read a few books a year, I would have been annoyed.
The relationship between Georgie and Darcy still have that issue of "no money to support themselves" which is stopping them moving forwards, but they're pretty devoted to one another. It's set in 1934, which is when recovery was more or less beginning around the world (I think the U.S. didn't really recover until 1940, not sure on the UK). So I assumed the tide will turn for Georgie and Darcy.
An excerpt from the beginning can be found on Random Penguin House (I'm renaming them)'s page for this book. It's under the photo of the cover, with the link "Look Inside" or "Read an Excerpt."
Malice at the Palace (#9)
Title: Malice at the Palace
Author: Rhys Bowen
Page Number: 304 pages (hardcover)
Genre: cozy mystery, mystery, romance, fiction, historical
Publisher: Berkley, an imprint of Random Penguin House
Caught between her high birth and empty purse, Georgie is relieved to receive a new assignment from the Queen. The King’s youngest son, George, is to wed Princess Marina of Greece, and the Queen wants Georgie to be her companion: showing her the best of London—and dispelling any rumors about George’s libertine history.
The prince is known for his many affairs with women as well as men—including the great songwriter Noel Coward. But things truly get complicated when one of his supposed mistresses is murdered.
The Queen wants the whole matter hushed. But as the case unfolds—and Georgie’s beau Darcy, as always, turns up in the most unlikely of places—their investigation brings them precariously close to the prince himself.
An excerpt of this book can be found at Random Penguin House's book website. This book had more historical nods than past books, also more "royal" settings and peoples. I don't have a firm grasp of British history (especially British royal history) so it was all new and I had to spend some time reading up afterwards.
There were absolute positives and a little negatives to this one. I think it depends on how you view paranormal elements. I'll explain.
This book begins with Georgie staying at Belinda's cottage all alone. Belinda, her mother, and Darcy are all away. Georgie gets called to the palace by Queen Mary. The family tree is somewhat important in this book. Queen Mary (of Teck) is the wife of the King George V, mother of two kings (Edward who abdicated and George VI). She's the grandmother of the current Queen. Georgie is made up of course but in the book, they're cousins. One of Queen Mary's sons is named Prince George (it's confusing because his brother Albert took the name George when he became King George VI) and he's the Duke of Kent.
The Queen is concerned about Prince George because he's a bit of a libertine and hell-raiser. Not to out of the ordinary for a British aristocrat with more money than sense but George is engaged to Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark. Princess Marina's first cousin was Prince Philip, the current Queen's husband. Got it? I had to look this all up. Who knew!
So Marina is brought over to the UK to wed Prince George and stay in London. Queen Mary wants Georgie to act as hostess to Marina while she stays in the city. The Queen also wants Georgie to run interference between Marina and rumors of Prince George's rumors. In real life, Prince George and Marina knew one another from before and Marina had been to London numerous times.
To move all this along, Georgie and Marina get to stay at Kensington Palace with all their expenses paid for by the Queen. The atmosphere is a bit creepy as supposedly Kensington Palace is haunted. This is the paranormal aspect of the book (it plays a part). I'm not keen on paranormal themes and books for the most part, so I didn't enjoy these plot points. I do like how Rhys Bowen does new stuff for every book though.
One night upon coming home, Georgie sees something in the area outside Kensington Palace and goes to investigate. She finds the murdered body of Bobo Carrington, the alleged mistress of Prince George. Prince George (in the book) is rumored to have several relationships, but Bobo is the most flamboyant. This is beyond a normal scandal for the royal family, as Prince George might be implicated. Not that Britain will hang a prince. Well, during that time.
Georgie begins a slow investigation. She's a passive investigator for the most part, clues just fall into her lap forcing her into action. It's a cozy mystery! It's well written, as is the norm for Rhys Bowen. I will say that this book is more Georgie-centric. Belinda, Darcy, Queenie, her grandfather are make appearances but not until the end or very much in the background. We also see turning points for many of the characters. The development of personal story arcs have been slowly happening in the background of the series but at the end some of the characters are given some possible outcomes that could change things. Basically, the book ends on a cliff hanger.
I still don't like the haunting elements though.
At the end of the book, Rhys Bowen includes some historical information which I found interesting. Look, the royal family is not really interesting to me. They do little work and don't get glammed up enough for the amount of money they consume. The little notes were interesting, even to an anti-monarchist. Basically, Prince George is rumored to have several romances (before and after marriage). As everyone is dead and no one left detailed proof, I'm not sure it can be proven. He allegedly might have fathered children out of wedlock but who knows.
While one of the rumored lovers makes an appearance in the books (Noel Coward), the two most interesting to me are women. One is a Duchess and the other is a Bright Young Thing. The Duchess was Margaret Campbell, who had a romance with Prince George before she eventually married the Duke of Argyll. The divorce between the Duke and Duchess was fairly vicious, beginning when the Duke broke into her safe and found compromising photos of her with other men. I always link her to the Profumo Affair (a British political scandal) but it isn't, at least they way I'm thinking. The background to her marriage seems to be control of her fortune, but I'm not sure that the new movie about will cover that. If you want to know more about that scandal, this blog breaks it down with photos. Not those photos though.
The second woman was Kiki Preston, who Bobo Canfield is modeled on. Kiki was related to the Vanderbilts and Whitneys, a member of the Happy Valley set (which will feature in a future book). Kiki became addicted to drugs, and was bestowed with the nickname "the girl with the silver syringe" when in Kenya as she always carried a syringe with her and partied quite hard. She was supposedly addicted to morphine, cocaine, and heroin. She had affairs with Rudolph Valentino and Prince George, allegedly getting George hooked on drugs. Kiki outlived many of her Happy Valley set friends, outlived Prince George and her only son. Two years after her son's death in WWII, she jumped out of window in NYC, completing suicide.
Rhys Bowen names Barbara Cartland in the video below as another paramour. Cartland was a romance novelist and tangentially connected to Princess Diana. Her daughter, Raine, was Diana's stepmother. Cartland suggested that Raine might have been Prince George's daughter.