I've started a new podcast that seems to have promise (or might be the weirdest thing I've ever listened to). This week is already starting oddly. I started the past weekend with a migraine, but was able to figure out my "trigger" for it fairly fast. Since I caused the migraine, it was pretty bad and my sleep schedule is still pretty messed up.
The cause of my migraine was carpet cleaner! Apparently this is known but I didn't know because I've just not been around when the carpets were cleaned. I bought a little Bissell machine because my old one died after more than a decade and I had spilled foundation on my white carpet. So, I guess it was worth it.
Anyways, lets get back to the books!
The Twelve Clues at Christmas (#6)
Title: The Twelve Clues of Christmas
Author: Rhys Bowen
Page Number: 311 pages (hardcover)
Genre: mystery, historical fiction, cozy mystery, fiction, romance
Publisher: Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House, which should be called Random Penguin. The COWARDS.
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—well, actually, my true love, Darcy O’Mara, is spending a feliz navidad tramping around South America. Meanwhile Mummy is holed up in a tiny village called Tiddleton-under-Lovey with that droll Noel Coward! And I’m snowed in at Castle Rannoch with my bumbling brother, Binky, and sourpuss sister-in-law, Fig.
So it’s a miracle when I contrive to land a position as hostess to a posh holiday party in Tiddleton. The village is like something out of A Christmas Carol! But no sooner have I arrived than a neighborhood nuisance, a fellow named Freddie, falls out of a tree dead. On my second day, another so-called accident results in a death – and there’s yet another on my third. Perhaps a recent prison break could have something to do with it…that, or a long-standing witch’s curse. But after Darcy shows up beneath the mistletoe, anything could be possible in this wicked wonderland.
This book begins at Castle Rannoch, in Scotland. Castle Rannoch belongs to her brother the Duke of Rannoch (aka Binky). She feels unwelcome by the current Duchess of Rannoch (aka Fig) and has applied to several positions, not finding much hope for her holidays. She's running short of funds and patience when an offer comes through as a "hostess" for a holiday party in the village of Tiddleton-under-Lovey. Tiddleton-under-Lovey doesn't exist of course, but it's the archetypical cozy village of many a romance or mystery.
Georgie arrives and meets the lady of the house, Lady Hawse-Gorzley. Lady H-G is hosting this "English Christmas experience" party for paying customers because her family is short on funds. So having Georgie (a lady that is related to the royal family) is a total bonus.
The murders begins immediately upon Georgie's arrival. Lady H-G's neighbor, Freddie, is found dead in the trees straddling the property.
So, while all this is going on, there is a smaller subplot of escaped convicts that could be tied in or is a total red herring. I thought it was all well done.
I would say that this book seemed far more clever than many holiday cozy mysteries that I've read. It was cute, very fun but cozy. It wasn't so cozy that I wanted to tear my hair out, but still cozy. The relationship between Darcy and Georgie is moving forwards even though at times, it seems insurmountable.
Parts of this book reminds me of the Christmas episode of Miss Fisher's Mystery (where they do Christmas in July). It could be that I re-watched Miss Fisher's around the same time.
You can read part of Chapter one on the Random Penguin's House (fight me) webpage. You've got to click on "look inside."
Heirs and Graces (#7)
Title: Heirs and Graces
Author: Rhys Bowen
Page Number: 292 pages (paperback)
Genre: cozy mystery, mystery, romance, fiction
Publisher: Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House
As thirty-fifth in line for the throne, Lady Georgiana Rannoch may not be the most sophisticated young woman, but she knows her table manners. It's forks on the left, knives on the right, not in His Majesty's back.
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...
Anyways, The Ducal estate is called Kingsdowne Place. The current Duke lives there with his mother (the Dowager Duchess) and his sister (with her children). Why a perfectly healthy, (probable) virile man can't produce a child in this time is solved by the fact that the current Duke has more interest in young men than women. To create a failsafe, a forgotten heir is found in Australia and the British government has sent a man to retrieve him. It turns out that the agent sent is Darcy O'Mara and the heir is named Jack Altringham (a nephew from a deceased second son). Jack has been raised in the outback in Australia and is ill at ease in the stately estate.
Before Darcy and Jack show up (and right afterwards), the occupants at the estate, which now include male lovers/friends of the Duke, are snippy with one another. The reason why Georgie is at the estate (at behest of the Queen and the Dowager Duchess) is to teach manners and etiquette to the new Duke. The reason is that she's closer in age to him and will be able to relate more.
All the action occurs at the Kingsdowne Place Estate. The main reoccurring characters are Georgie, Darcy, and Queenie. At first I wasn't sure about Queenie as a character but I've grown to really adore her. She really brings a different class to the books that we don't normally see with Georgie. As poor as Georgie is, she's still royalty-adjacent, her brother is a Duke, her father was a Duke, she's expected to marry well. Queenie is normal.
It's quite a fun romp, different than most other books as it's more of a smaller cast of characters. There is only one murdered victim in this book, a huge change from the previous book.
Darcy and Georgie have a moment in the bushes. Which doesn't sound particularly romantic, but I assume these are more large sculpted bushes that surround a path. So they're in a deserted path. Right, so they have a romantic moment that is very vague. Reading on further in the series, it was just a passionate make-out session, maybe some handsy action. I only mention it because I was confused.
The book ends with the solving of the murder. Georgie's mother, the feisty, flamboyant actress, shows up. Darcy is on another assignment, and Georgie (and Queenie) have been invited to stay for as long as needed. I was glad that I had the next book ready to go because Georgie's mother announces that she needs to go to America and invites Georgie along with her.
This is a cozy book, very fun, and well plotted. I think the ability to bring new aspects to well-traveled plots makes it possible for me to enjoy these cozy mysteries. Even when Rhys Bowen writes the super snobby aristocratic characters, I don't hate them. I think that takes delft handling. It does walk close to a comical stereotype, but I've met enough snobby upper crust people to say that sometimes it's not really that much of a stereotype.
A little snippet of the first chapter can be found on Random Penguin's webpage. It's with the "look inside" link under the picture.