I just love the Royal Spyness series and Georgiana is consistently a pleasure to share an adventure with. I have reviewed Royal Blood in 2010 (click here), Naughty in Nice (click here) was the 2011 release, and also obtained an interview with Rhys Bowen (click here.) This time around we have a holiday themed release, which is appropriate for anytime of the year. Find out more about this most recent addition to the ongoing adventures of Lady Georgiana below.
Copyright: November 2012 (Berkley) 320 pgs
Series: 6th in Royal Spyness Mysteries
Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy
Main Character: 22 year old Lady Georgiana Rannoch, 35th in line to the throne of England
Setting: 1933, Small English town of Tiddleton-under-Lovey
Obtained Through: from publisher for an honest review
Lady Georgiana escapes the increasing tensions at the family's Scottish property where she is reminded of how she is a financial burden on her brother's family. Desperate to escape the hostile family environment, she answers an advertisement for a well bread lady to be a social hostess for a country house party over the holidays.
Lady Camilla Hawse-Gorzley is quick to snatch up a royal for her festivities and pays Georgie’s way. Georgie has no idea that Lady Hawse-Gorzley is coincidentally Darcy's aunt. Georgie quickly discovers that Lady Camilla Hawse-Gorzley, like many of the upper-crust, have fallen on hard times and this gathering is for paying guests to experience a fading British traditional country holiday season. Georgiana is the star, being related to the king and queen. To make Georgiana's holiday complete, her mother is staying incognito in the village to assist writer Noel Coward with a play and her grandfather is in tow as well.
But the season is ruined by deaths that follow the 12 days of Christmas, starting with Mr. Freddie Partridge dead in a pear tree from a shooting accident, the next day one of a pair of secret lovers (turtle doves) has a fatal slip, and so it continues - all appearing to be accidents. Could it be the local jail break of three prisoners, or possibly the local "Lovey curse" laid on the villagers by a witch the villagers burned at the stake centuries ago? The only newcomers are the guests staying at Lady Hawse-Gorzley's. Tiddleton-under-Lovey is the quint village, complete with a simpleton (every village must have an "idiot"), and a crazy woman (said to be descended from the witch who was burned.) The accidents seem random and unrelated, or are they?
Georgie is facing some tough times, she must take control of her future because her brother's meddling wife is determined to get her married off, or reduced to a servant. She is also facing that her dreams of marrying Darcy are less than sure because of a snag, just as Darcy seems to be expressing a desire for more between them. It is in the midst of her complicated personal life that the "accidents" happen. Georgie is growing and about to take her destiny into her own hands. Darcy is also showing signs of maturing and wanting more from his life. I liked getting to see more of Darcy, among his relatives especially, in this book. Georgie's mother does not have a large role in this book like in the one just prior. But, I love that her grandfather gets to be involved with the investigation and we get to know him better. He is the character that I still would like to see more of, I just love him. A delightful character in this book is Darcy's aunt who hired Georgiana, Lady Camilla. She quickly realizes that she took on a bit more than she realized with this venture and struggles with guest expectations while the news of deaths pile up. The break out minor character was the dowager Countess Albury who doesn't put up with much nonsense and speaks her mind.
The setting is perfect for the sense of danger lurking everywhere, particularly since Georgiana and most of the other guests are out of their element. There are thick freezing fogs and dangerous sink-hole bogs that give eerie touches, and colorful village traditions that add to the flavor. There is even a Christmas guide with recipes and party games at the back for a bit of historical holiday explanations.
I have to say this plot was engrossing. There are plenty of false trails to follow and the real motive and murderer aren't as easy to nail down as you initially think. The pacing is steady and doesn't let loose of the reader. Beware, this is one of those books that you will want to neglect everything else for and end up reading all night long.
The killer confrontation is exciting, with plenty of blood pumping suspense set in the dangerous countryside. The whole story leads you to this heart-pounding climax with Georgiana in severe danger. Ms Bowen masterfully crafted the entire story and then wraps up with hope for a brighter future for Georgiana. Well played, well played indeed!
Rating: As always, near perfect - buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.