A Royal Pain: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

A Royal Mess by Rhys BowenHer Royal Spyness Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie (Georgie to us and most everyone else) is at it again. The year is 1932 and the Queen is at her wit’s end trying to keep her playboy son away from the odious American that is threatening to steal his heart. Georgie, meanwhile, is concerned with more quotidien problems like how to keep her upper crust peers in the dark about her covert maid business, how to keep herself fed, and of course wondering what is to become of her would-be relationship with the deliciously unsuitable Darcy O’Meara.

At least, those are Georgie’s concerns until she is once again summoned by the Queen for a secret mission. This time, the Queen is certain she has a fool proof plan to lure her son away from the clutches of that odious American. All Georgie has to do is entertain a Bavarian princess who will conveniently cross paths with the prince at certain choice social gatherings.

Nothing could be simpler. Until the princess actually arrives. Hanni is anything but demure having culled all of her English (and ideas about English society) from American gangster movies. Worse, Hanni seems to have landed herself and Georgie in the middle of another murder plot making the whole thing a royal mess in A Royal Pain (2008) by Rhys Bowen.

I do enjoy Georgie and her books. She’s a light fun character. However, after reading this second installment I began to wonder if she’s a bit too light. Georgie is very young for a mainstream mystery heroine. And it shows quite a lot in this story where Georgie spends way too much time debating what to do about the matter of her virginity with her worldly (read: annoying) best friend Melinda.

The dynamic in A Royal Pain is also rather different from the first novel with an influx of new characters and a disturbing lack of Darcy. Bowen also seems to be falling into the same traps that ruined her Molly Murphy mysteries for me (which unfortunately I cannot elaborate on because they are spoilers for both series). I started reading these books for something different. Yet despite the divergent time periods and settings and characters, the similarities are very apparent.

The story itself was also truly bizarre. By the end of the book I was reminded of propaganda movies from the 1940s meant to support the war effort, which I suppose is fine. Except that is came out of left field both in terms of the plot and in relation to the larger premise of the series. I was almost surprised to realize the last page did not include an advertisement to buy War Bonds.

Her Royal Spyness: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys BowenHer Royal Spyness (2007) is the first is Rhys Bowen‘s new Royal Spyness mystery series, as the complete title, Her Royal Spyness Solves Her First Case, suggests. The year is 1932 and, like many others, the Rannoch family is in monetary distress thanks to the stock market crash of 1929. Unlike most people, the Rannoch’s problems stem from finding money to maintain a scary, drafty castle in the Scottish highlands when the family estate has, for all intents and purposes, run dry.

Younger sister to the new Duke of Antholt and Rannoch, Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie (Georgie to most everyone) knows that she is on the cusp of a great change. What Georgie does not expect is to leave her home in Scotland for the hustle and bustle of England to seek her fortunes, which will hopefully amount to more than the non-existent allowance from her family. Thirty-fourth in line to the English thrown on one side, daughter of a stunningly beautiful and unreliable actress on the other, Georgie is ill-equipped for life alone in a big city. She is even less equipped when it comes to finding a job to continue living in said city–Swiss Finishing Schools do not pride themselves on their resume building courses after all.

With limited options at her disposal, Georgie has no choice but to find a job. As if that isn’t complicated enough she also has to spy on the Queen’s playboy son to see if he is really involved with an American and deal with a beastly Frenchman who claims he owns the Rannoch family estate. When said Frenchman turns up dead in said family’s home, well, things only get worse as Georgie is thrown headfirst into a murder investigation.

Her Royal Spyness is a fun, light read by a critically-acclaimed mystery writer. Fans of Bowen’s Molly Murpy Mysteries (starting with Murphy’s Law) will definitely enjoy this book and realize that the similarities between the series do not stop at their strong-willed heroines. Bowen also once again includes a bad-boy Irish love interest in the form of one Darcy O’Meara–a more likable character than Molly’s Detective Daniel O’Sullivan if not perhaps as original a character. Fans of historical, humorous mysteries will also enjoy this title.

That said, the story does often run thin on mystery. The narrative also verges toward the pretentious though, to be fair, that might be a necessary fault when the narrator is practically royalty. (And, on a completely personal level, I found Georgie’s best-friend Belinda completely insufferable but that might be me.) In the world of mysteries, Georgie is a relatively young narrator at twenty-two years of age. As a result off-the-case chatter often involves youthful topics like suitors and (excessively) bedroom matters (nothing bawdy though of course). If you want a true mystery this might not be your book, if you want a quick and fun mystery Her Royal Spyness is just the ticket.

Murphy’s Law: A (brief) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Murphy's Law by Rhys BowenMurphy’s Law (2002) is the first novel in Rhys Bowen‘s series of Molly Murphy mysteries. (Bowen was previously known for her popular Constable Evan Evans mysteries.) Set in New York City at the turn of the century (ie. the 19th century), this mystery is rich with historical details about New York and the immigrant experience while also being an entertaining, suspenseful read.

Although Molly Murphy dreams of leaving behind her small life in a small Ireland coast town, she never really thinks she’ll get away. Certainly not to bustling New York City. But, when Molly kills a man (in self-defense), fleeing the country seems to be her only option.

Traveling under a false name, Molly gets to Ellis Island only to become a suspect in the murder of a fellow immigrant. With the help of dangerously charming police captain Daniel O’Sullivan, Molly has to try to clear her name in this crime before her past catches up with her.

Having studied New York City history in college, I’m always interested in novels with historical New York as a backdrop. Bowen’s prose brings the city as it was to life from her depictions of Hell’s Kitchen to discussions of New York’s notorious Tammany Hall government. The city is brought to life as carefully as any of the books characters, and I might add, to great effect.

In 2002, Murhphy’s Law won the Agatha Award for best novel, and it shows in the writing and storyline. The cover art and titles add to this novel’s charm. Named for a popular saying (Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.) the title does, unfortunately for Molly, tie into the plot. The same goes for latter books in the series.

If you want to read more about this determined Irish redhead, she was next spotted in Death of Riley.