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A Royal Pain
Her Royal Spyness # 2

by Rhys Bowen

      You've got to applaud an author who refuses to rest on her laurels and brings out a new, very different series after winning awards for her prior ones. A Royal Pain is the second book in Rhys Bowen's lighthearted historical mystery series set in 1930s London, featuring Lady Georgiana Rannoch. Georgie's social status may place her 34th in line to the British throne, but her finances have her moonlighting incognito as a sort of specialized house maid. The first book in the series (also reviewed on was a thoroughgoing romp. This one is still a lot of fun, but also has a bit more depth, as Georgie moves further away from her sheltered past and strictly personal problems into a real world that includes Depression victims on the street and preliminaries to what we know would become the Abdication Crisis.

Georgie's financial and social balancing acts are about to reach their own crisis, thanks to Queen Mary. The Queen may not assume Georgie is living royally, but neither does she have the slightest idea of the realities. So when she invites a beautiful young German princess to visit, in hopes of luring the Prince of Wales away from Wallis Simpson, it seems perfectly natural to have the princess stay with someone of similar age and station in life, on whom the Queen knows she can rely. Georgie can take her out in the right sort of society to meet the prince, without any offputtingly obvious involvement from the Palace. Problem is, Georgie may be living in the right sort of family townhouse, but she has no servants, is living on baked beans on toast, and has prior commitments on her time involving dustpans. Gulp.

Princess Hanni arrives with a demanding snob of a chaperone, a completely unacceptable English vocabulary derived from American gangster films, the egocentricity of a spoiled child and the morals of a tomcat. Which would be bad enough, but then Georgie and Hanni find themselves standing over the body of a most unsuitable acquaintance in absolutely the wrong part of town.

That's just dipping your toe in the shallow end of the plot. There's a lot more inside, with a go go pace that doesn't stop as Georgie deals with her domestic problems, her love life, her responsibility for the royal pain of the title (breeding tells - I'd have killed her), and trying to solve a murder. But fun though the plot is, the real fun is in how the story is told. It's a smooth, fast read, full of varied, vivid and engaging characters who feel like real people rather than plot place fillers, sparkling with absurdity, and backed with a solid knowledge of its historical setting. Recommended.

Reviews of other titles in this series

Her Royal Spyness #1  [review]
A Royal Pain #
2    [review]
Naughty in Nice
#5   [review]
The Twelve Clues of Christmas #6  [review]
Heirs and Graces #7  [review]
Queen of Hearts #8 [review 1] [review 2]
Malice in the Palace #9 [review]
Crowned and Dangerous #10
[review 1] [review 2]

The Book

July 1, 2008
Hardcover (reviewed from ARC)
Historical Mystery [1930s London, England]
NOTE: Agatha and Anthony award winning author

The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2008
© 2008