HER ROYAL SPYNESS by Rhys Bowen
Earlier this year I had a thought to try reading cozy mysteries. I came to them while looking for new series to keep me engaged more than just one title, but I’ve never thought I’d be a fan of the cozy genre since I always prefer more involved reads that allow me to sink my teeth into a story for a long period of time. And then I considered how little I’m actually reading because of the time commitment. (Hint: close to nil) I’m rarely interested in chick lit or “inspirational” fiction – neither has enough grit for me – but I also don’t enjoy wading through profane language or grisly text just to make a story “colorful.” That’s when I remembered cozies. I made a few quick searches for “cozy mystery,” including the actual definition in case I was mistaking the term for a different type of book, and I found quite a few series that sounded interesting to me. My first selection was a trial run, but I quickly came on board with the fans of the cozies. It helped that my first choice had a historical fiction element to it.
Author Rhys Bowen has several series set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and I found two that instantly appealed to me. The Molly Murphy mysteries follow a young Irish woman who flees her country before being charged with murder only to find herself in the same situation as she enters America through Ellis Island in 1901. (I’m reading the first in that series now.) The second series centers on Lady Georgiana, a Scot who is 34th in line for the English throne but finds herself bored and broke in her family’s castle estate and sets out on her own with no means (or knowledge) to care for herself. I chose this latter tale as my first cozy read because of the setting – London during the time of not-yet-King Edward’s dalliance with Mrs. Wallis Simpson – and because of the title itself: Her Royal Spyness. In the end, Georgie’s story was a perfect introduction to this genre.
Lady Georgiana’s story begins to live up to its title when a man seeking to take her family’s 800-year-old estate ends up dead in the bathtub of her family’s London house and she takes on the role of amateur sleuth. The mystery is solid enough to keep me engaged, but it’s the descriptions of Georgie’s life as a royal-in-hiding that truly captivated me. With no money at her disposal, Georgie seeks to obtain employment among the working class of 1930’s London, yet doing so is forbidden by royal tradition. This sets about a number of fun little scenarios where she must hide herself among the servants and dodge anyone from her own societal class who might give her away – and ostracize her in the process. A few failed jobs later, Georgie becomes a cleaning maid to the very families she must avoid… and she finds herself enjoying it! Along the way Georgie follows clues to the murder mystery until one final reveal brings the story together in a fun, and kind of exciting, way.
I admit to being a snob about cozy mysteries, so I never expected to enjoy Her Royal Spyness as much as I did. In reading I discovered that the magic isn’t in the mystery but in the characters and the settings. I adored Lady Georgie. She has great spunk and determination, and the juxtaposition of her two lives lends an element of humor to everything in the story. I’ve always been a sucker for stories of British royals and have been fascinated by the story of David, Prince of Wales, and Mrs. Simpson for most of my life. Yet the greatest element of Georgie’s royal story are the many casual conversations she has with her cousin, the Queen, who enlists Georgie to keep tabs on her son as he insists on being in relationship with the divorcée Simpson. Such drama in the House of Windsor! And I loved seeing it included in this tale.
I became an instant convert to cozy mysteries in reading Her Royal Spyness, and I’m soon to read the second title in the series. It’s just enough fun to be easy reading yet intricate enough to keep me engaged. And beyond all that, I’m a total sucker for the book covers! I can’t say I’ll be drawn to every type of cozy in the future, or that my interest will last a long time, but I’m excited to have found several new series that will help increase my reading time without feeling bogged down by hundreds of hardcover-sized pages. Here’s to many more books completed this year!
Check out my instant review at Goodreads from February 2013.
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