Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows that I love Rhys Bowen's Lady Georgie series (aka the Royal Spyness series books. The series follows lady Georgiana Rannoch, 35th in line for the British throne in the time before The King's Speech took place. It's the Great Depression and even royals are not immune to the economic disaster. Georgie is the younger sister of a Scottish duke who has gone bankrupt after having to pay his father's death dues. Technically, Georgie should be cared for by her half-brother until her own marriage, but that proves to be more complicated than it would seem given the family's lack of money and her sister-in-law's unfriendly demeanor.
Throughout the books, intelligent, clumsy (but not in an over the top Bridget Jones way - Georgie is a bit too practical for that) Georgie stumbles on and solves mysteries, while trying to keep herself afloat financially. She refuses to be married off, even to a prince, because she wants to marry for love, and also resists being made an elderly noble woman's companion. Each book puts her in a new position as she strives to live while only having skills taught in finishing school.
In this book, which takes place about six weeks after the last novel, Georgie is living with her flighty mother, helping to record her memoirs. This doesn't last long as her mother gets summoned to her boyfriend's side for the winter and leaves Georgie high and dry. Lucky, Georgie writes to her cousin, the queen (aka the mother of the king Colin Firth played in The King's Speech) to ask for help and the queen luckily finds something for Georgie to do. Turns out the dowager duchess of a wealthy home (think Downton Abbey) was desperate for an heir after her son (who clearly isn't too into ladies) refused to do his duty of marrying and producing a child. Duchess Edwina learned that her son John, who died in WWI, had been married to a school teacher in Australia, who was pregnant at the time of John died. The son, Jack, was raised on a sheep farm in Australia and while uncouth, is technically the actual heir to the estate, which of course is entailed and needs to pass to a male family member.
Georgie is enlisted to live at the estate and help Jack acclimate to high society, something she knows quite a lot about. The house is huge and filled with an assortment of family members from Cedric the rather nasty duke and his young male followers, two elderly aunts, Edwina's daughter and her two children and of course a ton of servants. The house is filled with tension once Jack arrives as he is the furthest things from an acceptable duke. Matthew Crawley was at least civilized, while Jack is more comfortable on a horse herding sheep. However, he's a nice young man and while he wants nothing to do with the dukedom, he is willing to try and learn.
Until, of course, the duke himself is discovered dead with a knife in his back. It's up to Georgie and her fiance, Darcy, to solve the crime with the sort of help of the local police inspector. Of course her friend, Belinda, makes an appearance and her horrible maid, Queenie pops up from time to time. There's a slightly forced appearance by Georgie's beloved granddad, who really has nothing to do with the story. I think that was just a concession to the fans. While the mystery is being solved, Darcy and Georgie grow closer although they aren't any closer to marriage, despite their engagement at the end of the last book. However, it seems as though they are getting there.
The story wraps up nicely although I wish I knew what happened to some of the characters in the family like the crippled Elisabeth. I had several guesses as to who the murderer would be but was pleasantly surprised by the final reveal. As usual, Rhys Bowen has crafted an entertaining historical mystery. Can't wait until the next one!
Buy it on amazon or Barnes & Noble.