Rhys Bowen’s newest Royal Spyness Mystery, Four Funerals and Maybe A Wedding, captivated my attention. I sunk into the book with abandon. That should be a good thing, but for me, it was not.
As a writer and an interviewer, I read books from a professional point-of-view. Usually. As I read, I’d catch myself fifty pages further along without having taken a single note or highlighted a passage. This has happened in the past while reading Rhys’s books, but there was a difference with this book.
In previous books in the series, main character Lady Georgiana Rannoch, spies for Queen Mary. In this episode, Georgie must spy for herself, and the Queen adds complications rather than provides solutions. It’s a refreshing twist.
While I’m sure Georgiana will spy for the Queen again and perhaps get involved with her fiancé’s undercover missions, I found this interlude of Georgiana working for herself to be a wonderful prelude and learning experience for her future life. What especially surprised me—who acted as her support and sidekick. I’ll say no more.
I haven’t. I’ve been tempted to send a book to Princess Kate, and now to Meghan. I actually have connections to the latter as my daughter is good friends with her mom. I think they’d get a good chuckle, don’t you?
In 2015, the rules of succession changed. What were the changes?
Until then the oldest son was the heir, followed by any other sons ahead of any daughters. The rule has now changed so that if a girl is born first she will be queen. Princess Charlotte is right in line behind Prince George and ahead of Prince Louis.
Who placed Darcy and Georgianna’s engagement announcement in the Times?
That was Darcy’s job!
These days, wedding planning is a career and months, if not years, are spent planning the wedding. Darcy and Georgianna are to be married within a month. Were times different then?
Yes, I think that weddings were much less elaborate affairs in those days. Most weddings were a service in church followed by a lunch or just by cake and champagne, toasts and speeches. Then the bride changed into her going-away outfit, rice was thrown as the couple ran to their car and that was it!
If Georgie’s had been a real royal wedding (if she had married Prince Siegfried, for example!!) then it would have been more formal, with lots of protocol etc.
To marry Darcy, Georgianna must withdraw from the royal line of succession to the throne (even though she’s thirty-fourth in line). Why, and how will this effect Georgianna and her relationship to the King and Queen?
We’ll have to see. She probably won’t be invited to official royal occasions, but the queen is clearly fond of her and she will be included in family gatherings. She is still a cousin, after all.
Why does Georgianna stay with Princess Zou Zou at her Eaton Square house rather than at Rannoch House in London?
Would you want to stay with Fig?
Queenie, Georgianna’s maid for lack of a better term, is off in Ireland learning to cook. How did that come about?
In the book Crowned and Dangerous Queenie follows Georgie to Ireland and shows that she has some talent for cooking when she helps out in Darcy’s great-aunt’s chaotic house. It’s the sort of place where nobody minds if you set fire to something, so she fits in well there! It will be seen if she fits in equally well in a proper household.
Why does Georgianna note that, “…too-perfect maids aren’t always desirable.”?
You would have to read the book “On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service” to find that out. The Contessa has a perfect maid who tends to Georgie, however……
The queen expects Georgianna to invite all the royal houses of Europe to her wedding. Will having the princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, as bridesmaids be enough to appease the queen?
It will have to be! Georgie only wanted a simple wedding, small church, a few friends and the last thing she wants is the crowned heads of Europe showing up. If this is not good enough for the queen, then too bad. It’s Georgie’s wedding, after all!
Belinda, Georgianna’s friend and upcoming dress designer, is designing and making her wedding dress. But when Georgianna hates Belinda’s design, she must be honest with her. Whether the queen, Belinda, or Georgianna’s mother, Georgianna must assert herself. How does she manage to win without offense?
I think this book shows Georgie learning to assert herself in many ways. Until now she has found it hard to say no to other people (especially the queen). But she wants her wedding to be the way she pictures it, and she is growing up too. Until now she has been at the mercy of other people, no place of her own or place in the world. Now she is marrying Darcy, she has somewhere to live and these give her confidence. She risks Belinda’s wrath by turning down the first design for her dress. She has to let the queen know, politely of course, that she will not have the big state wedding the queen wants. And most of all, she has to learn to run a large house and estate. It is a true growing experience.
Sir Hubert Anstruther, a former husband of Georgianna’s mother, wanted to adopt Georgianna, but had no legal right. How does she end up being his sole heir?
That story played out in the first book in the series, Her Royal Spyness. I don’t want to tell you here, as it would spoil that story if you haven’t read it!
Sir Hubert makes Georgianna a grand offer, which she readily accepts having fond memories of his estate, Eynsleigh. Why doesn’t Georgianna have the authority to make needed changes at the mansion?
Georgie would like to make changes, but the servants insist they were hired by Sir Hubert and thus can only be fired by him. Georgie isn’t sure how far her authority stretches and certainly doesn’t want to offend Sir Hubert by getting rid of servants he liked.
When Max von Strohheim calls off the wedding to Georgianna’s mother due to his father’s death, she comes to live with Georgianna at Eynsleigh, which is fortuitous. Her mother can’t pull off being in mourning and Georgianna needs allies against the staff. How does Georgianna use her mother to aid her?
Georgie’s mother is a famous actress. She is able to act in any way Georgie wants, most importantly act as if everything is going smoothly when it isn’t. In spite of her self-centeredness and her supposedly delicate constitution, she proves herself to be a tough little lady.
Knowing she needs an ally on the staff, Georgianna writes to Queenie, who comes to Eynsleigh to help. Why does Queenie battle with the cook?
The cook is a flamboyant and hostile Spaniard who can’t or won’t cook English food.
Georgianna has come to rely on Darcy’s experience, and yet she finds that he isn’t much help in wedding planning or in managing an estate. Why can’t he be of more help?
Wedding planning in those days was the job of the bride’s family. The groom chose his guests and best man, paid for the bouquets and showed up for the wedding. But Darcy has some kind of undercover job we are not sure about. He is always being sent to undesirable parts of the world, and he never turns down a chance to make money, being as impecunious as Georgie is.
The year of this book, 1935, was pivotal and preceded many calamitous world events. You touched on Georgianna’s mother’s relationship to Max von Strohheim, who was a German industrialist in business with the Nazis. What other events soon occur?
We are getting to a turning point in history, as you pointed out. At the end of this year the king will die. The Prince of Wales will become Edward VIII and tell parliament he wants to marry Mrs. Simpson. Parliament will say no, and he will abdicate, leaving the throne to his brother, the Duke of York, father of Elizabeth and Margaret. At the same time Hitler has consolidated his power in Germany and will start making open hostility against the Jewish population in Germany. Georgie’s mother is lucky she is no longer in Germany!
Queen Mary (May) was concerned about her son Edward, who would inherit the throne, due to his lack of protocol and love life, which she asked Georgiana to monitor and report. We haven’t heard much about George, her second son. Will we?
Her second son is not George, but Albert (Bertie to his family). He is the Duke of York, married to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and father of Elizabeth and Margaret. When he becomes king he will take the name George VI in memory of his father. We do hear about him from time to time in the books, especially in Royal Flush where Georgie interacts with her cousins, but since he lives a happy and blameless life with his family he is not much involved in murder mysteries.
In Farleigh Field, your first single-title book was nominated for an Edgar and won a Lefty Award and an Agatha Award. Now, The Tuscan Child, your second single title, is on the bestseller list. Will this success pull you from your series writing?
I am absolutely thrilled at the success of my two stand-alone novels and look forward to writing many more. They give me the kind of freedom one doesn’t get from a series, and who would turn down the chance to write books that sell over 300,000 copies? But do not fear—I love Georgie and intend to keep following her crazy and unsettled life for quite a while yet.
I have put Molly Murphy on hold, however. I love visiting with her but I have written 17 books in that series. Molly is in a good place with a husband and a child and it becomes less and less plausible that she would carry on her detective work. I hope to revisit her at some time but at the moment it’s more stand-alones.