by Sharon Tucker
& Rhys Bowen
This week we have a review of Rhys Bowen’s latest mystery novel, Heirs and Graces. Rhys also graces us with a guest post about her research. At the end of this post are details on how to win a copy of Heirs and Graces.
Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen
Review by Sharon Tucker
Reading Rhys Bowen’s, Her Royal Spyness, series is reminiscent of indulging one’s self at a boulangerie/patisserie–all the chocolate croissants and petit fours! But we live only once, oui?
Heirs and Graces is the seventh adventure with Lady Georgiana Rannoch, and as it begins both Georgina and the reader are sorely put upon. Georgiana’s insouciant, self-absorbed mother has decided that she should write her memoirs and that Georgiana is just the one to take dictation and transcribe the scandalous and duchy-toppling adventures as the former Duchess of Rannoch and Glengarry. How Georgina eludes this thankless task (and avoids becoming homeless as a result) requires the intervention of Queen Mary, Elizabeth II’s grandmother, in case you aren’t familiar with the series’ time frame.
Georgiana is dispatched to tame a wild Australian heir-apparent into the semblance of a British aristocrat. What might prove to be a pleasant task for Georgina hits a snag not only in the person of the handsome Australian himself who has an utter lack of interest in the project, but also in the resentment and uncooperative stonewalling of the Aussie’s nearest kinsman, the current Duke of Eynsford, who evidences a distinct lack of interest in providing an heir.
Since she has an unerring sense of protocol, Georgina finds the prospect of taming a “wild colonial boy” intriguing and travels to Kent post haste, but what develops at Kingsdowne Place, the seat of the Duchy of Eynsford, puts the heir apparent, Jack Altringham, at a distinct disadvantage. Naturally, Georgina makes every effort to save not only the day, but also the rest of the heirs and family.
Bowen’s world of London and the Kentish countryside between World War I and World War II is delightful. It is 1934 and welcome to a world where difficult mothers are indulged, incompetent maids are tolerated, dreadful relatives are endured and plots are not predictable. Bowen has a good ear for dialogue and her characters are fully fleshed-out. From her vamping best friend, Belinda, to her erstwhile beau, Darcy, Georgiana keeps her good humor and survives the Great Depression with quite a bit of style.
Readers will enjoy the strong sense of place, whether in the city or country, and reading Georgiana’s adventures amounts to taking a holiday back in time. Each mystery in the series will stand on its own, but reading them in order–beginning with Her Royal Spyness, makes for even more fun.
So, treat yourself to a confection of a cozy mystery without outraging your diet. Laugh along with Bowen at the snobbery, the excesses and the foibles of the aristocracy, knowing all the while that British stoicism and humor will win the day.
The Accidental Expert
By Rhys Bowen
I was watching PBS on Sunday when they showed two subsequent programs, one on Coco Chanel and one on Paris in the early 1900s. I found myself adding my comments and corrections out loud to both programs because I knew more than they were telling. I wouldn’t have said I’m an expert on modern art or on Chanel, but it seems I have become one because they were both featured in my books. Coco Chanel played a role in my Royal Spyness book called Naughty in Nice and post-Impressionist Paris is the focus of my upcoming Molly Murphy book called City of Darkness and Light.
Since I write historical novels, it’s become very important to me to get everything right. After all my books take place in the first half of the Twentieth Century–there were newspapers for every day. There were photographs of every scene I need to describe. There were newsreels featuring famous people, so I have no excuse for getting anything wrong.
I don’t know about you, but if I find one detail that I know to be wrong in a book, that entire story loses validity for me. I no longer believe in those characters. I have recently been asked to blurb books in which significant details about London or life in the 1930s were wrong. I think it’s up to the writer to do her homework properly and thoroughly, to make sure all the little details are right. For Molly Murphy, where the books are usually set in New York, this involves walking the streets Molly walked, noticing what she would have seen–is the Brooklyn Bridge visible from here? Have the leaves fallen from the trees in Washington Square by late October? I have also acquired a large collection of photographs from the time and I can check what was on the billboard or the name above the tailor’s shop on a particular street. Not necessary maybe, but satisfying.
For the Royal Spyness books, I am writing more about things I know. My own childhood was the setting for Heirs and Graces. I lived two miles from the village of Eynsford, where I used to play in the river and the woods, encountering people like the dowager Duchess of Eynsford–formidable older ladies for whom etiquette and manners meant everything. But I still have to make sure I get the details right for things I don’t know, such as biographies of the Prince of Wales, diaries by famous people and lots of books on Coco Chanel–which is why I have now become an expert on her.
What a wonderful extra bonus, as well as writing a story I enjoy and seeing it get good reviews and a large readership. I am constantly expanding my knowledge, delving into areas I would never have explored…becoming an accidental expert!
To enter to win a copy of Heirs and Graces, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Heirs,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 16, 2013. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.