RogerBW's Blog

A Royal Pain, Rhys Bowen 29 July 2022

2008 mystery/thriller, second in its series. It's still 1932, and Queen Mary is determined to separate her son Edward from That Simpson Woman. Enter Georgiana, 34th in line to the throne, who can be invited to host a Bavarian princess, eighteen and just out of the convent, and throw her into the path of the prince…

Pity Georgiana has no money – she has the use of the family house in London, but she's been getting cash for food by cleaning (in disguise) the houses of other minor nobility – but surely something will come up? She'll need servants, and food, and…

Fortunately she has friends on whom she can rely – at least a little bit, though some of them are easily distracted – and can set up a plausible counterfeit of the way things are done. Pity the Princess Hannelore seems to have learned her English from smuggled-in gangster films, and comes with a battleaxe of a companion. A further pity that someone falls to his death at a disreputable party, and a nice young man who'd caught Hannelore's fancy turns up dead in a communist bookshop in the East End…

There's something of a mystery here, but it's not a tremendously challenging one and one feels it isn't really the point of the exercise. That's the people, Georgiana herself but also her friends and relatives. And mostly they work.

But then… things take a while to get going. Georgiana is a bit dim, and whiny (not that her situation isn't precarious, but whiny narrators are hard work even if justified). Hitler keeps getting mentioned in a portentous way, particularly when we deal with the communists of London. It clunks a bit at times, though perhaps that's because I already know (from having read contemporary popular fiction) that at this point historically communism was considered the major threat on the horizon and that Hitler chap was mostly regarded as a somewhat comic foreigner – so when the situation is presented as such here, I'm not surprised by it and I don't find it a new perspective. Still, at least no faction has a monopoly on either good or bad people, or indeed on stupid and violent ones.

It's definitely fluff, but there's a heart to it that just barely rescues it from mediocrity.

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