RogerBW's Blog

Royal Blood, Rhys Bowen 21 January 2023

2010 mystery/thriller, fourth in its series. Georgiana Rannoch, 34th in line to the throne, is sent to the wedding of Maria Theresa of Romania to Prince Nicholas of Bulgaria (after all she was at school with "Fatty Matty").

As usual, there are some historical slippages; King Michael of Romania appears to be rather more than the eleven years old he should be in 1932, not to mention that his father Carol II is actually on the throne then, and there's no mention of Boris of Bulgaria at all. I know, reality needs to be flexible to have royal personages at the right sort of age, but this all stresses reality rather harder than simply inventing an extra cousin for Victoria did, and the boundaries between the history we know and this slight alternate seem to wobble about rather and leave me on uncertain footing.

Anyway, the wedding is to take place in Bran Castle in Transylvania, so there's the whole vampire thing as well, which doesn't help when someone's seen scaling the sheer icy castle wall. Nor when a very pale young man surprises Georgiana in her bed. Nor when Maria Theresa is found with a bright red sticky mouth… And Georgie's dissolute mother is there, and her friend Belinda, and everyone's playing musical beds…

"Men only have two thoughts in their heads and those are killing or copulating."

"I'm sure there are plenty of men with finer feelings, who are interested in art and culture."

"Yes, darling, of course there are. They are called fairies. And they are quite adorable—so witty and fun to be with. But in my long and varied life I've found that the ones who are witty to be with are no use in bed, and vice versa."

But also the senior Bulgarian general drops dead in the middle of a drunken rant, and it looks very much like poison. Not that anyone's likely to miss him, though he was politically important, but now we know there's a poisoner in a snowbound castle. And there's a Romanian secret policeman, who's treated by characters and narrative alike as though he were the obvious villain, but actually raises some rather good points about abuse of royal privilege…

Most of this is quite fun, but it was rather spoiled by the comic relief, such as Georgianna's preternaturally stupid and incompetent maid, who appears set to be a recurring character. Georgie herself is too ready to indulge her vampire fantasies rather than think of possible mundane explanations for things. And while there are some reasonable doubts about her possibile relationship with obvious destined beau Darcy (he isn't the type to settle down to quiet domesticity even if they could afford to), the tracks that are bringing them together are increasingly obvious.

Not really sure why I keep reading these. No idea whether they're going anywhere interesting. May find out, eventually.

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Previous in series: Royal Flush | Series: Her Royal Spyness | Next in series: Naughty in Nice

  1. Posted by J Michael Cule at 11:45am on 21 January 2023

    You are reading them because they are right in your genre preferences (romance and mystery with added alt-history and gothic sprinkles) and it would require actual will power to stop treating them like literary popcorn.

    I am not mocking: I am a fellow sufferer.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 12:01pm on 21 January 2023

    "Between the wars" has become one of my favourite gaming periods (fast global travel but not necessarily easy; limited long-range communications), which should also be considered a contributing factor.

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