Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book Review: Malice at the Palace by Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness #9)



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters, good story, amazing atmosphere
Cons: One recycled sub-plot
The Bottom Line:
Avoiding scandal
While still solving a murder
Makes history fun




Who is Trying to Involve the Royal Family in a Scandal?

I always say I enjoy reading historical fiction, but I wind up reading very little actual historical fiction.  One of the few historical fiction authors I follow is Rhys Bowen, and both of her historical mysteries series are top notch.  She transports you to another time and place while still telling a great story.  Malice at the Palace is the ninth in her Royal Spyness series, and it’s another perfect example of her wonderful storytelling.

For this book, we are transported back to London in 1934.  Our tour guide is Lady Georgiana.  Georgie, as she is known to her friends, is the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, so a minor royal.  The problem is she’s poor, so she has to find ways to provide for herself until she marries.  Along the way, she manages to find herself in some interesting situations.

As this book opens, she is once again trying to find a place to live, but Queen Mary comes through in an unexpected way.  Prince George, the youngest of the three princes, is getting married in a month, and the queen wants Georgie to spend the month with Princess Marina, the bride-to-be, helping her adjust to London.  Georgie will be living with the Princess in Kensington Palace.  It all sounds wonderful, and Georgie gladly accepts – not that one can really say no to the queen.

Things are going well until the night Princess Marina arrives. She and Georgie have just returned from dinner at Buckingham Palace when Georgie stumbles until the body of Bobo Carrington in the courtyard of Kensington Palace.  Since Bob had been linked to Prince George in the past, a full blown investigation could lead to a royal scandal and a broken wedding, so Georgie is asked to discretely ask questions to find the killer.  But why was her body at Kensington Palace?  What part of her past lead to her murder?

My favorite kind of historical fiction is when an author is able to take historical fact and weave it seamlessly into their story.  Based on the historical note at the end of the book, that’s exactly what Ms. Bowen did here.  Yes, the murder victim and everything Georgie unravels in the book is completely fictitious, but it’s not as far out there as you might think.  Save the historical note until you reach the end so you avoid any spoilers.

It won’t take you long to get to the end.  No, I’m not saying the book is short.  It’s that engaging.  I was constantly turning pages because I couldn’t wait to see how it would all end.  Yes, the book starts a little slowly, but that’s a feature of the series and it gives us a chance to catch up with a few series regulars as the plot is being set up.  Once the body is discovered, things progress at a steady clip until the end.  I do have a small niggle about how the climax unfolded, but the solution to the mystery was logical and satisfying and all the clues were there.

Likewise, the characters are fantastic.  The series regulars are as sharp and real as ever, and they are a pure delight.  The new characters introduced, real people and fictitious, are just as well drawn.

My only real complaint was a snag in the relationship between Georgie and her fiancĂ©e Darcy.  It felt like something we’d seen in books past.  However, based on how the book ends, I have high hopes that this sub-plot is behind us for good.  In fact, based on how this book ends for several characters, I’m anxious to find out what will happen next to many of them.

I knew nothing about this period of British history before I started reading the series.  I’ve actually learned quite a bit as a result of picking them up because I’ve done research to see what happened to these people in real life.  As a result, I’ve actually found these books more satisfying since I’ve gotten glimpses of the bigger historical narrative unfolding.  Since so much of this book involves the Royal Family (not always the case in the series), we get to see more of Prince Edward and Mrs. Simpson, and those scenes were fantastic.  It’s so interesting watching the characters reacting to things knowing what would eventually happen in real life.

Unfortunately, I’ve never made it to London (but I’d love to one day).  However, while reading this book, I felt like I was right there traveling the streets with Georgie.  The descriptions are wonderful at bringing the location and the time period to life.

As usual after reading one of Rhys Bowen’s books, I’m left wondering why I don’t read more historical fiction.  Malice at the Palace brings 1930’s London to vivid life.  I’m already waiting for Georgie’s next adventure.

Looking for more of Georgie's adventures?  Check out the Royal Spyness series in order.

NOTE: I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

Giveaway:

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of this book to give away.  Because it is a physical book, the contest is limited to residence of the US.

Just leave me a comment with your e-mail address so I can get in touch with you if you win.  I will pick the winner next Tuesday, August 18th, so please leave your comment before 12:01AM Pacific Time on 8/18.

13 comments:

  1. I luv Rhys Bowens mysteries. I remember reading her first one. Now I've fallen behind in the series. Thanks for giving me a chance.

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  2. mark - i love all of this. you make me look like amateur hour!

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  3. Sounds great! She has several Agathas for good reason.

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  4. I would love to read this one - I enjoy her books.

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  5. I love this seriues and all of her books!!!

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  6. Thanks for all the good reviews! shawnmthrasher@gmail.com

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  7. I enjoy British royalty and I too, have fallen way behind in this series.. Thanks for the opportunity to win.. Amy F.. salvatoresmom71@yahoo.com

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  8. I was really enjoying this series once. I started this & her other series some years ago from our public library. We moved for awhile to a place where there wasn't a good library & I haven't gotten back to it/them. I just need to start all over.
    bpwoodfield@gmail.com

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  9. I love this series. I have been reading a lot of Historical cozies they are a nice change.

    gibsonbk at hiwaay dot net

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  10. I love all of Rhys Bowen books. This series is one of my favorites. Thanks for the chance

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  11. I love all of.her books. This is one of my favorite of her series. Thanks for a chance to win this one can't wait to read it.
    lhxp73@yahoo.com

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  12. I haven't read any of these yet myself, but have heard such good things about Bowen! I think reading about 1930's London would be interesting. Thanks for the chance to win!
    JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

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  13. What a great title! I don't know much about 1930s London, but it's a period I find interesting in American history, so I'd probably like this.

    My yahoo address is joyweesemoll.

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