Friday, August 07, 2015

Rhys Bowen on Royal Scandals and Review and Giveaway of Malice at the Palace

Please welcome Rhys Bowen to The Qwillery. Malice at the Palace, the 9th Royal Spyness Mystery, was published on August 4th by Berkley.


I’m always intrigued at the way Americans are fascinated by the British royal family. After all, didn’t we work really hard to drive out royalty and establish democracy in 1774? And yet any story about British royals is big news. And especially any whiff of royal scandal positively makes us salivate. Charles and Camille, Princess Diana’s peccadillos, the butler’s revelations, Fergie’s naughty vacations… we love them all.

Is it because the royals somehow seem remote from us, different beings on a higher plane, and thus expected to adhere to a higher standard of morality? After all, we couldn’t picture Snow White or Cinderella being unfaithful, could we? And somehow the royals seem to occupy that same sort of position in our consciousness. So if they stray from the straight and narrow we are secretly delighted to find they are just like us after all!

Over the years they have certainly had their fair share of scandals, haven’t they? There was naughty Bertie, Queen Victoria’s oldest son, who became Edward VII. Nothing in skirts that didn’t play bagpipes was safe from him. He had a long string of mistresses, the most famous of whom was Lily Langtree. His oldest son, the Duke of Clarence, was probably the most notorious royal of recent times: he visited homosexual clubs and female prostitutes. He had such a bad reputation that it was even suggested he might be Jack the Ripper! The whole royal family must have heaved a sigh of relief when he died young of influenza and his straight and boring brother became King George V. Queen Mary had been originally engaged to Eddy, the Duke of Clarence, and after his death she agreed to marry his brother instead. I believe she was much happier with George than she ever would have been with Eddy.

So Geroge and Mary were as true blue as they come but their oldest son, Edward Prince of Wales, gave them headaches. He refused to marry a suitable bride. He had a string of mistresses, culminating with an infamous twice married American woman—Mrs. Simpson. Then he did the unthinkable and wanted to marry her. He was even ready to give up the throne for her. Some saw this as a romantic love story, others were horrified that he had let the side down. None more than the Duchess of York who became Queen Elizabeth. She did not want her frail husband to become king and blamed Mrs. Simpson all her life for driving her husband to an early death.

But stuttering Bertie turned out to be the good son and brave enough to see England through WW II. His youngest brother, Prince George, however, had a very different reputation: like his great uncle the Duke of Clarence before him he had a string of both male and female lovers ranging from Noel Coward to (it is rumored) Barbara Cartland. And one of these was a party girl called Kiki Preston, known as the girl with the silver syringe because of her cocaine habit. George’s parents hoped he would mend his ways when he married sweet Danish princess Marina. Maybe he did, but we’ll never know because he died young in a plane crash in WWII and his papers were sealed on his death.

But there are so many juicy stories floating around about him that I decided to use them in my new Royal Spyness book, MALICE AT THE PALACE. Her heroine, Lady Georgiana is asked to help Princess Marina settle in before the royal wedding. When a body is found at Kensington Palace and it turns out to be the bridegroom’s most notorious mistress, Georgie must help solve the murder without letting the press (or the Princess) get a whiff of scandal that could ruin the happy day. No easy task! So my story is fiction but with a juicy helping of fact that will make it fascinating reading. After all, who doesn’t love a royal scandal?

Malice at the Palace
Series:  A Royal Spyness Mystery 9
Publisher:  Berkley, August 4, 2015
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $25.95 (print); $12.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780425260388 (print); 9780698183766 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

From the New York Times bestselling author of Queen of Hearts comes another mystery for “fans of P.G. Wodehouse looking for laughs mingled with some amateur sleuthing.” (Publishers Weekly)
Lady Georgiana Rannoch won’t deny that being thirty-fifth in line for the British throne has its advantages. Unfortunately, money isn’t one of them. And sometimes making ends meet requires her to investigate a little royal wrongdoing.

While my beau Darcy is off on a mysterious mission, I am once again caught between my high birth and empty purse. I am therefore relieved to receive a new assignment from the Queen—especially one that includes lodging. The King’s youngest son, George, is to wed Princess Marina of Greece, and I shall be her companion at the supposedly haunted Kensington Palace.

My duties are simple: help Marina acclimate to English life, show her the best of London and, above all, dispel any rumors about George’s libertine history. Perhaps that last bit isn’t so simple.

George is known for his many affairs with women as well as men—including the great songwriter Noel Coward. But things truly get complicated when I search the Palace for a supposed ghost only to encounter an actual dead person: a society beauty said to have been one of Prince George’s mistresses.

Nothing spoils a royal wedding more than murder, and the Queen wants the whole matter hushed. But as the investigation unfolds—and Darcy, as always, turns up in the most unlikely of places—the investigation brings us precariously close to the prince himself.

Jennifer's Review

Malice at the Palace is the 9th installment of the Royal Spyness Mystery series by Rhys Bowen. The series is set in 1930s London and follows Lady Georgiana Rannoch, an impoverished aristocrat who just happens to be 35th in line for the throne. Georgie spends her time trying to make ends meet in a way that won’t appall her royal relatives, patiently waiting for her intended, Irish Peer and equally cash poor, Darcy O’Mara, and often stumbling upon a mystery that needs solving. This time, Georgie has been asked by the Queen to serve as companion to Princess Marina of Greece, who is affianced to Prince George. Georgie’s skills as a royal and as a sleuth are put to the test when the body of Bobo Carrington, a former lover of Prince George’s, is found murdered right outside Kensington Palace on the very night of Princess Marina’s arrival in London. Georgie needs to find a killer before the unthinkable happens and a member of the royal family is accused of murder!

Georgie is a dynamic character and has developed well over the course of the series. She is a practical Scot, who can move equally well in the upper echelons of society, and within the lower classes. She gets her quizzical nature from her maternal grandfather, who is squarely in the lower class, being a retired member of the London police force. Her best friend is Belinda, an old school chum who is more like Georgie’s fast, former actress mother than she is Georgie. Belinda is also of the upper class and has no money, receiving no financial support from her family, who view her racy lifestyle as unbecoming to her; she is always looking for a good time and a rich husband.

Darcy and Georgie have been engaged for many novels, they are waiting until he has sufficient money to marry before they take the plunge. Darcy is stunningly handsome and quick witted. He has nebulous employment with the government in a sort of intelligence position and is often away from London, but he always turns up in the end to help Georgie out of any jam her enthusiasm for investigating lands her into. Darcy and Belinda, along with Queenie, Georgie’s hopelessly common and bumbling maid, make up the mainstays of Georgie’s inner circle.

This time around we also get a visit from Georgie’s older brother, Binky, the current Duke of Rannoch, and his poisonous wife Fig. Binky has a genuine affection for his younger sister, but is very henpecked by his spouse, who has absolutely no affection for Georgie. Fig is a sour faced, penny pinching, thoroughly unlikeable woman, which is exactly what she is supposed to be. Georgie has come into her own since the first novel, and is able to repay Fig’s unkind remarks in a way that is insulting put socially acceptable. It’s very satisfying to see Georgie get a little of her own back for all the years of slights and downright nastiness she has endured from Fig. Binky has a wonderful knack for appearing to be completely oblivious to his wife’s treatment of Georgie, making him an exasperating character.

Members of the royal family of the time abound in this book. We see both the King and Queen, who despair of their son David, the Prince of Wales and heir to the throne. Their worry is well placed as the prince is firmly in the clutches of Mrs. Simpson, who is portrayed as a grasping American woman who is ill-bred and viperous. Prince George has a reputation with the ladies, and a few men, but is towing the line as a royal and will be marrying the lovely Princess Marina within the year. George is very affable and fun loving and seems to have a soft spot for his intended. Princess Marina is stylish and modern. The government is attempting to spare the Princess’s sensibilities by concealing the murder of Prince George’s cocaine addicted former lover, although I think this might have been unnecessary. Marina comes across a sweet and innocent, but I see a steel and realism in her that will probably serve her well in her marriage to George. Her cousin, the Countess Irmtraut, is the opposite of the statuesque and beautiful Marina. Irmtraut is stout and bitter, a humorless companion to say the least. Georgie and Marina often have to smother laughter at Irmtraut’s complete lack of understanding for British humor. They tend to leave poor Irmtraut behind while experiencing the nightlife of London, most notably when they attend a party thrown by the notorious and mischievous playwright, Noel Coward.

At Kensington Palace, which Prince David refers to at the Aunt Heap, we meet Queen Victoria’s elderly daughters, the Princesses Beatrice, Louise, and Alice, who are all Great Aunt’s to Georgie, from her father’s side. Princess Beatrice seems to resemble her reticent mother, feeling most comfortable when the social rules are followed. Princess Louise is much more fun, being pleasant, kind, and sincerely interested in the young people around her. Princess Alice makes a brief but important appearance and seems to be lively and pleasant as well.

 Major Beauchamp-Cough has been tasked by Prince George to oversee the running of the household while Princess Marina is in residence. The Major is young and handsome and very duty oriented. After the murder, we meet Detective Chief Inspector Pelham from Scotland Yard and Sir Jeremy, who is from a hush-hush section of the home office. DCI Pelham is a bit bullish, lacking the finesse of Sir Jeremy, but he takes his job seriously and intends to bring the killer to justice, no matter how high up in the royal family he may be. Sir Jeremy is suave and easy going, but obviously has more power within the government than he lets on. Finally, I must mention the palace ghosts, who make themselves known throughout the story, notably the white woman and the giggling boy who both play a part in the denouement of the mystery.

As is typical of a Rhys Bowen novel, the historical details of the story are well researched and presented accurately and with style, which is an important factor to my enjoyment of a historical mystery. The murder plot is well thought out and flows wonderfully from beginning to end. The characters are, as always, delightful, having intensity and snappy dialogue. There are also multiple subplots within the main mystery to keep the reader’s interest. When the murderer is unmasked at the end, the reader can see that it totally makes sense based on the clues that were dropped throughout the book. Malice at the Palace is another wonderful installment in this series and leaves the reader dying to know exactly what scrape Georgie will be getting herself innocently into next.

About Rhys

Rhys Bowen is the New York Times Bestselling Author of the Royal Spyness Series, Molly Murphy Mysteries, and Constable Evans. She has won the Agatha Best Novel Award and has been nominated for the Edgar Best Novel. Rhys’s titles have received rave reviews around the globe.

Rhys currently writes two mystery series, the atmospheric Molly Murphy novels, about a feisty Irish immigrant in 1900s New York City, and the funny and sexy Royal Spyness mysteries, about a penniless minor royal in 1930s Britain. Her books have made bestseller lists, garnered many awards, nominations, and starred reviews. She was born in England and married into a family with historic royal connections. She now divides her time between California and Arizona.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @Rhysbowen

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a copy of Malice at the Palace by Rhys Bowen from the publisher. US ONLY

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59PM US Eastern Time on August 16, 2015. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*

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  1. The only royal I admired was Princess Diana.

  2. I have always been partial to Princess Anne.

  3. I don't have any favorite Royals other then the ones in this series. I love the series and own a few of them in hard cover.

  4. Sounds interesting. I'd like to read it.

  5. Queen Elizabeth 11. Her work during Word War 11 and her appearance at my city when I was 10 years old. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  6. not a Royal fan, so no fav