Wednesday, September 20, 2017

On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen (2017

I've been reading Her Royal Spyness series since its very beginning - since 2007!  That's ten years of Georgie and company.  The quality of the series has waxed and waned; looking back, I've enjoyed a few of them in a five-star kind of way (particularly the first in the series), most in a "good book, next" kind of way - and at least one (the book before this one) was dull as dishwater.

On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service is a solid entry in the series.  It never completely bored me, but it also never really wowed me either.  The premise was strong and fit the tone of the 1930s - a secret meeting between Italy, Germany, and the Prince of Wales at a house party in Italy; nearby the actual Stresa conference between England, Italy and France was happening (which, interestingly, actually dates this to on or near Sunday, April 14, 1935).  This was eluded to several times in the book.

Mrs. Simpson and the Prince of Wales are both at the house party (less Cruella deVil than she's been in the past), as are Georgie's glamorous mother.  I don't recall ever before actually meeting Max, Georgie's mother's rich, German industrialist husband-to-be; he's a suspect in the book.  If I were a betting man, as the 1930s get darker, so will the plots of Her Royal Spyness; I imagine Max's Nazi ties will become more of a plot point in future novels.  I also wonder if the Mitfords or Oswald Mosley will ever make appearances - they would definitely run in similar social circles to Georgie and Darcy (the older Mitfords would, I imagine, be the same age as Georgie).

Once Bowen refers to Georgie's uncomfortable yoga pose, which threw me off; I wondered if Geogie would even know what yoga was?  It seems to me it would be a bit esoteric of Georgie to casually complain about being cramped under a table in a yoga pose - unlike girls of the 21st century, I don't think Georgie is going to yoga class every morning (maybe pilates; ha ha).  If I'm wrong about yoga and the 1930s, at the very least Bowen could have qualified the statement in some way.

On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service (Her Royal Spyness #11)On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A solid entry in the series; I was never completely bored or completely bowled over. Certainly entertaining the whole way through. The setting is a house (more of a palace, actually) party in Italy with Italians, Germans, and the Prince of Wales (the always delightful to read about Mrs. Simpson leading him about by the ear) all having a international cloak and dagger meeting while the real-life Stresa Conference between Italy, France and England is going on nearby (alas, other real life historical characters like Ramsay Macdonald do not make an appearance). In using this setting, Bowen is definitely capturing some of the timbre of the times. Her Royal Spyness is certainly never going to be serious treatise of appeasement or the rise of fascism (nor would I want it to be)
-- but in a screwball comedy kind of way, Bowen is addressing some serious issues. The worldwide Depression was sort of a character in the earlier books; now I have a feeling that in future books in the series the Nazis will begin playing a bigger role in Lady Georgie's life. As they did in everyone's lives in the 1930s.

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