Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour: Author Guest Post, Review & Giveaway: Heirs and Graces (Her Royal Spyness #7) by Rhys Bowen

As thirty-fifth in line for the throne, Lady Georgiana Rannoch may not be the most sophisticated young woman, but she knows her table manners. It's forks on the left, knives on the right, not in His Majesty's back.

Here I am thinking the education I received at my posh Swiss finishing school would never come in handy. And while it hasn't landed me a job, or a husband, it has convinced Her Majesty the Queen, and the Dowager Duchess to enlist my help. I have been entrusted with grooming Jack Altringham, the Duke's newly discovered heir fresh from the Outback of Australia, for high society.

The upside is I am to live in luxury at one of England's most gorgeous stately homes. But upon arrival at Kingsdowne Place, my dearest Darcy has been sent to fetch Jack, leaving me stuck in a manor full of miscreants, none of whom are too pleased with the discovery of my new ward.

And no sooner has the lad been retrieved than the Duke announces he wants to choose his own heir. With the house in a hubbub over the news, Jack's hunting knife somehow finds its way into the Duke's back. Eyes fall, backs turn, and fingers point to the young heir. As if the rascal wasn't enough of a handful, now he's suspected of murder. Jack may be wild, but I'd bet the crown jewels it wasn't he who killed the Duke.

Looking for Downton
by Rhys Bowen

I often regret that I was born a generation or so too late for the whole Downton Abbey experience.  Not that my family would ever have occupied Downton Abbey, being solidly middle class.  But I married into a family that owned homes even grander than Downton.  My husband's mother's family used to own Sutton Place (made famous when bought by Paul Getty), as well as several other impressive houses.  All gone now, I regret to say, except for the Cornish branch where my sister-in-law lives in a gorgeous fourteenth century manor house.  I love visiting there, smelling that unique smell that old houses have listening to the silence of long hallways, looking out of leaded paned windows (and keeping a wary eye out for the family ghost). 

But it's not exactly the same as the Downton experience these days.  There are no servants waiting to bring me tea and dress me in the morning.  My sister-in-law goes to collect the eggs and pick the beans herself.  My brother-in-law drives the ride-on mower to keep their huge lawns mown. So I think one of the driving forces behind writing Heirs and Grace was a chance to live that sort of life vicariously.  I've created a stately home, even grander than Downton.  My heroine, Lady Georgiana, thirty fifth in line to the throne and yet penniless, has been striving to exist on her own terms.  It hasn't been going too well, until she is invited to stay at Kingsdowne Place, seat of the Dukes of Eynsford.  She really thinks she has fallen on her feet this time.  Kingsdowne shows no signs of the great depression that has struck the rest of the world.  Lavish food, roaring fires, oodles of servants to make life easy.  And Georgie's job is to educate the newly found heir to the dukedom.  Of course nothing goes smoothly for Lady Georgie and there is found play at Kingsdowne, as well as eccentric relatives, a fearsome dowager and a young Australian, fresh from the bush.  

The closes I have come to experiencing that kind of lifestyle is when I crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary II (in preparation for the new Royal Spyness hardcover, Queen of Hearts).  I found it incredibly luxurious to have my bed turned down, the towels changed as soon as they had been used, to find monogrammed slippers beside my bed.  But it suddenly hit me that the passengers on the original Queen Mary took all this for granted.  This was their normal way of life, constantly waited on, pampered.

I wonder what it would have been like?  I'd find it horribly strange to have a maid undress me.  I don't think I'd have enjoyed living in a fishbowl with servants aware of my every move, every argument with my husband fodder for discussion below stairs.  But I would have enjoyed having my food cooked and served for me (if the cook was good).  Would it have been fun or a chore to change for dinner every night?  I expect there might have been evenings when some of the occupants might rather have curled up with scrambled eggs in their pjs.  But it simply wasn't done! 

The other thing they had to battle all the time was boredom.  Occasional house parties and hunts punctuated long stretches with nothing more to fill the days than long walks, reading, playing the piano and conversing with the same few people.  Of course by Georgie's time they did have radio, but it was still rather a lonely life.  So would I have wanted it for myself?  Probably not, but I'd certainly have liked to try it for a while.  Actually I did try it for a while, in Heirs and Graces.  

I am a New York Times bestselling mystery author, winner of both Agatha and Anthony awards for my Molly Murphy mysteries, set in 1902 New York City.

I also write the Agatha-winning Royal Spyness series, about the British royal family in the 1930s. It's lighter, sexier, funnier, wicked satire. It was voted by readers as best mystery series one year. 

I am also known for my Constable Evans books, set in North Wales, and for my award-winning short stories.

I was born and raised in England but currently divide my time between California and Arizona where I go to escape from the harsh California winters

When I am not writing I love to travel, sing, hike, play my Celtic harp.

Heirs and Graces is a historical delight!  Georgiana and her supporting cast of characters are wonderful in this installment of the Her Royal Spyness series.  With a beautiful setting and a clever mystery, you can't go wrong.  

One of the things that I adore about this series is the author's ability to create a true mystery.  Not just a regular old "let's solve this mystery a la internal dialogue", but as someone who has a true appreciation of what a murder mystery should be.  She writes her mysteries similar to Agatha Christie, with a build up of evidence that keeps you guessing until the very end.  

I really do enjoy this series.  If you're a fan of cozies, or historical mystery, you'll fall in love with Georgiana and her antics!  

Rating:  4.5 stars 

Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have 1 paperback copy of Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen to give away to one of my lucky readers!  Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win, and be sure to keep checking back for more awesome giveaways!

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holdenj said...

Enjoyed her comments! Thanks!

Michelle F. said...

I read Rhys's books! The last one I read was The Twelve Clues of Christmas in December.

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