Queen of Hearts
Her Royal Spyness, Book #8
By Rhys Bowen
Auhtor’s website: www.rhysbowen.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Lady Georgiana Rannoch, thirty-fifth in line for the British throne, knows how to play the part of an almost royal—but now she’s off to Hollywood, where she must reprise her role as sleuth or risk starring in an all-too-convincing death scene…
My mother, the glamorous and much-married actress, is hearing wedding bells once again—which is why she must hop across the pond for a quickie divorce in Reno. To offer my moral support, and since all expenses are paid by her new hubby-to-be, Max, I agree to make the voyage with her.
Crossing the Atlantic, with adventure in the air and wealthy men aboard, Mother all but forgets about Max and matrimony—especially when movie mogul Cy Goldman insists on casting her in his next picture.
Meanwhile, I find myself caught up in the secret investigation of a suspected jewel thief. Lucky for me, the lead investigator happens to be my dashing beau, Darcy!
Mother’s movie and Darcy’s larceny lead everyone to Cy’s Hollywood home, where the likes of Charlie Chaplin are hanging about and there’s enough romantic intrigue to fill a double feature. But we hardly get a chance to work out the sleeping arrangements before Cy turns up dead—as if there wasn’t enough drama already…
Queen of Hearts brings Lady Georgianna Rannoch, her beloved beau Darcy O’Mara, her mum, actress Claire Daniels, and best friend Belinda Warburton-Stoke across the pond to the United States and into the heart of a new murder mystery. The 8th novel in the Her Royal Spyness mystery series, it can be read, with a little patience, as a stand-alone. It might help to be familiar with the characters if one reads at least one or more of the series before Queen of Hearts.
Claire, Georgie’s mother, has been seeing a Max, a straight-laced German man for quite some time and he wants to marry her. She is off to the US to get a quickie divorce in Reno from her Texas oilman/rancher husband who had wanted her to leave England to live (gasp) on a ranch in Texas. Claire takes Georgia with her, and whirls her through London for new clothing before they set sail. Claire was widowed from Georgie’s father, and acted on stage where she met successive husbands. Georgie stays with relatives from her royal father’s side, almost broke and 35th in line for the British throne in pre-WWII Kent, England. They set sail before Georgie has been able to let her sweetheart, Darcy O’Mara, know where she was going.
So who does Georgie run into on board ship, along with some of her prior classmates and their friends? Yep, Darcy is on his way to America, having been sent on a mission to find a jewel thief. Even as a fantastical gem is stolen and Darcy is on the hunt with his best helper, Georgie, her mother meets movie mogul Cy Goldman, who plans to make her a star in his latest film.
In a matter of days they are in New York City, where Claire and Georgie saw a few of the sights before going by train to Reno, to establish residency for the divorce, then to Hollywood. Claire was a natural on the set, and who appears (again) but Darcy! And…Georgie’s friend Belinda, who heard their destination and wanted to use her … assets to begin a new career. What a perfect time, as they are going to Cy Goldman’s castle-type mansion for the weekend.
There is no end of surprises, as Cy’s wife shows up from her New York home and join him and his mistress, as well as Charlie Chaplin and the stars of the new movie. Cy shows off his latest acquisitions, a pair of candlesticks worth a fortune in gold and gemstones and an El Greco painting. Then, shortly after the men have cigars in the library, Cy is found dead, having been hit with one of the candlesticks. One candlestick is missing. The chances of anyone being on the castle grounds that is surrounded, prison-like with electric fencing topped with barbed wire and a guard gate are slim to none. Roaming the grounds are exotic animals brought from around the world, critters that would even keep Elly May Clampett away. As police begin their investigation and refuse to allow anyone to leave the grounds, Darcy and Georgie study the evidence that they see and talk with everyone to try to determine what happened to Cy.
Ms. Bowen’s characters are very interesting folks! They were not what I anticipated, especially as one who appreciates a traditional cozy mystery that exclude discussions of sexual prowess or multiple conquests. Georgie’s mother and friend Belinda had turned me off early in the novel and I incorrectly judged Georgie. When the story’s focus was more about Georgie and Darcy and the mysteries at hand, I began to see the real Georgie and appreciate her for who she is. She and Darcy are principled, with moral standards more closely aligned with what my mother told me about from the 1930’s when she was young, Georgie is an intelligent, delightful young lady and her beau, Darcy, is equally intelligent and a diligent, caring young man. I would certainly like to meet them through other novels in the series! I do enjoy the author’s descriptions, including one comment about Georgie’s mum, as being ‘as tough as old boots’.
The plot was interesting, very well-executed, and delivered with a healthy dose of humor. The first half of the book set the stage regarding many of the characters who would be suspected of the murder and who may have also been involved in the jewelry heist. It was slower than the last half, which quickly had me riveted to the action and investigation. Neither the murderer nor the thief was who I suspected until Georgie’s line of reasoning and evidence was revealed. All in all, I felt the last half of the novel was written very well, and I would like to read other books in the series where Georgie’s sleuthing would be prominent. I highly recommend Queen of Hearts to those who enjoy the time period (1930’s) in the United States and England, as well as the lifestyles of those in theatre and the silver screen. The author demonstrates insight into those who celebrated life in the post-flapper era.