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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review - Royal Blood

We are on a count down to the Blog Anniversary celebration - 27 days to go!  In just 27 days we will have the highly anticipated Blog Anniversary Bash with giveaways.  As the excitement builds I have the latest "Royal Spyness" Mystery review right here!

Author: Rhys Bowen

Copyright:  September, 2010 (Berkley Hardcover) 320 pgs

Series: # 4 in Royal Spyness Mysteries
Sensuality: Some innuendo
Mystery sub-genre: Historical Cozy/Amateur Sleuth
Main Character: 22 year old Lady Georgiana Rannoch, thirty-fourth in line to the throne of England
Setting: 1932 England and Bran Castle, Transylvania
Obtained book through: Publisher for an honest review

Lady Georgiana is in a tough spot.  She is of royal blood, but the family is broke.  She can't get a job because that just doesn't look right - it would be scandalous!  So she scraps by on meager food supplies - until the Queen asks her to represent the throne at a royal wedding in Romania.  The good news - she will get regular meals again.  There are a few catches though.  She must take her maid, which means she must find one on short notice who is willing to travel and hope she can pay her upon return.  Of course she no longer has the wide selection of gowns like she used to,but she will make due.  Then there is the small matter of the wedding being in an isolated castle. 

Georgiana manages to find a maid - Queenie Hepplewhite is a total incompetent and a clumsy walking disaster (who set her last employers dress on fire...while she was wearing it), but at least she has a maid.  Transylvania can't be all that bad, can it?  Upon arriving she suspects she has been set up since the prince she turned down for marriage is staying in the bedroom next to hers.  Could things get any worse?  Georgiana is usually very level headed but finds that she is willing to believe in vampires when she spies a man climbing the sheer castle walls at night and wakes her first night to a pale man creeping to her bed and leaning over her!  Then the wedding guests are snow bound from bad weather and a politically important guest keels over from poison at dinner.

The characters are spot on for this historical cozy.   Georgiana is a sheltered lesser royal who is trying to make it in the world and not marry for position without love.  She has her share of hard knocks with an occasional bone tossed her way, which has given her a heart for the common person.  Her innocence is becoming on her while she has the hutzpah to face life on her own terms making a charming character.  Her on-again-off-again romantic interest Darcy is a rascal and the reader quickly suspects he is far more than meets the eye (perhaps a government operative?)  Her best friend is a risque hoot.  The disastrous maid Queenie is worth her considerable weight in laughs.  Even the minor characters will live on in my memory as great portraits of British peoples.
A hunk of bread was dumped onto the plate and then I moved on to one of the great pots full of stew.  I could see pieces of meat and carrot floating in a rich brown gravy.  I watched the ladle come up and over my plate, then it froze there, in midair.

I looked up in annoyance and found myself staring into Darcy O'Mara's alarming  eyes...

"Georgie!"  He could not have sounded more shocked if I'd been standing there with no clothes on.  Actually, knowing Darcy, he might have enjoyed seeing me standing in Victoria Station naked.

I felt myself going beet red and tried to be breezy.  "What ho, Darcy.  Long time no see."

Georgie, what were you thinking of?"  He snatched the plate away from me as if it were red-hot.

"It's not how it looks, Darcy."  I attempted  a laugh that didn't come off well.  "I came down here to see if I could help out at the soup kitchen and one of the men in line thought I was coming for food and insisted I take his place.  He was being so kind I didn't like to disillusion him."

The plot is well thought out and wonderfully written, keeping the reader flipping pages. It isn't too lighthearted, maintaining a fine balance of plot and pacing with a good dash of suspense.  I dove in a rarely come up for air!  The setting could have become cliche but Miss Bowen excelled even there.  The gothic setting was played just right.  This is why Miss Bowen wins awards.

The climax and wrap up were nicely played out and felt right.  The only problem being that I didn't want to leave this wonderful world I had been introduced to.

Royal Blood is like a fine wine, expertly crafted and full bodied with layers and rich notes that brings a sigh of satisfaction. I found this book a delight.  It is well plotted and deftly written with humor lurking at every corner.

Bran Castle is marketed as THE Dracula castle that Bram Stoker utilized in his classic book.  Although there is no evidence to that effect.  The castle in Royal Blood was indeed used as a royal residence in the 1920s when this book takes place.

This photo shows the sheer walls that Lady Georgiana witnesses a man climbing in the dark of night.

Here is a nice video showing the interior and giving the flavor of the setting for the book - just in case you want to book those travel plans.

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