Posts Tagged ‘royalty’

We are halfway through April (how??), and I’m mostly able to focus on books again. The days feel both long and short and somehow suspended – time is moving differently, I suspect, for many of us. But I’m still reading, and here are the books I’ve been enjoying:

Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change, Maggie Smith
Maggie’s poetry and “keep moving” notes speak right to my heart. This collection combines some of those notes with longer essays about dealing with loss, grief, upended expectations, and the surprising new spaces created by upheaval. She and I are both recently divorced, but I believe these essays will resonate with many people’s experiences. Wise and honest and so lovely. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 6 – it was originally May 5).

Braver Than You Think: Around the World on the Trip of My (Mother’s) Lifetime, Maggie Downs
Downs undertook a trip around the world as her mother was slipping into late-stage Alzheimer’s: she wanted to see and do all the things her mother never got to do. She has some rather harrowing adventures (and stays in lots of grubby hostels), but gains a few hard-won insights about her mother and herself. Compelling and moving, for fans of travel memoir and self-discovery. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 12).

American Royals, Katharine McGee
What if George Washington had been the first king of America? What would his 21st-century descendants look like, and how would they rule? That’s the premise of this fun YA novel (first in a series), which follows Princess Beatrice (future queen) and her siblings as they navigate the expectations that come with their crowns. Witty, juicy and so much fun – a perfect distraction for these times.

The Paris Hours, Alex George
Paris, 1927: the lives of four ordinary people intertwine on one extraordinary day. A struggling artist, an Armenian refugee, Marcel Proust’s former maid and a grieving journalist are all searching for different things, but their paths cross and recross in fascinating ways. With cameos by Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach and others. I have read a lot of Paris novels, and am glad I picked this one up: it was really engaging. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 5).

Waterlight: Selected Poems, Kathleen Jamie
My friend Roxani has raved about Jamie’s essays, and I picked this poetry collection up at the library. Some of it, especially the poems written in Scots, didn’t really work for me, but some of them are melancholy and lovely.

Of Mutts and Men, Spencer Quinn
Chet and Bernie are back on the case – this one involving a hydrologist who was murdered, a vineyard perched in a strange place, and a lawyer who might be up to something. Chet (the dog) is a great narrator, and I was so glad to escape into this series again. To (maybe) review for Shelf Awareness (out July 7).

Last Train to Key West, Chanel Cleeton
As a hurricane bears down on Key West in 1935, the paths of three very different women – Cuban newlywed Mirta, former New York society girl Elizabeth, and battered wife Helen – intersect in interesting ways. I like Cleeton’s fiction about the Perez family and this was a solid historical novel. (Also the first ebook I’d read in quite a while.) To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 16).

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstores, Brookline Booksmith and Trident.

What are you reading?

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It’s no secret I love a good mystery novel. I especially love discovering new mystery series to dive into – I’ve written about my love for Mary Russell, Tommy & Tuppence, Chet and Bernie and many other detectives. But I hadn’t discovered a good series in a while, till Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series recently came across my radar.

royal spyness books rhys bowen

I tried one of Bowen’s Constable Evans mysteries years ago, but it was a late entry in the series and I didn’t like the lack of context, plus the characters didn’t captivate me. But when I picked up the first mystery featuring Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, cousin to His Majesty King George V and thirty-fourth in line to the throne, I was instantly hooked. Georgie – penniless, single, bored, but resourceful and ready to make her own way in the world – and her escapades in 1930s London are highly entertaining.

These books are Maisie Dobbs lite – similar setting and historical context, but much lighter and frothier than Maisie’s more serious stories. Part of the difference lies in the heroines’ personalities: Georgie is wealthy, sheltered and naive, whereas Maisie began her career as a maid and worked her way up, attending Cambridge and then becoming a private investigator. Part of it is the almost accidental nature of Georgie’s cases: she seems to stumble (often literally) into mysteries, and everything always wraps up neatly at the end.

So far, I’ve seen Georgie begin her new life in London (with no servants – the horror!), start a clandestine cleaning service to make a bit of cash (she secretly cleans the houses of people of her own social class), and solve several murders, including that of a Frenchman who was trying to steal her family’s estate and several people linked to the Communist Party in Britain. Bowen touches lightly on historical issues of the time, such as women’s independence and growing political unrest, but doesn’t dwell on them.

Georgie leaves London in the later books, heading back home to Scotland, to a spooky castle in Transylvania and gadding off to the French Riviera. There are seven books in the series so far, and I’ve read five of them, each one more entertaining than the last.

Many of my favorite series, mystery or not, have a cast of recurring characters, and this series is no exception. I love Georgie’s kind, plainspoken Cockney grandfather, her daring friend Belinda, and especially Darcy O’Mara, the dashing but penniless son of an Irish peer who has stolen Georgie’s heart. A large group of nobles and royals, including the queen herself, several princes and Georgie’s brother and mother, also reappear in each book.

If you’re looking for a cozy historical mystery with a highly amusing heroine, Her Royal Spyness might be just the ticket. I’m looking forward to more of Georgie’s adventures.

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