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Thursday, August 7, 2014
Her Royal Spyness: Living Life as Lady Georgie
I’m delighted today to be a part of author Rhys Bowen’s virtual book tour for her latest release, QUEEN OF HEARTS: A Royal Spyness Mystery, the eighth installment in her national bestselling Royal Spyness Mystery series.
Set in early 20th century England, QUEEN OF HEARTS (Berkley Prime Crime, Hardcover) hit bookshelves Tuesday, Aug. 5, and follows Georgie on her latest adventure to America.
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. Georgie’s 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 moral support, and since all expenses are paid for by her mother’s new hubby-to-be, Max, Georgie agrees to make the voyage with her. Crossing the Atlantic, with adventure in the air and wealthy men aboard, Georgie’s mother all but forgets about Max and matrimony—especially when movie mogul Cy Goldman insists on casting her in his next picture. Meanwhile, Georgie finds herself caught up in the secret investigation of a suspected jewel thief. Lucky for Georgie, the lead investigator happens to be her dashing beau, Darcy! Georgie’s 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.
Here’s what some are saying about the Royal Spyness Mystery series: “Whimsical…Bowen successfully melds a whodunit with comedy as few contemporary writers can.”—Publishers Weekly (Starred review) “Wonderful characters…a delight.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris “Georgie’s high spirits and the author’s frothy prose are utterly captivating.”—The Denver Post Please join me in welcoming Rhys here as she talks about ‘Living life as Lady Georgie.’
Writers are always told to ‘write what you know’. I write about a young woman who is 35th in line to the throne of England in the 1930s. And I have to confess that I am neither royal, nor am I old enough to remember the time between the wars. But I have enough in common with Lady Georgie, my heroine, to know what her life was like.
She has grown up in a lonely Scottish castle with the wind whistling along the corridors. I also grew up in a big drafty house in the country (but in Kent rather than Scotland). It was spooky with creaking doors and flapping rugs. And I was a lonely child. We lived outside the village. My father ran the factory and my mother was school principal so other children viewed me with suspicion and didn’t want to get too close to me.
I had too much time to myself and spent it in our acre of orchard playing games of pretend.—I was a circus star swinging from the trapeze I had rigged up in the tree. But my favorite game was pretending I was Queen of Swanley. I’d go out on my bike and give the TV narration in my head as I rode. “The Queen of Swanley goes out in her coach to greet her loyal subjects.” And I’d nod and give the royal wave to anyone I passed. They must have thought I was quite batty.
When I grew up I married into an upper class family who did have cousins with funny nicknames and stately homes and I heard tales about what the butler did and family ghosts. I have friends who were presented at court and moved in fashionable circles back when there really were fashionable circles. So I’ve been able to get a good feel for what Lady Georgie’s life was like in England. But I’ve sent her abroad in a couple of books now and that has required some tough research.
For example, before I wroteNAUGHTY IN NICEI had to spend a grueling two weeks on the French Riviera. Such hardships! So many bistros to sample. Actually, joking aside, I did spend a lot of time going through old photos in the library, touring every inch of the Negresco Hotel, looking at old maps and making sure all the details were right for when my heroine came to visit.
And I did the same for my new book,QUEEN OF HEARTS. This story takes Georgie across the Atlantic to America for the first time. So I did what any good researcher should do. I crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 11. This ship was built to replicate the 1930s experience. It is a liner in the traditional design, not a top heavy cruise ship. It’s sleek and gorgeous. The interiors are sumptuous and art deco is everywhere. Music is playing in every public space and tea is served with white gloves. There were monogrammed slippers at the bottom of my bed and chocolates on my pillow. It was the height of luxury and pampering for me.
And suddenly it struck me—the people who made that crossing on the original Queen Mary took this kind of service for granted. This was just their home life transferred to a ship. There was always someone to prepare their meals, turn down their beds, put out their slippers, entertain them. They probably never even thought “oh how lovely” when they were served scones and clotted cream by a gloved waiter at tea. It’s things like this that really hit home to me what life must have been like for aristocrats before WWII. How incredibly different from our own.
I can read old diaries, biographies, watch old movies, look at old photos, even interview those who still remember the Thirties (not many left any more, I’m afraid). But nothing beats reliving the experience for myself. I’m just not planning to send Georgie to Antarctica!
Rhys, thanks for joining us today and sharing this look at living Georgie’s life. I always knew research could be tough, but I didn’t really how bad it could be. Your trip on the Queen Mary 11 sounds like fun.
Now let me share a bit of background on Agatha and Anthony award-winning author Rhys.
Rhys Bowen is also the author of the Molly Murphy mysteries and the Constable Evans mysteries. She was born in England and now divides her time between Northern California and Arizona.
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