Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Salon: Visiting with Rhys Bowmen, Royalty and a Giveaway

Can you believe it’s already the last Sunday Salon of July and fall is just around the corner? 

Hard to image we’ll soon be cooped up inside as cold weather descends on us. But no matter the weather, it’s always a good time to read an intriguing mystery and do I have one for you today. It’s my pleasure to 9780425260029welcome New York Times bestselling author Rhys Bowen here today to talk about the latest release in her Royal Spyness Mystery series, HEIRS AND GRACES.

Thanks to Rhys and the lovely Kayleigh at Penguin, I have one copy of HEIRS AND GRACES to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for the details. Now here’s a brief look at HEIRS AND GRACES:

    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 

Now here’s Rhys to talk about ‘Living with Her Royal Spyness.

I’m always fascinated by the American fascination with royalty. Why did the colonies fight so hard to get rid of a king, only to spend the next two hundred years wishing they had one? Well, maybe the fantasy aura of royalty is better than the reality.

I can’t tell you exactly why I decided to write a book about the royal family. I have certainly enjoyed writing about a long-ago spunky female detective (Molly Murphy, who has now appeared in six books and is going strong). Historical mysteries have so many juicy motives that don’t exist any longer: I love another but I am not free. I am the true heir to the fortune. I will ruin you with the secret of your illegitimate child. In addition detectives in those days really had to work for their living. No DNA or other modern forensic methods to help them solve their crimes. Just good old fashioned sleuthing and use of the little grey cells.

In fact this series came into being because my editor had been urging me to write a big, dark standalone. I kept toying with serial killers, child molesters and terrorists and finally asked myself whether I wanted to spend six months in such company. The answer was a resounding NO. So a silly idea crept into my head. What if my sleuth was a sheltered, upper class British girl in the 1930s—what if she was a member of the royal family, not allowed to work, to go out unchaperoned, and destined to marry to some chinless, spineless, buck-toothed and utter awful European royal. Trying to solve a murder would indeed be a challenge, and fun. I would have a chance to poke fun at the British class system and chuckle to myself as I wrote.

And so HER ROYAL SPYNESS  was born. However, the moment I visualized Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, I found that this was royal family life turned upside down. She may be cousin to the king of England. She may be destined to make a good marriage, thus cementing ties with a potential enemy, but she is penniless. She is too far from the line of succession to get any public money. Her father gambled away the last of his fortune. Her brother is saddled with horrendous death duties and can barely keep the Scottish estate running. He certainly can’t afford to go on keeping Georgie after she has come out into society.

So in the first book, she bolts to London and tries living on her own. Not an easy task for one who has never done a thing for herself. How does one light a fire and where
does milk come from? So she does the only logical thing—she starts a house cleaning service. Little do the owners of the London mansions know that their furniture is being dusted by the 34th in line to the throne, and that their loo is being cleaned with the bath brush!

Then the queen asks her to act as her spy. It seems the Prince of Wales has met a most unsuitable American woman. Georgie takes all this in her stride, until she finds a body in her bathtub and someone is trying to kill her.

I have now written seven books in the series, and as it progressed I realized something: Georgie was becoming me. Things that happened to her had happened to me in my youth in London. I had had a disastrous attempt at modeling. I had endured a most uncomfortable tea with the present queen. I had a friend who had habitually crashed society weddings.

Then I realized why this character was so closely mirroring my own life: like Georgie I have straddled the British class system enough to make me an observer and outsider. Georgie’s father was a royal duke but her mother an actress, whose father lives in a semi-detached house with gnomes in the front garden. My family was respectably professional — my mother was a school principal and my father a research engineer. But my father was self made, self educated and claimed to be a cockney (although I doubt he could have heard the sound of Bow Bells from where he was born). At school and college I started mingling with the daughters of society. My friend’s brother dated Princess Anne. And then I married into an upper class family whose royal roots go back to Edward the Third and who had owned Sutton Place. Suddenly I was meeting cousins with ridiculous nicknames like Fig and Podge. I was visiting relatives who live in stately homes, and I became horribly aware of how important the class system is to British society, even today.

Remember when William and Kate almost broke up because her mother was deemed too lower class for using the word “toilet” instead of “lavatory. It was huge in Britain. Headlines screamed “toiletgate.” The British upper class is still remarkably cruel, horribly snobby and make sure that those below them never cross class barriers. One can never ascend to the upper class, even today. 

Giving Georgie one grandmother who was Queen Victoria’s daughter and one who sold fish in the East End has created the opportunity for my own wicked digs at the British class system, written by one who knows both sides, as Georgie does. When you read these book you’ll laugh, but as you laugh, remember it is all still happening today.

Oh, Rhys thanks so much for joining us and giving us this look at Georgie and how she came to be. With the new addition to the Royal Family, it will be interesting to see if any changes come about. You do have a most intriguing series here.

HEIRS AND GRACES (which debuts August 6th)  is the seventh book in the Royal Spyness Series. It has been billed as the perfect fix between seasons for Downton Abbey addicts and in deed the story centers around the heir to a dukedom, discovered in the Australian Outback. Think of Crocodile Dundee coming to Downton. 

Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of 2 mystery series and winner of many awards including both Agatha and Anthony. Born and raised in Britain she now divides her time between California and Arizona.

For more on Rhys and her writing, visit her website at

GIVEAWAY DETAILS: To enter this giveaway, please send me an e-mail ( with the subject line, “Win Heirs and Graces.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only. Just so you know, I don’t share this information with anyone other than the publisher nor use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance to win a copy of HEIRS AND GRACES is 8 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, Aug. 6.

Thanks so much for joining us today. Are you fascinated by the Royal Family or just a bit interested? Do you think Georgie would make a perfect new addition to the real Royal Family?


  1. I am one of those Americans who is fascinated by the Royal Family. I think maybe we are fascinated/interested in the Royals because we have never experienced it and their lifestyle is appealing. I am not sure Georgie would be a good addition to the Real Royal Family because she is such a goof, although she has not done things as bad as Harry has at times.

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Rhys.

    Rhys - Thanks for sharing what went on in the creation of your newest series. I think you're right that a lot of Americans are fascinated by royalty, so it makes sense to explore that in a series. I wish you much success.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.