‘A Royal Pain’ by Rhys Bowen

arp rbSTORY: The Queen of England has concocted a plan in which Georgie is to entertain a Bavarian princess? and conveniently place her in the playboy Prince’s path, in the hopes that he might finally marry.

But queens never take money into account. Georgie has very little, which is why she moonlights as a maid-in-disguise. She must draw up plans: clean house to make it look like a palace; have Granddad and her neighbor pretend to be the domestic staff; un-teach Princess Hanni the English she’s culled from American gangster movies; cure said Princess of her embarrassing shoplifting habit; and keep an eye on her at parties.

Then there’s the worrying matter of the body in the bookshop and Hanni’s unwitting involvement with the Communist Party. It’s enough to drive a girl crazy…

REVIEW: Lady Georgiana (Georgie) Rannoch is the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and a cousin to His Majesty, the current King.  While that sounds quite glamorous, unfortunately, Georgie has very little money and is always trying to keep up appearances and be at the beck and call of the Queen.  So, when she is summoned to Buckingham Palace for tea with the Queen, she knows she has a job for her.

Bavarian Princess Maria Theresa Hannelore Wilhelmina Mathilda (Hanni) has just come out of a convent where she has been schooled.  The Queen has invited her to England in hopes of pairing her up with her son, Prince David, and getting him away from Wallis Simpson.  The Queen has asked Georgie to take Hanni under her wing and show her around London.  As one can never say no to the Queen, Georgie agrees and then almost panics when she wonders where she will find the money to do all of this.  Ah, but Georgie is a very smart gal and she comes up with a plan.  She gets her brother to let her use Rannoch House in London along with some funds to run it.  Then, she enlists her grandfather’s and his friend’s help to act as butler and cook.

When Hanni arrives, Georgie is taken aback by the vocabulary she has learned by watching American gangster movies.  Hanni wants to cut loose by going to parties and enjoying wonderful restaurants.  But Hanni’s companion poses problems as well with her constant complaining about the food and accommodations.

Georgie takes Hanni to some parties where there is a lot of drinking and then to a house and garden party outside of London.  During this time, Hanni meets a young man who is advocating the Communist party which is not good at all.  When people start dying, things turn frightening so Georgie dons her sleuth hat to try to find the murderer.

This is the second of Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series.  I’ve read several books in the series and each of them is wonderful.  I hope to complete reading all of the series.

Connie for b2b

‘Malice at the Palace’ by Rhys Bowen

matp rbSTORY: Lady Georgiana Rannoch won’t deny that being thirty-fifth in line for the British throne has its advantages. Unfortunately, money isn’t one of them. And sometimes making ends meet requires her to investigate a little royal wrongdoing.

While my beau Darcy is off on a mysterious mission, I am once again caught between my high birth and empty purse. I am therefore relieved to receive a new assignment from the Queen—especially one that includes lodging. The King’s youngest son, George, is to wed Princess Marina of Greece, and I shall be her companion at the supposedly haunted Kensington Palace.

My duties are simple: help Marina acclimate to English life, show her the best of London and, above all, dispel any rumors about George’s libertine history. Perhaps that last bit isn’t so simple.

George is known for his many affairs with women as well as men—including the great songwriter Noel Coward. But things truly get complicated when I search the Palace for a supposed ghost only to encounter an actual dead person: a society beauty said to have been one of Prince George’s mistresses.

Nothing spoils a royal wedding more than murder, and the Queen wants the whole matter hushed. But as the investigation unfolds—and Darcy, as always, turns up in the most unlikely of places—the investigation brings us precariously close to the prince himself.

REVIEW: London – 1934

Lady Georgiana (Georgie) Rannoch is the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and a cousin to His Majesty, the current King.  Her life sounds quite glamorous, but actually not so much.  Too often, she finds herself without funds and reduced to existing on eating beans on toast.  Ah, but things are looking up for her when she is summoned by Queen Mary to come for tea.  There, she was asked to move into Kensington Palace for a time to be a friend to Princess Marina who is to be arriving in London soon to prepare for her wedding to Prince George.  Georgie happily agrees and knows she will enjoy showing her around London.

As it turns out, the area of the Palace where she will stay is a bit small and somewhat shabby.

She has also brought her maid, Queenie, with her.  Poor Queenie tries but she is much too lazy and sassy.  However, Georgie would feel bad if she fired her.  In addition, she gets away with paying her the minimum which is all she can afford.  The Palace is known for its ghosts which don’t frighten Georgie but terrifies Queenie.

Georgie quickly settles in and is delighted with the sweet and lovely Princess Marina and together they enjoy shopping, lunches at nice places and soirees with famous people such as Noel Coward.  But when Georgie finds a woman’s body just outside the Palace doors, she gets involved with the police in trying to find the killer.  Georgie has a lot of experience with this because as it happens, this is not the first time she has encountered murder.

Life gets quite busy for her trying to hide the incident from upsetting the Princess and other royals while trying to solve the mystery herself.  She wishes that her boyfriend, the Honorable Darcy O’Mara, the son of Lord Kilhenny, was here.  A handsome man, they have been in a relationship for sometime now and Darcy keeps saying that soon they will be able to get married.  But his covert background is so hush-hush that finding time to even be together for a short time is difficult.  But Georgie remains patient.

As time for the wedding nears, things get a bit tense when it seems that Prince George himself could be a suspect!

I absolutely love the author’s Royal Spyness Mystery Series.  This is the eighth book in the series.  The name dropping and humor always leave me snorting in laughter!  I hope others will discover these books and enjoy them as well.

Connie for b2b

‘The Third Wife’ by Lisa Jewell

ttw lj2STORY: A tragic accident? Or suicide?

Her grief-stricken husband, Adrian, is determined to find out.

Maya had a job she enjoyed; she had friends. They’d been in love.

She even got on with his two previous wives and their children. In fact, they’d all been one big happy family.

But before long Adrian starts to identify the dark cracks in his perfect life.
Because everyone has secrets.
And secrets have consequences.
Some of which can be devastating.

REVIEW: Maya Wolfe was a sweet young woman in love with her husband, Adrian.  Surprisingly, her life was a strange one in that her relationship with her husband’s two ex-wives and all of their children was good.

Adrian first married Susie with whom he had two children.  Then he met Caroline and divorced Susie to marry Caroline with whom he had three children.  Some years later, he met Maya, fell in love with her, divorced Caroline and married Maya.  Yes, Adrian is a busy man who seems to be in love with love.  The families are all friends and spend holidays and vacation times together.  Adrian loves his kids and strives to be with them as much as possible.

One day, Maya goes to a bar, gets insanely drunk and steps out in front of a bus where she is killed.  All Adrian is left with is “Why?” – oh – and Maya’s cat.  Knowing he is not a cat person, he puts an ad up to find the cat a home and a young woman named Jane answers the ad and comes to see the cat.  She tells Adrian that she will think about it and let him know.

As Adrian struggles to come to grips with Maya’s death and what could have driven her to this end, certain clues emerge that seem to point to this not being an accidental death.  Perhaps the Wolfe family is not as stable as one would think.  Problems with each of the children appear and when threatening emails addressed to Maya (that she had hidden) Adrian takes matters into his hands and involves the police in the investigation.

What happened to Maya?  Who sent those awful messages to this sweet woman and why?  Who is this Jane person?  She seems to be involved somehow.

The characters are well written and the story is interesting.  However, I felt that Adrian was a clueless clod.  I enjoyed this novel but cannot say that I was very impressed with it.  As this is the first of the author’s novels that I have read, I think I would be willing to read more and hope they will be better than this one.
Connie for b2b

‘Queen of Hearts’ by Rhys Bowen

rb qoh1STORY: 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…

REVIEW: Lady Georgiana (Georgie) Rannoch, is a cousin to His Majesty and thirty-fifth in line to the British throne.  So, you would think she lives an easy life, right?  Not so much.  Actually, she spends most of her time with relatives and now she is staying with some elderly ladies in their large home.  Although she is eating well, she is completely bored.
When her mother arrives unexpectedly, she is whisked away to go with her on a sea voyage to New York and then on to Reno.  Her mother is well known as a movie star from the silent movie past who has retained her figure and her beauty.  Her current husband is a wealthy American man living on a ranch.  This is not the life her mother desires.  So, she is off to Reno to get a quickie divorce from him so she can marry another man with whom she has lived. Her mother is notorious for never sharing money with Georgie which leaves her constantly having to scrimp.
Georgie’s long time boyfriend, Darcy O’Mara, is always on one government mission after another which means their time together is rather limited.  When Georgie meets up with him on the ship, she is delighted but told that he is working incognito now on a secret mission.
We follow Georgie and her sullen and rather uncouth maid, Queenie, along with her mother to New York where they shop for some clothes before leaving on the last leg of their journey. It is a real boon to Georgie when her mother agrees to buy Georgie some well-needed clothes.
After a train ride to Reno, they realize that they have arrived in a dusty, sparse city which is quite unappealing.  By the time her mother has set up residency for her six-week period to get her divorce, they meet Cy Goldman of Goldman Pictures in Hollywood.  Familiar with Georgie’s mother, he insists she go to Hollywood to act in a movie he is making.  It would be the first talkie movie for her.
Hollywood finds Georgie enjoying the nice weather and meeting many well-known movie stars.  When they are all invited to a weekend holiday at Mr. Goldman’s huge mansion high on a cliff, things turn tragic and Mr. Goldman is murdered.  This is where Georgie again dons her sleuth’s hat and works to solve the mystery.
Once again, Rhys Bowen has penned another great Royal Spyness Mystery.  I am a huge fan of them and love the characters.  There are lots of chuckles and the book is sprinkled with well-known people such as Charlie Chaplin and the well-known and disliked Mrs. Simpson.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and look forward to even more from Ms. Bowen.
Connie for b2b

‘Big Little Lies’ by Liane Moriarty

lm bllSTORY: Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. . . 
A murder…  a tragic accident… or just parents behaving badly?
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:   Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.   New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

REVIEW: This novel is set in the small seaside town of Pirriwee in Sydney Australia and the story centers around the parents of children attending Pirriwee Public (elementary) School.  We first meet several mothers of rising kindergarten students as it leads up to the first day of school.  On the first day of school, one little girl accuses a little boy of trying to choke her and the uproar begins.  Some parents are on one side and some on another.  We get to know the individual mothers, their children, fathers, and school personnel.  Each of these characters have been perfectly portrayed by the author.
I have compared the book to one I read recently that centered around the humor of “playground politics” – “The Hive” by Gill Hornby.  This was a great read, however, “Big Little Lies” is much deeper than that.
As the story progresses toward the big Trivia night, we learn that a tragedy has happened but we don’t know what.  The answer is toward the end of the book of course so you have to hang in there and get to it.  Believe me, it’s definitely worth waiting for.
The lives of some of these mothers are laid open for readers to examine and see how they really live versus how others may think they live.  Many obstacles faced by these families are ones that many of us face today.  One, as you will learn, is much worse than the usual.
To me, reading each page was like unwrapping yet another layer to get down to a deep, dark secret.  The book was written so smoothly and in a totally engrossing manner.  I didn’t want to stop reading for a second and before I knew it, I had devoured a near-500 page book.
I’m trying to be very careful to not give out any spoilers here.  I just hope that you will open this novel and learn the secret.  I promise you that it will be a book you long remember.
Connie for b2b
Complementary copy received from Chick Lit Central

‘The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress’ by Ariel Lawhon

al twtmatmSTORY: A tantalizing reimagining of a scandalous mystery that rocked the nation in 1930-Justice Joseph Crater’s infamous disappearance-as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.

They say behind every great man, there’s a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge’s wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge’s bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband’s recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city’s most notorious gangster, Owney “The Killer” Madden.

On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge’s involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?

After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge’s favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks-one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale-of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.

With a layered intensity and prose as effervescent as the bubbly that flows every night, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a wickedly entertaining historical mystery that will transport readers to a bygone era with tipsy spins through subterranean jazz clubs and backstage dressing rooms. But beneath the Art Deco skyline and amid the intoxicating smell of smoke and whiskey, the question of why Judge Crater disappeared lingers seductively until a twist in the very last pages.

REVIEW: This well-known story is one that is new to me.  I was not familiar with the disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater in August 1930 but I soon became captivated by the story.  Followers of the TV show, “Boardwalk,” would probably enjoy this novel.

During this time period, there was a lot of corruption surrounding gangsters, law enforcement officials and a group called Tammany Hall.  When Judge Crater went missing, there were three women in his life who had direct association with him and could have been his killer.  

Crater’s wife, Stella, knew he was a ladies man but spends much of her time at her summer home in Maine.  Their maid, Maria, keeps the home in New York clean and was privy to some of the shady dealings in the judge’s life.  In addition, his girlfriend, Ritzi, a showgirl, was the last person to see him alive.

The story switches back and forth among these three women and the events leading up to Crater’s disappearance and afterward.  Combined with documented facts plus the author’s supposition of what might have happened has put together an interesting puzzle that keeps the reader guessing to the end.

If you like a good mystery and are interested in the gangster life in New York in the 1930’s, this would be a good read for you.  I enjoyed it and liked how the author put a personal face to each of the women involved in this riddle.

Here is the Wikipedia background of this famous story:  

Connie for b2b

‘The Winter People’ by Jennifer McMahon

jmcm twpSTORY: The New York Times bestselling author of Promise Not to Tell returns with a simmering literary thriller about ghostly secrets, dark choices, and the unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters . . . sometimes too unbreakable.

West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara’s fate, she discovers that she’s not the only person who’s desperately looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.

REVIEW: Sara Harrison Shea lived in West Hall, Vermont.  In 1908, she was savagely murdered.  She was only 31.  The story goes that she was married and the mother of two deceased children.  The loss of her children affected her deeply.  Her son passed away when he was a baby.  However, when at age 9, her daughter, Gertie, was found dead at the bottom of a well, her sanity was pushed over the edge.  People say that Sara’s ghost is still with us.

Ruthie Washburne now lives in Sara’s house with her Mom and her little sister.  Her father passed away recently and her Mom has always been very strict with her.  Her parents have preferred to live their lives in a  private way and have even eschewed many modern necessities such as the internet.  While Ruthie doesn’t believe the ghost stories about Sara, she is very wary of the thick woods behind the house.  When one day her mother vanishes, she and her sister, aided by her boyfriend, begin a search for her. They find a diary of Sara’s and other items in the house that takes them deeper into a story that opens a world of fear that terrifies Ruthie.

The tale of Sara reaches out even further to touch the lives of Katherine and Gary.  They had lost their young son to leukemia a few years back and are grief stricken.  Gary seems to be the one having the most difficult time with the loss.  When one day he fails to return home, Katherine finds that he has been killed in an auto accident in an an area unknown to her – West Hall, Vermont.  Katherine is determined to uncover the mystery of why he was there.

All of these lives weave together to find all the pieces of Sara’s diary and uncover the truth that has been hidden for such a long time.

This story was magnificent.  It switches back and forth from present day to 1908 as the reader learns new clues that solves this mystery in an edge-of-the-seat way.  I highly recommend it!

*Connie for b2b

*Book provided by my local library.