Reading is many things: mind expansion, travel, exposure to different viewpoints, inspiration, etc, but sometimes for me it is survival. Sometimes placing one foot in a fantasy world helps me manage less structured times and the boredom I have been known to suffer in those times. I like a break but then I’m over it quickly. I get shifty. I keep my brain alive by darting in and out of a fantasy world of someone else’s making.
Not all books are carved out for fantasy darting. I didn’t dart in and out of, like, War and Peace or another round of Don Quixote. No.
Her Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen:
Queen of Hearts, Malice at the Palace, Crowned and Dangerous, On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service
This series is too unbearably easy to binge on. I found them on one of those Audible sales where they are crafty buggers and let you have the first in a series for free. I binged on a bunch in 2013-2014 as I was returning to feeling like myself after the entrance of a tiny little boy I made, stalling out at Queen of Hearts.
The main character, Georgiana Rannoch, is in line for the British throne in the 1930’s, too far away to actually have a chance and a poor relation to boot, but still considered aristocracy with everything that goes along with it. She solves high society murder mysteries in the historical context of the world at that time. So not only is it the delicious historical fiction that has me googling the people who drop into the plot line, it has a handful of very fun recurring characters who serve to up the drama, each in their own way: a bad girl best friend, a selfish but glamorous mother, an inept lady’s maid, a reliable cockney grandfather, a horrid sister in law, and a dashing love interest. She rarely has any money and people are always getting killed and complicating things in settings all over the world at that time and place:
Queen of Hearts is on a ship and in 1930’s Hollywood, Malice at the Palace is in the apartments of Buckingham Palace, Crowned and Dangerous is in Ireland, and most of On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service is in Italy. Georgie starts off as awkward but she is becoming more worldly and assertive as she moves through the novels, less clumsy, less shy. Often in cozies or series the growth of the main character isn’t important, but Bowen seems to have prioritized that. It makes Georgie more believable as a character because she is a young adult and so much change and growing up happens in that part of your life. And with relatable flaws to make her likeable, to make you root for her to unmask the killer and save the day.
It’s a rare series for me to want to keep going, as I can get bored of the same people, but I don’t get bored of this cast of characters. I am always amused when they show up to play their roles.
Also, these books are best enjoyed on audio. The late Katharine Kellgren was a genius with all the different voices and accents of the world at that time, even doing the men believably. I prefer these on audio but I did devour some by reading the old fashioned way. She brought these stories to life on audio. There won’t be another one made by Ms. Kellgren, unfortunately, but she is definitely my favorite narrator. I think the fact I enjoy the stories so much will get me through getting used to another narrator, but I am not happy about it.
So I spent Christmas break trying to figure out mysteries for the elite in the western world of the 1930s . It was nice for holiday down time, as I burned myself out on Christmas super early this year with the early snow and all the things we did with our son. And I was strict about not starting with any challenges until the year actually changed over. I am the picture of discipline.