Book Review: Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen

Posted January 10, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Heirs and Graces by Rhys BowenHeirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen
Series: Her Royal Spyness #7
Genres: History, Mystery
on August 6, 2013
Pages: 295
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library


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

Also by this author: Queen of Hearts, Malice at the Palace, Crowned and Dangerous, On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service, The Tuscan Child, Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding, Love and Death Among the Cheetahs, The Last Mrs Summers

Seventh in the Her Royal Spyness historical mystery series and revolving around the Lady Georgiana in England in 1934.

My Take
It does make for an interesting switch with a primary character who is in line to the throne of England and worse than dirt poor. It’s certainly an interesting look at the Great Depression when seen from Georgiana’s perspective, and it does make you feel for her. Between the relatives and expectations, there isn’t much open to her, and yet she continually manages to find something.

Always an odd sort of something. And this particular story fulfills that odd with an unhappy family revolving around its miserable core.

I did enjoy the daunting dating at the start: “The Ides of March”…bwah-ha-ha. I was disappointed however to learn that Georgiana is starting to learn better. I had looked forward to her screwing up, royally [pun intended], when she took a job as a secretary—it reminded me of when we caught up with Georgiana in A Royal Pain, 2, but it appears that Georgiana does learn for she moves on to a fearsome prospect, the dreaded threat of being sent to play companion to an old lady. In this case, however, a most formidable lady, a dowager duchess to be precise with a son who should have been married off.

Georgiana does annoy me often. Why she lets her mother walk all over her, I’ll never understand. And while I do understand why she employs Queenie—she’s so affordable—I don’t see why she keeps her. She’s wearing something terrible on me.

Sweet bits in here about young Elisabeth (the current Queen of England) as well as insight into Margaret Rose! Interesting tidbit about “the weekend” as well. It does make sense.

That Cedric is certainly a major jerk. Didn’t his parents raise him to consider others?? As for Belinda…oh, boy. I’m not sure if I have no respect for her due to her morals or if I do respect her for her chutzpah.

I dunno. Young Jack is too Australian for words, and no, not in the nice way. Bowen has written him as caricature—I kept expecting him to suddenly jump out and yell gotcha. I must say, I thought the dowager duchess had explored all the inheritance possibilities before young Jack’s existence arose? And if the family is so well-off, why doesn’t the dowager duchess take off with Irene and the kids? Isn’t there a dower house? Why doesn’t she pay for the kids to go to school?

Oh, LOL, I do like Georgiana’s observation about Virginia needing to be more closely questioned…! I also liked her subtle point about the “inspector”! Hee-hee… He was a jerk with his prejudices and pushiness.

As for Jack, he’s a smart guy, and he’s certainly been told off enough times about manners. Why doesn’t he consider that the fox hunting may have rules he should know about? That the object of hunting may not be what he thinks? This is sloppy writing. I feel as if Bowen was off in la-la land while she was writing this, not having a care in the world as to whether the actions in the story made any sense.

Of course, this is one of those cozy mysteries, so perhaps we’re not supposed to look too closely. Parts of it are fun.

The Story
As usual, Mummy can’t see past the end of her nose, and she swans off to the Continent, leaving her daughter behind to find her own way.

Georgiana can’t see any way past it and asks the queen for help only to get sent to help the dowager duchess teach the new heir found on a sheep station in Australia.

The man he’s heir to is murderously angry about it—along with everything else—and fully intends to prevent his filling his shoes.

The Characters
Lady Georgiana Rannoch is the daughter and sister of a duke, the Duke of Glengarry and Rannoch, as well as a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, making King George a cousin. Binky is the brother, and he’s married to the awful Fig. Queenie is Georgiana’s disaster of a maid; she only keeps her on because she works for food and a roof over her head.

Mummy, a.k.a., the Bolter, is content as long as everyone revolves around her. She dumped the duke when Georgie was two and has made her way through swathes of men. Max von Strohheim, an extremely wealthy German industrialist, is her current beau.

Darcy O’Mara is the “absolutely dreamy chap” to whom Georgiana is unofficially engaged, AND he’s the son of an Irish peer. A totally broke one, which means Darcy has to work for his living “in dubious ways”.

Edwina, dowager Duchess of Eynsford, is one of the queen’s oldest friends. Cedric Altringham is Edwina’s very selfish son and the current Duke of Eynsford who refuses to do his duty. And Edwina is not one to let disaster hold her back. The heir is Viscount Farningham. John, a.k.a., Jack, was a risk-taking younger son, killed in the war. The only daughter, Irene, married the Russian Count Streletzki who took off with her money, leaving her with Sissy (Elisabeth) who’s been crippled in a fall and the twins, Katherine and Nicholas Gregorovitch, a.k.a., Ekaterina and Nikolai. Carter is their tutor (he’d been up at Oxford with Johnnie). Françoise is Irene’s maid. Princess [Charlotte] Orlovski (she’s fascinated by the occult) and the slutty, outspoken Countess [Virginia] Von Eisenheim are Edwina’s sisters. And they’re all living at Kingsdowne Place in Kent.

Elsie Hobbs is the head housemaid. William was one of the footmen before he was sacked; his parents are among the about-to-be dispossessed. Huxstep is the butler. I think Mrs. Broad is the housekeeper. Marcel is the French valet; Frederick is the late duke’s valet. I don’t know if the footman named Frederick is the same one. I wouldn’t think a valet would be demoted like that. Nanny takes care of Sissy, Nicholas, and Katherine.

Ida Binns was a schoolteacher in Australia with a son, Jack Altringham.

Cedric’s group of boys include Adrian who believes he’d look ravishing in a backless white dress and tiara; Jules who isn’t feeling the Welsh coal miner; and, Simon Wetherington who’s directing.

Detective Chief Inspector Fairbotham is with the Royal Kent Constabulary. Sergeant Stubbins is helping.

Belinda Warburton-Stoke, one of Georgiana’s friends, has delusions of fashion design threading through her mind. Unfortunately Coco Chanel took exception to some of her designs. Great-aunt Primrose Haversham may well be a relative.

Queen Mary is Georgiana’s cousin-in-law, and she has a job for her.

Mrs. Tombs is the horrible cook and housekeeper for the house off the Thames. Mr. Smedly is an architect. Dr. Bradley is the local doctor. Mr. Camden-Smythe is the family solicitor.

The Cover
The cover does remind one of Downton Abbey with its stately home in the background, Lady Georgiana in her hunting jacket atop her horse at the fore, and the hunt preparing to head out. Per usual, the wide ribbon with its gold lace trim showcases the title and series name.

The title is just that, a multitude of potential Heirs and Graces.

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