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Naughty in Nice
by Rhys Bowen
Series: Her Royal Spyness #5
Other books by this author that I've reviewed include Evans Above, Evan Help Us, Evanly Choirs, Bless the Bride, The Last Illusion, Evan and Elle, Evan Can Wait, Evans to Betsy, Evan Only Knows, Her Royal Spyness, A Royal Pain, Royal Flush, Evan's Gate, Royal Blood, Evan Blessed, Evanly Bodies, Rhys Bowen, Hush Now, Don't You Cry, The Twelve Clues of Christmas, The Family Way, Heirs and Graces, Queen of Hearts, Malice at the Palace, Crowned and Dangerous.
Genres: Historical Mystery
Fifth in the Her Royal Spyness mystery series. This story revolves around the Lady Georgiana Rannoch in 1933.
In 2012, Naughty in Nice was nominated for the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award and the Macavity Award for Sue Feder Historical Mystery; in 2011, it won the Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel.
Fun, fluffy mystery which rather reminds me of Charles Todd’s Bess Crawford series in its presentation of upper class manners, but much more lighthearted in its storyline. The back story isn’t very deep — I hadn’t realized it was the fifth in a series. Definitely a good (and homey) beach read with some interesting characters, a touch of history, and a peek at how the upper-class coped with the Depression — all in the spirit of good times.
Bowen is confusing when she wrote that Georgie noticed in the paper that nothing was said as to how the peer died, implying that the wife couldn’t know and yet, when they spoke earlier, it was Georgie who did all the talking. Another quibble is after Georgie has discovered the name of the girl impersonating her, but she doesn’t tell Granddad or anyone else who it is before she heads out again.
A royal with no income, Lady Georgiana is commissioned by Queen Mary to retrieve an antique snuffbox stolen during a New Year Honors reception by Sir Toby Groper. Who is currently in Nice which gives Georgie the chance to travel to the Riviera and sponge off Fig’s sister and husband — well, Fig did say she’d be welcome and this is a chance to put one in her eye! Oh, and, if Georgie has the opportunity, the queen would like her to spy on the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Simpson.
Georgie does get the chance to travel but then goes one better when she encounters friends with a much nicer villa who actually serve up food and give her a bedroom as opposed to a cot in the library. Taken under Vera and Coco’s wing, they fit her up with a much better wardrobe and talk her into modeling Coco’s new take on women’s wear, all of which results in disaster.
It certainly open sup Georgie’s social and romantic horizon — it’s one way to get over Darcy’s betrayal. And gives her the opportunity to finagle an invitation from her target, Sir Toby. It seems, however, that Georgie’s luck continues to unravel. Murder, an impostor, charges brought against Georgie…it’s not looking good…
It’s a colorful cast! Lady Georgiana Rannoch is the sister to the third Duke of Glen Garry and Rannoch and 34th in line to the throne, but there’s no money. Nor has Lady Georgiana been educated for anything practical. Instead she’s serving up soup at a soup kitchen outside Victoria Station. Her brother, Binky, is weak with a good heart and for some reason is married to the newly pregnant Fig, a crass, crude, money-grubbing, selfish duchess. Binky and Fig do have one child already, Podge. Mummie, a.k.a., Claire Daniels, is notorious in her set for two things: she’s an actress who married the second Duke and then divorced him to cut a swath through men of wealth. Queenie is Georgie’s maid and niece to Mrs. Huggins, a neighbor and dear friend of her maternal grandfather’s. Queenie is hopeless as a maid but does make up for it, a bit, with enthusiasm.
Coco Chanel plays a part, providing the excuse to borrow Queen Mary’s necklace. Vera Bate Lombardi, born on the wrong side of the blanket — her father is considered to be the Duke of Cambridge, Prince of Teck, while her mother was married to someone else — is friends with Coco Chanel and related to the Queen.
Sir Toby Groper is a baronet and extremely wealthy due to his manufacturing interests — and the fact that he’ll screw over anyone — and his name certainly fits his character! He also has a villa in Nice. Johnson is his newest valet. His wife, Margaret, Lady Groper, is rather decent and the son, Bobby, seems like he’s rather fun if without morals.
Jean-Paul, Marquis de Ronchard, is extremely wealthy and, apparently, extremely interested in Georgie. Darcy O’Mara is an impoverished heir to something in Ireland, and Georgie is in love with him. But doesn’t see much of him. Seems to do some kind of spying. Belinda Warburton-Stoke is a glamorous friend of Georgie’s. The duke and duchess are staying in Nice with Foggy Farquhar and his wife, Ducky, Fig’s sister. Foggy is a philandering ass while Ducky…well, let’s just say that Ducky is worse than Fig.
The Cover and Title
The cover is quite cheery with Lady Georgiana in a pale gray herringbone suit, flute of champagne in hand, smirking at us as she looks over her shoulder while she sits on a terrace overlooking a clay tennis court, the city of Nice, and the beach, a great palm tree shading her from the sun.
The title is certainly appropriate — I do love how it’s set in the lime green border with its orange trim across the bottom of the cover — as Lady Georgiana is certainly being quite Naughty in Nice.