on August 6, 2013
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Also in this series: The Twelve Clues of Christmas
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.
If Nancy Drew had been born an impoverished royal, 35th in line for the throne, she might have been Lady Georgianna Rannoch.
The ‘Her Royal Spyness’ mysteries, of which Heirs and Graces is the seventh, are light cozy mysteries set in the 1930s among England’s (and Europe’s) high society. Georgie is charmingly matter-of-fact, intelligent but not well-educated (a fact that leaves her woefully unprepared to earn her own living), and surprisingly down to earth without being common (in any sense of the term.) Her impecunious state leads her to take on odd jobs, often for the Queen, while her curiosity, relative fearlessness, and naivete in some areas lead Georgie into various madcap scrapes and the occasional spot of real danger. Often on hand to rescue her is Darcy O’Mara, younger son of an Irish peer, mysterious adventurer, and Georgie’s sweetheart.
In Heirs and Graces, Georgie is invited to Kingsdowne Place to help teach Jack Altringham, the long-lost heir to a dukedom, how to behave in polite British society. Raised in the Australian outback, poor Jack is none too keen to inherit despite his relative poverty. But within a day or two of his arrival, the Duke, Jack’s unpleasant uncle, is discovered dead — with Jack’s knife in his back.
There are plenty of suspects. The Duke’s artistic proteges (and likely toy boys) are put out over his plans to adopt his French valet — a plan which also gives both Jack and his grandmother, the very traditional Dowager Duchess, a motive, for such a move would presumably supplant Jack as heir. In addition, there’s a former footman with a double grudge: not only did the Duke sack him after years of service, but the Duke’s planned theater would require demolishing the cottages in which the man’s parents live. Georgie, with her usual pluck (and inability to stay out of things) sets out to figure out who the real culprit is.
The result is a delightful glimpse into the fading but still privileged life of the British aristocracy circa 1934, and a cozy mystery with a surprising and Christiesque twist at the end. Neither high drama nor great literature, this enjoyable, frothy, and well-plotted series will nonetheless appeal to fans of Christie, Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, and other series set among Britain’s upper crust.