"Naughty in Nice" by Rhys Bowen
Berkley Prime Crime, 328 pp., $24.95
Reviewed by David Marshall James
Lady Georgie Rannoch may be thirty-fourth in line to the British throne (this being 1933), but her prospects of escaping a chilling January in London look bleak.
Georgie's late Daddy, the Duke of Rannoch, partied and gambled away much of the family fortune, although the present Duke, Georgie's (half) brother, Binky, continues to maintain the family castle in the Scottish Highlands, along with a townhouse in London.
Still and all, the Rannochs are "land poor," and the jam's rather thin on the toast, especially for Georgie, who-- at 22-- is past expected to marry well into the nobility, preferably someone with oodles of moolah.
Georgie has found a titled gentleman. Her beloved, Darcy O'Mara, belongs to the Irish peerage. Intense blue eyes, dark curly locks, and all.
However, his family is also cash-strapped-- what with the Great Depression-- although Darcy travels about and abroad, engaging in mysterious "assignments."
Just as Georgie resolves herself to the notion that winter may outlast the coal supply, she is rescued with an assignment of her own-- from the Queen, no less. That would be Queen Mary, wife of King George V, the present Queen's Grandmother.
Pray tell, queries Queen Mary, would Georgie please (on the palace's pounds sterling) take the luxury train to the French Riviera on a mission to retrieve one of Her Majesty's prized snuffboxes, a gift from the doomed Louis XVI to the equally doomed Marie Antoinette?
The major drawback would be Georgie's hopelessly out-of-mode wardrobe. How's a gal s'posed to catch a wealthy guy sans glad rags?
Chin up, Old Bean: You're about to run into Coco Chanel by the Med, by the Med, by the beautiful Med.
And your Cuz, the Prince of Wales, and his inamorata, Wallis Warfield Simpson-- trailing her husband at that-- are also living it up in Nice and its environs, including the Duke of Westminster's yacht.
You're also going to espy Darcy, pitching you a major curve ball.
Thefts and murders are also in the offering.
However, so's your globe- (and bed-) hopping Mum, as well as beaucoup de champagne, oysters, caviar, and other dainties. Sure beats that thin jam back at home. Why, Chanel is even stubbing out her ciggies in the butter.
Glitz and glamour are the order of the day in author Rhys Bowen's fifth "Royal Spyness" mystery. The author matches her setting and story with a most fitting style that encompasses some delicious humor, particularly in the form of Georgie's hopelessly inept maid, Queenie.
Georgie's prig of a sister-in-law, Fig (who's expecting a spare to the Rannoch heir); Fig's drip of a sister, Ducky (nee Hilda and Matilda, respectively); Ducky's groping husband, Foggy Farquar; and the churlish young spawn of the Farquars, Maude, offer plenty of comedic contretemps for the heroine.
Georgie's jaunt to the Riviera isn't without its perils, but it rounds out as a jolly escape for her, as well as one for the reader.
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