The English Wife by Lauren Willig

34945222I had to finish this book quickly in order to not get another late fee from the library and for once, I really wasn’t eager to do so. I think this is the first Lauren Willig book where I’ve been #TeamNobody.

There are two stories being told simultaneously – one is Janie’s as she tries to find the truth about the death of her brother Bay and his wife, Annabelle – and the other is Annabelle’s a few years earlier as she meets Bay and starts a life with him. Nothing is as it seems and things are very confusing. Is Annabelle pretending to be someone else? What’s the real truth to Annabelle’s past? And of course, who killed Bay and Annabelle (assuming she died since they never found her body)?

Everyone is both obliviously awful and maliciously awful to each other, so it’s hard to root for another. Janie’s the most likely hero, but even she is wishy-washy and ridiculous a lot of the time. Plus, we don’t get find out important things like why she doesn’t have suitors or how she got be so meek. Why is her cousin so awful to her all the time? Does her cousin really support Bay in his chosen lifestyle or does she just like fucking with people?

In the end, Janie finds “love,” the killer is discovered and there’s a small measure of justice, but there’s so much left unanswered and Bay is still dead. I still want the questions answered, but I’d had enough of all the characters to last a lifetime.

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On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen

32969127I have several books to finish from interlibrary loan, so I grabbed this one next, as this series is always a quick read. I had forgotten about Georgie’s trip to Ireland, but it came back soon enough. It’s quite nice that she’s (almost) settled, though it does seem that perhaps there’s an end to this series coming.

Which may be a good thing because Georgie is becoming a little bit like Jessica Fletcher. I’m surprised that Queen Mary hasn’t noticed that every time she sends Georgie on a little spying mission, someone ends up dead and Georgie has to solve a murder. And given the short amount of time that seems to pass during and between books, she’s racking up quite a body count.

This installment takes us to Italy, where Georgie is ostensibly visiting Belinda, who is waiting to have her baby, but really she’s been “invited” to a house party to keep an eye on the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson. There’s intrigue, Hitler, and perhaps a preview of Georgie’s life as a Catholic wife. Oh and Georgie is almost raped – twice. But then her would-be rapist is killed, her mother is blamed and of course, the local police is useless. It would be a nice change of pace to the the local law enforcement not a group of bumbling fools, but then, I guess, Georgie wouldn’t get a save the day in her own way. Georgie’s fiancee, Darcy, is also about, spying on the meeting that’s taking place under everyone’s nose, trying to get the Prince of Wales on the side of Hitler and Il Duce. Sigh.

The whodunit is pretty well done, so I didn’t figure it out until much later than usual, which was great. There aren’t any new books listed, but fingers crossed we get at least one more, so Georgie and Darcy can finally get married!

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

30841109Over Thanksgiving last year, I went on a book buying spree with my family, picking up a few new releases, including this one. I was excited to read it in advance of the PBS airing of the ITV mini series. I’ve previously enjoyed books by this author and I knew that she was also the showrunner/head writer for the mini series. I gave it to my mom to read before I left and she enjoyed it as well, so I was ready to love it.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t very much. Perhaps it was because I saw a bit of The Young Victoria on cable as I started reading it, so this felt like a retread. Or it was just too slow going in the beginning. Once Victoria stopped behaving like a spoiled child, it was much easier to read. I mean, I get that she’s the Queen and like 17 when this all happens to her, but there was a little too much stamping her feet and having a crush on Melbourne for me. Or maybe it was Melbourne indulging her instead of being the adult that I couldn’t take.

In any case, it wasn’t until about halfway through the book that I actually felt interested and/captivated. I’m also quite curious why the mini series appears to go way past the events of the book, if they were written at the same time. Regardless, I’m happy to finally catch up on the mini series and check this book off my list.

Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen

27774658This is the last (for now) book in the Her Royal Spyness series that I’ve been plowing through for the last year or so. I had to take a brief pause while reading this as I ran out of time on my library renewal, so I had to send it back and request it again. It’s a VERY quick read, though!

This time the crime happens before Georgie even gets involved, which is a nice change of pace! Georgie and Darcy are heading to Gretna Green to elope, when they stop for the night and find out that Darcy’s father’s been arrested for murder. Darcy drops everything to go back to Ireland to help out and then breaks it off with Georgie because the scandal will follow her forever. Luckily, Georgie doesn’t give up and heads to Ireland to help out, whether he wants her there or not. Additionally, Darcy’s former paramour-turned-benefactor/friend, Princess Alexandra “Zhou Zhou” Zamanska flies her little plane over to Ireland, not wanting to be left out of the “fun.”

Georgie and Darcy’s investigating feels a lot more realistic in this book. It’s also great to see Darcy’s family and learn a little more about his life before he bumped into Georgie and began his life as an international man of mystery. The murder case gets wrapped up off screen for the most part, so that’s not as satisfying, especially since you know it was never going to be Darcy’s father going to hang. The Queenie situation also wraps up quite nicely, so I’m happy to see how Georgie proceeds from here.

Ten books is a nice round number, but I do hope there’s at least one more for Georgie and Darcy. I’m sure there would be a murder or some crime to investigate as they lead up to their big, white wedding. Fingers crossed!

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The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig

23014679I’m clearly not doing very well with my book challenge this year, but it’s only February!

As much as I’ve enjoyed Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, I’ve also enjoyed her non-series fiction as well. She’s become one of my favorite writers. Which is why I was so disappointed by this book. It was so formulaic that I almost felt like I had read it before.

Our heroine, Rachel Woodley, is a governess in 1920s France when she gets word that her mother is dying. By the time she makes it home, her mother has passed and her landlord is ready to kick her out of the family house. As she’s cleaning up, she finds that the father she thought died when she was four isn’t quite as dead as she thought. From here, it goes Pygmalion as she tries to worm her way into her father’s social circle through her half-sister’s group of friends. With an unlikely benefactor sponsoring her revenge plot, she tries to fit in while trying to figure out what she really wants if she gets into her father’s house.

The beats felt familiar, though perhaps that’s the Downton Abbey influence. Her romance seems like an afterthought and I felt like it was even a little unnecessary. I know I’m a “modern” woman reading about a lady a century before me, but I guess I’d love to read a piece where the lady doesn’t wind up with the man and does get that secretary job she’s been talking about all novel long. Maybe next time.