Princess Elizabeth’s Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

As per usual, I’m behind on my catch-up plan for reading all 24 books this year, but I’m ahead of last year, so I KPO (as Maggie Hope would say!).

13330549I liked this mystery a lot better than the first book, and I don’t think it’s just because it features royals. It started out a little tiresome with yet MORE secrets being kept from our heroine and some “all-knowing” man thinking it’s for the best to keep her in the dark, but hopefully, we’ve reached the end of Maggie’s crazy family secrets and she can now just do her awesome job.

It was fun to see “behind the scenes” at the British version of “The Farm” (which I mainly know about because of watching Covert Affairs!) in the 1940s, even if Maggie was NOT having a good time there. Loved how she got placed at Windsor Castle (and having been there, it was fun to be able to really picture it as described) and got to know the little Princesses. Maggie’s spycraft leaves a little to be desired, but it did feel more realistic that she didn’t always know the right clues to follow.

There was a LOT of off-stage romance that left me a little cold; we return to Maggie’s story with John having proposed to her after he’s joined the RAF, she says no because she’s mad he joined up and then his plane is shot down over Germany. “Missing, presumed dead.” Obviously, no one seems to stay dead in these books, but since it didn’t really feel like she liked him all that much, much less loved him in the first book, it felt odd to have her pining over his marriage proposal for much of the book. She had a LOT more chemistry with her handler, Hugh, and their romance seemed to develop more organically. Of course, nothing can be easy in this universe, so I foresee some major complications ahead, but I’m rooting for Maggie and Hugh!

To Marry a Prince by Sophie Page

10415290This is another book that I picked up while in London back in March. I think I saw it on Katia’s blog and I’m a sucker for the “regular girl falls for a secret prince” genre of fiction. (Don’t even get me started on the Hallmark Channel Christmas movies of this genre – I LOVE THEM ALL!)

This book creates a fictional British royal family, which I think is brave as usually fiction in this genre like to make up a tiny European principality with a secret royal. You can forgive the heroine for not knowing who the crown prince of Castlebury or whatever because it’s smaller than Luxembourg or whatever. But our heroine has spent the last year living on an island counting fish, so of course she doesn’t recognize the Prince of Wales (what her excuse for not recognizing the heir to the throne of the country she’s lived in all before that, I don’t know, but whatever).

We follow Bella’s relationship with Prince Richard from meetcute (complete with clumsy!heroine and a forgotten phone!) to dating in secret to the public finding and beyond. It’s a world with Twitter, bloggers and smartphones, but it doesn’t really feel like today’s world either. The Prince is rarely cross and Bella is the breath of fresh air the monarchy needs. It feels a lot like The Prince and Me, but with the secret Prince being found out in the first 20 minutes.

It’s a quick read, and I really couldn’t put it down, but it’s not terribly original either. It’s just as advertised and I can’t fault it for that.

A Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen

5981169I finally finished this book at the laundromat today. It was actually a pretty quick read, but I just never seem to have the time to sit down and read it.

It’s another edition of the saga of Lady Georgiana Rannoch, 34th in line for the throne and perpetually penniless. This part’s adventures are set in motion after Georgie decides to advertise herself as an escort in the paper, though she’s totally on the up and up. Scotland Yard capitalizes on this faux pas and whisks her back to Scotland, where someone seems to be trying to off the royals while they are vacationing at Balmoral. Additionally, Georgie makes the acquaintance of Ronnie Padgett, lady pilot and adventurer, who is trying to set a speed record.

The mystery is actually enthralling and I didn’t have an inkling about what was going on until the last 20 pages or so, which was quite nice. I’ll be taking a break from this series while I catch up on some other books, but I’ll be looking forward to the next one for sure!

We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals by Gillian Gill

7200265I picked up this book shortly after returning from my UK visit and trip to Kensington Palace. After spending a few hours around their artifacts, I wanted to know more about Victoria and Albert. It sat on my nightstand for most of the academic year, but last week, I realized that it was due today, so I needed to get it read.

Despite the title, the book doesn’t get to their pair’s marriage until 140 pages in, which was frustrating. And even then, it doesn’t really follow a logical chronology. I didn’t find a cogent thesis either as the author simply doesn’t have the proof of the things she posits due to the burning of various diaries, letters and other papers by Victoria’s youngest daughter to preserve her mother’s image as she wanted it.

Try as I might, I just couldn’t slog through the right of the book, so back to the library it went, only half-read.

UK: “Have fun stormin’ the castle!”

I’ve putting off this last major post of my UK triplog, but as the London 2012 Olympics are almost over, I guess it’s time to get back to work. This was actually one of my favorite days (was there any day that wasn’t a favorite? Probably not!) and I’m already planning my next trip to include some activities I missed this time.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012
My last day in the UK was spent primary in Windsor. I do wish I’d had one more day in London to just be and really, properly say goodbye to the city. But spending the day outside the city also worked quite well. Despite my late night, I was up on time and leaving Katia’s flat to catch the 0840 bus to the train station. I have to say, it felt rather normal to leave Katia at home, writing, while I ventured to the bus stop alone. I’d become VERY accustomed to my UK life and it was going to be a hard transition back.

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