I didn’t anticipate getting sucked into another series so soon after reading The Bridgerton books by Julia Quinn, but I started listening to the audiobooks in the Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen, and before I knew it I had enough for another series blog post!
My sister is obsessed with these books (there are 12 so far) and easily convinced me to read them since we have pretty similar reading tastes. I read the first one sometime last year and thought it was just ok, but then she suggested listening to the second one on audio when I asked for recommendations, and I got completely hooked. While I definitely prefer the audio, I did wind up reading these in a mix of print and audio since I can fly through them so quickly in print and my library didn’t have audio copies, so I had to burn through some Audible credits.
I don’t listen to a lot of fiction audiobooks, but I thought these were amazing. Katherine Kellgren just did a phenomenal job creating a voice for Georgie, and then using different accents and characterizations to voice the other characters. It’s almost unbelievable that it’s just one person doing the whole production. Seriously, I can’t recommend these audiobooks enough, and I definitely have plans to check out more of Kellgren’s narration. Just listen to a sample, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
As for the books themselves, they weren’t overly elaborate or complex mysteries (though it was rare I figured them out in advance), but they were fun to read. The main appeal, though, is definitely the characters. Georgie is 34th in line to the throne and trying to scrape by after her family lost their fortune in the Crash of 1929. She’s the daughter of a duke and an actress, and it’s fun to see her interact with her stuffy and impossible sister-in-law Fig as well as her mother, who’s constantly flitting from man to man, and her grandfather, a former Cockney policeman. Rounding out the cast are her best friend Belinda, who is equally poor and survives through a succession of wealthy boyfriends, as well as her completely disastrous maid, Queenie.
Then, of course, there’s Darcy. I love Darcy. He’s Georgie’s love interest, and he’s such a romantic, dashing figure. And the Irish brogue Kellgren gives him is amazing. I know it’s supposed to add some to the appeal, but I hate how much he flits in and out of Georgie’s life. Though it never gets old when he waltzes onto the page when you’re least expecting him!
Another thing that really impressed me about these books is much I enjoyed them given that a lot of real historical figures walk through the pages and are pretty active in the stories. I generally dislike historical fiction that’s too close to major historical events and creates personalities for people I already know about. It feels fake and forced and is just something that I’ve generally always hated. But Bowen did a really amazing job creating actual characters out of the royal family and using real historical events to shape her mysteries. I really can’t identify why I enjoyed it so much in these books when I usually can’t stand it in others, but I think that was a really good part of this series. Plus she worked so many neat historical tidbits into these stories, which I’m always a fan of!
These books definitely weren’t perfect, though. Darcy is a great hero, but there was one scene that really rubbed me the wrong way. He planned to get Georgie drunk and then sleep with her, but determined that his conscience got the better of him when it came to her. I think that’s an awful plan in general and that he should always have a conscience, not just with Georgie, and that scene definitely ruined some of his appeal for me. I also got really sick of how frequently Georgie questioned Darcy’s faithfulness to her. I can’t blame her for the first one since he had a reputation for sleeping around and they never discussed their relationship and expectations, but like, having it happen once in the series was plenty. It felt like it was a plot that was recycled every few books, and it got old. Especially when it’s pretty obvious that the two of them are going to wind up together. Speaking of, I thought their romance was dragged out waaaaay too long. I enjoy a good slow burn, but this series took it too far for me.
Another drawback for me was how long it took for the individual books to get set up and the actually mystery to enter the plot. There was just way too much intro for me, and it’s surprisingly late in the series that Georgie finally becomes a more active participant in these investigations instead of letting things happen around her and magically solving them at the end. She didn’t really start feeling like a competent sleuth until more than halfway through the series, which was a bit late for me.
It’s weird because as frustrated as I was with these books at time, I did still read through them all really quickly and generally enjoyed them. The audiobook productions are seriously amazing, and I really like Georgie and Darcy. While the audiobook narrator unfortunately passed away this past year, Bowen is still publishing these books, and I’m excited to see what they’ll be like with Georgie and Darcy married. The books where he’s present for most of them are always my favorite, and the one slated for publication this summer takes place on their honeymoon in Africa, so I’m looking forward to it!
All in all, I wouldn’t say this is an amazing series by any means, but I did enjoy it, especially the audio productions. If you’re looking for a cozy mystery or something with a great cast of characters, or just something to use an Audible credit on, I think you’ll enjoy these. Some of the standouts in the series include A Royal Pain, The Twelve Clues of Christmas, and Crowned and Dangerous.
Have you read any of the Royal Spyness books? Let me know in the comments!