Rhys Bowen has been one of my favorite mystery authors for many years now, starting with my binging of her Molly Murphy mystery series and continuing with the Royal Spyness series. Georgiana (Georgie) Rannoch starts out as a royal who is nowhere near the throne and very short of funds. It’s not easy for any woman to support herself in the 1930s, but Georgie finds a way and discovers a talent for solving mysteries as well. The latest installment God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen finds Georgie and her new husband Darcy spending Christmas at the Sandringham estate with Darcy’s aunt, who is living in a “grace and favor” home loaned to her by Queen Mary. It’s not very far from the Royal Family’s home there, so Georgie sees quite a bit of her relatives. When men close to the Royals die under suspicious circumstances and the Prince of Wales himself seems in danger, Georgie and Darcy set out to assist in the investigation before the killer makes their way to them.
Rhys and I chatted about this light-hearted series moving into the dark times of the abdication and WWII, the origin of Darcy’s name, what she really thinks of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, and how she chooses from the large supporting cast when she is crafting a new installment.
About Rhys Bowen
Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of more than forty novels, including The Venice Sketchbook, The Victory Garden, The Tuscan Child, and the World War II-based In Farleigh Field, the winner of the Left Coast Crime Award for Best Historical Mystery Novel and the Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel. Bowen’s work has won over twenty honors to date, including multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. Her books have been translated into many languages, and she has fans around the world. A transplanted Brit, Bowen divides her time between California and Arizona.
About God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen
Georgie is excited for her first Christmas as a married woman in her lovely new home. She suggests to her dashing husband, Darcy, that they have a little house party, but when Darcy receives a letter from his aunt Ermintrude, there is an abrupt change in plans. She has moved to a house on the edge of the Sandringham estate, near the royal family, and wants to invite Darcy and his new bride for Christmas. Aunt Ermintrude hints that the queen would like Georgie nearby. Georgie had not known that Aunt Ermintrude was a former lady-in-waiting and close confidante of her royal highness. The letter is therefore almost a royal request, so Georgie, Darcy, and their Christmas guests: Mummy, Grandad, Fig, and Binky all head to Sandringham.
Georgie soon learns that the notorious Mrs. Simpson, mistress to the Prince of Wales, will also be in attendance. It is now crystal clear to Georgie that the Queen expects her to do a bit of spying. There is tension in the air from the get-go, and when Georgie pays a visit to the queen, she learns that there is more to her request than just some simple eavesdropping. There have been a couple of strange accidents at the estate recently. Two gentlemen of the royal household have died in mysterious circumstances and another has been shot by mistake during a hunt. Georgie begins to suspect that a member of the royal family is the real target but her investigation will put her new husband and love of her life, Darcy, in the crosshairs of a killer.
Interview with Rhys Bowen
Sara Farmer: How do you decide which members of the supporting cast will appear in each novel? Do you try to make sure each one gets a storyline regularly?
Rhys Bowen: I try not to leave them out for too long. I know which members fans love to see in the story. Obviously Queenie, Granddad, and Mummy. Fig and Binky make occasional appearances, because she really is rather horrid. And Belinda has to have her moment, too. Since she featured in the last book, The Last Mrs. Summers, I felt I could leave her out of this one. It’s hard to get them all involved, but the Christmas house party worked well for that.
Sara: Is Darcy named for Mr. Darcy?
Rhys: Of course. Every time I write him into a scene I see Colin Firth climbing out of that lake!
Sara: Do you have a particular one of Queen Victoria’s daughters in mind as Georgie’s grandmother?
Rhys: I created a fictitious daughter as I didn’t want her to be bound by real history. However, there are shades of Princess Louise, who married a Scottish Duke of Argyll. (He was a commoner when they married, hence a real love story!) But since Queen Victoria had so many children I felt that I could invent another one. I never name her and only describe her as Queen Victoria’s least attractive daughter.
Sara: How long did it take you to write your first book? Do you have drawer novels?
Rhys: You know, I’ve been writing since I was four. I wrote several angst-ridden novels in college that will never see the light of day, although I think I may still have them in an attic. After college, I went to work in BBC drama, wrote my first radio play that was accepted, and have been published ever since. In recent years, I have not had to write any book that didn’t already have a publishing home.
Sara: How do you plan to handle the accession of Edward VIII and then George VI? Will Queen Mary still give Georgie missions?
Rhys: Oh, yes. I have been looking forward to the drama surrounding Edward, Mrs. Simpson, the abdication. I’m sure Queen Mary will rely even more on Georgiana as she is devastated by the behavior of her oldest son.
Sara: How do you feel about the relationship between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson? Do you have sympathy for them? Do you think that things worked out for the best for the country with his abdication and his brother’s accession to the throne? I’m surprised Georgie doesn’t have a tiny bit of sympathy for them, since she encountered royal roadblocks to being with her true love.
Rhys: I have little sympathy, I’m afraid. Wallis was a manipulative, ambitious woman who really believed that she could be queen. She dominated and bullied Edward. He was infatuated with her, but I’m not sure that she ever loved him. She had married up the social scale twice before she met him.
I’m afraid he was always a weak character. A stronger one would have done his royal duty. He could always have married suitably and then kept her as a mistress. That was considered normal! But it was an absolute blessing for the future of England that he abdicated. They were both enamored of Hitler, went to visit him the moment he abdicated. They would certainly have handed over England to become a puppet state with a puppet king. Hitler had this in mind and that was why Edward was shipped off to the Bahamas, where America could keep an eye on him.
Winston Churchill once said, “We should erect a statue to Mrs. Simpson. Without her we’d have been slaves of Germany.”
Sara: WWII is fast approaching Georgie’s world. Do you plan to continue the series into those years?
Rhys: I’m really hoping to take it to the war years. Mummy stranded in Nazi Germany? Darcy sent on dangerous missions? Of course, it will be a challenge. This is essentially a light-hearted series. I know we have serious topics lurking in the background, but I’ll be walking a fine line when it comes to the horrors that war brings.
Sara Farmer lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, three kids, and two cats. When she’s not chasing kids and cats, she reads and writes mysteries. You can find her at www.kittymomma.com and on Twitter @avonlea79.