Rhys Bowen •
Naughty in Nice •
Meet Georgiana Rannoch, thirty-fourth in line to the British throne. She probably won’t be ruling the empire anytime soon, but her status does entitle her to an occasional audience with the queen. Queen Mary, that is—it’s 1933.
There’s not a lot of money in the Rannoch family coffers, so Georgie relies on her wits while romping through one adventure after another. Naughty in Nice opens with her serving in a London soup kitchen: “It was a bitter and bleak January day, and I felt as cold and miserable as those poor wretches who shuffled past me.” Naturally, she doesn’t have to be asked twice to swap her dreary do-gooding for sun, sea, and a soupçon of danger, tracking down a stolen snuffbox. One can hardly refuse a royal request! Off she goes on the Blue Train, whose Pullman coaches “glow with opulence,” accompanied by the hopeless maid she’s too kindhearted to sack.
One beauty of setting a novel in this time period comes in the rich choice of peripheral characters. Coco Chanel turns up here, as does the Prince of Wales, with Wallis Simpson in tow. And the British fondness for absurd nicknames gets free rein: Georgiana’s brother Binky is married to Fig, sister of Ducky (married to Foggy) and mother of Podge.
It’s also hard to go wrong with the Mediterranean as a backdrop. Seduction on yacht? Check. Body in swimming pool? Check. Car chase around hairpin turns? Check. Jewel heists on the Riviera may seem done to death as a theme, but Rhys Bowen succeeds in making this one fresh and fun.
It’s only a matter of time before someone decides that Georgie, with her exalted connections and her irrepressible humor, belongs on the big screen. You heard it here first.