AUTHOR: Rhys Bowen

PUBLISHER: Berkley

ISBN: 978-042528352

I’ve been half in love with Lady Georgiana Rannoch since the first book in the series about ten years ago. She is part of the British royal family in the 1930s. In the first book, I believe she was number 31 in succession to the throne. By this 12th novel in the series, she’s number 35. She is sufficiently unimportant in the royal scheme of things that through the book series, she’s been a penniless house guest at a variety of homes of friends and relatives. She often has to try to work for a living. When you are raised as a royal aristocrat but do not inherit money and haven’t yet married, you don’t have much in the way of job skills, so working is difficult.

A lot of that has been worked out by this time in the series. Over the years, she has fallen in love with a dashing, handsome Irish Catholic, Darcy O’Mara, who works in some hush-hush part of the government and spends most of his time offstage, so to speak, on secret diplomatic missions. Finally, finally, after many books of romantic mishaps and misunderstandings, they are to be married. That’s the “maybe a wedding” part of the book’s title.

Unfortunately, Darcy doesn’t make much money in his government job and has no inheritance. They look for a place to live after the wedding, with increasingly dismal results. At just the right time, Georgie receives word from Sir Hubert, one of her mother’s many ex-husbands who Georgie had lived with as a child, that she is to be his heir. Since he is off in Argentina climbing mountains, he tells her to move into his palatial estate, Eynsleigh, and live there in luxury. After all, it will be hers soon enough.

With great relief and with the wedding only weeks away, Georgie travels to Eynsleigh to move in and become the lady of the manor. She receives a cool reception from a puzzlingly incompetent and disrespectful butler. There are only a few servants on staff, all recently hired after the long-standing staff were dismissed. These new servants are similarly not quite right in behavior and skills. The Spanish cook is particularly grating, with few cooking skills and no knowledge of English cuisine.

The house appears to have been stripped of its many valuable decorative pieces. Something is definitely wrong here. Georgie, who has never been very pushy or demanding, sees that she will need to develop new skills to whip this unpromising house and staff into shape before her beloved Darcy returns for the wedding.

I particularly enjoyed watching Georgie mature into this new role. I’m an introvert without much sense of command and leadership, so it was gratifying to watch Georgie grow into her rightful place of honor and respect while becoming the true lady in charge of the manor.

On her first night in residence at Eynsleigh, she awakens to find the gas jet in her bedroom fireplace open, silently sending poisonous gas into her room. She could easily have slept on to her death.

More and more disturbing events and facts materialize as the story goes on. Georgie investigates the servants’ backgrounds and tries to make sense of all the odd, out-of-place events.

Eventually, as it must in any good mystery novel, the pattern comes together and, after some mildly life-threatening escapades, all is explained. Darcy returns just in time, and the much-awaited wedding actually takes place.

I had a series of concerns and reactions as I read. In the beginning, the preparations for the wedding are the primary focus. Georgie worries about the wedding dress being made by her good friend, a fashion designer. The first design offered is not at all satisfactory. Georgie finds that the Queen wants to attend the wedding and have her two young daughters as bridesmaids. The Queen suggests that all “the crowned heads of Europe” surely ought to be invited. It’s all getting out of hand with too much complication and worry.

My worry, as a man, was that this was going to go on for chapter after chapter—after all, this sort of thing is fascinating to the better half of the population—and I was going to be less and less enchanted by the story. Just as I was about to decide this had gone on long enough, the story turned a corner and progressed into more interesting matters.

Once the story moved to Eynsleigh and the curious and disturbing happenings began to flow, I worried that the pace was a bit too slow for me. Yes, things were happening, but slowly and too many of the plot events seemed insignificant, not appearing to be leading to a conclusion any time in this century. After all, there wasn’t even a murder yet, even deep, deep into the book.

Again, just about the time I was becoming too impatient, the pace picked up nicely and more significant events began to pile up.

My final worry was the final third of the book was going to be filled with lovingly detailed descriptions of the wedding itself. Not so. In fact, the actual wedding was glossed over, leaving even me wondering what just happened.

The strengths of this book and this series are the characters. Georgie is a delight. She is clumsy, curious, resourceful, and loveable. Her voice, as she narrates the events, is light, wry, and often amusing. In this book, Georgie’s mother, a flighty, oft-married actress, spends more time with Georgie and develops into a more fully rounded, likeable person. Queenie, Georgie’s sometime personal maid, has been a problem through the series with her insouciance, clumsiness, and lack of skills. In this story, she matures brilliantly into a capable assistant chef.

Even after a dozen novels in the series, it is fun to move through Georgie’s charming, interesting, and eventful life with her. I look forward to many more books in the series. I can’t wait to see how married life affects Georgie, Darcy, and the nature of their adventures. One of my pet peeves is that there are so few happily married couples in mystery fiction. Let’s hope this series adds a successful new couple to the ranks of mystery best-sellers.