A Royal Pain
Second in Bowen’s latest series featuring Lady Georgiana Rannoch, thirty-fourth in line to the English throne in 1932, this outing finds Georgiana juggling her work as a maid (with references provided by herself) with playing hostess to Princess Hannelore of Bavaria. The princess has been invited at Queen Mary’s behest in the hopes that she’ll tempt the Prince of Wales away from that dreadful Simpson woman.
Bowen deftly turns the life of the aristocracy on its end—Georgie is dead broke, hence the sideline as a maid, but must maintain an image of affluence. When she cannot refuse the queen’s insistence that she host the princess, her Cockney granddad (father of her actress mother) acts as her butler while his neighbor poses as the cook. Georgie has her hands full with the princess, who has learned English from American gangster movies and has a habit of walking out of high-class stores with unpaid merchandise. When Hanni insists on visiting a young Communist at the bookstore where he works, she gets into further trouble by tripping over his corpse. Georgie is an engaging, sympathetic heroine (her relationship with her would-be beau Darcy O’Mara could stand to move a little faster), and Bowen excels at the depictions of the moneyed classes, royalty, and public versus private faces.