Who knew that being 35th in line for the British crown could be a major impediment to marriage?
After years of romantic interludes often interrupted by dangerous spying (Crowned and Dangerous, 2016, etc.), Lady Georgiana Rannoch and Darcy O’Mara are preparing to wed. Because Darcy is Catholic, Georgie must ask permission from Parliament to give up her highly unrealistic claim to the throne. Traveling to London from Ireland, she plans to continue on to Italy to be with her unmarried friend Belinda, who’s gone there to give birth to a child she cannot keep. Delighted to learn about her trip, Queen Mary asks Georgie to keep an eye on her son David, the Prince of Wales, who’s pursuing the pre-divorced Wallis Simpson. Both are visiting the Count and Contessa di Martini, who was once Camilla Waddell-Walker, Georgie’s schoolmate. Forced to travel without her maid, Georgie fights off the advances of Baron Rudolf von Rosskopf before she arrives to find Belinda at a Swiss clinic. Queen Mary has arranged for her to stay at the Villa Fiori, which houses a strange mix of people: David and Mrs. Simpson; von Rosskopf; a German general and his aide; and Georgie’s mother, Claire, a former actress engaged to Max, a wealthy German industrialist. Much to Georgie’s surprise, Darcy is also in residence, posing as an English gardener. A conference had been called in Stresa to discuss ways to combat the Nazi threat, but at the villa, even the Prince of Wales has nice things to say about the Führer, who will make Germany great again. After Claire begs Georgie to help her retrieve some damaging pictures from the blackmailing von Rosskopf, he’s found shot dead. Whatever satisfaction Georgie takes is mitigated when her mother becomes the chief suspect.
Bowen’s reliably lighthearted tone has the added fillip of the looming shadow of Nazi terror.