I read the 38th book for the book challenge. It was Royal Blood: A Royal Spyness Mystery by Rhys Bowen.
Lady Georgiana is in London and wondering what to do with herself. Binky and Fig have come down from Castle Rannoch in Scotland, Binky to see a specialist about his ankle and Fig to see an obstetrician–she is pregnant again. Georgie gets an invitation to have lunch with the Queen after an evening and dinner with Darcy O’Mara. At her luncheon with the Queen, she learns that she has been asked to attend the wedding of a princess of Romania. Apparently she and the princess went to school together and the princess wants Georgie to be a bridesmaid. Georgie needs to find a maid and set off for Transylvania where the wedding will take place. Georgie goes to visit her grandfather and his friend Mrs. Huggins has a niece who needs a job as a maid. The niece, Queenie, arrives at Rannoch house and she and Georgie set off on their adventure.
They take the boat train to Calais, then on to Paris and then the train to Transylvania where they encounter much snow but make their way, with their chaperone, Lady Middlesexe and her companion Miss Deere-Harte, to the castle. It is an old Gothic castle, very spooky and makes Georgie think of vampires. The snow is falling heavily. Georgie is surprised to see her old school mate, Maria Theresa or Matty. She has lost a considerable amount of weight is is now very beautiful. She is marrying the handsome Prince Nicholas of Bulgaria. He is there with his handsome younger brother Anton. Princess Matty’s brother Prince Sigfried, who wants to marry Georgie, is also there. And so is Georgie’s friend Belinda, whose car has conveniently broken down outside the castle gates. Darcy O’Mara is there as a groomsman for Prince Nicholas and Georgie’s mother and her German boyfriend are also there.
The first night, as Georgie is in bed, she hears a noise and looks up to find a young man leaning over her in the bed. He then disappears out the window. She swears that it the same man as in the painting that is in her room. But the next day, the painting in her room is switched out for a different painting. The young man had fair skin and pale hair. She wonders if he was a vampire. She also comes across Matty in a corridor near the kitchen with something red all over her mouth and neck, saying “Don’t tell anyone you saw me.” She wonders of Matty is a vampire.
At dinner the second night, everyone is making toasts. The repugnant Field Marshall Pirin of Bulgaria is making a toast to Prince Nicholas and takes a gulp of his wine when he suddenly collapses and dies. The princes, Georgie, Prince Dragomir, and Darcy try to make it seem that Pirin has only been taken ill so that the wedding plans are not disrupted and that Bulgaria and Macedonia are not destabilized. The castle is snowed in and the kings and queens of Romania and Bulgaria have not yet arrived. They take Pirin’s body to a room and pretend he is ill.
The roads are eventually cleared and the kings and queens arrive. Georgie, Darcy, the princes, and Dragomir know that Pirin has been poisoned by cyanide. But they don’t know how or by whom. Georgie realizes that Pirin was poisoned by mistake. He actually drank from Prince Nicholas’s wine glass. Prince Nicholas was the intended victim. She tells Prince Nicholas and Darcy. Darcy takes Pirin’s body to the hospital, supposedly to get him to a doctor. A police inspector is called by one of the servants who knows that Pirin is dead. He suspects Georgie and Darcy of the murder. He tries to plant evidence in Georgie’s room.
Georgie tells Matty about seeing the young man with the fair hair and about the first painting in her room. Matty admits that this is Vlad, her childhood friend whom she has fallen in love with and who has come back to say good-bye to her before she marries Prince Nicholas. She used to have the bedroom Georgie is staying in and he painted the picture of himself for Matty. He was staying with Matty in the castle. Georgie thinks he is the man that Miss Deere-Harte saw near the dining hall the first night. That night they hear a scream in the middle of the night. Miss Deere-Harte is found dead at the bottom of some steep stairs. She has either fallen or been pushed. Lady Middlesexe is devastated. Georgie thinks that Miss Deere-Harte was following the man she had seen before and she had been pushed down the steps. Now there are two murders to solve. And another mystery–Queenie, Georgie’s maid, has gone missing.
Matty tells Georgie that she will take her to meet Vlad. She tells Georgie that Vlad is a sweet, nice person who would never hurt anyone. He loves her and only wants the best for her. Georgie follows her through the maze of the castle. As they are going the corridors, Georgie steps on a stone and the floor opens up beneath her and she tumbles down into a sort of dungeon where she lands on–Queenie. They are both trapped in the oubliette of the castle. Now it is up to Georgie to find a way out and find out is it Matty or Vlad who tried to poison Prince Nicholas and killed Pirin and Miss Deere-Harte.
I quite like the Royal Spyness mysteries. Georgie is a very likable character. She is a royal, with a title and 35th in line to the throne of England, but with a sense of adventure. She is in love with Darcy but has a sense of morality and decorum. She is often conflicted. You can’t help but get caught up in Georgie’s adventures.