I have finished the 57th book for the book challenge. It was a novella. It was The Masked Ball At Broxley Manor by Rhys Bowen.
This novella takes place before the Royal Spyness mysteries occur. Lady Georgiana Rannoch is just finishing her debutante season in London with no prospects of a husband. She is at Rannoch House with Binky, her brother, and Fig, her sister-in-law. One day, two invitations arrive for Georgie. One is for a reception to be held at Buckingham Palace in honor of Prince Otto and Prince Rupert of Prussia, distant cousins of Georgie. The other is an invitation to a Halloween masked ball to be held at Broxley Manor, the home of Lord and Lady Merriman. Georgie doesn’t know Lord and Lady Merriman but is keen to go to the ball. She of course will go to the reception at Buckingham Palace since Their Majesties requested she attend. Fig is put out that she and Binky were not asked.
Georgie goes to to the reception wearing her debutante gown. An old colonel attempts to pick her up until he learns that she is the King’s cousin. The King and Queen are a trifle annoyed because apparently they wanted Georgie to meet Prince Otto, but Prince Otto never shows up at the reception.
Georgie goes to Broxley Manor on the train. She meets Wallis Simpson and her husband at the train station while waiting for the car to Broxley Manor. Mrs. Simpson is keen to meet the Prince of Wales who will be at the ball. The Merrimans have told Georgie that there will be costumes for her to choose from when she arrives. After she arrives, Lady Merriman shows Georgie the costumes and selects a Fallen Angel costume for her, a slinky black dress with black wings, very fetching. There are also masks. Everyone will wear masks until midnight when they will take them off then go into supper. They also supply a maid to help her change.
When it is time for the ball, Georgie goes to the ballroom. She immediately meets a man dressed like The Devil. He appears to be quite handsome, from what Georgie can tell. He stays with Georgie all evening and they dance together. Georgie is falling in love with this Devil. He kisses her. It is like heaven. Could he be Prince Otto? It is getting close to midnight. Suddenly, The Devil excuses himself. Then an explosion is heard outside and there is confusion. The Devil comes back in from outside, but Georgie realizes it is not the same man. This man is shorter and pudgier, and doesn’t have dark curls and beautiful blue eyes. When it comes time to unmask, she comes face-to-face with Prince Otto. He proposes marriage to her, but tells her that she could have a lover and he will have a mistress. Georgie tells him she must decline because she will marry for love. She asks about the commotion outside. He tells her it was an attack on his life. He says they caught the man. She asks him to describe the man. From his description, she knows it is not her mystery man.
Back at Rannock House, Georgie receives a note. It is from her mystery man. He explains that he was working to protect Prince Otto, who was with his mistress for the early part of the evening when the mystery man was with Georgie. Then the mystery man prevented the attack against Prince Otto. The note was signed DOM. It was only much later that Georgie came to know that the mystery man was Darcy O’Mara.
I enjoyed this flashback story of how Georgie first became acquainted with Darcy O’Mara. It has been alluded to throughout the books that Darcy works as a spy or for the government. In this story we see that he does indeed secretly work to protect the royals. But he has always loved Georgie. This was a sweet little story and I’m glad Rhys Bowen reached back and wrote about Georgie’s early days.