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By Rhys Bowen
Berkley Prime Crime, 2010 ($24.95)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Lady Georgina Rannoch, 34th in line to the throne of England, is once again in financial distress. Because of her royal blood, she is not permitted to work for a living, although she has made a few attempts to circumvent that ruling. Her last attempt was both hilarious and dangerous. Who knew that advertising an "escort service" would get her in such trouble? It's wintertime in London, the family townhouse is cold, and the cupboard is bare. What's a lady to do? She could live in Scotland with her brother "Binky," but her sister-in-law Hilda, known as "Fig," is so hateful to her that Georgie prefers to be cold and hungry and alone.
It's just her luck that Binky and Fig have decided to come into town, and Fig orders Georgie to have the house ready when they arrive. Queen Mary, who is fond of Georgie, and has given her some interesting assignments in the past, offers her a way out of her dilemma. The queen wants her to represent the royal family at a wedding in eastern Europe. Princess Maria Theresa of Romania is to wed Prince Nicholas of Bulgaria. When Georgie asks why someone closer to the throne isn't going, the queen tells her the bride asked for her specifically because they were such good friends at school. Georgie barely remembers the girl, who was chubby and obnoxious, but when the queen asks, one must obey. It's a bonus that all expenses will be paid, for Georgie and her maid. Aye, there's the rub - Georgie has no maid and no money to hire one. Her wild and crazy best friend Belinda loves a good party, and offers to take on the role. Georgie, knowing her friend and her penchant for getting into mischief, says thanks but no thanks. After all avenues are explored, she turns to her non-royal Cockney grandfather for help. Soon Georgie answers a knock at her back door, and in comes Queenie, loud, clumsy, a disaster on two legs, an accident waiting to happen. Left with no alternative, Georgie hires her, and soon they are on a train to Romania.
When their party arrives at the ancient castle, miles from civilization, Georgie's heart sinks. There is a much nicer, modern palace in Bulgaria, where the state wedding will be held, but the bride thinks the castle is more romantic, and it's the family tradition. Sure, if you don't mind vampires climbing the outer walls, or portraits of long-dead people coming to life, not to mention hidden dungeons. The castle is the ancestral home of Count Vladimir, aka "Vlad the Impaler."
Georgie is also dismayed to see two familiar faces at the dining table. One is Prince Siegfried, the bride's brother, who still has hopes that Georgie will marry him. She's already turned him down once, because he's physically repulsive to her, and he "bats for the other team." The other is her glamorous, much-married mother and her latest conquest. Mom, the daughter of the non-royal grandfather, has made her fortune by modeling and marrying rich men. To say she lacks maternal skills is an understatement, but Georgie loves her as best she can. Two other unexpected visitors turn up to add to the merriment and turmoil. One she is thrilled to see again, the other infuriates her - a friend who claims she was "just driving by" and got stuck in the snowstorm.
There are murders, mysterious disappearances, things that go bump in the night, a bit of romance, and plenty of political intrigue. Lady Georgina, as always, rises to the occasion, unravels the tangled threads of murder and mayhem, with the help of her friends, and manages to avoid getting bitten by any vampires. This is a fun spoof of all things vampiric, with a bit of history woven in. While I enjoy Ms. Bowen's other two series, Lady Georgina is my favorite character, and I'm looking forward to what she gets into next.
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