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Authors: Rhys Bowen

A Royal Pain

BOOK: A Royal Pain
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Table of Contents
Berkley Prime Crime Mysteries by Rhys Bowen
Royal Spyness Mysteries
Constable Evans Mysteries
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2008 by Janet Quin-Harkin.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
The name BERKLEY PRIME CRIME and the BERKLEY PRIME CRIME design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
eISBN: 9781101383858
1. Aristocracy (Social class)—Fiction. 2. London (England)—History—20th century—
Fiction. I. Title.
PR6052.O848R69 2008
823’.914—dc22 2008010406

This book is dedicated to my three princesses:
Elizabeth, Meghan and Mary;
and to my princes: Sam and T. J.
Notes and Acknowledgments
This is a work of fiction. While several members of the British royal family appear as themselves in the book, there was no Princess Hannelore of Bavaria and no Lady Georgiana.
On a historical note: Europe at that time was in turmoil with communists and fascists vying for control of Germany, left bankrupt and dispirited after the first great war. In England communism was making strides among the working classes and left-wing intellectuals. At the other extreme Oswald Mosley was leading a group of extreme fascists called the Blackshirts. Skirmishes and bloody battles between the two were frequent in London.
A special acknowledgment to the Misses Hedley, Jensen, Reagan and Danika, of Sonoma, California, who make cameo appearances in this book.
And thanks, as always, to my splendid support group at home: Clare, Jane and John; as well as my equally splendid support group in New York: Meg, Kelly, Jackie and Catherine.
Chapter 1
Rannoch House
Belgrave Square
London W.1.
Monday, June 6, 1932
The alarm clock woke me this morning at the ungodly hour of eight. One of my nanny’s favorite sayings was “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” My father did both and look what happened to him. He died, penniless, at forty-nine.
In my experience there are only two good reasons to rise with the dawn: one is to go hunting and the other to catch the Flying Scotsman from Edinburgh to London. I was about to do neither. It wasn’t the hunting season and I was already in London.
I fumbled for the alarm on the bedside table and battered it into silence.
“Court circular, June 6,” I announced to a nonexistent audience as I stood up and pulled back the heavy velvet curtains. “Lady Georgiana Rannoch embarks on another hectic day of social whirl. Luncheon at the Savoy, tea at the Ritz, a visit to Scapparelli for a fitting of her latest ball gown, then dinner and dancing at the Dorchester—or none of the above,” I added. To be honest it had been a long time since I had any events on my social calendar and my life had never been a mad social whirl. Almost twenty-two years old and not a single invitation sitting on my mantelpiece. The awful thought struck me that I should accept that I was over the hill and destined to be a spinster for life. Maybe all I had to look forward to was the queen’s suggestion that I become lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria’s one surviving daughter—who is also my great-aunt and lives out in deepest Gloucestershire. Years ahead of walking the Pekinese and holding knitting wool danced before my eyes.
I suppose I should introduce myself before I go any further: I am Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie of Glen Garry and Rannoch, known to my friends as Georgie. I am of the house of Windsor, second cousin to King George V, thirty-fourth in line to the throne, and at this moment I was stony broke.
Oh, wait. There was another option for me. It was to marry Prince Siegfried of Romania, in the Hohenzollen-Sigmaringen line—for whom my private nickname was Fish-face. That subject hadn’t come up recently, thank God. Maybe other people had also found out that he has a predilection for boys.
It was clearly going to be one of those English summer days that makes one think of rides along leafy country lanes, picnics in the meadow with strawberries and cream, croquet and tea on the lawn. Even in central London birds were chirping madly. The sun was sparkling from the windows across the square. A gentle breeze was stirring the net curtains. The postman was whistling as he walked around the square. And what did I have before me?
“Oh, golly,” I exclaimed as I suddenly remembered the reason for the alarm clock and leaped into action. I was expected at a residence on Park Lane. I washed, dressed smartly and went downstairs to make some tea and toast. You can see how wonderfully domesticated I’d become in two short months. When I bolted from our castle in Scotland back in April, I didn’t even know how to boil water. Now I can manage baked beans and an egg. For the first time in my life I was living with no servants, having no money to pay them. My brother, the Duke of Glen Garry and Rannoch, usually known as Binky, had promised to send me a maid from our Scottish estate, but so far none had materialized. I suspect that no God-fearing, Presbyterian Scottish mother would let her daughter loose in the den of iniquity that London is perceived to be. As for paying for me to hire a maid locally—well, Binky is as broke as I. You see, when our father shot himself after the crash of ’29, Binky inherited the estate and was saddled with the most horrendous death duties.
So I have managed thus far servantless, and frankly, I’m jolly proud of myself. The kettle boiled. I made my tea, slathered Cooper’s Oxford marmalade on my toast (yes, I know I was supposed to be economizing but there are standards below which one just can’t sink) and brushed away the crumbs hastily as I put on my coat. It was going to be too warm for any kind of jacket, but I couldn’t risk anyone seeing what I was wearing as I walked through Belgravia—the frightfully upper-crust part of London just south of Hyde Park where our town house is situated.
A chauffeur waiting beside a Rolls saluted smartly to me as I passed. I held my coat tightly around me. I crossed Belgrave Square, walked up Grosvenor Cresent and paused to look longingly at the leafy expanse of Hyde Park before I braved the traffic across Hyde Park Corner. I heard the clip-clop of hooves and a pair of riders came out of Rotten Row. The girl was riding a splendid gray and was smartly turned out in a black bowler and well-cut hacking jacket. Her boots were positively gleaming with polish. I looked at her enviously. Had I stayed home in Scotland that could have been me. I used to ride every morning with my brother. I wondered if my sister-in-law, Fig, was riding my horse and ruining its mouth. She was inclined to be heavy-handed with the reins, and she weighed a good deal more than I. Then I noticed other people loitering on the corner. Not so well turned out, these men. They carried signs or sandwich boards:
I need a job. Will work for food. Not afraid of hard work.
I had grown up sheltered from the harsh realities of the world. Now I was coming face-to-face with them on a daily basis. There was a depression going on and people were lining up for bread and soup. One man who stood beneath Wellington’s Arch had a distinguished look to him, well-polished shoes, coat and tie. In fact he was wearing medals.
Wounded on Somme. Any kind of employment considered.
I could read in his face his desperation and his repugnance at having to do this and wished that I had the funds to hire him on the spot. But essentially I was in the same boat as most of them.
Then a policeman blew his whistle, traffic stopped and I sprinted across the street to Park Avenue. Number 59 was fairly modest by Park Lane standards—a typical Georgian house of the smart set, redbrick with white trim, with steps leading up to the front door and railings around the well that housed the servants’ quarters below stairs. Not dissimilar to Rannoch House although our London place is a good deal larger and more imposing. Instead of going up to the front door, I went gingerly down the dark steps to the servants’ area and located the key under a flowerpot. I let myself in to a dreadful dingy hallway in which the smell of cabbage lingered.
BOOK: A Royal Pain
10.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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