Feature Book By Rhys Bowen

On Her Majestyís Frightfully Secret Service

Stolen

On Her Majestyís Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen is a delightful read. It combines an old fashioned who done it mystery with social commentary, humor, true 1930s historical content, and fun loving characters. At an Italian villa house party one of the guests is murdered, the Baron, who was flirtatious to the women and a blackmailer as well. The game of Clue comes to mind, who did it and with what weapon? The main character Georgie now has her hands full as she tries to find the killer and the true purpose of why Mussoliniís assistant and the Nazi generals are in attendance.

About the Author Rhys Bowen

Rhys BowenRhys Bowen was born in Bath, England, of a family that was half Welsh, half English. She was educated at London University and then began her career with the BBC, where she became a drama studio manager. She had made up stories all her life. While working on a boring play she decided to write a play of her own. With the bravado of a 22-year-old, she marched into the office of the head of BBC drama and handed him the script. Two days later he summoned her and told her that they were going to produce the play. Rhys has never looked back.

The British climate forced Rhys to escape to Australia, where she worked for Australian Broadcasting before meeting her future husband, a fellow Brit who was on his way to California. So Rhys packed up again and found herself in San Francisco, where she settled and has lived ever since, raising four children. Rhys is listed in Whoís Who in America under her married name, Janet Quin-Harkin. In 2016 Rhys was honored with a career achievement award by the RT Convention. As well as novels, Rhys has written many short stories, including an Anthony winner. She is an ex-chapter president of Mystery Writers of America. When not writing she loves to travel, sing, hike, paint, play her Celtic harp, and spoil her grandchildren.

 

An Interview with Rhys Bowen (Interviewer Elise Cooper)

Elise Cooper: How do you decide on which historical facts to use?

Rhys Bowen: First I thought that it would be great fun to have Georgie do some real spying.  I always go through the historical details that occur at the same time as the plot of the book.  I see if there was a blizzard, big fire, conference, or treaty.   When I found out about the 1935 Stresa Conference held by England, France, and Germany I wondered how it was possible.  Remember Hitler and Mussolini were as thick as thieves, where Mussolini goes up to Germany and fawns all over Hitler.  Why would he outwardly try to show he wanted to participate in combating the Nazi threat? Then I thought, what if there are other conferences going on behind the scenes for the opposite purpose.  I wanted to have Georgie be a lamp with a lampshade secretly hearing what was spoken, inadvertently hearing things she should not. 

EC: What kind of research did you do? 

RB:I had to so some grueling research (she laughed) by staying at this lovely hotel on an Italian lake for a week.  Last summer I also did research for another one of my series when I taught a writing workshop in Tuscany.  I do not think I ever set a book in a place if I havenít been to it.  By actually being there you get all the nuances of smells, sights, and just seeing it come alive. 

EC: How are you going to deal with Georgieís mom, Claire, who is now with a Nazi collaborator, Max?

RB: This is an interesting thread I might pursue in the future.  How will she determine where her loyalties lie?  In this story, Max is manufacturing guns at his factories.  In a future book she will have to decide if she wants to be a part of Germany or go home.  Max is quite willing to play along with the Nazis because he is making a load of money. As I say in this book his family made a fortune during WWI by supplying all the weapons.  He is not bad like Goebbels, but is morally blind.

EC: How do you determine how much backstory to put in each book?

RB: This is always a fine line to walk.  I canít stand these books that give away the ending to a previous book.  Yet, I do have to subtly put in Georgieís relationship to the Royal Family, with Darcy, and how her mother came from humble beginnings.  As a writer I must allow the readers to understand the characters or it gets confusing.

EC: You explore the life of the aristocracy?

RB: I try to explain why they have maids in waiting.  Just look at the clothes from that time.  How are you supposed to fasten 24 small pearl buttons by yourself?  Itís self-perpetuating because there were no washing machines or dry cleaners.  When I went on a cruise I thought how this is the life these people took for granted.  Just think, someone looks after you all the time, changing the towels and putting out your slippers or robe by your bed.  You even get to dress up formally like they did for dinner. 

EC: You do not like Mrs. Simpson?

RB: It might be a little obvious in my writings.  I canít think of any redeeming qualities except she was considered glamorous.  She spent a lot on clothes, manipulated David, the future King of England who was known as Edward, and was so cutting to people.  He wanted a mother figure to hug him, make him feel safe, and tell him what to do.  She bossed him around a lot. Because she is not the nicest person in the world I enjoyed having her battle wits with Georgieís mother who does not take her guff.

EC: You explore the life of the aristocracy?

RB: I try to explain why they have maids in waiting.  Just look at the clothes from that time.  How are you supposed to fasten 24 small pearl buttons by yourself?  Itís self-perpetuating because there were no washing machines or dry cleaners.  When I went on a cruise I thought how this is the life these people took for granted.  Just think, someone looks after you all the time, changing the towels and putting out your slippers or robe by your bed.  You even get to dress up formally like they did for dinner. 

EC: It was surprising to learn that an heir to the throne could not marry a Catholic?

RB: The Rule of Succession only changed two years ago when Catholics and a first-born girl would be allowed to become a Queen.  It goes back to Henry VIII who started the Church of England.  Then his daughter Mary brought back the Catholic faith and his other daughter Elizabeth took it away again.  In the 1800s Catholics were not allowed to keep horses for the fear they would start a rebellion.  These rules were not relaxed until the second half of the 19th century.

EC: EC:  What do you want the readers to get out of the book?

RB: I hope they see it as a historical mystery.  I enjoy reading historical books because I want to learn something.  I think of myself as a historical mystery writer although I do stay away from too much violence. 

EC: Can you give a heads up about your next books?

RB: The next Georgie book will be titled Four Funerals and Maybe A Wedding.  The Molly Murphy book is The Ghost of Christmas Past, coming out in November.  Next spring there will be another WWII book, The Tuscan Child.

EC:THANK YOU!!

 

  

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