Rhys took a little break from writing and promotion to tell us about her latest book: God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Georgie at Christmas! (Nine years since the release of The Twelve Clues of Christmas in 2012). What is it about setting the mystery at Christmas that sets it apart for you?
RHYS: I suppose I am nostalgic about the good old British Christmas. I remember the roaring fires, the flaming Christmas pudding, the silly party games, the carols—such a magical time. So I’ve tried to recreate it in my story. And because it’s a time of peace and contentment the crime is all that more shocking, jarring us from our celebration and reminding us that the real world outside is still there and is sometimes dangerous.
Do you have any favorite family Christmas traditions?
RHYS: The ones we still follow are: making mince pies and sausage rolls. My family insists and now my daughters have adopted this as well. I don’t make my own Christmas puddings but always serve one, even though nobody else likes them except John and me. We have crackers at the dinner table (the type you pull, not eat) and wear the paper hats and read the riddles. When the family is together we play silly party games after dinner: charades, word games, lots of laughter.
Are there any Christmas traditions from the Royal Family you came across in your research?
RHYS: They used to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, in the German tradition brought over by Prince Albert. And Christmas trees are always a feature at Sandringham. In the time I am writing about there was one in every reception room and several down the long central hallway. And in those days there were real candles on the branches. Another Christmas tradition at Sandringham was the Boxing Day shoot.
Do you have any tips and tricks that you use when researching?
RHYS: I use maps and plans (of Sandringham House, for example) so that I can trace routes properly. Old newspaper articles about the royal family at Christmas. I’m lucky in that I start with a familiarity with the area, with British customs, with a certain knowledge of the royal family and royal conventions. (I did have tea with the queen once). My research tip would be not to rely on the Internet as false information is sometimes passed along. Of course nothing can take the place of actually researching in person, but these days Google Earth is very useful in seeing the terrain.
Was there a side character in this installment that was particularly fun to write?
RHYS: Oh yes. Aunt Ermintrude. We learned about her in a previous book when she gave one of hideous paintings as a wedding present. She’s an enigma—now she’s behaving sedately, like Queen Mary’s lady in waiting but she is really a flamboyant artist. “Quite batty” is how Darcy describes her, and it turns out he was right.
One who was harder to tackle?
RHYS: I always have to be extra careful with my depiction of the royal family. I want to show them as true to life as possible. I try not to let them express any opinions they did not really express in real life.
What was it like incorporating the famous Wallis Simpson into Gerogie’s story?
RHYS: Mrs. Simpson has appeared in almost all the Royal Spyness books. We have seen her relationship with the Prince of Wales get more serious. I have read a lot about her and I know how catty she could be, so I have great fun writing her put-downs. And even more fun writing Georgie’s mother when the two lock horns.
Are there certain historical figures from this time who you’d like to introduce Georgie to in future books?
RHYS: I’d like to take Georgie to Germany and maybe force her to meet one of Hitler’s henchmen, or even Hitler himself. I will have to tread carefully as this is a light-hearted series and I have to remember the reality of what was going on in Germany.
In the next book I plan to let Georgie meet Coco Chanel again (she crossed paths once before in Naughty in Nice). Also Georgie might run into a famous literary figure in Paris.
Rhys Bowen, a New York Times bestselling author, has been nominated for every major award in mystery writing, including the Edgar, and has won many, including both the Agatha and Anthony awards. She is the author of the Royal Spyness Mysteries, set in 1930s London, the Molly Murphy Mysteries, set in turn-of-the-century New York, and the Constable Evans Mysteries, set in Wales. She was born in England and now divides her time between Northern California and Arizona.
About her latest book:
Georgie is back and hanging the stockings with care when a murder interrupts her Christmas cheer in this all-new installment in the New York Times bestselling Royal Spyness series from Rhys Bowen.
Georgie is excited for her first Christmas as a married woman in her lovely new home. She suggests to her dashing husband, Darcy, that they have a little house party, but when Darcy receives a letter from his aunt Ermintrude, there is an abrupt change in plans. She has moved to a house on the edge of the Sandringham estate, near the royal family, and wants to invite Darcy and his new bride for Christmas. Aunt Ermintrude hints that the queen would like Georgie nearby. Georgie had not known that Aunt Ermintrude was a former lady-in-waiting and close confidante of her royal highness. The letter is therefore almost a royal request, so Georgie, Darcy, and their Christmas guests: Mummy, Grandad, Fig, and Binky all head to Sandringham.
Georgie soon learns that the notorious Mrs. Simpson, mistress to the Prince of Wales, will also be in attendance. It is now crystal clear to Georgie that the Queen expects her to do a bit of spying. There is tension in the air from the get-go, and when Georgie pays a visit to the queen, she learns that there is more to her request than just some simple eavesdropping. There have been a couple of strange accidents at the estate recently. Two gentlemen of the royal household have died in mysterious circumstances and another has been shot by mistake during a hunt. Georgie begins to suspect that a member of the royal family is the real target but her investigation will put her new husband and love of her life, Darcy, in the crosshairs of a killer.