Her Royal Spyness

Her Royal Spyness
By: Rhys Bowen
(http://rhysbowen.com/)
Berkley Prime Crime 2008
A Historical Mystery Comedy Review

Her Royal Spyness

Being thirty-fourth in line for the British throne proves utterly unhelpful to Lady Georgiana (Georgie) Rannoch. Nothing but royal expectations for Georgie’s future, but she is without the money, tolerable husband candidates, or conventional disposition to meet them. In this stifling situation, striking out on her own to London seems a great idea…except for the fact that she has no servants, cooking knowledge, or the ability to light a fire. Georgie’s quest to correct these oversights finds her mixing with new circles, learning scandalous secrets, and struggling with a murder investigation. Letting a dead Frenchman bring down her family name would never do, but can Georgie straighten it out while still managing to avoid deadly accidents and marriage machinations?

Lady Georgie proves a marvelous combination of Elizabeth Bennet’s good sense and sense of humor, and Anne of Green Gable’s penchant for new experiences and getting into trouble. The novel’s quick pace reflects Georgie’s quick wit and bright spirits. The supporting cast balance strong personalities with expected English types. The world of 1930s London appears with enough scope to draw everyone in, but never drags down the tone or pace. The mysteries bob and weave gracefully through the plot, buoying the reader’s enjoyment and fascination with Georgie’s world even more without proving overly suspenseful.

In short, this is a quick, delightful read with a heroine you’ll love to cheer on and a way of making one want high tea. Recommended for the society of travelers, beach-goers, and at-home readers, Her Royal Spyness introduces a world I’ll be glad to read more of.

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The Flavor of “Reign”

So, this was the biggest surprise to me, but…I love this show! I know, I shouldn’t, I study history and it is wildly inaccurate, but here’s the thing: it’s so wildly inaccurate that it’s not even pretending to be a real history show. So long as it’s not really an imposter to history, I see no point in hating something for not being right and I believe “Reign” falls in this category for very important reasons:

Dolorous Crystal Bodychain on Adelaide Kane CW Reign

(SPOILER FREE)

1)They play modern music. Anything with modern music is either not pretending to be history at all or is absolutely rotten. This show is so far from pretensions to reality that I actually enjoy the soundtrack, as it goes rather well with what the show actually IS.
2)The costumes are ridiculously off. This is the second of the main two things that all audiences are most likely to pick up on and as they often are not even vaguely accurate, this is the second big thing that lets the show off the hook. Particularly as these wildly inaccurate confections are glorious.
3)Within the first 10 minutes we are informed that ghosts will be a major part of the plot. Which brings us to-
4)What “Reign” actually is, is A GOTHIC MYSTERY ROMANCE. With not only ghosts, but a Blood Woods, and angsty music (I told you there was a reason it works for me.) Only instead of being stuck wandering around a dark, deserted manor, we get treated to the bright, lavish, scheming court when not roaming secret hallways or communing with spirits. And instead of putting up with Bronte-type heroes, we get a variety of moral centers to choose from in the male part of the cast. The revelation that a Gothic mystery romance was actually what I was watching actually managed to explain the most egregious historical crime for me, as it was relevant to the whole lifestyle and plotlines of the story as opposed to the specifics of Queen Mary: There are nowhere near enough extras. And while it is still laughable that Mary is often wandering about alone with no other living souls about, servant, guard, or otherwise, now I know why-because that’s what has to happen in a Gothic mystery romance, It all makes sense! Although occasionally they actually draw attention to the absence of guards for a plotline and it is still hilarious, but hey-what they’re actually doing is something where this lack of people is necessary, where modern music works, and where court life actually meshes with Gothic ghosts. That is Amazing and I deeply appreciate it. I think you should, too.

I should admit that it helps that I have never met a version of the actual Mary, Queen of Scots that I found particularly compelling in this period. On the other hand, if you like the actual historical Mary then knowing what would eventually happen would just make a show depressing. “Reign” not only has a heroine who appears to actually make the most sensible decisions she can in her circumstances most of the time, but as she is clearly not historical there is no need for such sadness! This one could be hypnotized into marrying her second husband! Or be switched with a body double right before her execution by the ghost! Her future is wide open! Which is how a good Gothic mystery romance should be-free to make crazy revelations at any moment. I like that. Especially when Mary’s supporting cast include a girl who’s basically an earlier Jane Bennet without a Lizzie, a girl determined to hold the sexual revolution back then, and Susan from the Narnia movies.

White Queen 1×7 “Poison and Malmsey Wine”

FINALLY, this show has joined the ranks of a proper history soap opera! The costumes are looking up, they took a moment for simply a beautiful nature shot, they left room for some mystery…it has arrived. This is definitely my favorite episode so far.

SPOILERS:

-Margaret Beaufort, turns out you just needed things to Do other than mope around about your son and Lancaster in order to enliven the screen. The baby thing in itself and as your way in was dumb, but you went for it and by golly, anything that makes you stop bellyaching and start spying and speaking with dignity is excellent. However, it would have been that much better if you’d been seen subtly scaring off the other maid before she asked the queen to leave court, so it would be clear you’re still backstabbing and scheming away.

-David Oakes, your Juan pt. 2, the English One ends as outrageously as I had hoped. From the moment I saw you stroking your dog while watching brother-sex I was worried about the relationship. I was relieved to see it ended in a superstitious death. Also, I shall go ahead and give you credit for brainwashing Isabel for that year we didn’t see-getting her so afraid of Lizzie she could have died of voodoo-inspired fear was quite the accomplishment. Still a big fan of your hissyfits, but seeing one start with you in a bull mask was a special treat. Also, choosing a colorful way to go literally gains my approval.

-Edward…I love your lion outfit. Why do you keep whoring around and pretending to go to war so much when you’re obviously way too tired to make any kind of decent decisions ever and merely bend to wife, brothers, or the letter of the law without much foresight or zest? The year has not been kind to you, has it? Perhaps you’ve already got STDs and that accounts for it.

-Anne, why does everyone else get new clothes but you remain stuck in the one plain silhouette ALWAYS? I feel like this episode had you wanting to jump ship to Revenge, wanting to destroy someone for your fallen family member, clearly not knowing everything, needing Victoria’s advice about controlling powers that be instead of just having to choose a side…yeah, you’d fit RIGHT in. And they’d liven up your wardrobe, too.

-Elizabeth, I feel for you. One snarky comment about your womb being able to beat up everyone else’s womb and suddenly court is exploding in your face. What I’d like to know is how everyone somehow realized you were responsible for the storm that killed Izzy’s firstborn-don’t think that’s ever been comprehended before and it had no realization moment. However, storming after George in front of everyone served no useful purpose except to show off your sparkly gold dress. This is a schemey political show and you’ve got witchcraft-why bother to go after him yourself? It’s the least interesting choice. Your problem here seems, in fact, to be that you are too direct and honest. You let everyone know how you feel, you’re consistent, and you try to come at problems head-on. These are not the most useful problems from a TV perspective, but you’re doing them with flair.

-Richard, I am glad they let you speak up for George. On the other hand, your dealings with Anne are becoming too focused on dark looks. Your best moment really was when you got to blow up at your mom over her favoritism. Also, you at least have been paying attention to the foreshadowing. Please, let that not be played out as a self-fulfilling prophecy instead of actually your decision.

-Dear show, see how that works out for everyone when there’s not absolute clarity about a suspicious death? That’s what we’re looking for. That and more present complexities instead of filling in with repetitive foreshadowing. And more masquerades/intriguing scenery. Take note!

The White Queen 1×5 “War at First Hand”

SPOILERS:

Well, Finally we have gotten through Warwick’s story.  Surprisingly enough, this episode that reaches the climax of everyone-knows-no-matter-what-something-is-going-to-suck managed to show all the characters at their best.  Warwick shows protectiveness towards his daughter, Isabel.  Isabel bears up bravely in her loneliness and supreme something’s-about-to-suckage.  Seriously, Isabel has become far and away my favorite character.  Anne grows up in leaps and bounds, although sometimes not very plausibly.  The “Bad Queen” Margaret flaunts her strengths for battle and commonsense.  Remarkably, her respect for commonsense is so great she gives up any extra jibing at Anne.  Unfortunately, her practicality put Anne at a disadvantage in my eyes for awhile.  (Yelling you’re the Kingmaker’s daughter is not going to help you against the folks who killed him, Anne!)  Even Anne’s husband comes across as just an arrogant prick instead of a horror.

 

Where they lost me was Warwick himself.  First, the man is not Boromir!  He doesn’t need this music and kneeling-in-the-leaves thing!  Second, call me something if you want, but I would’ve been much happier if the York boys had actually at least tried to kill him.  I know there’s this thing going about where the “good guys” no longer actually dispatch their enemies, but for God’s sake, we KNOW Edward gets his hands dirty, has no time for anything but, AND we’ve already gone over how he doesn’t want to, so at least let him act like he’s willing to do what he has to do for his realm.  Jeesh.  Just made him look like a wimp to me.

 

As for the royalty, Jacquetta managed to come up with a way for them to help the battle, magically of course.  Elizabeth showed great aplomb and practicality in attempting to defend her brood against Edward-in-disguise, and other times, which makes me like her.  “Most men would prefer to die in their sleep” indeed, Elizabeth!  You rock on!  (Until she gave Isabel that death look anyhow.  You keep your machinations off of Isabel!  Remember how sorry you felt for her and her newborn, will you?)  Edward continued to act very nobly, as always (So nobly and courageous in fact that it tired me out just watching him run about even more after all these episodes), and this time added sensitivity.  His demeanor about his son and about Warwick set him markedly apart.  They finally let Richard in on the action there, too, talking down to George.  Speaking of which, even GEORGE at least acknowledged how he should be feeling about his wife being Warwick’s daughter.  When you can get George to admit something honorable, you’re really on a roll!  (Isn’t he the most magnificent bastard?)

 

And on the Lancastrian side, even Margaret of Anjou and her husband made out well, character-wise.  Husband Henry showed determination, integrity, and as always, commonsense.  Margaret meanwhile proved that she can actually put aside her quest to think of others when things are dire, and that she can bear up well under more trials so long as she’s sure she did all she could.  It makes me think how frustrating it must be to not be able to really influence or ACT to effect the outcomes you want as a woman in those times, and how hard it would be for me also to shut up about anything without that power, how hard not to play manipulative emotion games when that’s all you have.  This episode showed that, so long as Margaret could do things and felt she had done all she could do, she can actually show some grace.

 

Plotwise of course, everything was supposed to be all war! Battle!  Blood!  However, that first blood-soaked face they close-upped on reminded me so much of the time I made a Vlad-the-Impaler cake (https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/vlad-the-impalers-just-desserts/) and sprayed red food coloring and strawberry syrup everywhere for blood that the taste of that scrumptious creation came to my mouth.  Naturally, after that whenever I was supposed to think about blood and death and the misery of it all, I just tasted and thought-CAKE!  So, that kindof fell apart for me, but ya know, a very enjoyable experience for my own reasons.

 

Also, I am disappointed that the show has taken no stand on the death of Edward Lancaster.  Died in battle, indeed.  What about the more controversial stories and rumors, eh?  This is a Starz freaking TV history version, if you take out the controversies, what on earth are we doing here???  Which brings us to:

-Suffocating King Henry in bed.  Well, I know what they’re going for with that, but…I have no strong feelings.  Sorry.  Have you?

 

Other thoughts:

-Anne’s a freaking princess now, she can’t get at least a fancier hairdo like her mom has??

-Having Queen Margaret offer to make Richard king instead of having him figure it out all on its own just seems to weaken his character for no good reason.  Foreshadowing?  I don’t know.  It throws me off.

-Having Richard dramatically rescue Anne like that is a bit over the top, yes?

-I actually really like seeing little Elizabeth join her mom and grandma in magic.  It at least gives her a glimmer of her own power, which I’ve never felt she had before.  It’s nice.

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Similar Posts:

-https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/the-white-queen-1×1-in-love-with-the-king/

-https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/the-white-queen-1×4-the-bad-queen/

-https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/bones-belonged-to-richard-iii/

 

The White Queen 1×4 “The Bad Queen”

Also known as “Everyone gets divided, and if there are reunions there’s something creepy involved so we can’t ever all just be happy.”

We have finally reached regular historical drama genre standards of this era of “Game of Thrones” and “Borgias’.  Sex is horrifying, no one trusts anyone else, and it is clear that absolutely everything will get fucked over.  So far, so good.  The show contains its tone by continuing to draw lots of parallels between anyone it possibly can and by doing so through quiet moments.  That’s the odd thing about this show-its hardest attempts at realization are always through quiet, odd moments rather than anything with flair or that causes that satisfying click that most show parallels manage.  Yet, it seems to be that way by choice, rather than misdirection.  It is interesting.  “The White Queen” is clearly going for the opposite of instant gratification.  I’m not sure what all that is yet, but I’d better find out by the end of the season.

 

SPOILERS:

First, let’s count the divisions that happened:

-Margaret from her son Henry

-Elizabeth from her oldest 2 sons

-Henry from his mother, then his other guardian

-Izzie from Ann

-Margaret of Anjou from Henry VI

-Elizabeth Woodville from Edward IV

-Warwick from his family

-Jasper from Henry and Margaret

-Elizabeth from Jaquetta

Reunions with something creepy/weird involved:

-Henry’s total fealty reunion with his mom

-Everyone’s reunion with Henry VI

-Jaquetta’s reunion with Elizabeth was too convenient and timely to be plausible

-Jasper’s reunion causes even Margaret’s long-suffering husband to get his creepy glare on

 

It’s just the thing.  Now, onto other notes:

 

1. Now Edward Lancaster looks like the creepy teenage hoodlum lurking creepily outside a drugstore.  WHY do the two princes involved with Ann Neville have modern-day teenager stereotype looks??

2. I really like the way Countess Warwick’s hair looks when she’s wearing her tiara and at official functions.  It’s my first costume ooh.

3. Margaret of Anjou was not as impressive as I wished her to be.  Perhaps if she had some time to be odious with just her son?  Maybe it’s just that I already know how her judgment of things works out.  Hmm.

4. Warwick beheading random lords who’ve just been upgraded to good lands with his own hands is odd.  Him going to behead a random kid and then immediately taking him at his word at the cry of “Tudor” stretches the mind.

5. Didn’t Jasper also tell the boy about him having a claim to the throne and being a total Tudor?  Cause it was pretty clear that he was all “Henry Tudor” and also much closer to the kid.  Why is the recognition of the Tudor name leading solely to Margaret here?  Shouldn’t the kid be all, hurrah-Jasper was right?  Or at least, hurrah!-Lancasters should totally always guide me?

6. I kept expecting Henry VI to yell out nonsense or somehow embarrass his supporters.  Next time, perhaps?

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Similar Posts:

-https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/the-white-queen-1×1-in-love-with-the-king/

https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/the-borgia-bulletin-3×7-lucrezias-spoilers/

https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/the-night-lands-got-2×2/

The White Queen 1×3 “The Storm”

Otherwise known as: No matter what the scheme is, women always suffer the most.  *shrug*  It’s a common theme.

I think the real problem here is that not a lot of character development happens here.  This episode is more about entrenching who these people were before, although it does broaden horizons enough to admit that people from different sides have valid grievances.  On the other hand, the plot picked up more action and snarky scenes than before.  I love me some historical snark.  I do, however, have some notes on how things could have been improved:

 

SPOILERS

1. Let George TALK more, so we can all revel in the fact that he is a glorious bastard and take a personal stake in his defeats.  It works, he proved it as Juan Borgia.

2. Stop spending so much time with this Jasper character.  Not that I’ve anything against him per se, but he seems like the token feel-sorry-for-this-woman! card, and in my head it is keeping Beaufort too victimized.  The woman has an iron fist, let her just do her job without all this pity-playing about menfolk around her.  Bonus, that’d leave more screentime for little Henry VII.

3. If Warwick is going the insanely stormy route, let him ham-it-up, already.

4.. Less witchcraft, more Jaquetta being awesomely practical about everything. Why was Edward IV the most practical person in this episode?

Other Comments:

1. Dude, EDWARD IV WAS THE MOST PRACTICAL PERSON IN THIS EPISODE!  I don’t even know what to make of that, except to say that this characterization has officially won me over for the fact that we somehow got here believably.

2. I feel like Warwick’s character is being sacrificed.  It makes me sad.

3. Isabel is really carrying the bulk of the empathy-play to a huge degree.  Not great for the show, but impressive for the actress.  I think she pulled it off.

4. Here’s the thing: I feel like Elizabeth played her feelings off as if reacting directly to everything and kept all emotional things really consistent, while everyone else played it as if spans of time were happening and therefore their feelings were shifting around.  It made Elizabeth more accessible, but also just oddly without depth in comparison to everyone else.  They should really all get together on this timespan-vs.-immediacy issue.

5. Anyone else just really feel it was totally Jasper’s fault for telling Wells the plan in the first place and maybe he should feel bad about it sometime?

6. It is really interesting to me that all of the tensiony sex scenes in this episode were actually about people plotting things about people who were not the one they were having sex with.

7. I do like Richard’s actual appearances this episode.  It makes me more uncertain about how they’re planning to portray him later.

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The White Queen 1×2 “The Price of Power”

This episode is all about drawing allegiance lines and telling the audience what side everyone’s on.  Also, about jumping right to the parts that have the simplest bad guy/good guy dynamics and, when that won’t quite fit in, have characters tell fairy tale versions of things where the “bad” people are devilspawn and werewolves.  It’s kindof relaxing, really.  They like to tell you things rather than expecting you to think, so you can just plunk yourself down and revel in all the foreshadowing.  Which is not to say things are bad, it just feels more like watching a romance drama than a political scheming intrigue one.  Usually, you feel compelled to side with schemers, etc.  With this one you’re really just letting them take care of their own fights and leaning into the ride.  Need to be in the right mood.

 

SAFE-TO-READ thoughts:

1. I am starting to really like Isabel Neville this episode.  The second the script let her grow more than one dimension she became engaging, particularly in her relationship with Anne.

2. Anne Neville herself has clearly been told to play her single dimension up as much as she can, and she complies.  It had better change soon.

3. I love Warwick’s furry-shoulders cape.

4. I appreciate how they make everything feel sudden.  Very helpful for keeping up interest, when you already know what’s going to happen.  It also feels more authentic.

5. It is really amusing to see what lengths they will go to to make sure everyone in the audience knows who everyone’s going to be as soon as humanly possible.

6. The magic sideline begins to swing in a dull direction rather than the fun one here, though.  Swing back-swing it back!

7. This portrayal of Richard remains sidelined, absurd, and somehow geek-vibed, though.  They had all better get on that.

 

SPOILERS:

1.The Duke of Buckingham and Catherine together-I luuuuuurve it.  Particularly when she’s swinging her feet.  Child-Marriage, FTW!

2. Okay, seriously, Edward rides off WITHOUT A SINGLE DAMN BODYGUARD when he retreats from Warwick’s army??  No.  Just no.  Take his fucking head when that happens.

3. So, they just let Edward send off letters giving Elizabeth advice?  And with a messenger that got there faster than Anthony?  >.>

4. I do appreciate how they’re keeping all the butchery things somehow one place removed-through dreams or flashbacks.  It lets the actual sadness of the moment and the drama of the living characters overshadow everything and connects the audience to them, rather than their own thoughts, feelings, or lack there of concerning the deaths.  I think that’s smart, especially considering how short a time we’ve known anyone in this show.

5. Is it just me or did the wording of all concerned when Warwick made his move just sound like Woodvilles=Always Right!, even Edward IV=wrong!?  Cause that’ll get annoying.

6. Margaret Beaufort, why don’t I care about this version of you?

7. I am saddened that Henry VI did not get to indulge his insanity on camera.  It’s his one opportunity to have fun, after all.

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