Allison Montclair: A Royal Affair

I loved the first book in this series, The Right Sort of Man, and I loved this installment every bit as much.  Iris Sparks and Gwen Bainbridge own The Right Sort marriage bureau, operating in post war London, and while they are still working to match couples, they do seem to get caught up in a great deal of subterfuge.  Which, for the lucky reader, is all to the good.

As Iris and Gwen are working away one day, their afternoon appointment turns out to be an envoy from the royal household, with the hope that Iris and Gwen can vet a possible marriage candidate for the young Princess Elizabeth.  This of course is none other than Prince Philip, and as any devoted royal watcher knows, Philip’s backstory is almost like a novel.  The talented Montclair takes this fact and runs with it.

Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Greece, was well known later in her life for being slightly nutty and wearing nun’s garb, but she was also known for her charity work in Greece during the war, helping Jewish refugees.  Earlier in her life this great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria was lovely and gave birth to many daughters.  Alice’s husband was Prince Andrew of Greece and the family was exiled in 1917, toting along baby Philip (who followed his sisters in birth order after a long pause).

Iris has connections to the espionage community, having worked undercover herself, and Gwen, as a member of a wealthy noble family by virtue of her marriage (she’s a widow), has many connections to the world of the royal family.  The envoy who asks the women for help is actually a cousin.

What I loved about the first book, and what I also love about this one, are several things.  I love the array of characters, from “Spivs” all the way up to the royal family, and I loved the smart plotting and the clues that are provided but are easy to miss if you don’t stay sharp as you read.  The tone of the book is light, but the writing is smart and the setting, authentic.  I also love the characters of Iris and Gwen, opposite in so many ways, but who work together so well.  In this they are certainly not alone in the mystery universe.

I loved the royal plot line as much as I loved the delving into the personal and working lives of Iris and Gwen.  What I hated were the rapidly diminishing number of pages as this book slipped so easily through my fingers.  While I hesitate to make comparisons, these reads remind me very much of early installments of Rhys Bowen’s great Molly Murphy series.  I awaited each installment eagerly and was oh so sad when a day or two later the book was finished.  I already feel the same way about Ms. Montclair’s new series – I cannot wait for the next installment.