Book Review – “The Sealed Letter” & “Her Royal Spyness”

Actually more but I wanted to do a quick review of two of them.

The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue.

Goodreads description:
England, 1864
: Miss Emily “Fido” Faithfull is a “woman of business” and a spinster pioneer of the British women’s movement. Distracted from her beloved cause by the sudden return of her once-dear friend, the unhappily wed Helen Codrington, Fido is swept up in the intimate details of Helen’s failing marriage to the stodgy Admiral Harry Codrington. What begins as an effort to help a friend explodes into a courtroom drama muckier than any Hollywood tabloid could invent; with stained dresses, accusations of adultery, counterlcaims of rape, and a mysterious letter that could destroy many lives.

My Take:
One of the main reasons I love reading is because I care about the characters. Whether I want them to go away, die, get with their crush and/or survive. As morbid as it might sound, wanting a character to die is some degree of caring. Sure, it’s certainly not nice but it is caring.

With this particular book, however, I didn’t care about any of the characters. I guess that’s to be expected. No one comes out looking wonderful in a divorce. Fido Faithfull is someone I would probably admire if I read about her in history books–she advocated for female independence and employment during a time when women were limited to needle point and seeing guests. But in this book she is so very naive and, because of that, she is led to believe some pretty inaccurate things that the reader is probably seeing straight through. Helen Codrington, the wife in this divorce case is incredibly selfish and heartless. Henry Codrington, like many men of the time, simply wanted a wife to be seen and not heard.

I guess what I found so interesting however was the British history of divorce. It was very hard to get a divorce in Britain prior to 1857 because the only way one could get one was through an act of Parliament! (So needless to say you had to be very rich to get one) Which makes me wonder–how many divorces were direly needed but never received? How many women were beaten within an inch of their life or even to death with little to no hope of ever having an end to their abusive marriage? You can see the history of divorce in Britain here and you can see just how much the woman was at the disadvantage with many of these laws.

Final Rating? Three out of Five Stars


Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

Goodreads description:
Her ridiculously long name is Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter to the Duke of Atholt and Rannoch. And she is flat broke. As the thirty-fourth in line for the throne, she has been taught only a few things, among them, the perfect curtsey. But when her brother cuts off her allowance, she leaves Scotland, and her fianc Fish-Face, for London, where she has:

a) worked behind a cosmetics counter-and gotten sacked after five hours
b) started to fall for a quite unsuitable minor royal
c) made some money housekeeping (incognita, of course), and
d) been summoned by the Queen to spy on her playboy son.

Then an arrogant Frenchman, who wants her family’s 800-year-old estate for himself, winds up dead in her bathtub. Now her most important job is to clear her very long family name

My Take:

Bridget Jones + Royal Title + Set in England during the 1930s. Then you’ll have this book :-)

What a lovely and quirky lil mystery! Don’t get me wrong–I feel very odd describing a murder mystery as light and fun but…it was!

I’ve been enjoying books about English royalty and this is one of them. I particularly like that the royalty component is from the point of view of such a loving character as Georgie–someone considered royalty (albeit 34th in line from the throne), yet we also see that she has her own life and own set of issues separate from English royalty at the time.

Georgie is requested by the Queen to spy on her first born son and his romance with American, Wallace Simpson, while trying to save her brother from being hung for a murder he did not commit. Pretty busy few weeks! But through all this, Georgie realizes that she does not have to be dependent on her family for money, servants or food. Not to mention fun!

Georgie is a woman with many layers. She doesn’t want to rush into a marriage and her friends encourage her to have sex too! Shocking I know! She has her fair share of emotional issues with her mom too. (Or “mom” as I’d like to say.) She’s clumsy and quirky too, which makes her so endearing. A woman with a royal title but even she has issues with polite manners :-P

I love me a nice murder mystery and I certainly like one that can make me laugh too! I look forward to reading the rest of the books in Bowen’s series! Four out of Five stars.

One Comment

  • sprite says:

    Nice reviews! I read much of Bowen’s earliest series, featuring Constable Evan Evans of Wales, many years ago and quite enjoyed it, but haven’t read any of her more recent works. Seems like I’d better hit the library’s website to track this one down. Thanks!

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