I don’t so much review books as write about the books I read and what I found interesting as a reader and a writer. There may be spoilers. Reader beware.
(Victorian Bookshop Mystery #3)
By Kate Parker
When the Duke of Blackford enters her bookstore, Georgia knows the Archivist Society is in need of her services. The Tsar of Russia and his family are visiting Queen Victoria on the auspices of the engagement of the Russian princess Kira to the son of the Queen’s cousin. When Kira’s bodyguard is found dead on a train returning from Scotland, the Queen calls on Blackford to discreetly protect the princess and prevent an international incident.
The Russian royalty refuses help in finding the murderer, suspecting anarchists and demanding every extremist in London be hanged. But that is far from the English way. To get the job done, Georgia must go undercover as Kira’s English secretary. She soon discovers that anarchy isn’t the only motive in the case—and that someone is determined to turn royal wedding bells into a funeral dirge.
A running gag throughout The Royal Assassin is a fear of anarchists under the bed. Everyone fears them – the Queen, Russian tsars and princesses – and sees them everywhere. I’m not sure about the validity of the reference to attempts on Queen Victoria’s life by anarchists. (See this fun article that summarizes the eight assassination attempts.)
There isn’t much detail provided about the anarchists. They are merely a link to the Russian princess betrothed to a British duke. Apparently they are all Russian and enjoy blowing things up. An anarchist printer is introduced briefly but his politics are never addressed. And the actions by the pertinent anarchists are ultimately driven by a single woman’s quest for justice (in her mind).
A vague concept of Russian anarchists allows the introduction of a cast of characters not previously seen in the Victorian Bookshop series. Georgia goes undercover as an English teacher to help protect the Russian princess. Working in a British aristocratic household filled with Russian aristocratic guests creates a bit of a farce, but a dangerous one. (You know, because of those damned anarchists.)
Parker does a good job maintaining the various languages spoken by the characters – English, French and Russian. While all dialogue is written in English, it is very clear when another language is spoken and who then is being kept out of the conversation. That could have gotten very messy but is very easy to keep track of.
A subplot between two characters that has been brewing comes to a satisfying conclusion in this installment. And Georgia and Blackford continue to make eyes at each other and kiss several times. Their relationship is doomed – she is a middle-class bookseller and he is a duke. Georgia periodically thinks about how he should be getting married and producing an heir. Those asides were a bit distracting. The obstacles to their relationship have been obvious from the first book. It makes more sense when Georgia feels sad about her feelings for Blackford.
So watch out for anarchists while reading The Royal Assassin and keep your fingers crossed that Georgia and Blackford are the sorts of characters to defy historical conventions.