Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Book Review: A Royal Affair by Allison Montclair

A Royal Affair (Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery #2)A Royal Affair (Sparks & Bainbridge #2). Allison Montclair. Minotaur Books (2020). 320 pages. Genre:  Mystery.

First Line: "'Men find me intimidating,' boomed Miss Hardiman. 'That's the problem.'"

Summary:  Iris Sparks and Gwen Bainbridge, proprietors of The Right Sort Marriage Bureau, are paid a visit by Gwen's cousin.  Lady Matheson works for the Queen in some capacity and she is in need of the services of The Right Sort.  Well, she doesn't need help finding a husband exactly.  Princess Elizabeth has recently taken a liking to Prince Philip and Lady Matheson would like to hire Iris and Gwen to vet him.  This usually involves looking into the person's past and making sure there is nothing lurking there that is unseemly.  In this particular case, there is something specific that needs to be looked into. A letter was sent to the Princess telling her that the sender had something and knew something relating to Philip's mother and that he would require payment.

Iris and Gwen are reluctant to take the case as it sounds dangerous.  However, the pay is excellent, so they decide it is worth the risk.  As they begin trying to discover who might have sent the letter, they realize this case is larger and more complicated than they had anticipated.  They must use all their skills and talents to discover who is trying to blackmail the Royal Family.

My thoughts:  I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to The Right Sort Marriage Bureau!  One of the things that makes these books a delight is the banter between the characters.  It is quick and witty and keeps you on your toes.  

The other thing that makes these books wonderful is the characters.  Iris and Gwen come from very different backgrounds.  Gwen grew up among the wealthy.  She is thoroughly versed in the ways of society.  She was presented at the age of sixteen and understands what is proper and right.  She fell in love, married and had a child.  Then her husband was killed in the war.  Her grief was so deep that her in-laws thought she was mentally unstable and had her committed to an asylum.  Meanwhile, they took custody of her son.  She is still trying to show them that she is very capable of caring for her son.  

Iris, on the other hand, did not grow up among the wealthy.  She always disdained those who did.  She spent the war years as some kind of spy.  Most of her past is a secret.  She throws caution to the wind and knows how to have fun.  She was almost married once, but fortunately that never happened.  She has had many beaus and is always open to someone new.  

Iris and Gwen have a beautiful friendship.  I have enjoyed watching their relationship grow in these two books.  Iris sees something in Gwen that is missing in her life.  Gwen emanates goodness and always chooses what is right.  In some ways this makes Iris uncomfortable, but in other ways she truly wants to be that kind of person.  Gwen has a hard time imagining what it would be like to live as loosely as Iris, but she also wishes she could occasionally throw caution to the wind.  They both respect one another.  They spur one another on toward changes in their lives that will make them happier without putting pressure on one another.  The balance of their personal lives with the mystery is just right.

The mystery was interesting with many layers that needed to be peeled away.  The involvement of the Royal Family made things extra complicated and interesting.  It often felt like they were making little progress, but everything was unraveled by the end.

If you are not acquainted with Sparks & Bainbridge, I urge you to change that immediately.  However, be sure to start with the first book in the series, The Right Sort of Man.

Calendar of Crime: April (A word that starts with A in the title)


  1. I think I have heard of The Right Sort of Man ~ maybe??? A Royal Affair sounds fun and intriguing. Thanks for a great review.

  2. I'm glad you're enjoying these books, too, Gretchen. They are so much fun!

  3. What a timely review, given Philip's passing yesterday.