Royal Wedding

UnknownA friend recently reminded me the Americans fought a war to get away from the English Royals, yet many of us were happy to succumb to the pomp and ceremony of the recent royal wedding between an American who gave up her religion, her career, and her country for the love of a Prince – a plot right out of the Hallmark Channel.  Most public commentators were either politely politically correct or effusively complimentary; privately, opinions on the dress, the celebrities attending, and the sermon varied – but everyone loved the Queen.

51kkZEjM6bL._AC_US218_I found Anthony Lane’s “Daily Comment” in the New Yorker this morning, and I  laughed so hard, my fascinator fell off.  After reading “Harry and Meghan Look to the Future, but Some Royals Never Change,” I decided to download his collection of New Yorker essays – Nobody’s Perfect.  Since Lane is a movie critic, the book is full of his irreverent reviews from “Indecent Proposal: to “Pearl Harbor.”  Although he skewers the plots, the actors, and producers – even Julia Roberts and Alfred Hitchcock do not escape – the book is full of honest laughs.  The Queen would approve.

Princess Elizabeth’s Spy

As a fourteen year in danger of being kidnapped by the Nazis, the future Queen of England is the foil for the second Maggie Hope mystery by Susan Elia MacNeal in “Princess Elizabeth’s Spy.” With the same charm as her first Maggie book – “Mr. Churchill’s Secretary” – MacNeal combines espionage with World War II history.

If you haven’t read the first book in the mystery series, MacNeal brings you up to date on continuing characters and introduces a few new ones. Maggie’s father reappears to add drama to the plot with his questionable past as a double agent.

As part of her undercover persona, Maggie, a math whiz and British citizen who grew up in the United States, tutors the young Elizabeth in algebra and codes that she can use to communicate secretly. A new romance is brewing between Maggie and a fellow spy, and the relationship between Prince Philip and the future Queen Elizabeth is just beginning. With some help from Churchill, Maggie thwarts the villains in an exciting finale on Christmas Day at Windsor Castle.

A fun easy mystery with a heroine who has the flavor of an intelligent Bridget Jones, Maggie Hope has become one of my favorite sleuths.

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Untold Story

What if – like Elvis – Princess Diana didn’t really die?  What if she were living an obscure life somewhere?  In Monica Ali’s Untold Story, Diana still lives in Kensington, but in North Carolina, and works at an animal shelter.

Ali alternates the beginning chapters from describing Lydia Snaresbook’s (Diana) new life, friends, and lover ten years after her funeral, with Lawrence’s diary.  Lawrence, her faithful assistant, helped her escape to start a new life; in Ali’s version, she survives the tunnel crash and later fakes her death in a swimming accident. Through his notes as he lay dieing of cancer, Lawrence reveals the details – everyone needs an accomplice to go into hiding.

Lydia starts to get sloppy with her disguise – no longer wearing the brown contact lenses, buying gossip magazines to check on her sons.  By accident or fate, a former paparazzo, John “Grabber” Grabowski, happens to stop by the town; when he matches her eyes to old photos and suspects who she really is – the hunt is on.

When not mired down in the drudgery of Lydia’s new suburban life or the boring gossip of her new girlfriends, Monica Ali cleverly infuses ordinary life with extraordinary circumstances – using the mundane to reveal Lydia/Diana’s fears and insecurities, as well as her poise.  Ali makes Lydia a pathetic but remarkable character, emulating the real Diana.   When Lydia realizes that Grabowski has recognized her, the chase becomes a thriller.

Untold Story is not as thoughtful or satisfying as Brick Lane, her novel revealing the choices of a young married Bangladesh woman displaced in London, but Ali manages to create a story about the forlorn princess that uses Curtis Sittenfeld’s conceit in  American Wife,  based on First Lady Laura Bush -not quite believable – but fun to think about.

Tina Brown speculated what Diana would look like at 50.  Still lookin’ good – just like Elvis.