Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding: New Excerpt
Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen is the 12th book in the Royal Spyness Mystery series, where Lady Georgiana Rannoch takes on the responsibilities of a grand estate in the days leading up to her wedding to Darcy O’Mara—but proving she can run a household just may be the death of her.
If only Darcy and I had eloped! What I thought would be a simple wedding has been transformed into a grand affair, thanks to the attendance of the queen, who has offered up the princesses as bridesmaids. Silly me! I thought that withdrawing from the royal line of succession would simplify my life. But before Darcy and I tie the knot in front of queen and country, we have to find a place to live as man and wife.
House hunting turns out to be a pretty grim affair. Just as we start to lose hope, my globetrotting godfather offers us his fully staffed country estate. Mistress of Eynsleigh I shall be! With Darcy off in parts unknown, I head to Eynsleigh alone, only to have my hopes dashed. The grounds are in disarray and the small staff is suspiciously incompetent. Not to mention the gas tap leak in my bedroom, which I can only imagine was an attempt on my life. Something rotten is afoot—and bringing the place up to snuff may put me six feet under before I even get a chance to walk down the aisle.
Darcy smiled and wiped the tear away. “Don’t worry. Something will show up. I promise. It’s not as if we’ll be on the streets.”
“I know,” I said. “I’m being silly. It’s just . . .”
“Weddings are emotional events, I understand.” He took me into his arms, right there in Eaton Square. “You and I are going to have a wonderful life together, even if it means living in a shoe box, all right?”
“All right,” I said, sniffing back another tear that threatened.
He kissed the tip of my nose. “You’re adorable when you cry.”
“No, I’m not. My face goes blotchy,” I said.
“I think you’re adorable.” Then he kissed me properly.
“Darcy, not here! What will people think?” I exclaimed, breaking away with some difficulty.
“They’ll think what a charming young couple in love,” he said. “See that nursemaid over there? She’s smiling. Come on. Let’s go and tell Zou Zou about our horrors and make her laugh!”
He took my hand and dragged me forward at a rapid pace.
As we entered Zou Zou called out from the drawing room, “Is that you, my darlings? Tea is just about to be served. Come in and tell me all about it. Oh, and there’s a letter for you, Georgie.”
I picked up the envelope from the salver on the hall table. It bore a lot of foreign stamps. Not Italian. Not German. I opened it, curious now. I didn’t recognize the handwriting and turned over the page to see the signature.
Your affectionate godfather, Hubert Anstruther.
“It’s from Sir Hubert,” I called out to Darcy. “He must have heard about our wedding and is wishing me well.”
It was headed from a place I had never heard of in Chile. I started to read.
My dear Georgiana,
I understand that congratulations are in order. I have just seen the announcement of your engagement in a copy of the Times that someone brought out from London. Well done. I remember O’Mara’s father when we were at Oxford together. He rowed well. I am currently in Chile, where we have been attempting a couple of unclimbed peaks, so it looks almost impossible that I shall be able to make it back to Britain in time for your wedding.
However, I do want to offer you an early wedding present—My spirits started to rise; Sir Hubert was known to be generous—As you know you are now my sole heir and one day will inherit Eynsleigh. I remember how happy you were as a little girl when you lived there and wondered if you’d like to recall those happy days. It pains me that the house is left unoccupied for much of the time. It should be lived in and enjoyed by a family, which I hope you will soon have. I want to picture small children running naked through the fountain like you used to do!
I’m not sure if you have a place in mind to live or plan to settle over in Ireland, but I’d like to propose that you move into Eynsleigh right away and have time to arrange the place to your liking before your wedding day. Naturally I shall be home from time to time, more frequently as I get older, I suspect, but I’d like you to feel the place is yours. I’ll merely keep a suite of rooms in one wing: a bedroom, sitting room and study will be ample.
It may be that you are planning a place in town but I have to point out there is a first-class train service from Haywards Heath station on the Brighton Line. You can be in town in half an hour. And of course the Bentley is at your disposal. So what do you say? I’ll notify the servants of your arrival and do so much hope that I’ll find you well ensconced there by the time I manage to return home.
“Golly,” I said. I was tempted to say “bloody hell” but a lady never swears within the hearing of others.
“What is it?” Darcy asked. “You’ve gone quite pink.”
I held out the letter to him. “It’s Sir Hubert Anstruther. I’m his heir and he wants us to move into his house in Sussex right away. He says he’s hardly ever there and it should have a family in it.”
“Well, I call that splendid,” Zou Zou said. “All your problems solved.”
“Just a minute, Georgie,” Darcy said, looking up from the letter and frowning. “How does he think we can afford to run a big place like that?”
“Oh crikey.” The bubble was pricked suddenly.
Then he laughed and said, “It’s all right. There’s a postscript. Listen: there should be sufficient funds coming into the household account every month to enable you to run the place to your liking.”
Darcy opened his arms and hugged me, swinging me around like a small child.
“You’re going to be mistress of Eynsleigh!” he crowed.
“It sounds frightfully Jane Austen,” Zou Zou said, “but I couldn’t be more happy for you.”
“Neither could I,” I said. “It’s a lovely place. I was very happy when I was there. I can’t wait to show it to you, Darcy. Sir Hubert has the nicest old butler and housekeeper, and a cook who used to let me lick the spoons when she was making a cake.”
Darcy observed my face, now flushed with excitement. “We’ll go down as soon as we’ve sorted out final details here.”
“I’ll miss you, my children,” Zou Zou said. “And of course you are welcome to stay here at any time. But I really should be getting back to Ireland. I miss my racehorses too.”
Darcy raised an eyebrow and I grinned.
As I was folding up the letter again I noticed the second postscript:
Frankly I should be happy to know that you are keeping an eye on the place. I get the feeling that all might not be as it should be at Eynsleigh.
Excerpted from FOUR FUNERALS AND MAYBE A WEDDING by Rhys Bowen, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2018 by Janet Quin-Harkin.