Rhys Bowen Interviews her Heroines
Rhys Bowen is the author of the New York Times bestselling Molly Murphy mysteries, set in early 1900s New York City and the Royal Spyness novels featuring a penniless minor royal in 1930s London. Her books have won many awards including the Agatha, Anthony and MacAvity. She is a transplanted
Brit who now divides her time between California and Arizona. Today marks the publication of The Twelve Clues of Christmas, the latest Royal Spyness novel, and we’re thrilled to share a transcript from the tea Rhys recently hosted for her two heroines.
Rhys: Today I have invited two very special guests to tea at my house. The tea table is all ready with freshly baked scones, strawberry jam and cream, as well as cucumber sandwiches and little cakes. And of course a big pot of tea. I have to confess I’m a little nervous that my guests won’t get along. They should. As they have a lot in common in spite of moving in different circles. They have both learned to survive alone in a difficult world, they have both had some success as detectives, and what’s more I created them both.
Ah, here they come now. They come cautiously into the room, stealing a quick glance and nervous smile at each other. Come in, please. Take a seat near the fire. It must be cold out. And let me introduce you to each other. Lady Georgiana may I present to you Molly Murphy. Molly this is Lady Georgiana.
Georgie: How do you do?
Molly: I’m delighted to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you. Although I confess I’ve been a little apprehensive about meeting someone with connections to British royalty, given the situation between England and Ireland and the fact that I’m just an Irish peasant girl, not used to talking to people like yourself.
Georgie: Oh, please don’t worry about those things. I might be related to the royal family, but I’m absolutely penniless and besides, my mother came
from a very humble background like yours. Besides, from what I’ve heard, you’re not exactly a shrinking violet when it comes to meeting new people.
Molly: Oh, she’s been talking to you about me, has she? (They laugh) And if you don’t mind my saying so, you’re not nearly as grand as I thought you’d be.
I mean I thought you’d be more richly dressed and wearing a tiara or something.
Georgie: Oh goodness no. I must be the least fashionably dressed person in London. No money for clothes, you know. But tell me, aren’t the clothes you have to wear in nineteen hundred really uncomfortable with that high neck and tight sleeves and narrow waist? And how do you ever manage to do any detective work wearing those long skirts?
Molly: You’re right about that. It’s not easy, let me tell you. I simply can’t run away or climb a wall because my clothing hinders me too much. I have friends who dare to wear men’s trousers or bloomers. I wore them a few times and they are wonderfully freeing, but my Daniel would have a fit if he saw me in them. You don’t know how lucky you are. Women have so much more freedom in your time.
Georgie: Yes, I suppose we do. Although we still have a long way to go. There are still very few jobs for women. Sometimes it seems that the only future open to me is a good marriage. That’s what my family wants for me.
Molly: To a prince or something, you mean?
Georgie: Precisely. They’ve already tried to foist a couple of simply awful princes on me.
Molly: I hope you turned them down?
Georgie: I most certainly did.
Molly: A girl after my own heart after all.
Georgie: I want to marry for love. I have a chap in mind, but he’s as poor as I am, so I’m not sure how it will ever work.
Molly: Don’t let them bully you, my dear. You stand up for your rights. And you’re lucky that you have rights in your time. My friends are working hard for women’s suffrage, but it’s not easy. It seems that everyone is against it.
Georgie: Of course, you don’t have the vote yet, do you? How awful.
Molly: And it’s not just the vote. Women are not allowed to own property, in fact we are the property of our husbands. They are even allowed to beat us legally.
Georgie: Crikey. How terrible. But your Daniel doesn’t beat you, surely?
Molly: I’d like to see him try! No, I’ve got myself a good man. I’m lucky. But I’m not sure that I’m cut out for the life of a housewife. I’m afraid I’ll find it too boring after the excitement of being a detective.
Georgie: Golly, do you find detective work exciting? I find it terrifying.
Molly: I admit I’ve been scared out of my wits at times. But it’s been satisfying too, don’t you find? Bringing a criminal to justice, I mean, and outwitting the police sometimes too.
Georgie: I’ve never wanted to be a detective. You see, the queen finds these little assignments for me and I can’t really say no to a queen, can I? They always turn out to be embarrassing and dangerous. And I sort of stumble over bodies. But frankly I’d love a quiet life with a home and family and a chance to go out hunting.
Molly: Holy Mother of God. You like to go hunting? You wouldn’t get me on a horse.
Georgie: I adore riding. I was brought up to it.
Molly: Yes, of course you were. Just like the Hartley family in the big house where I grew up. You lived in a palace I suppose.
Georgie: Actually a big drafty castle. Not the most cheery of places and very lonely for me as a child. Neither of my parents was there.
Molly: I often wished neither of my parents was there. (She laughs)
Georgie: Life is not easy, is it? Especially if you have no money. It must have been awfully hard for you when you first came to New York.
Molly: I don’t know now how I survived. But I did. And now I have a good man and good friends and I can dare to look forward to my future.
Georgie: You’re so lucky. I’ve no idea what tomorrow will bring.
Molly: It will all turn out just fine, I’m sure. Your man will find a way to marry you, you’ll see.
Georgie: And I can stop this hazardous practice of taking on risky jobs for the queen.
Molly: That is if Rhys Bowen ever lets you.
Georgie: You’re right. She’s a bit of a tyrant, isn’t she?
Rhys: How about a nice cup of tea before it gets cold? Or a cucumber sandwich?
We hope you enjoyed eavesdropping on their get together! Please leave any thoughts for Molly, Georgie, and Rhys in the comments.
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