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Handpicked by Rhys Bowen, Jasmine Blackborow is the dazzling narrator for the 12th installment of Rhys Bowen's best-selling Royal Spyness Mystery series.
Georgie, or Lady Georgiana Rannoch, is busy planning her upcoming nuptials to Darcy O'Mara. Unfortunately, what has started as a simple wedding has become quite a royal headache and grand affair, thanks to a guest list that includes the queen and the appointment of princesses as Georgie's bridesmaids. "If only Darcy and I had eloped!" she thinks, as she attempts to organize her wedding and find a place for her and her husband-to-be to live.
Just as she despairs of ever finding a home, her godfather offers his fully staffed country estate. With Darcy off in parts unknown, Georgie makes her way to Eynsleigh alone, only to find the grounds in disarray, and the small staff suspiciously incompetent. Not to mention the gas tap leak in her bedroom, which is beginning to look like an attempt on her life. Something sinister is afoot - and bringing the place up to snuff may put Georgie six feet under before she even gets a chance to walk down the aisle....
The Audiobookworm's Review
Rating: 4.25 Stars
Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding was a bittersweet listen. For starters, I had no idea that it had even been released until I stumbled upon it while browsing Audible the other day. Honestly, I wasn't even aware that it was in production. It completely slipped under my radar. I'm ashamed to say that because the Her Royal Spyness series is one of my favorite series of all-time. I even pre-ordered the previous book and counted down the months until its release. I'm not sure if Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding was given a softer release or if I was just completely out of the loop.
Anyway, within about 10 seconds of discovering this title, I had already added it to my cart, checked out, and begun listening. It totally made my week. Bowen opens the audiobook by dedicating it to Katherine Kellgren. For those of you who don't know, Kellgren, narrator of the first 11 books in the series, passed away a few months ago. It was a very emotional time in the audiobook community and hearing Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding really punctuated her loss for me. I wasn't lucky enough to have ever personally interacted with Kellgren, but she touched my life through her phenomenal audiobook narration, particularly with this series. Her Royal Spyness has always been a light and fun series and I'm sure it still is on paper. But my listening experience with Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding was inevitably underlined by thoughts of Kellgren. I was touched by Bowen's heartfelt dedication in which she says that's she can't imagine the audiobooks without her [Kellgren]. That was a beautiful gesture on Bowen's part and it gives us a little insight into the bond between author and narrator.
Story wise, this wasn't my favorite installment of the Her Royal Spyness series. The plot felt somewhat weaker than what I'm used to from Bowen, probably because we spent the majority of the story without any familiar supporting characters. As much as I like to complain about Queenie, I found myself missing her terribly in this installment. Georgie was extremely isolated, figuratively and literally, and her lack of someone to "play off of" caused a lot of the humor to fall flat. Things started looking up when her mother, grandfather, and eventually Queenie were finally thrown into the mix. Darcy did't make a proper appearance until very late in the story, which was a shame because the best installments in the series are those that heavily feature Darcy and Georgie together. I also enjoy George's relationship with her grandfather and wish that we had seen more of that in this installment.
Before beginning, I had assumed that Georgie and Darcy's wedding would be the focal point of this installment. It wasn't and that really disappointed me. The wedding itself takes place in the last five minutes of the audiobook. That really felt like a missed opportunity. I was sure that the plot would revolve around some sort of terrorist scheme threatening to ruin the wedding. That would see much more in line with previous installments of this series. Instead, the actual plot of Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the series.
Although not terrible by any stretch of imagination, Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding felt more like a bridge installment in the series. That's odd, considering it's Book 12, but it's undeniably a transitional period in Georgie's life. The next installment will take place while she and Darcy are on their honeymoon, so it definitely sounds promising!
I was overjoyed to return to the series. Starting this audiobook felt like sliding into the covers of a cozy bed after a long day on your feet. As long as Bowen writes this series, I will be an avid listener. And I'm still holding out hope that it will be adapted for television production! Helen George (of Call the Midwife) would make a marvelous Belinda.
Narration review: Apparently Jasmine Blackborow was handpicked to replace Kellgren by Rhys Bowen herself. I always love it when an author chooses their own narrator (as opposed to them being chosen by a publisher or production company). It feels more genuine that way.
I cannot praise Blackborow enough. It can't have been easy stepping into a series at Book 12, much less attempting to fill Katherine Kellgren's shoes, but Blackborow does it with aplomb. Her interpretation and voicing of the characters was only slightly different from that of her predecessor. I was pleasantly surprised with how remarkably similar her style was to Kellgren's. It made the transition between narrators that much easier to bear. There were a few things that Blackborow pronounced a little differently (i.e. "Rannoch"), but I've heard titles in which a single narrator uses inconsistent pronunciations within a series (or within the same book), so this was not a big deal at all. To be honest, there were some things that Blackborow did that I actually preferred and, after a while, I found it harder to recall the style of Kellgren's narration of the series for the sake of comparison.
Excitingly enough, Blackborow's style brought to mind interviews I've seen with the cast of The Crown in which they discuss the unique British RP accent used by the royal family. There were certain words Blackborow said that struck me as though I was hearing them from Queen Elizabeth herself. One of them was the word "actually". If you follow the British Royal Family at all, chances are that you know precisely what I'm talking about. That one word went a long way in selling Blackborow as a performer to me. She clearly knows what she's doing and she does it magnificently. Her stelar performance has quelled any comparison-based criticisms before they could even be vocalized. Brava! ♣︎