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Above the Bay of Angels: A Novel
by Rhys Bowen

Published: 2020-02-11
Hardcover : 332 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 1 members

“…Sweeping and intimate, warm and gripping. I loved it!” —Louise Penny, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Chief Inspector Gamache novels

A single twist of fate puts a servant girl to work in Queen Victoria’s royal kitchen, setting off a suspenseful, historical mystery ...

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“…Sweeping and intimate, warm and gripping. I loved it!” —Louise Penny, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Chief Inspector Gamache novels

A single twist of fate puts a servant girl to work in Queen Victoria’s royal kitchen, setting off a suspenseful, historical mystery by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and The Victory Garden.

Isabella Waverly only means to comfort the woman felled on a London street. In her final dying moments, she thrusts a letter into Bella’s hand. It’s an offer of employment in the kitchens of Buckingham Palace, and everything the budding young chef desperately wants: an escape from the constrictions of her life as a lowly servant. In the stranger’s stead, Bella can spread her wings.

Arriving as Helen Barton from Yorkshire, she pursues her passion for creating culinary delights, served to the delighted Queen Victoria herself. Best of all, she’s been chosen to accompany the queen to Nice. What fortune! Until the threat of blackmail shadows Bella to the Riviera, and a member of the queen’s retinue falls ill and dies.

Having prepared the royal guest’s last meal, Bella is suspected of the poisonous crime. An investigation is sure to follow. Her charade will be over. And her new life will come crashing down—if it doesn’t send her to the gallows.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


London, September 1896

If Helen Barton hadn’t stepped out in front of an omnibus, I might still be sweeping floors and lighting fires at an ostentatious house in St John’s Wood. But for once I had followed my father’s advice.

“Carpe diem” was one of my father’s favourite sayings. Seize the day. Take your chances. He usually added “because that might be the only chance you get.” He spoke from experience. He was an educated man from a good family, and had known better times. As the son of a second son, he could expect to inherit neither a title nor the property that would have come with it, and was sent out to India to make something of himself, becoming an officer in the Bengal Lancers. He had married my mother, a sweet and delicate creature he met on one of his visits home. It was soon clear that she couldn’t endure the harsh conditions of Bengal, so Daddy had been forced to resign his commission and return to live in England.

From what Daddy told us, it had been made evident to him as a young man that he could expect no financial help from his uncle, the earl. He never told us why, or what rift had occurred within his family, but he was clearly bitter about it. However, he had finally fallen on his feet in a way and had acquired what was considered a prestigious position: he was in charge of guest relations at the Savoy, London’s new luxury hotel. His ability to speak good French and mingle with crowned heads had made him popular at the hotel. He had patted the hands of elderly Russian countesses and arranged roulette parties for dashing European princes, for which he received generous tips. We had lived quite happily in the small town of Hampstead, on the northern fringes of London. My younger sister Louisa and I attended a private school. We had a woman who came to clean and cook for us. It was not an extravagant life, but a pleasant one.

Until it all came crashing down when the demon drink overcame my father. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

Above the Bay of Angels is a story of a young girl, cheated out of the life she expected but able to shine when she becomes a cook for Queen Victoria and experiences the delights of French cuisine when the queen goes to Nice.

1. Do you think Bella made a wise choice when she acted on the letter she found?
2. One of the themes of this book is the British class system. Do you think it right that Bella remains a snob?
3. Food plays a big part in this book. What does Bella learn about food as the story progresses.
4. The journey to Nice opens up a whole new world to Bella. Why do you think she is able to appreciate it more than her fellow cooks?
5. Discuss Bella’s relationship with her sister
6. The story in Nice has its basis in real history. Did the plots and intrigue enhance the story for you?
7. What was your impression of Countess Sophie? How did it change?
8. Which character did you dislike most? (There were several really objectionable ones, weren’t there?)
9. What was your impression of Queen Victoria from this story? Did it agree with what you already knew about her?
10. Did you agree with the ending? Were you surprised? Did she make the right choice?

If your book club would like to Skype with Rhys do get in touch at [email protected] and visit updates on Rhys’s website www.rhysbowen.com

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Online enhancements
by HLEMK (see profile) 11/14/20
Since this was set with Queen Victoria - we showed pictures of her, the hotel in Nice that was built for her, and other pictures in her time. We also showed pictures of the author as well. Great options when the book club meets with ZOOM, etc.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Christine N. (see profile) 04/05/22

  "Great Book with Great Discussion"by Heidi E. (see profile) 11/14/20

Our Book Club won this book for our club (THANK YOU BOOK MOVEMENT!) - and not only did our club enjoy the read but we also found out many members of our club are BIG fans of Rhys Bowen!

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