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Above the Bay of Angels

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  525 ratings  ·  145 reviews
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
Hardcover, 348 pages
Published February 11th 2020 by Lake Union Publishing
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-2019
I always enjoy a book from Rhys Bowen. Her historical fiction in particular never fails to be appropriately set, creating the right atmosphere for the period.

Above the Bay of Angels takes place during the reign of Queen Victoria and presents a slightly fantastical but very enjoyable story about a servant who manages to rise above her current position in life. Bella comes from a good family but is impoverished and due to an amazing stroke of luck finds herself working at Buckingham Palace. A
I enjoyed this mostly for it's historical and geographical setting. A murder mystery late in the novel was an added bonus, used mainly as a device to bring the main character's secret out in the open.

Isabella Waverley, an educated girl from an aristocratic family was forced to work as a maid when her mother died and her father squandered everything they had on the demon drink. Discovering that she enjoys cooking, she manages to train in the kitchen of a large house and through a twist of fate
In Victorian England, young Bella takes a letter from a dying stranger in the street. She uses the dead stranger's name, background, and letter of recommendation to obtain a job working as a cook for Queen Victorian in Buckingham Palace. But as events transpire, Bella realizes that she is not the only one with a secret.

The overall story is a very light and cushy historical fiction that slowly builds up to Queen Victoria's stay at the Hotel Regina Excelsior on the Riviera in France. Once they
Fate pulls you in no matter how many mistaken paths you take.

Isabella Waverly thought she had all the stars aligned. She came from a good family with her father having served in India with the Bengal Lancers. She and her sister Louisa were well educated and adored by their mother.

But sometimes that Big Dipper allows those stars to spill out in all directions in the heavens vastly changing the original intent. Roddy Waverly left his command with the Bengal Lancers and returned to London due to
Kylie H
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Bella Waverly is born into an untitled aristocratic family, but through a series of events finds herself 'in service' to a nouveau riche family in order to support her alcoholic father and younger sister. Here she discovers a love of cooking and aspires to use this to launch her own career. But the lady of the house who recognises her talent refuses to give her references, essentially binding Bella to her household.
Through an unfortunate accident Bella finds an opportunity presents itself and if
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley2019
#AboveTheBayOfAngels #NetGalley Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union for this advance copy of Rhys Bowen's latest stand alone."A single twist of fate puts a servant girl to work in Queen Victoria’s royal kitchen, setting off a suspenseful, historical mystery"

I enjoyed it and the historical period it evoked. Of course Queen Victoria was a bit out of known character but who knows?

I would not mind it being the beginning of a short series as the characters were a bit uneven, but that came and went
Jan 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Historical fiction set in the time of Queen Victoria. Bella Waverly was brought up in an aristocratic family, but after her mother died she had to work "in service" to support her alcoholic father and her younger sister. She went to work for a family that treated her poorly, but Bella found she loved to cook and had a talent for it. When she wanted to leave and try her luck elsewhere the family refused to provide recommendations. Then one day she saw a girl hit by a bus and goes to help, but the ...more
Dec 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, net-galley
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, because when done right, one learns a lot about a different time and place. Such was the case in this book, although the story was a bit boring and far-fetched. I did enjoy reading about the inner workings of the royal household in the late years of Queen Victoria's reign. The beginning of the book was promising, but the middle parts got bogged down. I pushed myself to finish it and I'm glad I did, but overall it was not a "page turner."

Thank you
Lori Lamothe
Slice of History with a Dash of Suspense

When her aristocratic father lapses into alcoholism, Bella Waverly must forget about school and go into service to support her family. Motherless and without any practical training, she finds herself at the very bottom of Britain's social ladder. As a scullery maid, she lugs coal up multiple flights of stairs all day and collapses into a dreamless sleep at night. Though she gradually works her way up to assistant baker she doesn't see much of a future for
Karen Kay
I received this from for a review.

When her parents die, aristocrat Isabella Waverly is forced to go into service. She becomes a chef in the Queen's household and chosen to accompany the queen to Nice. Then the threat of blackmail shadows Bella to the Riviera, and a member of the queen’s retinue falls ill and dies.

I enjoyed the historical background but the story and characters were a bit unrealistic. I would put this more into a cozy read genre.

Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to Net Galley and Lake Union Publishing for this advanced reading copy granting me a very enjoyable reading experience. It will be published in Feb 2020.
This book paints a sad picture initially as we meet a young woman in London working below stairs for little reward plus a dollop of cruelty. Her story is a moving one as she was born to aristocracy but her father does not support his two daughters after the death of his wife since he prefers alcohol. Then he dies. Bella supports her
2.5 stars. I've really enjoyed some of Rhys Bowen's standalone historicals in the past, but this wasn't one of my favorites. I did really like the premise and the character of Bella, and the descriptions of food were great. If you're someone who likes reading food-centric books you may like this one. After the promising beginning (where Bella takes a letter from a dying woman and uses it to get a job cooking at Buckingham Palace), the story just wasn't compelling enough. It sounds like a ...more
Bebe (Sarah) Brechner
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Bowen gives her many fans such wonderful stories, and this standalone is another winner. Towards the end of the reign of Queen Victoria, near the turn of the century, Isabella, a young British woman from an educated and cultured background, has to enter hard service as a housemaid to support her irresponsible father and young sister. Isabella will have readers immediately cheering for her success and following her story avidly as she discovers an aptitude for cooking and leverages a chance ...more
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for a chance to review this novel by Rhys Bowen. I'm sorry to say I was very disappointed in this novel. It was very slow - very little even happened until 75% of the was through the book. I enjoyed the chance to read the book, but did not enjoy the outlandish story. Bella/Helen just was so very childish and unrealistic. It was very nearly a DNF for me.
Hannelore Cheney
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thank you NetGalley and Lake Union for the eARC.
This is a historical story I enjoyed a lot and the first Rhys Bowen book I've read.
Isabella comes from a good family fallen onto hard times and finds herself working as a maid at age 15. Her mother is dead, her father an out of work alcoholic and it's up to her to look after her younger sister. An unexpected incident ends with her working at Queen Victoria's palace. She loves her job in the kitchen and is determined to become a pastry chef, her
Taking risks!

Isabella Waverley takes a chance and like her 'not so dear' old papa used to say 'Carpe Diem'. Under false pretenses she and enters service as Helen Barton an apprentice cook for Queen Victoria. Of course nothing is smooth. Given the times, there are challenges for a woman in a man's world. Identity theft results in blackmail. What amounts to sexual harassment by a member of the upper class, and the divide of class distinctions.
A peeve for me was how Isabella kept (in her head)
marita lazarus
Dec 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Thank you NetGalley and the publisher Lake Union Publishing

I'm saddened to say that this book was not one of my favorites of any Rhys Bowen book. To me it was tedious to get into, and I found myself skipping forward to get to the plot of the book - the actual murder.

I've read all the Rhys Bowen Royal Spyness books, and know that she leaves the actual murder, many times towards the late middle or closer to the ending, as she builds up the characters, but with this book, the murder takes place
Randee Green
Due to a few unfortunate twists of fate, Isabella Waverly goes from living a life of leisure as an aristocrat to working as a scullery made for a new-money family. Isabella is trying to find an escape from her new life of drudgery when she witnesses a woman being runover by a horse-drawn wagon in London. The woman – Helen Barton – was carrying an offer of employment to work as a cook in the royal kitchen. Knowing this may be her only chance, Isabella assumes Helen’s identity and is hired as a ...more
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
In her newest historical novel, Rhys Bowen goes back to the age of Queen Victoria. The narrator is a young woman named Bella. Born into the aristocracy, Bella has fallen on hard times due to her mother's death and her father's alcoholism. But Bella's luck changes when she witnesses the death of a young woman named Helen Barton, and she sees her chance to start a new life for herself. Bella assumes Helen's identity and finds herself working as an undercook in the household of Queen Victoria. ...more
Sara Reeve
Sep 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This breezy historical mystery is written by the well-known author of the Royal Spyness series (among others), Rhys Bowen. I've never read any of her books before, and so was intrigued tp read, "Above the Bay of Angels," which features identity theft, a fall from gentility and a heroine who is working hard to establish herself in a man's world.

I really wanted to love this book. I adore historical
Amye (pagesandplannersabroad)
Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for a chance to review this novel by Rhys Bowen. This is my honest review.
I am long time fan of Rhys Bowen. I have read and enjoyed almost all of her backlist so I was excited to see a new entry of hers in historical fiction. Above the Bay of Angels tells the tale of Isabella Waverly, a girl who was forced into being a servant because her father died. At the being of the novel, Isabella comes across an accident. A girl is dying and she stays with
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley2019
Bella has fallen about as far down the British social ladder as she can go. Her once aristocratic father has fallen on hard times, in large part because of his fondness for the bottle. Her mother is dead, and to support her father and sister, she goes to work as a maid. A terrible job with no prospects for the future, until she happens upon a dying woman and a chance to improve her lot in life. She pretends to be Helen Barton, the dead girl and becomes employed at Buckingham Palace. A definite ...more
Nov 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Rhys Bowen is a master storyteller, and this book is a great story that moves along at a nice clip. A young woman takes advantage of a rare opportunity to work in the kitchen of Buckingham Palace during Queen Victoria's reign. She ends up traveling to Nice, France with the Queen as a cook and pastry chef.

The background of this book was well researched, and the details of life in a royal kitchen were interesting. The information on what people ate at that time was fascinating as well. The
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh how I loved the adventure! Wish it went on for a few more chapters!! The leading character- a strong young lady fallen on hard times. From the downstairs of Mrs.Tilly to the French Riviera - the book reads in a single breath!
And the biggest thank you to Ms. Janet Quin-Harkin, my favorite author for mailing me an advanced copy of the book, personally

Rating: 3.5 rounded up to 4 solid stars

This is another good solid Historical Fiction book from the talented Rhys Bowen. There is even a mystery thrown into the story to sweeten the pot. The book opens in London, England toward the end of the reign of Queen Victoria in the late 1800’s. We meet our hero Bella Waverly, whose semi-aristocratic family fell on hard times. Due that fall, her father sent her into service at 15-years-old in order to support him and her younger sister.

From there we see
Kimberley Hanson
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am a massive fan of Rhys Bowen’s Royal Spyness series. I have also enjoyed her other work, The Molly Murphy series and In Farleigh Field in particular, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to be granted an Advanced Readers Copy of her newest novel, Above the Bay of Angels.

Set during the late years of Queen Victoria’s reign, the heroine, Isabella Waverley, has been raised as a gentlewoman in a good family and an uncle who is an Earl. Her father’s misfortune in being born a second son who
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been aware of Rhys Bowen for many years but only read 2 of her books (the first 2 of Molly Murphy Mysteries). I realise that she's quite a prolific writer and her books are mostly historical mysteries which I do like to read. As I found Above the Bay of Angels being available to read via NetGalley, I thought I'd give this a go.

Above the Bay of Angels is a stand alone novel. Set in the beginning of the 20th century, main protagonist, Isabella Waverly, is seeking for a life of independence
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Above the bay of angels" was a truly delightful read. Even though the blurb implies this is a mystery, it's more historical fiction than mystery but I didn't resent that at all. It's a well researched novel, bringing to life the Victorian era through life in court, but specially in the palace's kitchens and its cooks. Some of those dishes descriptions were yummy! It left me wanting to learn more about that period.

I thought the story moved along nicely, being entertaining at all times, and
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Anything involving the history of the British monarchs has always held my interest, so when I saw the opportunity to read an ARC for Above the Bay of Angels I knew I had to request it. I ended up enjoying it even more than I thought I would.

The story follows Isabelle Waverly, whose family falls apart and loses its fortune and standing in society because of her father’s drinking problem. She has to go into servitude to provide for her
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brief synopsis from the book cover:

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
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Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 40 novels, including The Victory Garden, The Tuscan Child, and In Farleigh Field. Originally from the UK, she lives in California and Arizona. Visit

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"I'm a New York Times bestselling mystery author, winner of both Agatha and Anthony awards for my Molly Murphy mysteries, set in 1902 New York City.

I have recently published two internationally bestselling WWII novels, one of them a #1 Kindle bestseller, the other selling almost half a million copies to date.

I also write the Agatha-winning Royal Spyness series, about the British royal family in