Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What I Loved:

What an absolutely lovely surprise this book turned out to be! I loved everything about this book. The characters, the setting, the plot, the mystery…everything.

My Synopsis:

Isabella Waverly was born into an aristocratic family that fell from grace early in life. After her mother’s death and her father’s drunken escapades, Isabella finds herself as a servant. After growing up as the one being served, this change of events is frustrating and “beneath her”. Isabella perseveres though. She is earning money that supports her father who can’t get a job and her younger sister who would go hungry without Isabella’s wages.

Isabella is a hard worker and finds she has an interest in the kitchen, soon managing to get placed there as an assistant. After her father’s death, she mentions her dreams of possibly going to America to start a restaurant, and her employer tells her she would not provide a reference. Isabella feels stuck.

Then, she witnesses a young woman get hit by an omnibus in the street. The girl hands Isabella a letter before she dies. Inside she finds an invitation for an interview as a cook…at Buckingham Palace. Isabella decides to impersonate the girl, Helen.

Above the Bay of Angels follows Isabella/Helen on her incredible journey through the kitchens of the palace. There is court intrigue, murder, love, and above all else, a fierce determination to succeed.

How I Felt:

This is my first book by the author, Rhys Bowen, but it will NOT be my last. I am so happy that I stumbled across this book on Netgalley, and after the last page, I jumped on Netgalley hoping for more!

The characters were so enjoyable. Isabella had such depth and resolve to her, she was a delight to read about. She is a determined, smart, hardworking girl that you want to keep reading about. I loved the predicaments she ended up in and how her personality shone through with every resolution to a problem. She struggled with her secret identity and the deception that went along with it. I liked that she didn’t make this choice lightly, but continued to be remorseful for the deceit, yet happy for the opportunity.

The other characters were just as wonderful. The cooks in the kitchen had these attitudes that were severe and judgmental. I enjoyed seeing each of their actions toward Isabella change as they got to know her, and she proved herself. There are a few slimy characters as well, and they were perfect. I had anger and irritation at them and couldn’t wait for Isabella to find a way to best them.

The plot was fantastic! I really enjoyed where this story took me. We went from a servant in a nice home, to Buckingham Palace, and then to Nice, France. Each of those locations provided some wrench in Isabella’s plans. I just loved reading about how she solved every problem. When the murder happens, the plot twists a bit, and I enjoyed what surprises that part of the story held as well!

The setting was really interesting. When the staff is taken to Nice, France with the queen, they stay at the newly built Hotel Excelsior, Regina Palace. There is an author’s note at the end of the book that discusses that the Hotel Excelsior, Regina Palace really was built specifically for Queen Victoria and her staff for her winter visits. So, because I’m a dork and I geek-out over historical stuff, I went and looked it up. Here’s a photo of the hotel in 1890! It’s beautiful!

Overall, I was absolutely blown away by this story. It’s a light, easy read, but was beautifully written with a captivating story that drew me in right from the beginning.

Content Warning:

None, aside from a few scenes with light kissing.

To Read or Not To Read:

I would recommend Above the Bay of Angels to readers that enjoy historical fiction, the Victorian era, a little mystery, and some light romance. If you enjoy food, you’ll also enjoy all the foodie discussion as Isabella works her way through the kitchen!

Where to Find This Book:

Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen is available at these sites.

Bookshop.org | Amazon Kindle | Amazon | Goodreads


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.

Just the Facts:

Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 323 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Pub Date: February 11, 2020


I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book for free. I am leaving my review voluntarily.

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