When Maybell Brumby, frisky, wealthy, and recently widowed, quits Baltimore and arrives in London, she finds that her old school chum, Bessie Wallis Warfield, is there ahead of her. Impoverished and ambitious as ever, Wallis is on the make. Hampered by plodding husband number two, but armed with terrific bone structure and a few erotic tricks picked up in China, Wallis sets her sights on the most eligible bachelor in the world: the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne. Maybell, with her deep pockets, makes the perfect ally, and her disarming dimness makes her the most delicious chronicler of the scandal that rocked a monarchy and changed the course of history.
The diary entries of shallow and oblivious Baltimore socialite Maybell Brumby comprise Graham's fourth novel, which explores the fictional lives of intimates involved in the 1936 abdication of King Edward VIII. Maybell, widowed by her older husband, leaves for London in 1932 to join her sister Violet and falls in with her school friend Bessie Wallis "Wally" Simpson, the married woman (twice, in fact) who has set her sights on the then Prince of Wales. Through Maybell's American patricianism, Graham (The Future Homemakers of America) skewers the tedious royal family and their aristocratic hangers-on. Maybell's self-absorption and dim-wittedness make her endearing at odd moments (as when she learns that her other sister, "Doopie," is deaf rather than mentally handicapped); her chatty tone is grating when the action primarily Wally's plotting, conquest and royal assumption slows. Graham depicts the abdication as a kind of bedroom farce and uses Maybell's ignorance to add ambiguity to the controversial relationship of the duke (as he is known after abdication) and Wally to the Nazi regime. As WWII becomes imminent, the leisured friends must make a run for it, and the partings are not all amicable. This light romp through sordid territory is sly, gossipy fun.