Grace Helen Shelby (formerly Burgess) has a fairy tale kind of love with Birmingham’s top gangster Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders. Her fascinating story arc sees her morph from an undercover agent working for the Royal Irish Constabulary to the biggest defender of the man she is supposed to bring down.
Grace is portrayed as a woman of many skills, including her ability to sing and gather intelligence. She is soft-spoken too but she speaks in an assured manner, managing to craft some pretty impressive quotes in the process. Most of Grace’s dialogue is with Tommy Shelby but she addresses other characters on occasion too.
“May You Be In Heaven A Full Half-Hour Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead.”
John and Lizzie are among the worst couples in Peaky Blinders and Tommy is the first to see that they aren’t good for each other. At the bar, he tries to discourage John by narrating how he offered Lizzie some money for sex and she agreed. Grace, who is hearing the whole conversation while bartending, realizes what Tommy is doing and makes an interesting comment.
It’s Grace’s polite way of telling Tommy that he has some good in him but he is too evil to ever be a permanent resident of heaven. Under strange circumstances, he might find himself there by accident before the devil comes for him. And she is right about Tommy. By the time she is saying these words, the Peaky Blinders boss has spared lives but he has also already fixed races, shortchanged his associates, and covered up for a murderer.
“Men Always Tell Their Troubles To A Barmaid.”
Inspector Campbell makes a habit of meeting Grace at the museum to find out if she’s made any progress. In one of their conversations, he wonders if her posing as a bartender will really help their course. Grace assures him that the bar is where men spill all their secrets.
Grace’s words are proof that she knows what she is doing. It’s through her job that Grace realizes where the government weapons really are. During a conversation with Grace, Arthur confirms that Danny Whizz-Bang isn’t really dead, meaning that Whizz-Bang’s grave is where the guns are buried. It’s also at the bar that Tommy also gives Grace plenty of information about his own family, information that Inspector Campbell ends up using against him.
“I Warn You. I’ll Break Your Heart.”
As Grace bonds with Thomas and sings the traditional Irish song “Black Velvet Band” to him, she warns him that she will break his heart. She has realized just how much he has fallen for her. As expected, Tommy doesn’t take her seriously and tells her that his heart is already broken.
Grace does indeed break Tommy’s heart but she doesn’t do it in love-related ways. Her telling Campbell about the location of the guns makes Tommy lose all the leverage he had. It also leaves Tommy confused and distrustful of his own family members. Luckily, Grace’s anti-Tommy stance is only temporary as she falls fully in love with him and stops helping Campbell.
“Here It Comes, Tommy. I Love You.”
By the Season 1 finale, Tommy and Grace have become one of the most powerful duos in Peaky Blinders and she finally confesses to him that she loves him. She has realized that Tommy is a better man than Inspector Campbell, hence she is done being a double agent.
The declaration of affection marks Grace’s turning point from secret foe to full ally. She is now on Team Shelby and is no longer going to work undercover for the police. To show just how loyal she is, she shoots Inspector Campbell. He doesn’t die but he is forced to walk with a cane forever. In a way, Tommy has earned her love as showing her full respect despite the gulf in class between them made her realize that she is the man for him.
“If I’m Asked Properly.”
There’s the typical Grace response when Tommy asks her if she dances during their first gala attendance together. And as the occasional gentleman that he is, Tommy asks her properly, and the two flow through the floor.
Grace values chivalry and that’s why she remains attracted to Tommy throughout the series and chooses to be blind to the fact that he’s a ruthless crime boss. Unlike his fellow crime bosses like Billy Kimber and Changretta, he doesn’t boss women around. He aims to please them and seek their consent in every single thing.
“I Am. But I Love Singing.”
Before they become an item, Grace requests that Tommy lets her sing at The Garrison Pub once a week. Previously, he had declared that no one would be singing at the bar. Grace also informs him that the bartender was too afraid of him to table this request. Tommy asks her if she’s not afraid of him, to which she responds that she is, but singing is more important to her.
Tommy instills fear in almost every ordinary citizen in Birmingham but Grace is wise enough to know that men like him are often awed by people that aren’t intimidated by them. And as good a singer as Grace is, she isn’t just insisting on performing because it’s her hobby. She wants to earn Tommy’s trust while she works undercover to bring him down.
“I Hope This Doesn’t Involve Razor Blades.”
One of Tommy’s biggest enemies Billy Kimber has a condition for doing business with Tommy. He wants a few hours with Grace. Tommy thus informs her that he’ll need a favor from her, though he is cagey with the details, so a curious Grace makes guesses.
Obviously, Grace doesn’t want to be part of anything that will involve violence. She is aware that Tommy and Kimber aren’t on the best of terms and almost every meeting between the Peaky Blinders and their rival gangs has ended with the Blinders using the razor-in-hat weapons that they are known for. Grace is right to be concerned but luckily no blades get used when the meeting happens.
“I’m Not Asking For Favors, I’m Asking For Employment.”
At the start of the series, Grace approaches Harry, the owner of The Garrison Pub, seeking employment as a barmaid. Harry refuses to employ her, insisting that he is doing her a favor by turning her away.
Harry is in no way malicious by not even considering her offer at first. He knows that the patrons in the bar are evil men and doesn’t want a lady like Grace to waste her life around them. Harry figures Grace is too innocent for the place but she is anything but that. Grace isn’t seeking employment because she is cash-strapped. She is an undercover agent looking to get close to the Peaky Blinders.
“I Think He’ll Try To Kill Me.”
Aunt Polly is among the first people to realize that Grace and Tommy have feelings for each other. She also figures out that Grace is keeping secrets. One evening, she approaches Grace and asks her what she thinks Tommy will do with her.
Grace has every reason to be scared of Tommy. As nice as he is, he doesn’t hesitate to kill when he feels the need to. Polly, who knows Tommy much better than anyone else doesn’t think Grace’s fears are warranted. She believes Tommy loves Grace too much to kill her and she’s right. No matter how much Grace angers Tommy, he shows restraint.
“Should I Be On My Guard?”
While visiting Grace at her apartment one day, Tommy comments that people look much different at home. When she asks how that is the case, he says that are always off their guard.
Grace understands that there is always the in-between-the-lines factor in Tommy’s statement so she wonders whether there is a deeper meaning to his words. Is he threatening her? Is he warning her? In reality, he is doing neither of those. He is just surprised to see her looking way different than he is used to seeing her at the pub.