Source: Hardcover, Published May 7, 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Orphan Meg Fellowes makes her living picking pockets—until she steals from the wrong nobleman. Instead of rotting in prison like she expected, she’s whisked away to the court of Queen Elizabeth and pressed into royal service, where she joins four other remarkable girls in the Maids of Honor, the Queen’s secret society of protectors.
Meg’s natural abilities as a spy prove useful in this time of unrest. The Spanish Court is visiting, and with them come devious plots and hidden political motives. As threats to the kingdom begin to mount, Meg can’t deny her growing attraction to one of the dashing Spanish courtiers. But it’s hard to trust her heart in a place where royal formalities and masked balls hide the truth: Not everyone is who they appear to be. With danger lurking around every corner, can she stay alive—and protect the crown?
I just adored this debut novel. It’s a wonderful blend of action, espionage and romance. Think of Maid of Secrets as the best mix of Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, Y.S. Lee’s The Agency series, and Katherine Longshore’s Gilt. McGowan does a fabulous job in introducing and building a ragtag group of intelligent, resourceful and fierce young women- of various backgrounds- who are believable as a group of spies in training.
With the stubborn street-thief Meg as our narrator, we are taken inside Windsor Castle and into the ugliness of court deception. I liked that this novel takes place in the early-ish reign of Queen Elizabeth I, herself historically recognized as being a force of nature (and of the moniker “The Virgin Queen”). We are given some (fictionalized) insight into Elizabeth’s personal life, and the kinds of sacrifices she had to make to be Monarch- and some perhaps not-so-smart decisions she made for love. (For whatever reason, I had this image of Cate Blanchett in her role as Elizabeth I whenever the Queen would make an appearance or speak to her spies!). I thought McGowan did such a good job with breathing life, sympathy and vigor to such a regarded historical figure.
If you enjoy a well-done historical YA novel, or any of the titles I mentioned above, then do give this novel a go. Book two in this series, Maid of Deception, is set for release on August 26, 2014. I am looking forward to it!
Note: This review, written by me, originally appeared on Fabbity Fab Book Reviews. Minor edits have been made.