Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan

May 12th, 2013 Kimberly Review 40 Comments

12th May
Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan
Maid of Secrets
by Jennifer McGowan
Series: Maids of Honor #1
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate

In this breathtaking start to a series, a secret society of young women make up Elizabeth I’s most trusted royal guard. God Save the Queen—or the Maids will. 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 have always been intrigued by Elizabeth’s court and her maids of honor and ladies in waiting. Mix in spies, orphans, intrigued and suspense and I could not wait to start Maid of Secrets the first book in Jennifer McGowan’s Maid of Honor series. I quickly became swept up in this exciting tale with its fleshed out characters.

The tale begins as we meet Meg Fellowes an orphan working with a performing traveling troupe. As the crowd gathers, she moves through the crowd picking pockets. Yes, Meg is a thief, a master at changing her look and quite good at it. When she picks the pocket of one of the Queen’s men, she finds her life forever changed as she is taken to the tower. Here she is given the choice of working for the royal service or rotting in a prison. She chooses to join the royal service where she meets four gifted girls also working as Maids of Honor; the Queen’s secret protectors. The tale that unfolds is filled with suspense, intrigue, politics and a little romance. Watching Meg navigate the shark-infested waters of the Elizabethan court kept me intrigued.

When we first meet Meg, she is confident and sure of herself and ambitious to improve her places within the traveling troupe, she is also very protective of them. I really took a liking to Meg, she is bright, intuitive, and despite obstacles, she does not whine and looks for ways to improve her position. The Queen accuses her of not knowing who she is and watching Meg transform and find herself was fascinating. The other maids of honor are Beatrice, Jane, Sophia, and Anna. They have unique personalities, and desires. They nickname Meg the “rat” and she finds herself without friends. Slowly they become friends and watching all of the bickering, backstabbing and jockeying for position within the court had me both giggling and annoyed. Meg refers to them as; The Seer, The Scholar, the Belle and the Blade. The queen’s men in charge of the maids Cecil and Walsingham like their positions and manipulate the girls. I loathed them and also questioned their loyalties which kept things suspenseful. Rafe is smexy and a courtier to the Spanish court. The interaction between Rafe and Meg was exciting. Their banter and the complicated tango they danced felt genuine. From the beginning, there is an attraction but Meg is set to spy on him and ooh-la-la I loved the thread they shared. Elizabeth was portrayed as strong, intelligent and suspicious. The men think her a fool because she is a woman, but I think they are sadly mistaken.

The setting and time period is a fascinating one. Elizabeth has recently come to the throne, declared the official church to be Protestant and refused Philip II’s marriage proposal. As a result, the political climate is in unrest, as the Spanish, Scottish and French governments maneuver to secure their own best interests. McGowan did a lovely job of explaining the court and describing both the castle and the people as it all came to life for me. Spies, pranks, and mischief all played out in the queen’s court and as a result, spies were needed to watch both visitors and members of the royal court. This made Meg and the other maid of honor’s roles vital. I found the whole cat and mouse game delightful. Meg and the girls were fascinating and I enjoyed how each girl’s strength was utilized. The girls spied for the queen, on the queen and spied to protect themselves. It was dizzying and kept me enthralled. The pace at times slowed, but everything was vital in both character and plot development. The romance was not the main focus but added drama and felt genuine. I am hoping we see them interact again in the next book. The intense moments made the slower moments worth it and in the end, I was well satisfied with this first book in the series.

I recommend Maid of Secrets to fans of historical fiction, spies, political climates and intrigue. The next book Maid of Deception will release in 2014 and no additional information is available at the time this review was written.

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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. Whovian, Ravenclaw and Howler. She owns and manages Caffeinated PR. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat. Find @kimbacaffeinate on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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40 Responses to “Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan”

  1. Blodeuedd

    Ohh open to me? Yes then I am in, it sounds good and I love historical fiction for the simple reason that it is historical

  2. kindlemom1

    This sounds like a really good read and one you really enjoyed, I need to keep it in mind when I need a good historical.

  3. Nick

    Yay! I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed this. I have it coming up for review really soon, so I’m excited to get to it. I love the sound of Meg. She seems like a very interesting MC.
    Fab review, Kim!

  4. Candace's Book Blog

    I’ve been curious about this one, it sounds fantastic and like a book I would really enjoy! I love reading about this time period and the court intrigue.

  5. Lauren

    I have a copy of this and started it this weekend and am loving it so far! It definitely seems like it’s in the same wheelhouse as Robin LaFevers books, so I’m sure I’m going to end up loving. I’m glad you enjoyed it overall! I know the pace will slow, but I’ll be ready for it now. Fabulous review 🙂

  6. Heidi

    This is my first encounter with this one. I know very little about Elizabeth the first and nothing of her court I read a huge back on Henry IIIV about six years ago so I need to pick up something like this and see how the story goes on. Something about the girl on the cover, though gives me the creeps, not that I won’t read it because of that.

  7. Rose M.

    I really enjoy historical fiction novels. One of my favorites is Glimpses of Paradise by James Scott Bell. It is set in the 1920s.

  8. Trish Hannon

    Sounds like a great mash up of Historical Fiction, YA and Spies! Love the idea of it.
    My favourite historical novel is The Girl with The Pearl Earing, simple but perfect.

  9. Heather

    I, too, love Elizabeth’s reign. I love to read just about anything about her time. I love the cover of this book, the girl has rosy cheeks and looks so innocent, then there’s that dagger. Just love the two opposites. Sweet and innocent and deadly! I don’t have a favorite historical novel, though I love time travel novels that travel to the past. I also like Kady Cross’ Steampunk Series. Don’t know if that counts since it’s set in an alt world.


  10. Melissa (Books and Things)

    I’ve always been more interested in the maids and other servant perspectives than the royal court. So glad this one is from the maid’s POV! So curious about Rafe and Meg. Sounds like a part I so need to read! Brilly review!

  11. Melissa

    I have to say the look on the models face with the knife…sold me. I’m totally a cover lover for this one. lol. And the story sounds wonderful as well! 😀

  12. Anya E. J.

    Oo this is exciting to hear since I snagged an ARC from my friend’s box of books 😀 I’ll have to read it this month!

  13. Pooja

    Sounds like such a great period novel! Love that it’s centered in the Elizabethan court xD

  14. Danielle Chapman

    This one has been on my mind for awhile… I may just have to get it! Thanks for the review and the giveaway.

  15. Pnrurbfantasyreviews

    This sounds like something I may enjoy, although I’m not a fan of HF or HR, I think I may need to give this one a try. LOVE that cover!! And as usual, perfecto review!! 😀

  16. Debbie Haupt

    thanks for the great review and all I can say is oh my aching tbr pile 🙂

  17. Sam

    Historical fiction isn’t always my thing, but I’ve been reading more and more of it lately. I really like the sound of this one! Meg and Rafe already have my interest, and I’m glad to hear the romance feels genuine and well-developed, despite not being a focal part of the story. I don’t think I’ve seen a single negative review for this yet. I’ll definitely have to pick it up when I can now. 🙂 Great review!

  18. Holly B

    I’m very excited to read MAID OF SECRETS!! I love historical fiction, and it’s always been in my top 2 favorite genres – it vies for my affection with scifi/fantasy, and they switch between 1 and 2 depending on my place/time in life. I’ve been following the book and author for quite a while, mostly through the Lucky 13s and Corsets, Cutlasses, and Candlesticks sites. I can’t wait to read it, especially since you enjoyed it so much!!

    I’d say my favorite.historical fiction book would be one by Sharon Kay Penman – she is the consummate historical fiction authors as far as I’m concerned! I would read ANYTHING she writes, and actually I think I have read all but 2 of her books. My favorites re the Welsh trilogy, starting with Here Be Dragons, and the Henry II and Eleanor series, starting with When Christ and His Saints Slept. These are all books I wish I could read again for the first time!