Review: Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan

Review: Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowanMaid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan
Series: Maids of Honor #1
Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR on June 24, 2013
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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three-half-stars

If God won't save the Queen...they 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 I and pressed into royal service. With a faked noble identity, Meg joins four other skilled 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. Meg’s mission tests every talent she possesses, even her loyalty to her fellow Maids. With danger lurking around every corner, can she stay alive—and protect the crown?

Confession: I downloaded the egalley of the second book in this series last year and didn’t read it. Then, this year, I downloaded the THIRD in the series. This time, though, I’m determined to read the series, and, as you can see, I’ve made a good first step in actually reading the first book. Thankfully, I’m a fan or this could have been awkward. I just couldn’t pass up historical fiction about boss bitches. That’s really everything I want. Well, okay, there could have been more romance for my tastes, but Maid of Secrets was enough fun that I didn’t much mind the lack.

I absolutely adore the premise of the Maids of Honor series. Young queen Elizabeth, around 25 years of age, forms a group of maids with special talents to serve as her spies. I will always be down for plots like this. It’s so awesome because the reduced state of the women allows them to be even better spies because nobody suspects the flirty teen girl of subterfuge. Especially awesome about Maids of Honor is that the girls come from all walks of life, our heroine actually having been arrested for thieving but saved from harsher punishment by this position.

There are five girls in the Maids of Honor, and, initially, Meg knows them by their skill. Throughout the book, she comes to know them better and to see beyond the surface level. McGowan recognizes the many kinds of strength in Maid of Secrets. Though all of the maids are trained in fighting, only one excels at it. The others have strengths of mind or particular skills like Meg’s ability to thieve. I always approve when fiction shows that there are many ways to be a badass heroine. Meg’s talents are the ability to exactly memorize text heard aloud and her quick fingers; however, she struggles immensely with reading and learning new languages.

Meg Fellowes makes for a pretty fabulous protagonist. The fact that she never stopped thieving was really charming, which seems an odd thing to say, but I thought it was realistic that she didn’t completely change immediately. At first, all she wants is to get out of service, but, at the same time, she feels a very strong desire to protect the queen and England. Her loyalty to Queen Elizabeth is very powerful and touching, because she sees in Elizabeth everything she wishes to be: a free, powerful woman with no need to sell herself to a man. Basically, Meg is also a fan of boss bitches.

The other maids are all quite likable as well, and there’s a strong focus on the burgeoning friendships between them. I like that they didn’t instatrust on one another but that they’re learning to be real friends. Initially, Meg feels out of place and resented by the other girls. Beatrice acts like the classic mean girl, in fact. I’m so glad that Beatrice is getting a character arc and not just being left as this character. I believe that the other girls are getting their own books, and I’ll be excited to see the world through their eyes if that’s the case. I’m especially looking forward to Jane and Anna’s books.

The romancey bits are intriguing but I could have used a bit more shippiness from Maid of Secrets. There’s kissing but I’m honestly not sure how I feel about the ship yet. I’m hoping that I’ll get to see a good deal more as they appear in the background of the other Maids of Honor books. The ship here has potential, but I’m not sure about it’s long term viability.

The one drawback of Maid of Secrets for me was that I saw absolutely everything coming. The resolutions to the mysteries were telegraphed and obvious. Sometimes I don’t mind that but these girls are probably smarter than I am, so I didn’t think I should have figured out who the murderer was a couple hundred pages before they did. View Spoiler » I’m hoping to see a bit stronger plot in the next books.

Maid of Secrets was a great historical read, and I don’t think the comparison to Robin LaFevers is off the mark, though there’s a greater focus on female friendship than on romance. I’m excited to binge this series full of boss bitches.

Favorite Quote:

“Remind me never to trust a Spaniard, will you?”

She squeezed my arm. “You have my word. The moment I sense you going weak in the knees, I’ll break his.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif queen elizabeth i fear him not

4 responses to “Review: Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan”

  1. Ooh I loved this book! I thought the characters and their relationships were fantastic. Just like you said, how the girls learned to trust each other gradually and Meg’s devotion to Elizabeth. It was exciting and fun to read. I think you like Maid of Deception even more. I was skeptical because it’s Beatrice’s book (even though they all appear) but Jennifer McGowan is the queen of layered characters. Plus there’s a much bigger and better and shippier Christina ship 🙂 I’m looking forward to Maid of Wonder this summer.
    Morgan @ Gone with the Words recently posted…Bitsy Words: Jesse’s Girl | Stitching Snow | Serafina and the Black CloakMy Profile

  2. Layla says:

    Oh, I’ve had my eye on these. Historical fiction about teenage girls being spies in Elizabeth I’s court … can’t … resist …

    If you think they’re good fun, though, I’ll give them a try. I think my library might have them or something. Even if there is not a ship, I’ll super enjoy Elizabeth being a boss bitch and having, like, fleshed out relationships with other women. Aww yiss.
    Layla recently posted…Lies We Tell Ourselves: ReviewMy Profile

  3. Okay, you’ve totally convinced me. When this first came out it went immediately on my TBR but I read some super harsh reviews of this one and it totally discouraged me. These days I’m more along the lines of “Fuck it. I want to try it anyways.” so back on the TBR it goes.
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Book Review – Blindsighted (Grant County #1) by Karin SlaughterMy Profile

  4. Lyn Kaye says:

    “If God won’t save the Queen…they will.”

    OMG, that byline is just the BEST. Even with some of the issues you pointed out, I have to admit that I am really interested in this one! It sounds kinda cheesy – the GOOD kind of cheesy.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review: Simon vs The Homo Sapiens AgendaMy Profile

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