Maid of Secrets, by Jennifer McGowan (book review) – spying for the Queen, perilous times

book cover of Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan published by Simon and SchusterWorld Wednesday takes us to the early days of Queen Elizabeth I’s court amid intrigue and international turmoil.

Her Majesty is protected quite visibly by her trusted royal guards and oh-so-secretly by 5 young maids-in-waiting chosen by her for their very special talents.

Read an excerpt here to meet Meg during her pickpocketing days with the theater troupe, before the Queen’s spymaster makes her an offer she cannot refuse.

Get this first book in the Maids of Honor series today at your local library or independent bookstore, and follow Meg’s journey from sticky-fingered orphan to secret-storing spy.

Jennifer says she’s working on Maid of Deception  now, so we’ll read more about the lovely and cunning Beatrice next.

What royal secret would you most like to know?

Book info:  Maid of Secrets / Jennifer McGowan.  Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Arrested by the Queen’s men for pickpocketing, Meg has a choice: die or become a spy! Queen Elizabeth’s most-special Maids of Honor must solve a murder before danger reaches Her Majesty – and must ignore love they can never have.

Her ear for dialogue and quick memorizing served Meg well as she traveled with the theater troupe. Now she’ll become a listener without seeming to listen, approaching her assigned target as a mere lady-in-waiting. But first she must learn a well-bred lady’s manners, plus spycraft skills like silent strangulation and reading.

The young ladies hand-picked as spies by the Queen herself have been training together for several months: Jane, a Welsh girl with masterful knife skills; Sophia, who has visions and reads portents; Beatrice, whose beauty bewitches any man to do her bidding; and Anna, who knows many languages. Meg is replacing Maria, who was brutally murdered because someone in Windsor Castle knew she was a spy.

Now the Spanish ambassador and his courtiers are arriving, and for all their elaborate speeches, they do not wish Her Majesty well. It’s up to Meg to hear their private conversations and report them back verbatim to Sir William – and to report treachery anywhere in the court directly to the Queen alone, at her express command.

Dancing and flirting, listening for conversations in Spanish and storing them perfectly in her memory, trying not to make an obvious social error in the palace (and to resist stealing anything), Meg is on edge during the ball and the days after. She finds handsome Rafe of the Spanish delegation distracting (he’s Beatrice’s assignment), then uncovers messages plotting to overthrow the Queen!

Can Meg and the Queen’s spymaster identify the traitor quickly and quietly?
Can she avoid Maria’s fate as she continues to listen in on Spanish courtiers?
Can she guard her own heart as Rafe begins to woo her?

In the earliest days of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, the safety of her royal person and the fate of the country may rest in the hands of these five Maids of Honor in Her Majesty’s secret service.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on

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