Book Review: Maid of Secrets

I met Jenn Stark, on line and then in person, as one of the Starcatchers, the 2011 group of Golden Heart finalists.  Her manuscript, then called Maids of Honor, was a finalist in the Young Adult category.  It didn’t win the Golden Heart, but it did even better–it sold to Simon & Schuster!  Although I’m not a reader of contemporary young adult fiction (it’s been a long time since high school angst played an important role in my life), the Elizabethan setting of Jenn’s story, and the tagline God Save the Queen–or We Will, had me waiting eagerly for publication.

Jenn chose to publish as Jennifer McGowan, Simon & Schuster changed the title to Maid of Secrets and put a beautiful cover on the book, and as soon as it was released last month, I was at my local Barnes & Noble for a copy.  And I was not disappointed.

Maid of SecretsMaid of Secrets may be published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, but it stands up quite well as historical fiction for readers of any age.  Although the heroine, orphan and pickpocket Meg Fellows, is a young woman of seventeen, her problems are hardly those of a contemporary teen.  When she is arrested and removed from her company of traveling players to be drafted into the Maids of Honor, a small group of girls trained to protect Queen Elizabeth I and to spy on her court, Meg’s skills as a thief take second place to her phenomenal ability to memorize overheard conversations, even in Spanish, a language she barely knows.

Each of Meg’s fellow Maids of Honor also has a unique skill: Anna the scholar and translator, Sophia, whose “sight” is just developing, Jane with her knives and raw courage, and Beatrice the beauty and charmer of men.  Each Maid has her own secrets as well.

The Elizabethan setting is fascinating, as Meg and Jane prowl through the semi-forgotten passageways from the time of Henry VIII, meet the members of the court, spy on Elizabeth’s enemies and suitors, and discover some things they’d rather not have known.

Among the Spaniards at court, the handsome and charming young Count de Medina keeps Meg guessing—is he her protector, as he claims, or Elizabeth’s enemy, as the spy masters suspect?

Maid of Secrets comes to a satisfying conclusion without answering all the questions raised.  I hope this means we will be hearing more from Meg and the Maids of Honor.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gerrybartlett
    Jun 16, 2013 @ 17:03:59

    I read Maid of Secrets a couple of weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I put my five star review on Goodreads. Loved the Elizabethan setting. I didn’t know she was one of your Starcatchers. Good for her!

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    • Kay Hudson
      Jun 16, 2013 @ 17:10:41

      Hey, Gerry. My mother had a collection of novels and biographies set in the Elizabethan (and adjoining) eras. She would have enjoyed Maid of Honor. I wish she was still around to share books with.

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  2. jennmcgowan
    Jun 16, 2013 @ 18:12:46

    Kay (and Gerry!) thank you so much for such lovely and thoughtful reviews. Kay, I’m especially thrilled that you think it plays well beyond the teen reader market. That was a particular concern of mine, since I grew up with historical novels and wanted the Maids series to still appeal to adults (though its primary target is teens). So your review just–absolutely made my whole week. I sincerely appreciate you both reading the book and taking the time to write such wonderful reviews. Hooray for historicals!!

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