I am forever and always a fan of books where girls take on warrior/spy/fighter type roles, especially during a time when women had confined roles. When I came across Maid Of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan in my browsing, I totally knew that I had to get my hands on a copy as the summary hit my hot buttons: lady spies, Queen Elizabeth, intrigue, and romance! For the most part, I really enjoyed Maid Of Secrets — it reminded me of Grave Mercy, only much more light hearted and not nearly as heavy. It’s not quite as good as Grave Mercy, but will do in a pinch if you are looking for a readalike.
Meg is an orphan. She gets by living with an acting trope called the Golden Rose, working with them and pickpocketing. Unfortunately, she goes for the wrong mark one day and finds herself on the receiving end of Queen Elizabeth’s attention. Meg is given a choice. Work for the Queen as a ‘Maid of Honor’ and eventually gain her freedom, or the members of the Golden Rose get arrested and basically lose their livelihood. Of course, to protect her friends, Meg becomes a Maid of Honor. In the process, she meets a great group of girls who each have distinct personalities, she falls for a Spanish count named Rafe. She’s got to use her best judgment and not get caught up in the games of court, as Meg receives conflicting orders from the Queen and the spymaster.
Meg is a real live wire. I loved that she took awhile to warm up to the other girls and that she wasn’t immediately this perfect spy. She struggles with things like academics and learning, given that she is illiterate and all. Instead, Meg is useful because she has an awesome memory and is able to really mimic conversations and accents. She’s got a real ear for conversing and I think is totally an auditory learner. Anyways, I liked that Meg has intense character development that doesn’t change who she is at her core — she starts the book as a loyal person to her trope and she ends Maid Of Secrets as someone who is fiercely loyal to the Queen and to the other Maids of Honor.
I wouldn’t say that McGowan’s Maid Of Secrets is the fastest paced read, but it is fairly engaging. I thought that the adventure and the unraveling of this whole conspiracy to make the Queen look dumb was good. It definitely kept the book from being boring. However, it did take me awhile to feel as though the book truly had any sort of risk or high stakes. I wasn’t exactly nervous for Meg until the end, which kept me from being fully invested as a reader. I will say that the plotting made sense though and there wasn’t any part where I was like – wow this is totally whack.
As for the romance, Rafe is pretty darn swoonworthy. At first, I was not quite sure what to make of him. I also thought he was a bad guy for a little bit, LOL. HOWEVER, he’s carrying some secrets of his own and when all is revealed, it’s like okay this dude is worthy of Meg’s affections. I quite enjoyed the scenes that the two had together and only wished that there were more of those scenes. Y’all, there’s kissing and propriety and all of that jazz.
Frankly, I enjoyed Maid Of Secrets and will likely be back to read the sequels. I am kind of hoping that the author ends up taking the path where the sequels explore the side characters, or the other Maids Of Honor in greater detail, maybe with each one getting her own book as I think they have interesting stories to tell — kind of like how Robin LaFevers did Grave Mercy and it’s sequels. If you are looking for a fun, historical reimagining filled to the brim with girl power, give Maid Of Secrets a shot. It’ll definitely add some levity to your reading.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher
Other reviews of Maid Of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan:
365 Days Of Reading – “manages to hold on to an aspect of fun”
Fabbity Fab Book Reviews – “a wonderful blend of action, espionage and romance”
Reading Extensively – “an entertaining book”