Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Undercover Girl

Expected Publication:  November 5th, 2013
Palace of Spies (Palace of Spies #1)
By: Sarah Zettel
HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13:  9780544074118
A warning to all young ladies of delicate breeding who wish to embark upon lives of adventure: Don't.
Sixteen-year-old Peggy is a well-bred orphan who is coerced into posing as a lady in waiting at the palace of King George I. Life is grand, until Peggy starts to suspect that the girl she's impersonating might have been murdered. Unless Peggy can discover the truth, she might be doomed to the same terrible fate. But in a court of shadows and intrigue, anyone could be a spy—perhaps even the handsome young artist with whom Peggy is falling in love . . . History and mystery spark in this effervescent series debut.
      Peggy Fitzroy (nod to the royal bastard of the Tudor era here, maybe?) is an orphan living on the charity of her stern and dour Uncle.  But when he arranges for her to marry a notorious rake against her wishes, Peggy decides to meet up with a mysterious man, Mr. Tinderflint, who claimed to have known her Mother and take him up on a job offer.  It turns out he and a group of others have a scheme to get Peggy into the court of King George as a spy - by impersonating Lady Francesca who's a recently deceased, orphaned noblewoman who is a lady in waiting to the Princess Catherine.  Peggy decides to participate in the charade, but finds herself in over her head when confronted by a secret lover of Fran's, drawings depicting court happenings that could get her tried for treason and the very real possibility that Fran herself might have been murdered for her own not quite so Crown-loyal activities.  Can Peggy pull off becoming Fran without raising suspicions and being exposed?  And will she manage to outwit whoever murdered the real Fran, who may not have really been as innocent as she made herself seem to everyone around her?  While trying to deal with a mystery Peggy might just also find herself in love, which presents all sorts of problems all its own.....
     I really enjoyed this novel and Peggy was definitely an interesting character.  I did get the feeling like a lot of other readers, that things in regards to the language and narration were a little too modern to be a truly good historical fiction novel.  Peggy, as a girl with nothing, has nothing to lose in deciding to impersonate Lady Francesca in King George's court.  I did like the banter between her and her cousin in the beginning pages of the novel and the reintroduction of her cousin into her new, crazily mixed-up life later on in the narrative.  It was a fairly enjoyable, funny play at a historical spy novel.  The romantic aspect between Peggy and the artist's apprentice Matthew Reade, plus her confused feelings for Fran's secret love, a footman in the palace were very well-drawn.  At times the love triangle got slightly angsty, but I always kind of knew who Peggy was going to end up with even at the beginning - which was perfectly okay with me as someone not fond of love triangles being drawn out. 
     As someone who doesn't really know a lot about that period of time in the history of the English crown/royal genealogy, I didn't find myself picking at things the author might have changed.  I might have even learned something.  I found it interesting that there was a rebellion between George, who wasn't the closest descendant by blood to the throne but was King, and James who WAS closest to the throne but was exiled and called "The Pretender."  The spy plot in this book is all about proper claim to the throne, and possible plots to overthrow current rule by King George.  As much as I liked the rompy, slow-building action of the court intrigue in this book I did find myself a little disappointed in it's predictability.  The evil fellow lady-in-waiting Sophy Howe, and her true intentions, the realities of Francesca and her real parentage/status/personality and actions, & the dual resolution/open ended spying plot.  Overall, this book was really a fun read and it gave me a reprieve from all the heavy books I've read lately.  I enjoyed the humor of it and the enthusiasm of the main character and the author.  I'll definitely be reading the next one, even if it just turns out to be a fun and fluffy series instead of anything truly long-lasting in my reading life.  I'd recommend it to fans of lighter historical fare, who aren't nitpickers.
VERDICT:  3.75/5  Stars
*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication is November 5th, 2013.*

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