Palace of Spies
by Sarah Zettel
Cover Artist: Photo: Natalie Shau / Shutterstock
Review by Gayle Surrette
HMH Books for Young Readers Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780544074118
Date: 05 November 2013 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Margaret Preston Fitzroy, called Peggy by her friends, is an orphan. She's being raised by her Aunt and Uncle. Her cousin is a dear friend and confidant, but the Uncle would be just as glad to rid his household of Peggy's influence over his daughter. Now that she's about to turn 16, he's found the perfect answer. He's found her a husband. He also hasn't even considered the possibility that Peggy might not want to get married, or at least not to someone her Uncle picked out for her.
She was to attend a party and meet her intended. Her future husband was handsome, kind, and witty until they were alone. Then he believed he had the right to her body and no qualms about taking what he wanted. Peggy had other ideas. The fortuitous intervention of Mr. Tinderflint saved her modesty, and her virtue, but it left the problem of informing her Uncle that she would not marry his selected candidate. However, she wasn't given a opportunity to explain her feeling before her Uncle threw her out of the house with only the clothes on her back and what she had on her person.
Sixteen. Alone in London in the late 1700s was not a pleasant prospect for any female, let alone one raise as a lady with no marketable skills. The only hope she had was that Mr. Tinderflint was the friend of her mother, he said he was. Of course, first she had to convince someone to convey her to his address on the promise that they'd be paid when they got there.
Mr. Tinderflint was at home and willing to help, for a price. Peggy stiffened her spine and agreed to take part in a grand adventure that might, with one slip, cause her death. She would take the place of one of the queen's maids of honor. And by taking her place, Mr. Tinderflint didn't mean fill in the position that was vacated. No, Peggy was to become Lady Francesca so that no one would realize that she was not who she claimed to be.
From the beginning, Peggy figured something was wrong with the story she was being told about Lady Francesca and her untimely death away from the court and anyone's notice. Once placed in position with the queen and the rest of the maids of honor, Peggy suspected that Francesca had been murdered. She also realized that she didn't know who she could trust, because everyone had hidden motives and agendas. There was tension at court and war brewing over succession with the Jacobites siding with the Stuarts.
Zettel manages to tell an exciting, sometimes humorous tale, of high adventure, romance, and political intrigue, using historical figures and events. She also manages to make us believe in her protagonist, because she doesn't keep her as a modern women in period dress but as a smart, quick witted, sensible sixteen year old girl in a time where women were often believe to be no more than decorative ornamentation useful only for their connections.
The ending leaves enough threads open that there could very well be further adventures for Peggy Fitzroy. I for one hope there will be and that the fact that this is sold as YA will not keep adults from enjoying meeting Peggy Fitzroy.