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Review: Maid of Deception by Jennifer McGowan

Monday, August 25, 2014

Maid of Deception
Jennifer McGowan

Series: Maids of Honor #2
Genre: Historical
Hardback: 416 Pages
Publication: August 26, 2014
by Simon & Schuster BFYR


Beatrice Knowles is a Maid of Honor, one of Queen Elizabeth I’s secret protectors. Known for her uncanny ability to manipulate men’s hearts, Beatrice has proven herself to be a valuable asset in the Queen’s court—or so she thinks. It has been three weeks since the Maids thwarted a plot to overthrow the Queen, and Beatrice is preparing to wed her betrothed, Lord Cavanaugh. However, her plans come to a crashing halt as rumors of a brewing Scottish rebellion spread among the court.

Beatrice’s new assignment is to infiltrate the visiting Scottish delegation using her subtle arts in persuasion. The mission seems simple enough, until the Queen pairs Beatrice with the worst of the lot—Alasdair MacLeod. Beatrice cannot help but think that the Queen is purposefully setting her up for failure. But Alasdair could be the key to unlocking the truth about the rebellion….and her own heart. Caught in a web of ever-more-twisting lies, Beatrice must rise up among the Maids of Honor and prove what she’s known all along: In a court filled with deception and danger, love may be the deadliest weapon of all.

◆ An ARC was provided by Simon & Schuster for review ◆

Maid of Deception is a book to be read for the characters. I say this because the story doesn't really play up the historical setting, and the plot wasn't focused. Admittedly, the characters could have been fleshed out more, but they're definitely the centerpiece in the novel. Each maid of honor has a unique personality and skill that makes her invaluable for the queen's services. Beatrice is the maid of deception, the one who specializes in court politics and ferreting out secrets.

For someone who is supposed to know about everything going on at court, Beatrice is surprisingly naïve and blind to things she doesn't want to see. For example, she seems to believe that her father is out to ruin her life and doesn't trust him to run the family estate. She also seems to believe that she needs to be in control of everything. In spite of this, she's a pretty likable character with her own insecurities. I actually would have liked her vulnerabilities to be played up more. While some things are mentioned, there isn't a lot of elaboration, and it resulted in some surprises when Beatrice acts contrary to what I'd come to expect of her.

I did have a serious problem with the romance. In the early days, when Alasdair is trying to get Beatrice to pay attention to him, he gets really intrusive—eyeing her inappropriately and even, at times, touching her inappropriately and getting into her private space. There are times as well when they kiss that he acts overpowering, dominating her with his physical strength. Now, I have no problem with this when a couple is in a serious, exclusive relationship, but he acts domineering and intrusive at a time when she makes it clear that she has no interest in him whatsoever. I don't find this romantic but rather very, very disturbing. So though I found Alasdair quite charming later on in the book when a friendship blooms between him and Beatrice, and it becomes apparent he's not just some boorish outlander in search of a conquest, I didn't ever find myself letting my guard down around him.

This isn't a book I'd recommend if you're really interested in the time period. I'm not a medieval England expert, but there seem to be a lot of inconsistencies in the mannerisms of the people and the time period. I'm definitely glad the people don't use "period talk" (I'd be at such a loss trying to understsand what they say!), but I do expect some degree of historical accuracy in a historical fiction as well as a greater attempt at world building so that readers can get a feel for the time period. As it is, it feels like the time period was chosen for the romantic feel. I wouldn't read it for the spy aspect either. There isn't much intrigue to the plot. Rather, it feels like Beatrice moves forward from one event to another. The only solid resolution I feel we get is with Beatrice's heart.

For all my complaints, the writing did flow smoothly, and the different maids of honor are compelling in their own right. I would be potentially interested in reading the next installment. I recommend Maid of Deception to readers looking for a YA historical romance with a dominating male alpha figure.

Additional Information
  1. Maid of Secrets
  2. Maid of Deception
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10 comments on "Review: Maid of Deception by Jennifer McGowan"
  1. Sorry that the romance and its set up wasn't as well done as other aspects

    1. It really would have helped my enjoyment of the novel if they'd been as developed as other aspects of the novel!

  2. I am going to have to check out the first book now. I can see how the romance wouldn't set right with you, I don't think it would with me either. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

    1. I hope you enjoy the first book! If it's the same as this one, it'll be good for a light, fluffy read :)

  3. I'm not a medieval England either, but for you to have been able to spot so many inconsistencies is discouraging. The romantic elements are kinda important too, especially in Historicals, which is another black mark against this book. I'm going to have to pass on this one. Wonderful review though!

  4. I don't know if I'm a big fan of Alasdair! You don't touch a lady inappropriately, or eye her or any of that (esPECially in historicals. Well, always but you know.) Hard when there are a lot of inconsistencies, too. You'd think that would have been caught by the editor?

    1. Yeah, guys should be respectful to ladies. I think inconsistencies are more important in some books than others. As there isn't a lot of time spent world building in this novel, I think other elements took precedent here, and the historical setting is primarily for the romantic feel of the time. Aka they decided to go ahead and take a lot of liberties with how they presented the time.

  5. Oh dear, Alasdair--that is a big NO-NO. Thank you for the warning on that, I'd be annoyed by that, too. :/

    I liked the first book, but I would agree with you that it seems like there are some liberties taken with the history and etiquette and manners and such. It's on the lighter side of historical fiction, but I still enjoy these every once in awhile when the story is good. I'm glad you liked it overall, though, especially enough to read the next installment.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    1. I agree. This is a perfect read for some light historical fiction reading. I just would have appreciated a little more attention to world building given that it's set in another century!


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