The hot pink cover of Palace of Spies doesn’t really scream “18th century,” but underneath all that fuchsia is a fun tale of historical fiction. Peggy Fitzroy is an orphan in England, living under the guardianship of her wealthy uncle. While she has all the necessities provided for her, along with a close relationship with her cousin, Olivia, Peggy’s uncle makes it very clear that his support is solely a result of his sense of familial duty. To get Peggy out of his hair, he arranges a marriage that looks good on paper. But when this lovely suitor attempts to rape Peggy, she informs her uncle that there will be no marriage. Enraged, he takes advantage of this opportunity to toss her out on the street. A strange man with the fantastic name of Mr. Tinderflint comes to Peggy’s rescue. In return, he wants her help. She must pose as Francesca, a lady-in-waiting to Princess Caroline, to gather information on a possible plot to overthrow of King Geroge I. The real Francesca is dead, but no one at court knows this; it’s believed that she is merely ill.This review and others are posted at Inspiring Insomnia.
So, pose as someone you’ve never met, risk being found out and executed, and attempt to spy while you’re at it. Sounds like an easy task, right? Even if Peggy looks identical to Francesca, how can she mimic her voice and mannerisms? How can she have conversations with people who knew the real Francesca? This is where reminding yourself that this is a work of fiction comes in handy. Before being sent to court, Peggy is given lessons on how to behave like an upper-class lady by Tinderflint and his associates. They also tell her what they know about Francesca and her relationships. But what they don’t tell her is their true motivations behind the scheme.
Zettel does well depicting life at court, with both the frivolities and potential danger it entails. Francesca’s friends and enemies are now Peggy’s friends and enemies, and she must navigate these relationships without blowing her cover. The story successfully builds the tension and intrigue, as neither we nor Peggy know exactly what to expect from the outcome of this scheme. There are some surprising revelations, setting the stage for the second book in the series. Peggy’s interactions with Princess Caroline were limited in this story, but that should change with the sequel. It will also be nice to (hopefully) see more of Peggy’s independence come through, when she’s better able steer her own story.
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.