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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl

Title: Prisoners in the Palace, How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel
Author: Michaela MacColl
Publisher: Chronicle Books
ISBN: 978-0-8118-7300-0
Format: Hardback
Rating: 4.5 Crowns

London, 1836
Seventeen-year-old Liza’s dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in a tragic accident. Alone and penniless, she accepts the position of lady’s maid to the young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servants’ world below-stairs as well as the trickery above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the opportunity to dertermine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future Queen?
(from the cover)

My Thoughts:

I truly enjoyed this book. I found that it was a fresh approach to the life of Queen Victoria and hopefully thanks to the witty way it was compiled a new generation will become interested in this era. Although it is marketed as a Young Adult novel, I believe that adults will enjoy it immensely. Once I started this book, I found that I could not put it down. I enjoyed watching as Liza slipped into this world that was not her own, sort of a Cinderella story in reverse if you will. I have read many fictional accounts of the life of Victoria (both adult & young adult reads), and I have to say that this one seems to be the one the sticks in my mind. I loved that even though it was fictional, the author, Michaela MacColl, weaves in as much historical aspects as possible.

Overall this was an amazing read that I hope will inspire others to become more familiar with the life and times of this fascinating Queen.

I would like to first say Thank You to Michaela MacColl on behalf of Royal Reviews for her lovely guest post as well her kind words about the blog itself.

It’s a Maid’s Life By Michaela Maccoll

I’d like to thank Angela for this chance to chat with readers of The Royal Reviews. I’ve spent a lot of time on this site and I can tell I’m in good company.

I’ve written a novel about the teenage Princess Victoria. Victoria is surrounded by people who wants something from her and she doesn’t know who to trust. Enter my main character, Liza Hastings. Liza is a young lady fallen on hard times. She comes to Kensington Palace to be a lady-in-waiting and discovers that the only job available is that of Victoria’s lady’s maid. Desperate, she has no choice but to take the job. She moans about how far she has fallen (until she discovers the fate of the last maid!)

Part of my research for Prisoners in the Palace was to find out about the lives of servants in the 1830’s. I was fascinated to discover that the lives of servants were as hierarchical as the lords and ladies they served. Liza, who thinks she has sunk lower than her expectations, actually did well in the domestic servant sweepstakes.

At the top of the feminine heap was the housekeeper. She was ranked higher and earned more than every other servant. She was responsible for the hiring/firing and all the expenses. Next down was a lady’s maid. She didn’t wear a uniform and her duties were limited to being available to her mistress for dressing, undressing, bathing and the occasional escort duty. She was often given her mistress’ discarded clothing which she could alter for herself or sell. They were often French or Swiss and it was rare for a lady’s maid not to be pretty. Her route to advancement was to marry. Further down the list were the cook, and parlor-maids and scullery maids.

The servants themselves were hyper-aware of rank. Lady’s maids and Valets would call each other by their employer’s names. At the servants’ dinner, all the servants would sit together for the first course of their meal, but them the senior servants would get up and in order of their rank, would leave to the housekeeper’s dining room. Even outside the house, butlers would have their own club where they could socialize with other butlers but the coachmen would have their own club.

So Liza has done well. Not only is she a lady’s maid, she’s maid to the future Queen of England. When she visits other houses with Victoria, she will be the highest ranking lady’s maid. She’ll have the best accommodations, sit near the head of the table and be deferred to by everyone except the butler and the housekeeper. Liza knows nothing of these rules and learns the hard way to demand the perquisites of her position. And once Victoria becomes queen… the possibilities are endless.

On the other hand, her duties are a little demeaning. She has to dress and bath the Princess. This is particularly difficult for Liza because she is accustomed to have her own maid. She has to rise before Victoria and cannot sleep until after Victoria goes to bed- not a huge problem unless Victoria is at a ball. The Princess gauged how successful a party was by how late she got to stay up! Of course for our intrepid heroine, the solution to that problem is to sneak into the ball herself!

I hope that you enjoy Prisoners in the Palace. If you’d like to read more about it, check out my website at

Happy Reading!

Thanks to Chronicle Books Royal Reviews is giving away one copy of Prisoners in the Palace.
To enter please leave a comment, as well as a valid email address.
Contest for residents of the US only

Giveaway ends November, 30


Stephanie :) (Books Are A Girl's Best Friend) said...

I've loved Victoria ever since I could recognise her after visiting Osbourne house when I was two. 11 years later and I'm still a fan of her and the period she reigned over, particularly the life of maids. So this book sounds like the perfect mix for me- I can't wait to read it! Thanks for sharing :D

Audra said...

I read a lovely review that included an interview about the cover design for this book -- so unusual -- and sounds like its v fitting for the novel. Thanks so much for the giveaway!

unabridgedchick at gmail.com

Irene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Irene said...

How utterly perfect that you chose the name "Liza" for the future "Queen of Queens'" maid! Would love to read/win this enchangtin book. Thank you for hosting this giveaway...

cyeates AT nycap DOT rr DOT com

Rachel said...

I'd love to read this! Thanks for the giveaway!


Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed some interesting a well written historical fiction from the YA collection. There are lots of excellent and original works coming out in the YA field. This sounds like one I will enjoy. It is a nice, fresh approach. Always good to have a different perspective.

librarypat AT comcast DOT net

Maureen said...

That was a fascinating post. I didn't realize that servants had their own hierarchy.
mce1011 AT aol DOT com

Aik said...

I'd love to enter! Thanks!

aikychien at yahoo dot com

AmandaRose said...

Ahhh, I think this has to be one od the best historical fictions I've ever read! I loved the two covers and really enjoyed the story...it wasn't boring like I find most historical novels.