Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: Prisoners in the Palace

Synopsis: Prisoners in the Palace -- London, 1838. Sixteen-year-old Liza's dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady's maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant's world below-stairs as well as the trickery above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen? Meticulously based on newly discovered information, this riveting novel is as rich in historical detail as Catherine, Called Birdy, and as sizzling with intrigue as The Luxe. 

My Review: I adore historical fiction, mostly because I adore history.  Prisoners in the Palace was no exception.  When I had the opportunity to read this I almost didn’t sign up for the tour.  Just that God awful cover!  Ah!  It literally hurts my eyes to look at.  It’s like someone took a Renaissance styled painting of a woman and put it with pop art colors and Roy Lichtenstein’s bendai dots.  Just gah!  Assault on the eyes!  The artist in me just can’t forgive that horrendous cover art.  Thank goodness the story made up for the awful cover. 

I’ve never really read anything about Queen Victoria and I really don’t know much about her, so I was intrigued with the story.  I learned so much from this book that when my mom was watching Young Queen Victoria, I’d walk in randomly going “Is that Albert?  Is that the former Queen?  That her old tutor?” Took me about five seconds to identify people and what was happening.  I have to say I felt pretty darn cool.  In a nerdy kind of way.  ^.^ I loved the fact that the story revolved around Victoria as a young girl, yet it doesn’t take the obvious route by telling it through Victoria’s POV.  The story is in fact told through the POV of her personal maid, Liza.  Liza, a young girl without parents or any inheritance, is in a rough Europe where girls like her only have one way to go.  Desperate to pay off her debts she takes the position at Kensington Palace as Victoria’s personal maid.  Or rather, she is to spy on the Duchess and the scheming Lord Conroy… Connely?( … it’s been a few weeks here, forgive me)  Liza is thrown from the life of high society she is used to, to the world under the stairs of the servants.  She learns quickly that the nobility isn’t as fine and grand as they are made out to be, and that their trickery knows no bounds.  She is desperate to learn to keep ahead of her employers and be the master of her own fate.  She acts the part and does what she is told, but she is really looking out for herself and Victoria. 
I really enjoyed Liza’s character.  While she starts out a bit of a prude, you can’t really blame her.  She is used to the life of a lady, not that of a maid.  She quickly adjusts to her new lifestyle and is trying to make the best of it.  Though she secretly hopes to earn Victoria’s favor so that one day Victoria might renew her to being a proper lady.  She’s clever and headstrong and has a clear head on her shoulders.  Though some of her actions were selfish in nature, it only added to her character.  She felt remorse on many fronts and it just made her all the more human.  She genuinely cared for people and tried her best to do right by them.  To help ensure information for Victoria (I swear she’s like a quadruple spy) she enlists the help of Inside Boy and a young newspaper printer Will.  If I’m not misinformed I believe that Inside Boy is actually based on an actual person, and I found his character very refreshing and funny.  And Will, oh my oh me.  I just love the name Will.  Probably one of my all time favorite guy names (unless of course you are Will Herondale… why did his name have to be Will?!) He’s a working class man making a living with what he loves, complete with ink stained fingers, messy blonde hair and a rugged and easy going personality.  Ahhh, just utter heart!  I loved the contrast with Will’s common man mentality and Liza’s more refined manner.  Though they are very different from each other, they both share the same values and really connect.  The romance that stems from their business meetings was wonderfully done as well.  I loved the letters between them.  It just increased the growing bond between them.  It was all just very sweet and utterly adorable.  Plus there is the fact that there was almost a whole year between their first meeting and when their romance actually came to a head.  For once a believable time line for two people falling in love!  Hallelujah!  They met, they got to know each other, they sorted out their true feelings, didn’t rush into anything, and when it was clear they both felt the same for each other then it all came nicely together.  Just win!  Made me so happy! 
The one complaint I have with the book is the time gap when Victoria goes on tour to all those places.  It’s the time when she comes down with Typhoid and she almost dies, yet we don’t get any of it.  That whole couple month long period is spanned by a couple of letters back and forth between Will and Liza.  While I adored those letters, they also kind of drove me nuts.  I hated not knowing what the heck was happening!  It would have also been nice to have Will and Liza’s relationship fleshed out more, but hey I’ll take what I can get.  The ending was full of promises and possibilities so I was happy.  ^.^ 
I really adored this book and look forward to more by the author.  Hopefully any future books will have better cover art (psst I’ll sooooo do it lolz) If you are a history lover, or even if you aren’t, you should definitely read this book.  I know the cover burns your eyes, but trust me the story is so engrossing that you will barely have to shut it and have to look at it.  Absolutely wonderful!