First in the Palace of Spies series
By Sarah Zettel
Available now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt BFYR
PALACE OF SPIES is a zippy historical set slightly before the Regency period, in the court of King George. Peggy Fitzroy, the heroine, is an orphan who is thrown out of her uncle's house when she refuses the marriage he sets up for her. (And not for a small reason either; her fiance attempts to rape her.)
Fortunately for Peggy, she's recruited to take the place of Lady Francesca. She'll be a lady-in-waiting to Princess Catherine and report what she sees to a trio with unknown motives. But Peggy is suspicious and curious about the girl she's imitating. As secrets of Lady Francesca's life start to come to life, Peggy suspects that she didn't die of illness. And Peggy could be next if she can't put everything together.
While quite frothy, PALACE OF SPIES has a strong grounding in real history. It's almost a mini-lesson in Georgian social customs and the Jacobites. It's a nice blend that will appeal to history fans as well as those who just like a pretty background of elaborate dresses and wartime spies.
There are some issues. The premise stretches credulity quite far. Not even Lady Francesca's best friend or lover notice she's been replaced by a completely different girl. The romance plotline is underdeveloped. And, well, the spying isn't that action packed. All of the true action really comes at the end of the novel. I enjoyed the setting and the character interaction, but PALACE OF SPIES is a more subdued novel than I expected, given the title and cover.
I enjoyed PALACE OF SPIES and think it is a good start to a mystery series. There's a likeable detective, a detailed setting, and plenty of opportunity for intrigue.