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Everybody Grows But Me

Jenny falls in love with Michaela MacColl's re-imagining of Queen Victoria's court, Prisoners In the Palace.

Everybody Grows But Me

BOOK REPORT for Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl

BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: Right On- If You Were a Teen In the 1830's
Bonus Factor: Historical Fiction, Flash Patter, Covertastic
Relationship Status: Dear To My Heart

The Deal:

Liza has just arrived for a season in London, preparing to be a society deb. when her parents are killed spectacularly by way of their hansom cab being thrown into the Serpentine. While still grieving, Liza is informed that her father left her nothing but debt, and while still technically-sort-of a lady, her only hope is to get hired on at Kensington Palace as a lady in waiting for the Princess Victoria.

Liza finds herself unprepared for the run-down state the palace is in, and upon her interview, discovers that 'lady in waiting' means MAID. Still, it's either become a maid or find herself on the streets, so Liza uses her wits and charm-- and a little German-- to secure the position.

Once installed in the palace, Liza finds herself in the midst of intrigue, mystery and plots to steal the throne. She decides to do her best to help Victoria, but wonders what will happen once Victoria becomes the Queen of England? Will Liza's status be restored, or will she be forgotten? Will she be able to forge her own way in this world? And what about Will-- the dashing young publisher of periodicals?

BFF Charm: Yay!

Oh, Liza! I feel you, lady.

Liza is the kind of heroine I lapped up as a YA, in precisely the type of setting little Jenny thrived on. Girl, meant for greatness, is robbed of everything! But she somehow makes things work in her favor, yadda yadda... There were moments in the story when I just wished I could have been a fellow lady-maid so we could hang out after our long day of work and just take care of each other. We could brush each other's hair, and I could give her a hug when she was still sad about her parents being all dead. And on our one day off a month, we could have gone to visit our dear friends, the Dashwoods! Anyway, Liza really ponies up to the work she has to do, the lack of good food she receives, and her new 'position' as a maid of not being able to speak her mind-- or sometimes at all. And she does it will very little inner whininess. (And although I hate a whiny heroine, I probably would have whined a bit more, in her circumstance.)

I would have also given a charm to Inside Boy Jones, the darlingest street urchin you ever will see.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Now you might find this rating a bit high, considering the romance is only one part of the story, and there's very little in the way of the smoochies. But the way the romance (and the intrigue for that matter) was written is exactly (one of) the kinds that is my FAVORITE. You know what I'm talking about: when the girl is attracted to (what she at least thinks is) a bad boy, and he's quite forward, and she is totally titillated, but of course won't admit it, so instead she spars with him verbally, putting all of her passions into zings... ah the heaving Jenny-bosoms!

Talky Talk: Right On- if You Were a Teen In the 1830's

This is one of those stories that I couldn't wait to come home to, or pick up on my lunch break. It's the type of period piece in which very little is happening and yet SO MUCH is happening at the same time! From the plotting to steal the throne from Victoria-- by her own mother-- to the tension between the ladies' maids, to the budding romance, to the range of emotions as a whole country is waiting for their ailing king to die. It kept me rapt in its suspense, not because of hair-raising adventure, but because for Liza and Victoria, their lives were on the line.

Now, I'm a huge fan of Queen Victoria. I love her story. This author imagines how a young princess might act while both thoroughly spoiled-- because of what she will become-- and thoroughly neglected-- due in part to her mother's craycrayness, and not a little to Sir John's conniving. I don't like to imagine my Victoria as the least bit bratty, but we don't know what she was REALLY like as a teen, so I had to admire MacColl's take on things, even though it didn't fit in with my untainted and perfect image of the young queen.

Bonus Factor: Historical Fiction

It's on our milk carton, y'all! Yay for history!

Bonus Factor: Flash Patter

Flash Patter is lingo spoken by miscreants and streetfolk, and may just be the predecessor to cockney rhyming slang. The author doesn't over-use it, so it's fun when it appears, courtesy of Inside Boy:

"Brilliant, Miss Liza. I thought 'e knew me for a scrannin' cove. If 'e 'ad found the whack in me fork, I'd be off to boardin' school for sure."

Bonus Factor: Covertastic

Another milk carton item! And the hardcover edition has a different design under the dust jacket! Thank you, Chronicle Books!

Casting Call:


Isabella Calthorpe as Liza

Liza needs to be a classic beauty, and I kept picturing Ms. Calthorpe as I read. Plus, she's some sort of cousin to the royals, I believe...

And, thanks to GK Films, I will forever picture Emily Blunt as Queen Victoria.

Emily Blunt as Victoria

Relationship Status: Dear to My Heart

In case you haven't guessed by now, this book is a love of mine. I can hardly be blamed, when it appeals to so many of my sensibilities, though, can I? I mean, this book invited me over for tea, and when I arrived, it wrapped me up in an old quilt by the fire, made sure it slipped some Famous Grouse into my teacup, and told me fascinating tales. Then it gave me homemade mac 'n cheese and cupcakes! Because of these things, I will remain loyal 2 it for eternity.

FTC Full Disclosure: My review copy was a free book I received from Chronicle Books. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Prisoners in the Palace is now available.

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Jenny Bird's photo About the Author: Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.