Prisoners in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel by Michaela MacColl brings to life a part of history that is not much covered in Young Adult literature. We all know about the Victorian era, but how much do any of us know about Queen Victoria when she was still Princess Victoria?
It's a sure bet that what is revealed in this well-written, well-documented book, which is fiction based on real history, will shock many readers. The most famous part of the Queen Victoria legend is her famous love affair with her Prince Albert. Most do not know that she lost her father at eight months of age, lived with a controlling mother, and was practically a prisoner in Kensington Palace (hence the title).
With the creation of her fictional heroine, Elizabeth Hastings, Ms. MacColl allows us a glimpse into the royal upbringing. The author did extensive research to create a young VIctoria who is both sympathetic and queenly. And the main character, Liza, is extremely likable.
Liza (as Elizabeth is known), loses her parents and her very comfortable way of life suddenly. She finds herself without family and without any relatives she can turn to. When she is offered a chance to work at Kensington Palace for the future Queen of Great Britain, she accepts even though the job is as a lady's maid. The position is quite a come-down for one whose parents had been accepted into the gentry.
Liza is also unhappy to learn that the reason she was given the position by the Princess's governess was because she spoke German as well as English and thus would be able to spy on Victoria's German mother. How she survives, what she learns, and how she stays true to herself is what make the book a difficult one to put down.
Historical fiction is fun, and eminently more interesting when the story is exciting, the era is unknown, and the writing is good. Prisoners in the Palace has all that and more.
It's a novel of intrigue and romance, as the book states clearly on the cover (at least of the advance review copy). It's also a book that will be shared by historical fiction readers as well as those who just enjoy Young Adult literature. Make it one of your top 10 books to read before the end of the year.