BP: Please tell (everyday normal) readers what MAID OF DECEPTION is about without using the book blurb:
JM: Maid of Deception is the second book in the Maids of Honor series, and follows the tale of Beatrice Knowles, a young woman who has grown up in the English court. She knows everybody who is anybody—and many of their secrets. But Beatrice has secrets of her own she is desperate to hide. With her beauty, wiles and shrewd intelligence, she is an excellent manipulator, which makes her a worthy spy among the Maids of Honor—even though she and Queen Elizabeth detest each other personally.
In Maid of Deception, Beatrice is forced to spy on a member of the Scottish delegation—the rogue Alasdair MacLeod. As she learns more about young, arrogant man, she also quite against her will finds herself falling for him. She must strike a dangerous balance between her work and her heart, however: In the court of Queen Elizabeth, love can be the deadliest weapon of all.
BP: MAID OF DECEPTION follows book one in the Maids of Honor series. For those that haven't read MAID OF SECRETS, can you give a little re-cap of the series premise and what happens in book one? What is the (high) concept or "hook" in your book?
JM: Maid of Secrets is the story of Meg Fellowes, a thief who is pressed into service as a spy for Queen Elizabeth. There, she joins the elite ranks of the Maids of Honor—five very different young women who must protect both Queen and country. As Elizabeth’s newest spy, Meg must find a murderer at Windsor castle—and keep one step ahead of a dashing Spanish spy.
The high concept for Maid of Deception is that it’s about a “mean girl” who meets her match—in her Queen, in her enemies, and in love. You learn why Beatrice has become such a haughty ice princess . . . and see her learn how to love.
BP: Maids of Honor is Historical YA. Are you a history buff? What was your inspiration for your book?
JM: Yes! I love history, and in particular Elizabethan history. I was a bit of an Elizabethan scholar back in college, and never tire of reading about the life and times of Queen Elizabeth. My inspiration for the series came from a contemporary court account, where a foreign courtier remarked in his notes that the Queen’s advisors were quite upset that the Queen seemed to know things she “shouldn’t”, because they hadn’t told her. I thought: “where would the Queen get her information?” And the idea of the Maids of Honor was born.
BP: Please describe the setting in MAID OF DECEPTION:
JM: Maid of Deception takes place in two main locations—Windsor Castle and Beatrice’s manor home in Northampton, England, at the edge of the Salcey Forest. The book is set in 1559, the first year of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.
BP: In your opinion, what is the market for your book?
JM: While Maid of Secrets was primarily an adventure, Maid of Deception is a book of court intrigue and romance. So teen readers to adults are the market, predominately female (given that all of the spies are young women!), and particularly those who love romance, history, spy tales, and girl-power themes.
BP: List three books you just recently read and would recommend?
JM: I’m so behind on my reading, it’s ridiculous. However, I’d recommend BRAZEN, by Katy Longshore, A MAD, WICKED FOLLY, by Sharon Biggs Waller, and THE FALCONER, by Elizabeth May. Another fun historical that is steam punk, is LEGACY OF THE CLOCKWORK KEY, by Kristen Bailey. So many books!
BP: Tell us what makes your heroine the "leading lady" in your book:
JM: Beatrice was so much fun to write. She’s tough, prickly, and has attitude to spare—she’s needed to, because in the courts of kings, you always have to keep your game face on. But underneath her cool, beautiful exterior, she is hiding secrets of her own. Seeing her come to life in this book has been an absolute pleasure.
BP: Share a bit about your hero with us, and what makes him "hero" material:
JM: Alasdair MacLeod is everything I ever wanted in a historical hero—I pulled no punches! He’s arrogant, attractive, powerful, and he loves with his entire heart and soul. He’s also surprisingly funny and lives life as a constant adventure. He proves to be the perfect foil for Beatrice’s highly-controlled personality.
BP: Are there any plot twists you can talk about without giving too much away?
JM: Beatrice has everything planned out—everything—including her wedding to the rich, arrogant Lord Cavanaugh. But the Queen lives to thwart Beatrice’s plans, and not only cancels the wedding, but assigns Beatrice to spy on a man she detests, a brute of a Scotsman. The truth behind why Beatrice and the Queen are bound together despite their mutual dislike comes out in the book—and so does the truth behind the dastardly Lord Cavanaugh. Another plot twist involves a group of people who live on Beatrice’s family estate . . .their very presence is a threat to her family, and Beatrice must work double-time to keep everything from falling apart.
BP: What was your favorite scene to write?
JM: There is a labyrinth at Beatrice’s estate that is all fallen-down and unsafe . . . so of course they go into it. That scene was great fun—but I think my favorite scene is when Alasdair tells Beatrice how he really feels about her. **sigh**
BP: Please tell us about what's next and/or what else you're working on:
JM: I am currently editing Maid of Wonder, which I’m delighted to share will be the next book in the Maids of Honor series. This is Sophia’s story, the youngest and most peculiar spy in the group. She is the ward of John Dee, the Queen’s astrologist—and gifted with the Sight. Her book is unusual, as It’s written in a different style from the others, and it features both Dee and one of history’s most famous masters of the arcane: Nostradamus.
BP: What local community or charitable organizations, or writers groups do you belong too?
JM: I am an active member in Romance Writers of America, and its local chapter, the Ohio Valley RWA.
BP: Have you won any Honors, Citations or Prizes?
JM: I am a multiple-time finalist and one-time winner of the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award—an award given to unpublished authors for excellence in a romance manuscript.
BP: How can our readers learn more about you and your books?
JM: Readers can visit me online at www.jennifermcgowan.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJenniferMcGowan, and on Twitter at @jenn_mcgowan
We cannot thank Jennifer enough for taking time out of her super busy schedule to chat with us, and we're looking forward to seeing what else has in store for us over the next few months with her upcoming books.
Jennifer McGowan was born in Ohio, grew up in Montana, and studied in Paris. She fell in love with the Elizabethan era as a college student and is now an unrepentant scholar of that period, happily splitting her time between the past and present. An RWA Golden Heart Award winner and multiple finalist, Jenn is the author of the Maids of Honor series, which currently includes Maid of Secrets (2013), the novella A Thief Before Christmas, and the forthcoming novel Maid of Deception (2014). She lives and writes in Ohio, and you can connect with her online at JenniferMcGowan.com, find her on twitter via @Jenn_McGowan, or visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJenniferMcGowan.
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