Guest Post: Jennifer McGowan and What Would Elizabeth Do?

I'm very excited to have Jennifer McGowan here on the blog today. She came up with a super fun guest post idea when I approached her for this feature. She's going to chat about how Queen Elizabeth I, the monarch at the centre of her novels (Maid of Secrets, out now; Maid of Deception, coming this August) would handle different issues that we all come across. Welcome, Jenn!

What Would Elizabeth Do?

Thank you, Jess, for inviting me to post on your blog!

The Maids of Honor series is a collection of stories about a unique group of spies in Queen Elizabeth I’s court. The first book, Maid of Secrets, traces the tale of the resourceful thief Meg Fellowes, who is forced to find a murderer and save the Crown. It launched in 2013, and will soon be out in paperback (June, 2014).

Book 2, Maid of Deception, focuses on a different spy. Beatrice Knowles is to all appearances rich and pampered, haughty and elitist. She is on the verge of her greatest achievement—a fabulous marriage—when the Queen changes her destiny and embroils her in the thick of the Scottish rebellion. Her book comes out in August, 2014!

Sophia Dee’s book will follow in 2015—prepare for a young woman both blessed and cursed by unique psychic skills . . .who must try to understand and develop her abilities while saving the Queen from a deadly poisoner.

But what about the woman who inspires (or forces) all of these spies to serve her?

People often think of Queen Elizabeth as an aging, white-faced monarch, watching Shakespeare’s plays and ruling armadas. But my books are set in 1559 and 1560. Shakespeare wasn’t even BORN in 1559, and Elizabeth was only 25 years old! Still, she has lessons for all of us in how she would have handled the same kind of troubles faced by young women today.

What would Elizabeth do in the face of these challenges? Read on!

1. The Cheating Friend

Elizabeth was deeply in love with one of her courtiers, Robert Dudley, for most of her life—certainly throughout her reign. When she finally passed away in her sleep, she did so with his last letter in her hand.

Unfortunately, Robert was already married when Queen Elizabeth took power, and though he later was widowed (under slightly shady circumstances), he did not ever take Elizabeth’s hand. Instead, he married the daughter of one of her best friends, which Elizabeth did NOT take well. She banished the woman from court and refused to speak to her. She made no secret of her disgust at the betrayal, but did not allow the subject to be discussed around her.

Elizabeth was not big on forgiveness in this area.

2. Pushy Guys

Elizabeth was surrounded by men who tried to control her. First, there was Parliament, who desperately wanted her to marry (and be ruled by her husband). Then there were her advisors, who just wanted her to follow their guidance. Finally, there was the Pope, who thought she should return England to Catholicism.

Elizabeth’s response? To go her own way with bravery and more than a little swagger. She believed that England needed a strong ruler, not a male one, and she was determined not to be dominated by a man. To that end, she never married throughout her entire 44-year reign. She ruled one of the greatest kingdoms in the world at that time—alone.

3. Gossip

Elizabeth knew better than to stifle the gossip in her court. Instead, she used it to her advantage. The entire idea of the Maids of Honor series was born of a contemporary account in the early 1560s, where a foreign diplomat observed that the Queen’s advisors were quite put out because Elizabeth seemed to know far more than she should about current matters of state. It was clear to this diplomat that Elizabeth had secret sources of information. That got me thinking: who would Elizabeth trust to hear what shouldn’t be spoken, and learn what shouldn’t be known? It wouldn’t be men, I decided, it would be women. First, because men tended to ignore women; and second, because women could be downright ingenious when it comes to learning others’ secrets. And if those women were unmarried—mere maids in the castle? They were even more invisible. And thus the Maids of Honor were born!

Queen Elizabeth ruled with her heart as much as her head, but she made great sacrifices in her personal life to ensure that England would regain its strength and stay stable in a time of great international unrest. It’s why she’s one of my favorite people in history, and why she remains a great example of “Girl Power” even more than 450 years after her reign!

Thank you, Jenn! What an awesome post! Queen Elizabeth was undoubtedly a strong and intelligent woman, but it sounds like she also had a bit of a jealous streak when it came to Robert Dudley! Interesting how times change but the problems we face don't.

About Jenn's upcoming release:
Maid of Deception by Jennifer McGowan.

To be published August 26, 2014 by Simon & Schuster.

Beatrice Knowles is a Maid of Honor, one of Queen Elizabeth I’s secret protectors. Known for her uncanny ability to manipulate men’s hearts, Beatrice has proven herself to be a valuable asset in the Queen’s court—or so she thinks. It has been three weeks since the Maids thwarted a plot to overthrow the Queen, and Beatrice is preparing to wed her betrothed, Lord Cavanaugh. However, her plans come to a crashing halt as rumors of a brewing Scottish rebellion spread among the court.

Beatrice’s new assignment is to infiltrate the visiting Scottish delegation using her subtle arts in persuasion. The mission seems simple enough, until the Queen pairs Beatrice with the worst of the lot—Alasdair MacLeod. Beatrice cannot help but think that the Queen is purposefully setting her up for failure. But Alasdair could be the key to unlocking the truth about the rebellion….and her own heart. Caught in a web of ever-more-twisting lies, Beatrice must rise up among the Maids of Honor and prove what she’s known all along: In a court filled with deception and danger, love may be the deadliest weapon of all.

What do you think of Jenn's guest post? Queen Elizabeth I was quite the character, was she not?

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