Guest Blogger: Michaela MacColl, Author of Prisoners in the Palace

 Today’s special guest is Michaela MacColl, author of Prisoners in the Palace.

London, 1838. Sixteen-year-old Liza’s dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady’s maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant’s world below-stairs as well as the trickery above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen?

Meticulously based on newly discovered information, this riveting novel is as rich in historical detail as Catherine, Called Birdy, and as sizzling with intrigue as The Luxe.

Cheryl, thank you for inviting me to talk directly with your readers. 

It’s always a risk to write about someone well-known. Everyone already has a version of the story in his/her mind.  Especially when I’m writing about Queen Victoria. I have been amazed by the response I’ve gotten to Prisoners in the Palace – my readers seem to judge the book on how accurately I reflect their idea of Victoria’s character. 

In my novel, Victoria is naïve and spoiled. She’s been sheltered for her entire life. In fact, her mother has schemed to keep her immature and unworldly – the better to usurp Victoria’s power later.  So my character can be heedless of other people’s feelings and absolutely oblivious to the consequences of her actions.  She’s the product of her upbringing. 

For example, Victoria carelessly reads a very personal entry in her maid’s diary. The maid, Liza, calls her on it. At first Victoria is furious to be rebuked by an underling, but then realizes that Liza is right. The Princess says sadly, “I forgot that others are permitted the privacy of their thoughts.” Since Victoria’s journal entries are always read by her mother, it doesn’t even occur to her that other people’s journals might be confidential. 

So Victoria isn’t entirely sympathetic in this scene, but a moment later she realizes her error. She has a good heart and has the capacity to grow and change.  

When Victoria first discovers that she is likely to be Queen at age 12, she says quite solemnly, “I will be good.”  And there is evidence through her life that she continued to try and improve herself for her whole life, despite her weighty obligations to the Crown. One of her ladies in waiting recounted this story of how she tried to reconcile her duties as Queen with her essential kindness: 

Once the Duke of Wellington brought her a death warrant to sign, the soldier being an incorrigible deserter. The Queen evinced extreme reluctance to affix her signature, and pressed the Duke for some reason for clemency.  At length the Duke admitted that the condemned man had always earned the affection of his fellow soldiers. The Queen, with tears in her eyes, cried, “Oh Your Grace, I am so pleased to hear that,” and hastily wrote “Pardoned Victoria R.” across the slip of paper. 

In the end, I was satisfied that the portrait I painted of Victoria was realistic and sympathetic – just like she was! 

If you would like to read more about Prisoners in the Palace, check out my blog at

Thanks for listening!

Michaela MacColl studied multi-disciplinary history at Vassar College and Yale University, which turns out to be the perfect degree for writing historical fiction. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and three extremely large cats in Connecticut. This is her first book.

Prisoners in the Palace is available for purchase at:


Chronicle Books,book-info/store,kids/products_id,9004/title,Prisoners-in-the-Palace/

Special Offer!

If you order from the Chronicle Books website, use the promotional code, PRISONERS, to get FREE SHIPPING and 25% OFF your entire order!

From the Family Bookshelf

Is it possible a month has passed since my last From the Family Bookshelf column appeared? I swear it couldn’t have, but the last one is dated September 21st, so I guess time slipped away from me.

All of us have been busy. Swimming lessons and dance lessons have started. Dad has been working like crazy. I have been up to my eyeballs with promoting my first children’s book, Little Shepherd, coordinating book tours, and reading. Not to mention family stuff.

Dad finally finished Vince Flynn’s The Third Option. Now he is reading Prince Caspian, which is part of The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. Though I have seen various movie adaptations of this book and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I’ve never read the books. We have the set here, so I’ll have to change that one day.

The Lil Diva is back to reading thanks to school. She read Ginger the Stray Kitten by Holly Webb again. She’s also read a couple of books on Justin Bieber and one on the Jonas Brothers. Just think of what she’ll be like in five years if she’s already into teenage pop stars now. She is currently reading Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. We saw a stage production of Charlotte’s Web while we were in North Carolina. She came home wanting to read the book, but hasn’t gotten around to it until now.

The Lil Princess is reading anything and everything. We’re on our second round of Pink Princess Rules the Schoo l by Alyssa Crowne. She has brought home books from her school library every week since it opened. This week she has a nonfiction book about puppies. She’s hoping we buy her Green Princess Saves the Day, also by Crowne. Green is her favorite color.

As for me, little ole Mom, I’ve been reading and reading and reading. I just finished Invisible Path by Marilyn Meredith.  This is the latest book in her Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. Marilyn is going on a virtual book tour with this book next month.

I also recently finished A Despicable Profession by John Knoerle, a post-WWII spy thriller, and the legal thriller, Buying Time by Pamela Samuels Young. Both books are excellent and I would highly recommend them.  Before those two I read:

The Lil Princess and I also plowed through a box of books from tiger tales. These books are all part of their Fall/Winter collection. You’ll see review coming for them soon. Last night I polished off the award-winning  Call Me Kate by Molly Roe. This is a young adult historical. I began reading Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten.

That’s it for this issue of From the Family Bookshelf. Until next time, keep reading!

Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines by Beverly Stowe McClure

Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines by Beverly Stowe McClure is a fascinating story for teens that will bring them up close to the American Civil War and the seige of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The year is 1863. Young Elizabeth (Lizzie) Stamford is fourteen years old, but has already lived a lifetime of troubles. Vicksburg is under siege by the Union Army. Shells fly overhead, damaging their beautiful home. The family is forced, like many in Vicksburg, to seek shelter in a nearby cave.  Lizzie’s mother has some of their belongings brought down to the cave, but no matter how many things from the house are placed inside, for Lizzie, it’s still ony a cave.

Lizzie’s father tends to the wounded at the hospital, while her brothers Willie and Joseph fight for the Confederacy on the front lines. Lizzie’s heart aches with worry over her brothers, being kept from her home, and rarely seeing her father.

Torn between living the life of a proper young lady during a time where nothing seems proper anymore, and her need to do her part, Lizzie disguises herself as a boy and decides to enlist in the Confederate Army. She quickly discovers the horrors of war. An encounter with a Yankee soldier places everything she knows about the North and the South in jeopardy. Is it possible the Yankees and the Rebels have more in common than she thinks?

Every time I read a book by Beverly Stowe McClure, I am astounded by how much better her newest book is than the last. All of her books for teens that I’ve read have strong female leads, but the addition of her younger brother, Nat, in this book will also allow it to appeal to young men. While Rebel in Blue Jeans and Just Breeze were contemporary stories, with Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines, McClure shows she can write an excellent historical. I absolutely loved this book!

Having studied the American Civil War for many years now, I can say without a doubt that McClure did her research and used it well.  I felt I was right in the middle of Vicksburg alongside Lizzie. In an age where we teach our children so much about tolerance and acceptance of others, this book could be helpful in relaying that message. Students studying the Civil War would also get a great deal out of reading Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines, as it would open up room for discussion on a variety of topics surrounding this period of American history.

Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines is a thought-provoking, emotion-filled read. While targeted for young adults, don’t be surprised if a parent ends up enjoying this one as well. Readers who appreciate strong female characters, those with an interest in American history, and anyone who likes books you just can’t put down, will want to pick up a copy of this one.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher:  Twilight Times Books
  • ISBN:  1-60619-112-8
  • SRP:  $14.95

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