Mr. Churchill’s Secretary: A Novel by Susan Elia MacNeal

March 5, 2013

Plot summary (from the publisher): London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.

Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • Maggie was a good heroine. She was interesting, has a terrific background (mathematics, accepted to MIT, strained family history, etc.), and wasn’t overly girly or too much of a badass. I could certainly see this character becoming the lead in a novel series.
  • Once the story got off the ground, it was fun and engrossing. I enjoyed reading about the different wartime privations the citizens of London had to suffer through, and MacNeal’s descriptions of the air raids were particularly well done.
  • I thought the scenes featuring Churchill were the best by far. I don’t know how much of his personality was based on research and how much on MacNeal’s imagination, but the incarnation that appeared on these pages was wonderful.

Disliked:

  • It took a fairly long time for the action to get off the ground. The beginning was rather slow, and it took me a while to get all the different characters straight.
  • Some of the situations Maggie found herself in were pretty unbelievable, even for a work of fiction. I rolled my eyes more than a few times when reading this book.
  • I wasn’t really interested in the budding romance between Maggie and Jonathan (was that even his name?). The author didn’t spend enough time on it, so it seemed unnecessary in the end.

Rating:

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary: A Novel was listed by my library as historical fiction, but it really just came off as a spy story set against the backdrop of WWII. It was okay in this respect, and had enough entertainment value to keep me reading to the end. I give this one 3 stars out of 5.

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