Author: Susan Elia MacNeal
Provided Synopsis: 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.
Review:Mr. Churchill’s Secretary takes the reader to London, right after England has decided to enter WWII. Rations are already in effect, the people are either compelled to assist the war effort or vocal in their protestations against Mr. Churchill for entering the war. The air raids begin, spies for Germany and Ireland move about the streets undercover. It all sounds like the makings of a great historical fiction novel, right?
My verdict: In some ways this book lives up to it’s hype, and in other ways it falls short.
Margaret Hope (who prefers to go by Maggie) is the main character of the novel, for it is she who is hired as Winston Churchill’s Secretary. I am big on characters, and I found her to be a likable one. In fact, the majority of the characters in this novel were well done — I felt as if they all had their own identity to jump off the pages, which is a good thing. The only character I found to be lacking, surprisingly, was Winston Churchill. He felt like a caricature… But since he is only a minor character of the novel whose real role is to give Maggie and her friends a job, location, and purpose, the damage he presents as a lacklustre character is minimal.
The plot in this is slow moving at the beginning. The prologue is explosive as it sets up a mystery and a glimpse into the climate of London, but after that it takes some time for things to pick up. My complaint with this novel would be that I wish it had picked up quicker! Because once we dive deeper into Maggie’s family, her intellectual skills, and the developing plot against the English war effort, it becomes impossible to put this book down! I loved how the mystery dissolved; it was satisfying and unexpected.
As far as a first book in a series goes, I would consider this to be relatively successful. I am interested enough to read the next book, and this was a fun, quick read that I believe many will enjoy.