Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: Mr. Churchill's Secretary

'Mr. Churchill's Secretary'
Author: Susan Elia MacNeal

Format: ARC
Published: Bantam; Apr. 2012
Pages: 384
Genre: Historical fiction; cozy mystery
Grade: A
Source: Publisher

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.

In this daring debut, Susan Elia MacNeal blends meticulous research on the era, psychological insight into Winston Churchill, and the creation of a riveting main character,  Maggie Hope, into a spectacularly crafted novel.

My Take: It took me awhile to formulate my thoughts on this book because I was actually surprised with how engrossed I became in this novel. I love historical fiction, there is no doubt about that, but I don't read many mysteries. This became one page-turning, fast-paced, lose yourself in it novel for me!

First of all Mr. Churchill's Secretary opens with Maggie Hope. She finds herself in London right before the WWII starts because she has recently inherited a house and decides that she should go sell it to use the money for grad school. A good idea except that nobody is looking for a rambling Victorian when a war is about to breakout. So instead she finds herself staying in her former homeland (she was born there after all) and feels the need to support the cause.

She soon finds herself surrounded by a bunch of friends also working in different ways for the British fight against the Germans and she wants to join in in some profound way. She has a degree in advance maths and figures she could be a codebreaker. Unfortunately because she is a woman, they would never let her. When a position comes up as a secretary for Mr. Churchill she decides that this will be a good fit for her and it turns out she is right.

As soon as Maggie starts working at No. 10 Downing Street and the famous War Rooms she learns that things are not as they may appear. And not just with the government! There are some serious secrets afoot in her personal life too! So begins the page turning as Maggie must get to the bottom of all of these mysteries.

What I loved about this story was that Maggie was a strong woman, not some simpering female that you didn't want to root for. It was also incredibly detailed about what it actually would have been like to live during that time, as if the war/blitz was it's own character. As soon as one chapter would end, another mystery had unfolded and I couldn't help but keep reading. 

Mr. Churchill's Secretary is actually the first in a series (but unlike many books in a series, it wraps itself up which is great because I hate it when serial novels just leave you hanging at the end so you will buy the next one.) However, I do want to read all of the rest of the books: Princess Elizabeth's Spy came out this past October and Her Majesty's Hope comes out in May of 2013. You better believe I'll be getting my hands on these and you should too!

Cover Lust: This cover is a work of art to me! A little art deco and totally capturing what's inside. Love it!


  1. So glad to see that you liked this one. I loved this one and the next one 'Princess Elizabeth's Spy' as well. Hope that you get to read that one soon!


    1. I hope to read the rest of the books in the series. I think I'd really like them!

  2. I don't read a lot of historical fiction but suspect I might like this one because of the historical fiction aspect.

    1. This one is so entertaining, I bet you'd like it!

  3. Sounds like an intriguing combination of historical fiction and mystery. Early to mid-20th century is my favorite.

  4. I think I'm going to have to add that one to my "to read" list.

  5. I really enjoyed this book and I actually liked the sequel even more-hope you love it when you pick it up!

  6. I liked it...not loved it.
    I've heard the 2nd one is much better. I would be willing to give her another chance. the artwork/cover.

    1. Can't wait to read the second one then!

  7. I'm hooked on this series! Glad you enjoyed it, too.

  8. I haven't read this, but am adding it to my queue. That said, based on the subject matter/genre, you might also enjoy Code Name Verity and Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series.

  9. You sold me on this when you state that she studies math. :)

  10. I'm a historical fiction freak as well and so happy I stopped by here! This sounds amazing and has been added to my TBR list. Thanks!

  11. Sounds great!

    Sorry it has taken me forever to get around to reading all the reviews posted on the European Reading Challenge page. Thanks for taking part in the challenge again this year.

    Rose City Reader


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