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For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne Perry, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary captures the drama of an era of unprecedented challenge—and the greatness that rose to meet it. 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 a For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne Perry, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary captures the drama of an era of unprecedented challenge—and the greatness that rose to meet it. 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.


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For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne Perry, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary captures the drama of an era of unprecedented challenge—and the greatness that rose to meet it. 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 a For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne Perry, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary captures the drama of an era of unprecedented challenge—and the greatness that rose to meet it. 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.

30 review for Mr. Churchill's Secretary (Maggie Hope Mystery #1)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Miki

    This book started out with a bang, and I thought "Wow! I am going to like this!". I was hoping for something along the lines of Jacqueline Winspeare's Maisie Dobbs series. But no. The writer apparently believes that in order to write a period book, the characters must constantly refer to the events, locations, and objects of the times, much in the manner of a guidebook. Most of this doesn't advance the plot at all, it just weighs it down. Maggie is an outspoken feminist who often - REALLY often This book started out with a bang, and I thought "Wow! I am going to like this!". I was hoping for something along the lines of Jacqueline Winspeare's Maisie Dobbs series. But no. The writer apparently believes that in order to write a period book, the characters must constantly refer to the events, locations, and objects of the times, much in the manner of a guidebook. Most of this doesn't advance the plot at all, it just weighs it down. Maggie is an outspoken feminist who often - REALLY often - rails about the fact she is not considered able to do any job as well as a man. She breaks into pompous speeches on sexual equality, patriotism and the war at every opportunity. She cannot seem to decide if she is an American or Bristish and will argue either way. She also constantly thinks and talks back to others in her head, in italics, which is both distracting and annoying. Maggie's best male friend is gay, as is the aunt who raised her, a situation which Maggie accepts matter of factly. She even asks her friend about how he "got that way". I doubt if that was so easily accepted during that time, as homosexuality was a crime punishable by a prison sentence. This friend also calls people by nicknames such as "Magster" and "Tinster". Anyway, there was a lot of talk, and not much action - more and more characters were introduced, so that it got difficult to remember who was who, and finally, even after the climax, the book just kept going on and on. I kept waiting for the end, but it never seemed to get there. After a while I just quit and skipped the last few pages to the end. Oh, and before I forget, Maggie and her friend decide to take a trip to Bletchley, just to look around for clues. Since Bletchley was the hub of British Intelligence during the war, I rather doubt they would have been allowed to just walk in on their own and have free run of the place. All in all a big disappointment from what I think could have been a really good series.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David

    I thought this book would be about cryptography and codebreaking in World War II. I expected Bletchley Park and Alan Turing and Nazi double-agents, with a female mathematician as the protagonist, which sounded cool... maybe something like a light cozy version of Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. Alas, no. This was a "cozy" of the most offensively stupid and badly-written kind. Characters who are just quirky/"charming" composites of personality traits (expect many, many recyclings of British/Americ I thought this book would be about cryptography and codebreaking in World War II. I expected Bletchley Park and Alan Turing and Nazi double-agents, with a female mathematician as the protagonist, which sounded cool... maybe something like a light cozy version of Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. Alas, no. This was a "cozy" of the most offensively stupid and badly-written kind. Characters who are just quirky/"charming" composites of personality traits (expect many, many recyclings of British/American stereotypes vis-a-vis tea and coffee) and nicknames, arbitrary name-dropping of historical figures and events, usually accompanied by long infodumps to remind us that this is taking place in England during World War II ('cause the title wasn't a big enough clue), and cardboard villains (Nazis and IRA terrorists who practically twirl their mustaches while cackling over England's demise). A male character is introduced as "enigmatic" and "frustrating" (and yes, we're just told he's enigmatic and frustrating, he never actually does anything enigmatic or frustrating) - i.e., DESIGNATED LOVE INTEREST in great big flashing letters, but not content to leave any cliche unplumbed to its depths, sure enough, he and the main character spend most of the book snapping at each other and declaring one another to be insufferable and impossible and annoying while giving each other looks accompanied by "unexpected" hot flushes at Significant Times. Maggie Hope ("Magster" to her friends - seriously, was that even done in the 40s?) is British by birth, born in London to British parents, but raised in America by a college professor aunt after her parents died in a car crash. With a PhD in mathematics, Maggie returns to London to sell her grandmother's house, just as World War II begins. By various contrived circumstances, Maggie winds up as a typist/secretary to Winston Churchill himself, by which device the author recites verbatim many of Churchill's speeches, inserting some adoring commentary from Maggie. We also get an extraordinarily cutesy take on Churchill as a fictional non-fictional character, which the publishers have the nerve to call "psychological insight into Winston Churchill," just like they call this book "meticulously researched" because MacNeal mentions Alan Turing (in a single sentence) and makes an allusion to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. (I guess MacNeal thought she was being clever by showing she can read Wikipedia.) Oddly enough, though Maggie's aunt is a lesbian and one of her British friends (who works with her at Downing St.) is gay, this is something that is just accepted with open-minded tolerance by Maggie and her friends, along with cheery hopes that someday he won't have to keep it a secret. That's about as far as the book goes in addressing the very real persecution of homosexuality that existed at that time — you'd think if the author is going to name-drop Alan Turing, who was later forced to undergo chemical castration because of his homosexuality and ended up committing suicide (hey, Susan MacNeal, that's on Wikipedia too!), she might have had the characters acknowledge that homosexuality was actually a rather serious secret to be harboring. But no, the gay characters apparently exist only to show us how open-minded Maggie is and to score the author some gay-inclusion points. Maggie is a mathematician and we are frequently told how brilliant she is, which is mostly an excuse for her to go on periodic rants about how unfair it is that she's not allowed to be a codebreaker and is relegated to being a typist and how sexist society is and how sexist her coworkers are blah blah blah. Okay, fair enough, it was a very sexist time period and no doubt a smart university-educated woman like Maggie would have been very aware of and irritated by this, but her repeatedly getting up on a soapbox to tell us that England in the 1940s was sexist and the sky is blue do not feel historical or even appropriate for her circumstances, just an excuse for the author to show us how very feisty and feminist her character is. Her friends mostly just kind of nod and say "Gosh, you're right Maggie, oh, hey, what is Winston Churchill really like?" Maggie also decides she's either American or British whenever it suits her. When her friends or coworkers question her dedication or trustworthiness because of her American upbringing, she loudly tells them she's British by birth and a British taxpayer and a British homeowner and British, dammit! But when they start criticizing America, she defends the US and complains about the UK and doesn't correct them when they refer to Roosevelt as "your President." Does Maggie ever use her codebreaking skills? Yeah, kind of, at the level of a 12-year-old cracking his first alphanumeric-substitution cipher. The plot involved a really stupid Nazi/IRA plan to assassinate Churchill and some "surprise twists" that are pretty lame (and also spelled out for us beforehand by the author's constant "telling"), but it still could have been moderately entertaining anachronistic brain candy if the writing hadn't been so terrible. Ever heard the writing advice "show don't tell"? You have if you've ever flirted with writing even a little. Mr. Churchill's Secretary could be a case study in how to tell without showing. We are told that everyone is very inspired by Churchill's speeches. We are told that the British bravely face the Blitz. We are told that this or that major event happened. We are constantly told what characters are thinking and feeling, in lieu of having them actually say it or act like it. When a character dies, we are told they died. The book is also full of head-hopping by a third-person narrator who can't decide whether she wants to be close-third or omniscient. Really, I could not believe this book got published, the writing was so bad. It doesn't help that all the women are constantly "shrill," "hysterical," "trilling," and their eyes are constantly filling with hot tears on every other page. There's your "feminism" for you. The female characters are also the ones who break down, the female villains are the ones who are easily overpowered - I mean, at one point someone walks into a room and just walks over and takes a gun from a woman holding it pointed at someone else because... she's a woman and couldn't actually be a threat, with a gun? And of course they are also the ones who have second thoughts and end up abandoning their cause when they find out that gosh, Nazis and IRA terrorists are actually bad people who do bad things - why they never imagined that things might get ugly! Just bleah, bleah, bleah. A dumb story without a spark of originality or nuance, and offensively bad writing. And this is the first in a series. No, I will not be reading the sequels. If you're looking for an exciting tale of a codebreaking female special agent in World War II, don't get suckered like I was, because this book is mindless and poorly crafted. 1.5 stars, the half star because the story is kind of okay for what it is, but I am rounding down instead of up like I usually do because I have read fan fiction and rough drafts written better than this and I am depressed that this book got published.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal is a 2012 Bantam publication. I enjoyed this first book in the Maggie Hope series. Set in Britain, just as the country enters the second world war, Maggie Hope is asked to work as a secretary for Prime Minister Churchill. Maggie had arrived in Britain to sell the old Victorian house she inherited from her grandmother, but ended up living in the home with an eclectic group of roommates. Although with her incredible mathematical abilities, she is ver Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal is a 2012 Bantam publication. I enjoyed this first book in the Maggie Hope series. Set in Britain, just as the country enters the second world war, Maggie Hope is asked to work as a secretary for Prime Minister Churchill. Maggie had arrived in Britain to sell the old Victorian house she inherited from her grandmother, but ended up living in the home with an eclectic group of roommates. Although with her incredible mathematical abilities, she is very over qualified for her new job, as a woman, she finds herself relegated to taking dictation, but before long, Maggie begins to decipher codes, while also inadvertently discovering a shocking family secret. Before she knows it, she is helping to flush out a spy, and doing a little investigative work concerning her own family, which is somehow connected. When all is said and done, Maggie’s life will have taken a turn into a new and unchartered course, not only with her career, but in her personal life, as well. This novel is, of course, a mix of fact and fiction. There are ‘real life’ characters in the story, but it is not intended to be taken too literally. I liked Maggie, who is a person well ahead of her time, is quick on her feet, and very smart, which earns her the respect of her male friends and colleagues, albeit, grudgingly at times. The plot moves along a quick pace, but the characters have time to develop, which is especially important in the a ‘first in a series’ novel. There were several ‘whiplash’ twists and surprises I never saw coming, which I loved, plus, I liked the tone of the story, which includes some interesting dialogue and political debate, a mountain of intrigue, with a little bit of romance blended in for good measure. I didn’t really know what to expect when I started this book, but this series starter, was interesting enough, and the spy angle was a nice surprise. Overall, I think the series got off onto solid footing, so I’ve queued up the next three books from the library. 4 stars

  4. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Hill

    An entertaining story, I suppose, but it didn't live up to the hype. For some reason, despite the author's obvious attempts to display her research, it didn't seem real to me. The characters, the circumstances, the situations all just seemed unbelievable. Furthermore, I never felt great sympathy for the main character. Perhaps it was her tendency to go off on a very modern sounding rant totally out of place for the setting and the times. Or maybe it was because I was continually jarred into the An entertaining story, I suppose, but it didn't live up to the hype. For some reason, despite the author's obvious attempts to display her research, it didn't seem real to me. The characters, the circumstances, the situations all just seemed unbelievable. Furthermore, I never felt great sympathy for the main character. Perhaps it was her tendency to go off on a very modern sounding rant totally out of place for the setting and the times. Or maybe it was because I was continually jarred into the present by contemporary colloquialisms that sneaked into the dialogue. Or it could have been that the mystery surrounding her family totally stretched my credulity. Or the distinctly modern sympathetic treatment of the gay character. (Not that I disagree, but it seemed out-of-step with the time setting when homosexuality was a crime and therefore well hidden, especially by someone serving in the upper echelons of government.) It all just seemed like an American (not British, who excel at this sort of thing) made-for-TV type of espionage plot and none of the characters showed any real depth. I think the author tried to make her protagonist sympathetic for a young modern female audience, but it just didn't work. Sorry to say, but this book just fell flat for me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Judith Starkston

    I picked up Mr. Churchill’s Secretary and could not put it down—there went all my other responsibilities in life, neglected. MacNeal writes clever, enticing mysteries set in London during World War II with an inventive mathematician named Maggie Hope as her sleuth. Mr. Churchill’s Secretary grabs you with superbly detailed historical setting and excellent character development. The book places you into the middle of London under the Blitz; bombs fall, sirens wail, and Maggie Hope ends up, by see I picked up Mr. Churchill’s Secretary and could not put it down—there went all my other responsibilities in life, neglected. MacNeal writes clever, enticing mysteries set in London during World War II with an inventive mathematician named Maggie Hope as her sleuth. Mr. Churchill’s Secretary grabs you with superbly detailed historical setting and excellent character development. The book places you into the middle of London under the Blitz; bombs fall, sirens wail, and Maggie Hope ends up, by seeming chance—caution, reader—as Churchill’s secretary. That Maggie has a mind for ciphers, codes, and mathematical theories might turn out to be more useful than her dictation and typing skills. MacNeal’s “historical notes” tell about her inspiration for Maggie and her fictional exploits in the real life Churchill secretaries, Marian Holmes and Elizabeth Layton Nel. MacNeal portrays Maggie’s lively roommates and the staff surrounding Churchill with precision and depth. Gradually we realize that these intriguing personalities have secrets, and some of them may be deadly for the entire English nation. MacNeal keeps you guessing. As if Hitler weren’t foe enough, This complex plots reminds us that the IRA also plotted England’s downfall during this period. One setting done especially well is the stifling, tense world of the War Rooms, the underground “lair” used by Churchill’s staff. It’s the opening setting of the book, but we return to it regularly, the fulcrum of the action in many ways. The air is supplied by a “special ventilation system” tinged with “odors of floor wax, chemical toilets, and cigarette smoke.” With no natural light, the rooms are lit only by “green-glass pendant lamps,” next to which hang gas masks. The dull yellow walls, once white, and the worn brown linoleum floors seem to reflect the situation of a country under siege. But when Churchill enters, “the office crackled with electricity and there was a sense of urgency in the air,” even while his Romeo y Julieta cigars leave a “pungent trail of smoke behind him.” MacNeal paints the larger-than-life Churchill in all his charismatic, bullying, brilliant dimensions. You’ll feel like you have been pulled back in time to a country that faces imminent destruction unless everyone acts with great courage for God and Country. As I finished the book and looked back, there were some strands of the plot and characters’ choices that occasionally strained believability. However, it’s a measure of MacNeal’s ability to pull you along with speed and clarity that in the midst of reading I did not feel unduly jarred by any of them. If you love to get lost in a nail-biting, well-told historical spy story with a touch of romance— If you enjoy bright young women facing the world of men’s prejudices and surmounting them— If WWII intrigues you as a setting for a thriller— If you’re a fan of Jacqueline Winspear, Elizabeth Speller, Rhys Bowen, and others of their skillful ilk— then read Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. A second book in the series, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy will be out in October of this year. I’ve read a review copy and it’s just as page-turning as Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. Have fun!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede

    London 1940. Margaret “Maggie” Hope wants to work for the British intelligence, but as she is a woman she ends up being a typist at No. 10 Downing Street. But she has a knack for code breaking and soon she does a lot more den typing for the prime minister. This book was OK, not fantastic to read, but enjoyable since I love historical mystery books. Maggie Hope is a good character and there were a lot of likable characters around her. I can't say that I really liked her relationship with John. For London 1940. Margaret “Maggie” Hope wants to work for the British intelligence, but as she is a woman she ends up being a typist at No. 10 Downing Street. But she has a knack for code breaking and soon she does a lot more den typing for the prime minister. This book was OK, not fantastic to read, but enjoyable since I love historical mystery books. Maggie Hope is a good character and there were a lot of likable characters around her. I can't say that I really liked her relationship with John. For some reasons, their relationship didn't click for me. The plot in this book was interesting, there is a plot to kill Winston Churchill and it doesn't take much brain work to figure at that one person around Maggie isn't who she is saying she is the question is who? There wasn't really any real twist to the story, no real aha moments. Everything unfurled nicely along the way and that was the problem, I wanted the story to be a bit more problematic, more nerve chilling, but alas, it was not to be. Still I will continue with the series. I liked the book enough to feel that I want to read more and I especially liked Winston Churchill in this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Susan (aka Just My Op)

    I generally love historical fiction, especially if it is heavy on the history, and I'm interested in the WWII era. This story about (well, this should be obvious) Mr. Churchill's secretary, fell flat for me. The first thing I noticed about the book is that the writing seemed to lack flow, that the dialogue seemed stilted. And then I realized that the story itself was boring me. It wasn't until about two-thirds through the book that the action picked up. Yes, there were mysteries and surprises incl I generally love historical fiction, especially if it is heavy on the history, and I'm interested in the WWII era. This story about (well, this should be obvious) Mr. Churchill's secretary, fell flat for me. The first thing I noticed about the book is that the writing seemed to lack flow, that the dialogue seemed stilted. And then I realized that the story itself was boring me. It wasn't until about two-thirds through the book that the action picked up. Yes, there were mysteries and surprises including a murder right off the bat. There was intrigue and betrayal, not too much romance. Still, there was too much fiction (including a fictional title character) and not enough history. That combined with a writing style that made me too conscious of the author's efforts and a story that just didn't catch my imagination is why this one just didn't work for me. I was given an advance edition of the book for review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    The Lit Bitch

    Maggie brings Hope to a new and thrilling series! Maggie is a spunky, refreshing heroine–a mixture of Mary Russell and Maisie Dobbs! I thought she was very real and genuine. Maggie marches to the beat of her own drum and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself but not in an obnoxious, rude way which I loved. Maggie makes me want to don red lipstick and dye my hair flaming red to match…too bad I can barely balance my checkbook otherwise I would be a dead ringer for Maggie Hope! See my full review her Maggie brings Hope to a new and thrilling series! Maggie is a spunky, refreshing heroine–a mixture of Mary Russell and Maisie Dobbs! I thought she was very real and genuine. Maggie marches to the beat of her own drum and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself but not in an obnoxious, rude way which I loved. Maggie makes me want to don red lipstick and dye my hair flaming red to match…too bad I can barely balance my checkbook otherwise I would be a dead ringer for Maggie Hope! See my full review here

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    I won this book as a prt of the GoodReads First Reads Program I truly enjoyed this book and was looking forward to reading it. One of the biggest problems with being a history major and loving historical fiction is that you get caught up on whats right and whats wrong about the era. Thankfully there wasn't much wrong for me to get caught up on. The amount of research that was devoted to the writing of this book was amazing, and I commend MacNeal on her efforts. Following the conclusion of the boo I won this book as a prt of the GoodReads First Reads Program I truly enjoyed this book and was looking forward to reading it. One of the biggest problems with being a history major and loving historical fiction is that you get caught up on whats right and whats wrong about the era. Thankfully there wasn't much wrong for me to get caught up on. The amount of research that was devoted to the writing of this book was amazing, and I commend MacNeal on her efforts. Following the conclusion of the book, she included a "Historical Note" which mentioned that her sources were Mr. Churchill's secretaries. Read more here: http://fireflyreadit.blogspot.com/201...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Judy Alter

    I wasn't quite born when WWII started in Europe, and I find now that what I learned in school was that it really began with Pearl Harbor. This absorbing book taught me a lot about British history in 1939--the anticipation and fear that pervaded England as Hitler marched across Europe, the plots, bombings and assassination plots of the IRA as it attempted to bring down England at its most vulnerable time, the English resentment that the United States had not taken sides. We see little of Mr. Chur I wasn't quite born when WWII started in Europe, and I find now that what I learned in school was that it really began with Pearl Harbor. This absorbing book taught me a lot about British history in 1939--the anticipation and fear that pervaded England as Hitler marched across Europe, the plots, bombings and assassination plots of the IRA as it attempted to bring down England at its most vulnerable time, the English resentment that the United States had not taken sides. We see little of Mr. Churchill, but when we do he comes across as eccentric, determined, stubborn--and brave. He tolerates no talk of compromise, because he knows if Hitler takes over Britain it will be the end of civilization as they know it. Londoners, in the midst of this uncertainty and the expectation of the dreaded Luftwaffe bombings, partied as if there were no tomorrow--and Maggie Hope was one of them. A trained mathematician, she goes to work as a typist for Churchill, because women were not given higher positions. And it's that position, and the secrets she is privy to, that gets her in to trouble--plus her own talent at deciphering code. Make no mistake, in spite of historical background, this is a mystery, full of intrigue, subterfuge, double betrayals. People turn out not to be who you thought they were, and some--particularly the IRA members--will go to any length, including killing friends, for their cause, such is their blind devotion. Maggie finds her life in danger, in fact darn close to being snuffed out, several times. The book will keep you on the edge of your seat. There's an added mystery about Maggie's personal background that she is determined to unravel in the midst of the chaos. Although raised in America, she was born in England and she needs to find out the truth about her parents, killed in an automobile accident when she was but an infant. One more thing: most of us have never and will never, thank God, live through bombings, but there are enough of them in our world today to give pause for thought. In this book, you live through the nightly bombings of London; you see and hear and smell the destruction--and the loss of life. It's horrifying--but MacNeal does such a good job that instead of closing the book in disgust, you are drawn to turn the page. To my mind, this terrific novel, which kept me reading when I should have been doing othe things, has lessons for us today--lessons on the importance of charting our country's future, the danger of unsuspected terrorists in our midst, the importance of patriotism.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alex (not a dude) Baugh

    Mr. Churchill's Secretary is a debut novel and the first in a series centering on Maggie Hope, the American raised daughter of British parents, a Wellesley grad who went to London in 1939 to sell the house she inherited from a grandmother she never knew. Then war was declared and Maggie stayed on to do her bit for the war effort. Unable to sell the house, Maggie now shares it with a few other young women - Paige Kelly, an old college friend, Charlotte McCaffrey A/K/A Chuck, and twins Annabelle a Mr. Churchill's Secretary is a debut novel and the first in a series centering on Maggie Hope, the American raised daughter of British parents, a Wellesley grad who went to London in 1939 to sell the house she inherited from a grandmother she never knew. Then war was declared and Maggie stayed on to do her bit for the war effort. Unable to sell the house, Maggie now shares it with a few other young women - Paige Kelly, an old college friend, Charlotte McCaffrey A/K/A Chuck, and twins Annabelle and Clarabelle Wiggett. Into this mix is added a few males like Maggie's good friend David Green and the not so nice Richard Snodgrass and the charming John Sterling, who often knows more about things than he lets on. All three men work as private secretaries for Winston Churchill, the new British Prime Minister. Maggie had actually applied for the job as a private secretary to the new PM, but despite being brilliant and totally qualified, gender was everything in 1940 and she lost the job to Richard - hence, he is not a favorite person of Maggie's. But then, when Diana Snyder, a typist at 10 Downing Street, is found murdered, David talks Maggie into applying for the job as her replacement in the typing pool, even thought they both know she is more suited to be at Bletchley Park breaking Nazi codes alongside the best minds in England. And Churchill decides that she is indeed the person they need, because, as he says, they can use a little hope at Downing Street. But Maggie is not just an ordinary typist in the pool and it doesn't take long for her to be caught up not just in wartime events and her job, but also in the mystery of who killed Diana. Mr. Churchill's Secretary is an exciting mystery adventure that takes all kinds of twists and turn and just when you think you know who killed Diana Snyder, you discover that you don't. But there are plenty of suspects, so you could make a wrong guess more than once. And this is one of the things that makes this book so good. Other good things: MacNeal manages to weave in a Hope family mystery, some good espionage, code breaking, the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and even a possible love interest for Maggie. And all the whole none yards* is wrapped in a cloak of history making this historical fiction at its best - the blitz, blackouts, rationing, air raids and even St. Paul's Cathedral are realistically portrayed they play their part in Maggie's life. And Maggie herself is a strong captivating and compelling redhead, never afraid to say what is on her mind, yet always considerate and kind to her friends and co-workers. Not even Winston Churchill can intimidate her Maggie and I like that about her. This is an energetic debut mystery. And like all novels in a series, it has the task of introducing the reader to the cast of recurring characters and giving enough background information about them, and even though I felt like it took a while to get to the mystery about Diana Snyder, I still had fun getting to know all the characters along the way and seeing the vivid pictures that MacNeal paints of 1940 wartime London. It is always hard to write about mystery books, especially the ones your really like as much as I did Mr. Churchill's Secretary, because you need to find the fine line between enticing other to read the book and not giving too much away and spoiling the mystery. Hopefully, you will just feeling enticed right now. MacNeal has already finished Princess Elizabeth's Spy, the second Maggie Hope mystery and I was lucky enough to get a signed copy at this year's BEA. I loved meeting Susan Elia MacNeal and wish her all the best with this series. I hope there are many more Maggie Hope mysteries to come. A word about the cover art: cover art is so important and the cover illustration for Mr. Churchill's Secretary was done by Mick Wiggins and I simply love it. It is just so much his style and he has captured perfectly Maggie's most defining physical feature, her red hair, so well against the backdrop of wartime London. This book is recommended for readers age 14+ This book was purchased for my personal library.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Gayle

    I was given this book by the Goodreads first look program, but life events have slowed my reading and review. When Maggie Hope takes the position of typist in 10 Downing Street, she finds herself taking dictation for the prime minister himself: Winston Churchill. In May 1940, this means having an inside perspective on British government in World War II. But Maggie has problems as well. How will she and her roommates protect themselves from the bombings? Why was her predecessor murdered? And how w I was given this book by the Goodreads first look program, but life events have slowed my reading and review. When Maggie Hope takes the position of typist in 10 Downing Street, she finds herself taking dictation for the prime minister himself: Winston Churchill. In May 1940, this means having an inside perspective on British government in World War II. But Maggie has problems as well. How will she and her roommates protect themselves from the bombings? Why was her predecessor murdered? And how will she deal with the chain of events that follow her enquiries into her dead father's mysterious past? I wanted very much to like this first effort by Susan Elia MacNeal. And there are elements to like. Maggie and her roommates are easily distinguished--no small feat amongst a largish group--as are the young men who squire them around town. The storyline has intertwining threads that tie up nicely in the end. Churchill is more of a cameo than a character; although he has his moments of engaging in the plot, there is little to develop his personality or his relationship with Maggie, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on what you are hoping for. But there is much to indicate that this is a first novel. The plot takes a chapter or two to take off, and the love interest occurs in such fits and starts that it is nearly startling when it turns up. The pacing is uneven. An old joke misses the point when the punch line is omitted--I hope that error exists only in the review copy. But Mr. Churchill's Secretary loses a star over one more weakness. It strains the believability of a historical novel when 21st-century ethics wreathe historic characters, imbuing them with anachronistic attitudes by which the characters (a) judge their contemporaries, and (b) blatantly reflect on societal trends that are current decades or centuries later. Many of the characters seemed more 2012 than 1940. On the one hand, 1940 is close enough to 2012 that Maggie's frustration with the patronizing attitude of the men with whom she works is acceptable. After all, she is a brilliant mathematician, with the academic credentials to prove it, and women were stepping up to fill many formerly masculine roles while the men fought on the front. On the other hand, a homily on gay rights stepped over the line into fantasyland. Ms. MacNeal paved her way well--Maggie's aunt/guardian is a lesbian professor at Wellesley, and one of her closest friends is gay. But brilliant Maggie cannot be unaware of societal norms in the 1940s, and homosexuality would have been condemned as a perversion in all but the most radically liberal fringes of society, especially in 1940s Britain, when a war-office staffer would have been carefully vetted for any behavior that would make him open to blackmail. I cannot imagine that their little social circle could have accepted him as anything other than "a confirmed bachelor" and "a perfect gentleman" in that historic milieu, with any suspicions otherwise remaining unspoken, or that David would have been so openly interested in men. Given this, if you think you will like it, you probably will.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Annalynn

    I can't recommend this book enough - it was 100 kinds of fabulousness, all bundled together to create the perfect read for me. It had everything I love. British setting? Check. World War II? Check. Spies and intrigue? Check. Smart, brilliant feminist for a heroine? Check. Historically accurate? Check. A handsome, brilliant, understanding romantic male lead? Check. I couldn't put it down - the descriptions of the cars, the dresses, the stockings, the air raids, the music in the clubs, the Cabinet I can't recommend this book enough - it was 100 kinds of fabulousness, all bundled together to create the perfect read for me. It had everything I love. British setting? Check. World War II? Check. Spies and intrigue? Check. Smart, brilliant feminist for a heroine? Check. Historically accurate? Check. A handsome, brilliant, understanding romantic male lead? Check. I couldn't put it down - the descriptions of the cars, the dresses, the stockings, the air raids, the music in the clubs, the Cabinet War Rooms - everything was so vivid, it was like I was there. It doesn't hurt that the Cabinet War Rooms are possibly my favorite place in London, so I just adored returning to it through this book. I know that I'm a bit more of a history geek than most, but even if you aren't as obsessed with all things British, or all things war, or all things historical, I still think this is a great book for everyone. If I have to say anything negative about the book, I could have used just a wee bit more romance. But that's okay, because one of the best parts about this book is that it is the start of a series! There are more to come! I can hardly wait, and I am so very, very glad I checked this e-book out from my library.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    I enjoyed this historical fiction thriller/romance/mystery. The main character, Maggie Hope, an English girl raised in America by a maiden aunt, becomes Winston Churchill’s typist after a murder. Although a mathematical genius, she is relegated to typing when she applies for a job as a cryptologist for the government at the beginning of the Battle of Britain. After setting up the situation, the plot moves along quickly and is engaging. This is obviously the introduction for a series of war time I enjoyed this historical fiction thriller/romance/mystery. The main character, Maggie Hope, an English girl raised in America by a maiden aunt, becomes Winston Churchill’s typist after a murder. Although a mathematical genius, she is relegated to typing when she applies for a job as a cryptologist for the government at the beginning of the Battle of Britain. After setting up the situation, the plot moves along quickly and is engaging. This is obviously the introduction for a series of war time thrillers with Maggie as the girl who saves England with her intelligence and pluck. Maggie and her roommates are carefully fleshed out, but the male characters quickly became confusing simply because they were not clearly differentiated. The “romance” is not as well done as the mystery, possibly because I couldn’t keep the males straight – was it John or David who was falling for her? And then there was Chuck who was really a girl named Charlene. The historical details were interesting and integral to the plot. The details about Churchill, Number 10 Downing, the Blitz and MI5 added to the story. I’m looking forward to the next installment – at least three are in the works.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dalton Burke

    Margret Hope (Maggie), Is an American that moved to Great Britain to sell her late grandmother. But once she is there, she finds herself unable to leave. Her good friend David acquires her a job working for Mr. Winston Churchill. She starts off with this small job and she proves herself to be to smart for this job. She helps decode Morse code messages, helps stop Nazi terrorist attempts, and still manages to have a social life. The culture is different from American culture because everyone is Margret Hope (Maggie), Is an American that moved to Great Britain to sell her late grandmother. But once she is there, she finds herself unable to leave. Her good friend David acquires her a job working for Mr. Winston Churchill. She starts off with this small job and she proves herself to be to smart for this job. She helps decode Morse code messages, helps stop Nazi terrorist attempts, and still manages to have a social life. The culture is different from American culture because everyone is more proper. English seemed to be less prude with there sexuality than Americans. In some ways they can be more strict but we are more easily offended than they are. The purpose of this text is to give credit to the women who worked for the war effort in WWII. Susan Elia Macneal use several different novels written by actual secretaries of the Prime Minister. She got her research material from Elizabeth Layton Nel, Marian Holmes, Phyllis Moir, Jock Colville, Juliet Gardner, Barbara Kayes, Angela Lambert, Richard Hough, Denis Richards, Churchill himself, William Manchester, Roy Jenkins, and Martin Gilbert. The theme of this novel was no matter what gender or race you come from, we can all achieve the same things. Maggie proved this time and time again when she was able to decode the MOrse code message in the newspaper before anyone else. She also proved to be helpful on the field as well. I would recommend this book to everyone. I loved it so much. Its weird for me to love a book so much but i was bale to finish it in a day and a half. It has a fast pace and the multiple stories that go on keep it interesting. There is some romance and some saddness but nothing you can't get passed. READ IT!!!!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot.... I am so disappointed Susan Elia MacNeal's Mr. Churchill's Secretary didn't work for me. It looked like such perfect fit - a mystery set against my favorite historic event, but try as I might I just couldn't get into this one. Part of the problem was the tone in which the story is written. Despite taking place in London during 1940, the characters seemed detached from monumental events taking place around them. They were too Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot.... I am so disappointed Susan Elia MacNeal's Mr. Churchill's Secretary didn't work for me. It looked like such perfect fit - a mystery set against my favorite historic event, but try as I might I just couldn't get into this one. Part of the problem was the tone in which the story is written. Despite taking place in London during 1940, the characters seemed detached from monumental events taking place around them. They were too unconcerned, too passive, too indifferent. Even when bombs were falling from the sky the tension one might expect from those living in the shadow of the blitz just wasn't there. I also found it incredibly difficult to appreciate heroine Maggie Hope. Her views were too modern and she was entirely too outspoken for the period. Her demeanor and thought processes grated my nerves something terrible, often leaving me annoyed with her and disgruntled with the story in general. My biggest issue, however, was that the book felt distinctly American. The British have a much different manner about them, their society follows different rhythms and I don't think MacNeal was at her best in recreating them here. As usual, I refuse to allow a single installment to turn me off a series, but I will certainly be approaching book two, Princess Elizabeth's Spy, with a degree of caution.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    The good thing about this book: the title. Everything else is not worth the bother. Do not be mislead by the publicist's review who promises that this is another Jacqueline Winspear or Anne Perry. Not in this life! Rather than Maisie Dobbs, what we have here is Nancy Drew -- and yet, even that does disservice to likeable Ms. Drew, who as I recall, was always straightforward, unpretentious, and just plain fun. Rather this is Nancy Drew gone very bad. The writing is amateurish and gratingly in-authen The good thing about this book: the title. Everything else is not worth the bother. Do not be mislead by the publicist's review who promises that this is another Jacqueline Winspear or Anne Perry. Not in this life! Rather than Maisie Dobbs, what we have here is Nancy Drew -- and yet, even that does disservice to likeable Ms. Drew, who as I recall, was always straightforward, unpretentious, and just plain fun. Rather this is Nancy Drew gone very bad. The writing is amateurish and gratingly in-authentic. This is someone who has done "some" research on World War II and is champing on the bit to strut what she knows. She doesn't know quite enough, though, so it becomes just plain embarrassing at times. (Call it the historical equivalent of name-dropping, and not much more, and you would have it about right.) Throughout, there is the added annoyance of the wanna-be Brit bleeding all over the dialogue, as she weaves in and out of Americanisms interspersed with stock English expressions. I laughed out loud in several places for she falls just short of including such stereotypical banalities as "Pip, Pip, old Boy" -- or some such nonsense. It grates like nails on chalkboard. The plot is bizarrely thin, yet labyrinthine. I'm sure that sentence doesn't make any sense, but neither does the novel, for indeed it is an apt description. There is no plot to speak of, other than the stock-in-trade wanna-be-spy-breaks-code-and-becomes-a-heroine. (Even Nancy Drew had more meaningful sub-text!) The mystery of it all is indeed a mystery: a young woman is murdered within the first few pages of the novel. Then, we hear nothing more about it/her for 250 more pages, other than Oh, yes, that poor Miss Snyder. ?????? and then snap, crackle, pop, it's all resolved in a she-was-in-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time scenario. The rest of the novel is filler from a handful of Churchill's speeches, and run-of-the-mill, overused plots and characters from war-time pulp fiction. It is amazing to me what gets published, and what stands for literature. I see there's a whole series from this author. One can only hope it gets better from here, but I won't be following up to find out.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Hallie

    Susan Elia MacNeal's historical "Mr. Churchill's Secretary" is set in 1940. England is on the brink of war, besieged by the Luftwaffe from without and the IRA from within. The novel opens with a typist for the newly anointed Prime Minister gratefully accepting a lift home from a young, smartly dressed young woman. On her own doorstep, she is stabbed by the woman's masked accomplice. A replacement typist is apparently so hard to find and so urgently needed that one of Churchill's private secretar Susan Elia MacNeal's historical "Mr. Churchill's Secretary" is set in 1940. England is on the brink of war, besieged by the Luftwaffe from without and the IRA from within. The novel opens with a typist for the newly anointed Prime Minister gratefully accepting a lift home from a young, smartly dressed young woman. On her own doorstep, she is stabbed by the woman's masked accomplice. A replacement typist is apparently so hard to find and so urgently needed that one of Churchill's private secretaries convinces his friend Maggie Hope to apply for the open position. Maggie is at first reluctant, de rigueur in the kind of classic setup. When she gets the job, she's a consummate fish out of water with male staff and a battle axe of a senior secretary who look down their noses at her. Maggie keeps telling herself to remember that she isn't really "a secretary but a Wellesley graduate, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, fluent in German and French, and about to start working toward a doctoral degree in mathematics from M.I.T." It turns out she has even more to offer, an inherited talent that even she doesn't realize. Maggie, a cerebral redhead, makes a smart plucky heroine. A creature of the roaring twenties, she hangs out with chums, dancing and drinking and laughing and waiting for bombs to start dropping. But when violence strikes, though she says "The idea that this kind of violence and horror existed shook Maggie to her core," in context the reader is not convinced. (Review first published in the Boston Globe)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Step

    This would be a one-star review, but I only give those to books I actively hate. For this book, I just didn't care. Sketchy, broad characters who I didn't care whether they lived or died, with overly pretentious language, a meandering plot with absolutely no sense of urgency despite being in the middle of a war, shallow, insincere attempts at romance, a boring 'mystery', unimaginative villains that were beyond incompetent, and a main character that wasn't in the least compelling. This felt like This would be a one-star review, but I only give those to books I actively hate. For this book, I just didn't care. Sketchy, broad characters who I didn't care whether they lived or died, with overly pretentious language, a meandering plot with absolutely no sense of urgency despite being in the middle of a war, shallow, insincere attempts at romance, a boring 'mystery', unimaginative villains that were beyond incompetent, and a main character that wasn't in the least compelling. This felt like every bland YA novel with three quirky female leads, a 'mysterious' love interest, and shenanigans, just cut and pasted into a different era. (And an era I love at that!) I tried to like this book, since I do love supporting my alma mater, but one giant MEH. Perhaps it suffered due to my reading the fantastic FitzOsbornes at War, which is leaps and bounds better in every way, immediately before, but ugh, what a basic book. And I am still irritated over a character rehearsing the Act 2 Swan Lake PDD and then claiming to be doing so in hopes of being tapped for Odile, who doesn't even show up until Act 3.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    Full disclosure: I was pre-disposed to like this book as it was written by a sister Wellesley alum and the heroine is a Wellesley alum. I'm not a big reader of historical fiction but I very much enjoyed this one written about war-time London. There were many twists and turns in the story and I got so crazy about it that I read the whole book in about 24 hours. Now, that part is fabulous--not since the Harry Potter books have I been so crazy to finish a book. On the (very tiny) downside, there we Full disclosure: I was pre-disposed to like this book as it was written by a sister Wellesley alum and the heroine is a Wellesley alum. I'm not a big reader of historical fiction but I very much enjoyed this one written about war-time London. There were many twists and turns in the story and I got so crazy about it that I read the whole book in about 24 hours. Now, that part is fabulous--not since the Harry Potter books have I been so crazy to finish a book. On the (very tiny) downside, there were some sentences that just plain old didn't work for me and I wanted to re-write. And a few non-sequiters in paragraphs. Too bad my mom is not for hire. Also, did young ladies say "damn" in 1940? I don't know but it grated on me. The wonderful story line and interesting characters make this one a recent favorite. Enjoy the ride! Recommended summer read...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Maggie Hope leaves her home in the U.S. to travel to England to sell her grandmother's large Victorian house. Maggie was born in England but went to live with her Aunt in the US after the death of her parents. War against Germany has just been declared by England so this is a very turbulent time to be there. Maggie is a mathematician with a degree from Wellesley and is a PHD candidate at MIT. She lands a position as a secretary to Winston Churchill which puts her into the thick of historical int Maggie Hope leaves her home in the U.S. to travel to England to sell her grandmother's large Victorian house. Maggie was born in England but went to live with her Aunt in the US after the death of her parents. War against Germany has just been declared by England so this is a very turbulent time to be there. Maggie is a mathematician with a degree from Wellesley and is a PHD candidate at MIT. She lands a position as a secretary to Winston Churchill which puts her into the thick of historical intrigue. She is over qualified for the position but the position where her skills and intelligence is needed is given to men with less qualifications. The nightly bombings stand out to me. The book describes black out curtains and no lights. When the sirens went off many people went underground or into shelters they made. There was much destruction but the English spirit was high. There also was talk of invasion of troops and many dogs were put down or sent to the country due to barking that could alert the German troops Maggie gets into the middle of all the plotting and intrigue. Due to her superior intelligence, she spots a code that everyone took as a advertisement. She is very brave. There were some surprises in the book. I am looking forward to continuing on with the series.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    Keep plodding on.- Winston Churchill "Maggie had originally come to London to sell her late grandmother's house. Yes, at first she'd felt angry because she had to give up a doctoral program in mathematics at M.I.T. To do so-no small achievement for a woman, even a Wellesley woman. When she had first come to England , she'd been full of resentment-of the narrow-minded people , of bad food and weak coffee, of the dilapidated houses and antiquated plumbing. But when the house didn't sell Maggie was f Keep plodding on.- Winston Churchill "Maggie had originally come to London to sell her late grandmother's house. Yes, at first she'd felt angry because she had to give up a doctoral program in mathematics at M.I.T. To do so-no small achievement for a woman, even a Wellesley woman. When she had first come to England , she'd been full of resentment-of the narrow-minded people , of bad food and weak coffee, of the dilapidated houses and antiquated plumbing. But when the house didn't sell Maggie was forced to settle into Grandmother Hope's battered old Victorian. And she found the house was repairable, the tea lovely, and the English people were of a much kinder character than she first had given them credit for." With these words to describe the main character of this book I was smitten. I am not mathematical at all. I cannot wrap my mind around numbers and I do not see numbers in the order of the world around us. It makes my head want to burst. Yet I am fascinated with the acquaintance of a young girl who instinctively understands it all. "Math was elegant, logical, predictable-and preferable to the messy calculations of life. Through mathematics one could find harmony, stability and order. And she desperately wanted to find that order. After all, her whole life had been forever changed when one car just happened to hit another on a random sunny afternoon, killing her parents instantly; it didn't take a Freudian to understand why she so loved math." First of all this is a good old fashioned spy chase. The sub-plots include her father's past known by everyone but her. Her upbringing by an Aunt in America with secrets of her own. And then of course, Maggie, although very accomplished, feels less than until she can break down the door to the men's club: Private secretary to Winston Churchill. After another typist is found dead Maggie is up for the position which in no way is truly acceptable to her. She knows she is immensely superior to any of the male counterpoints who serve in superior positions. But the doors are firmly closed in her face and so she caves. Maggie is a character easy to like. She has red hair. She is pretty but tries to downplay her looks. Her red hair would escape "tortoiseshell clip, creating a halo of fuzzy curls....a smudge of mascara inevitably land on a cheek or flecks of red lipstick migrate to her teeth." Her close friend is David. He is her mentor with a past of his own only thinly veiled. Then the inevitable love interest, John: his view of Maggie (unbeknown to her) "her red hair glinting gold in the fluorescent light, leaving a trail of violet perfume everywhere she went." This was like a manual: WWII for Dummies. There were mere sentences about things my husband reads whole books about broken down into absorbable tidbits for people like me with a sense of humor. For example: "after the debacle of the first Norwegian invasion, when the Royal Marines were proved unprepared, it was determined they needed rubber sheaths to protect their gun muzzles from the cold." Really? Yes. Then there is the fact that if WWII wasn't enough the IRA found a way in. Honestly? Well as they say All's fair...... I loved the way it was all laid out. It was not just about war. It was not just about betrayal, treachery. It was not just a love story. It is a perfectly blended story of the time melding all these elements together. It certainly helps a person understand why another war was just so unimaginable to most. "FDR and Mrs. Roosevelt were in the White House. The Golden Gate Bridge was finally finished. The syncopated sounds of Glenn Miller were playing on the wireless, Picasso's cubism and Dali's surrealism were causing a sensation worldwide, and most of the girls she knew back in Boston had a crush on Errol Flynn. How did the war figure into this scenario?" Susan MacNeal. Watch for her books. Read her.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Maggie Hope is an English girl who was orphaned at a young age. She was sent to an aunt in New England and was raised there. Maggie is an intrepid young woman who is a math whiz and is taking a relatively unprecedented step in going for her doctorate in mathematics at a prestigious university. When she is bequeathed her grandmothers house in London she planned on making a quick trip across the pond to sell it and get back to her life. The house proves hard to sell and Maggie keeps it open by ren Maggie Hope is an English girl who was orphaned at a young age. She was sent to an aunt in New England and was raised there. Maggie is an intrepid young woman who is a math whiz and is taking a relatively unprecedented step in going for her doctorate in mathematics at a prestigious university. When she is bequeathed her grandmothers house in London she planned on making a quick trip across the pond to sell it and get back to her life. The house proves hard to sell and Maggie keeps it open by renting rooms and gets herself a job. One day an American friend whom she knew in college and who also lodges with her tells her about a secretarial job at 10 Downing Street with the then Prime Minister Mr. Churchill. This kind of a job won't use any of Maggie's talents but she takes it anyway. In the next few months Maggie begins to learn that there are mysteries about her past as well as plenty of mysterious things going on at work. WWII has begun and Britain has joined they fray. The problems confronting England are the rapid advancement of the Germans on one front that has all worried about invasion, while on the other hand the IRA is stepping up it's terroristic activities in order to help out the Germans. The story is intricate, fascinating and well done. There are plenty of small details that MacNeal includes about the daily life that added to the ambience. For instance in getting London ready for a possible invasion all the dogs were sent to the countryside or euthanized for the fear that barking would alert the invading forces to the presence of the the citizens. Just imagining the attention to the small problems the British aside from rationing, blackout curtains and fear gave the story depth.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Mccann

    I love historical fiction, so this is right up my alley! When it comes to historical fiction I am somewhat demanding. I want it to be accurate. I want it to be authentic. I hate anachronisms! I love the way historical fiction blends fact and fiction, being simultaneously educational and entertaining. Here it is evident that the author spent much time and effort making sure her setting was authentic. The background tapestry is richly woven without overtaking the main characters or plot. This is a I love historical fiction, so this is right up my alley! When it comes to historical fiction I am somewhat demanding. I want it to be accurate. I want it to be authentic. I hate anachronisms! I love the way historical fiction blends fact and fiction, being simultaneously educational and entertaining. Here it is evident that the author spent much time and effort making sure her setting was authentic. The background tapestry is richly woven without overtaking the main characters or plot. This is a beautiful balance. As such, I would get lost and forget myself in the book. I almost never had that jarring moment when the text brought me out of the story and back to present day. If I did, it was because the sentence sounded like the tone of a friend of mine. As far as heroines go, I love Maggie. Maybe because I want to be Maggie. Strong, smart, decisive, confident. These are things I think we all want to be. I want her moxie! Maggie is a Brit by birth, raised by her aunt in the US after a family tragedy kills both her parents. About to embark upon her graduate studies in Math, Maggie instead finds herself in London in May 1940 to claim her inheritance from her grandmother's estate. While there she begins to make peace with her tragic family past only to discover everything she was led to believe isn't quite what really was! While her character is living and exploring life in London, she becomes vastly underemployed, due to the sexism of the time, as a typist for Winston Churchill. Using her innate math skills, she discovers and becomes embroiled in a terrorist's plot in Britain. This book is much too cerebral for a traditional whodunit! It is so much better. This book isn't just about whodunit, but rather about Maggie, an endearing and confident young woman. There is are friendships solidified and others gone awry. There is a touch of romance, both subtle and clumsy, like a real life romance where the characters are tentative and unsure. There is action. There is history. Basically, it is just a really damn good book! Enjoy! Mr. Churchill's Secretary: A Novel

  25. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    This story takes place during WW II in England. Maggie Hope is the main character. I really enjoyed this especially because it was fascinating to learn more about politics and espionage in WW II England. However, I was dismayed to learn that Joseph P. Kennedy, who was the US Ambassador to England at this time (and the father of John F. Kennedy, the future President of the US), was Pro-Nazi in this book. I intend to research this fact, but I suspect that it was true. Disgusting!! This is the first This story takes place during WW II in England. Maggie Hope is the main character. I really enjoyed this especially because it was fascinating to learn more about politics and espionage in WW II England. However, I was dismayed to learn that Joseph P. Kennedy, who was the US Ambassador to England at this time (and the father of John F. Kennedy, the future President of the US), was Pro-Nazi in this book. I intend to research this fact, but I suspect that it was true. Disgusting!! This is the first book in the new "Maggie Hope Mystery" series. The first chapter of the next book, "Princess Elizabeth's Spy" is included in this book. I am looking forward to the release which I believe is in July, 2012. This series reminds me of an adult version of the Nancy Drew series which I devoured as a child. NOTE: I HAVE NOW COMPLETED MY RESEARCH AND FOUND THAT JOSEPH P KENNEDY AND HIS SON JOSEPH P KENNEDY JR, WERE BOTH VIRULENT ANTI-SEMITES WHO WERE ALSO PRO-HITLER PARTIALLY BECAUSE HE WOULD TAKE CARE OF THE ,"WORLD JEWISH PROBLEM." HE WAS REMOVED FROM HIS POSITION BECAUSE THE US GOVENMENT COULD NOT TRUST HIM.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    This new series is set firmly in World War II London with a smart, sassy, gutsy protagonist Maggie Hope. Although she was raised in America, she is British by birth and so is eligible to serve England during the war in a very sensitive and secret undertaking. A graduate of Wellesley, with a degree in advanced mathematics, she abandons her chance to get a Ph.D. in math at MIT in favor of working for the Brits. She presumes her consummate math and code breaking skills will land her a job in that d This new series is set firmly in World War II London with a smart, sassy, gutsy protagonist Maggie Hope. Although she was raised in America, she is British by birth and so is eligible to serve England during the war in a very sensitive and secret undertaking. A graduate of Wellesley, with a degree in advanced mathematics, she abandons her chance to get a Ph.D. in math at MIT in favor of working for the Brits. She presumes her consummate math and code breaking skills will land her a job in that department with ease. Instead, she finds herself consigned to a seemingly menial job taking dictation and typing for Winston Churchill. The adventures in which she becomes involved are James Bondish in their plausibility, but believable enough to make for a ripping good read. I have the second book in this series as an ARC from the publisher, but since my sister graciously gifted me with her copy of this one, I decided to read them in order. Look for a review of #2 before the end of the year. They're well done, and there's enough meat here for at least 2 or 3 more books in a great new series.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ariel

    Maggie Hope somewhat reluctantly takes the job of new Prime Minister Winston Churchill's secretary. The last secretary was was murdered and it seems that Maggie is being watched in her new job as well. England itself is facing Hitler preparing to pummel England with bomber planes as households build bomb shelters. Additionally, the IRA is bombing sites in London and could be Nazi sympathizers, joining against England - the common enemy. Maggie's British parents were killed when she was still an Maggie Hope somewhat reluctantly takes the job of new Prime Minister Winston Churchill's secretary. The last secretary was was murdered and it seems that Maggie is being watched in her new job as well. England itself is facing Hitler preparing to pummel England with bomber planes as households build bomb shelters. Additionally, the IRA is bombing sites in London and could be Nazi sympathizers, joining against England - the common enemy. Maggie's British parents were killed when she was still an infant and she was raised by an aunt in America. Her aunt raised her in the academic world of colleges where she works. Maggie is forced to suspend her graduate studies in mathematics at MIT to travel to London and sell her inheritance from a grandmother she never knew she had. Thus, Maggie is incredibly overqualified for the job of secretary with her Mathematics skills, plus she is fluent in a few languages. All of which means she is smart and some secrets she will figure out, placing her in more danger. Secrets - such as why her father isn't buried with her mother? Maggie Hope is a good main character, smart, loyal and caring. She has several friends that are living in the inherited house, all helping each other through the challenging times. There are so many characters who populate the story that a character guide up front would have been helpful. Maggie's housemates are interesting and varied. I didn't particularly care for the ditzy twins, but otherwise they were all engaging. There is even the hint of a romantic interest with an acquaintance who also works for Churchill. Churchill himself is very well portrayed. Historical books, when done correctly really, bring the time period alive. I was skeptical to read this book because of a review I read somewhere that said there were historical errors. After reading the book I was surprised, because I didn't find anything of particular note. I went back and found the criticism had to do with the color of Women's Naval Service uniforms and such details. Unless you are familiar with such WWII details, I doubt you will notice the errors either. I can say that a few times there was a term or phrase that was more modern that struck me. But again, not so much that it detracted from the story for me. Rather, the terror of a sudden air raid siren and the scramble to get into a bomb shelter and the tense listening to explosions while waiting for the all-clear siren were all brought vividly to life. The plot of IRA forces combining with Nazis to infiltrate Churchill's inner circle was well done and quite believable. The circumstances around Maggie's father (not to give away too much here) are a tad of a stretch. The pacing kept the tension and story going solidly for me throughout. This was one of those books when you think you just made it through the climax and can resume breathing, only to find there is more and your blood continues racing. Well done climax and solid wrap-up that sets up further adventures for Maggie. This is a solid debut entry in the historical intrigue or historical amateur sleuth genre. Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list. Series: 1st in Maggie Hope Adventures Main Characters: Maggie Hope, American in London Setting: 1940, London England Obtained Through: LibraryThing Mysteries and My Musings Blog: http://www.mysterysuspence.blogspot.com

  28. 4 out of 5

    MAP

    This was definitely one of those books where the idea far outpaced the execution. Maggie Hope, a British-American math genius who should have been on her way to MIT for graduate school but instead ends up working for Winston Churchill at the beginning of WWII, gets sucked into intrigues and conspiracies against the government and uses her math skills to get herself out of them and save Merrie Old England. Unfortunately, the book sputters in several different places over several different areas, m This was definitely one of those books where the idea far outpaced the execution. Maggie Hope, a British-American math genius who should have been on her way to MIT for graduate school but instead ends up working for Winston Churchill at the beginning of WWII, gets sucked into intrigues and conspiracies against the government and uses her math skills to get herself out of them and save Merrie Old England. Unfortunately, the book sputters in several different places over several different areas, making it hard to get wrapped into. (I read this book over 2 months and finished EIGHT other books in the process.) First, the characters are completely bland and non-descript. Other than Maggie (who I think I only kept track of because she's the main POV character) the young men and women we're introduced to are so interchangeable I kept getting lost and having to back-track. And it's hard to care about your characters when you don't even remember who they are. Second, the dialogue was so modern. Maggie's feminist screeds - so on the nose! The discussion(s) about gay rights - how 21st century! It completely pulls you out of the time and place. Finally, the plot twists and turns so many times, and several of those times could have been completely cut without changing the ending at ALL. Nothing is more frustrating than a mystery novel that's not tightly written, and this ended up feeling like that Eddie Izzard sketch about American movies - "Oh no, Space Monkeys are attacking!" - just action for the sake of action. As I said, the idea is better than the reality. A part of me still wants to maybe possibly give the next one a try...the title sounds so intriguing! Maybe the author gets better with practice! But unfortunately I have a sneaking suspicion it will be more of the same. 3/5 stars. It's not the worst book you'll ever read, but ultimately you'll feel you ended up ingesting too many calories for not enough flavor.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This was a delightful light read with a bit of mystery to it to keep you intrigued--and I was! I'm already smitten with historical fiction, so this was an easy pick for me. As with many historical fiction novels, some of the subtle details like language rang false. It is fairly obvious that this was not written by a British person, and that little fact, which played out in syntax and word choice, bugged me throughout the book. That said, I enjoyed all of the characters, though a few less would h This was a delightful light read with a bit of mystery to it to keep you intrigued--and I was! I'm already smitten with historical fiction, so this was an easy pick for me. As with many historical fiction novels, some of the subtle details like language rang false. It is fairly obvious that this was not written by a British person, and that little fact, which played out in syntax and word choice, bugged me throughout the book. That said, I enjoyed all of the characters, though a few less would have made the ones that are front and center all the better drawn, I've no doubt. It read like it was well-researched as far as the details about London, 10 Downing St, and early WWII, and I have no reason to suspect otherwise, my own research in that area being...mostly non-existent. ;) At times the pacing felt hasty, and I wonder how much an editor jumped in to adjust the timing, or if this was just the side effect of a new author. I gave the book four stars because I was quite intrigued by the characters and plot, and because of all the details that *were* (or seemed to me!) right and proper, which were many in this particular book. Nevertheless, with a bit more polish, I felt like this could have been a real star of a book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jaylia3

    Maggie was supposed to be at MIT earning a graduate degree in advanced mathematics, but instead finds herself in WWII London trying to sell the rundown but elegant house she inherited from a grandmother she had never known. Born in England to British parents, Maggie hadn't been back since she was a baby, which was when she left to live in America with her aunt after her parents were killed in a car accident. At first the blip in her academic plans felt like an annoying roadblock, but after livin Maggie was supposed to be at MIT earning a graduate degree in advanced mathematics, but instead finds herself in WWII London trying to sell the rundown but elegant house she inherited from a grandmother she had never known. Born in England to British parents, Maggie hadn't been back since she was a baby, which was when she left to live in America with her aunt after her parents were killed in a car accident. At first the blip in her academic plans felt like an annoying roadblock, but after living in and enjoying London for a year, and with the war now started, she decides to stay and do her part. And after all, even with rations, blackouts and air raids, life goes on and most of the time is anything but grim. There's dancing, theater, good friends, and great housemates, including Paige, her longtime friend from home, Sarah, a ballerina who gets them all tickets to her shows and Charlotte, known as Chuck, who has a boyfriend in the RAF. Plus there's the job Maggie has gotten as secretary to Winston Churchill. Of course Maggie, with her knowledge of mathematics, languages, and codes, is qualified for much more than typing and filing, but women are excluded from that kind of work and at least she is contributing to the cause from a front row seat. Author Susan Elia MacNeal is very good at crafting the right details to capture a scene and set a mood, and as Maggie's intellectual skills inevitably lead her to become more and more involved in secret and dangerous war work the pace of the novel accelerates until it is almost impossible to put down. It is mainly Maggie's story, but there are multiple points of view and in the early part of the novel it took a little vigilance to keep all the characters straight. A slowly building romance adds tension and interest to the narrative, but it doesn't dominate the plot. MacNeal has done a lot of research on wartime London, including reading the memoirs of actual secretaries to Winston Churchill, which allows her to paint a colorful picture of a highly compelling era. This is the first of a very promising series and I can't wait to get my hands on the second installment, Princess Elizabeth's Spy.

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