Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal Book Review Read it later

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Contributor Cindy J

Historical Fiction novels are one of my favorite genres to read because I enjoy learning about the past. I have read books set in a multitude of time periods, but seem to read more that take place during World War II. When choosing books from this era, I like to mix it up by including different perspectives and different settings. As I started Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, I couldn’t recall reading a book from the British government’s point of view. In this book not only did I learn about the likely take on the war from the Prime Minister’s Office, but also experienced it through the eyes of a young woman named Maggie Hope. 

When her parents died in a car crash after The Great War, Maggie moved from London to live with her aunt in Massachusetts. Many years later, and with a new war on England’s horizon, Maggie’s Aunt Edith instructs Maggie to return to London to sell her late grandmother’s house. Maggie doesn’t want to go because she plans to enroll in graduate school at MIT in the upcoming semester. Aunt Edith explains that they need the money in order to pay for Maggie’s education. 

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Once Maggie is back in London, she turns her grandmother’s home into a boarding house and takes on several tenants who become her friends. She also applies for a job with the Prime Minister’s office. With her degree in mathematics, she is qualified for a job in intelligence or another prestigious position within 10 Downing Street, but something prevents her from working at a high level: her gender! Because she is a woman, Maggie is relegated to a position in the typing pool. 

She takes the job as a typist, but in time, Maggie begins to assist with special assignments and is soon working within Mr. Churchill’s inner circle. Working for the Prime Minister, Maggie meets several men with high security clearance and learns aspects of wartime matters that she shouldn’t be privy to. Often she is told that a woman would not understand these matters, but Maggie doesn’t realize that not all men share this thought. Some are aware of her intelligence and solicit her help while others try to hold her at bay because they are specifically trying to shield her from sensitive information. 

While Maggie works on settling the estate sale of her grandmother’s house, she uncovers some family secrets. This new information launches Maggie into a quest to find answers about her family. When she questions Aunt Edith about the information, Maggie is told to leave the past alone. 

Before long, Maggie’s personal life and work life collide. Someone she thought was a friend is leading a double life. The Prime Minister’s Office has received information on potential threats. Maggie puts her math skills to work and assists cryptographers in breaking the code that ties her world together. Does Maggie hold the key to figuring out this mess?  

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary

Genre: Fiction/ Historical Fiction

Maggie Hope, one of the brightest and smartest in her graduating class, is only qualified to be a typist for the prime minister due to her gender. Maggie’s position, however, gives her access to important and secretive information. It also makes her the perfect target for an assassin. In order to survive, Maggie must use her quick wits and high intelligence. 

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Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia Macneal Book Review
Contributor Cindy with Mr. Churchill’s Secretary!

This was a fast-paced, action-packed story with multiple interconnected storylines. I loved the way the author weaved the multitude of characters into the different parts of the novel. The coding aspect of intelligence was an interesting look behind the scenes in strategy, as well as how the citizens viewed their countries involvement in a war. Both then and now, people go to the furthest extremes to save themselves and their country.  Fortunately, there have been some improvements with societal norms regarding the views on misogyny and sexuality, but there will always be an undercurrent of those willing to upset the norm.

I rated this book four out of five stars. The ending tied up many loose ends nicely, but the multiple storylines did cause a little confusion at some points. The main characters were well developed and I appreciated the gay representation of some charachters and how they assimilated with society at a time when it wasn’t lawful to be themselves. I enjoyed learning about the non-wartime conflicts within the UK during the war, as I had not read about them in previous WW2 books. This is the first book in the Maggie Hope Mystery series and I plan to read more.

What did you think of my Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal Book Review?

Do you have a favorite WW2 book? Let us know in the comments! 

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Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal
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