Ha! And you thought I would go another week without a book review. Don’t be silly. If I say a book review is on the way, by George a book review is on the way. Granted, it may take a week or two, but still.
So, without further a do . . .
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, by Susan Elia MacNeal, is the story of Maggie Hope — a smart, spirited young lady set to enter MIT for a graduate degree in advanced mathematics, but instead finds herself in London at the start of WWII. The plan, you see, is for her to stay a few months to prepare the rundown house of her late grandmother, for sale. But after awhile, despite its shortcomings, the house begins to grow on her; she grows fond her roommates. With the blitz on the horizon, she feels compelled to stay and do her part for the war effort. So, she reluctantly takes a job as a secretary to Winston Churchill. The fact her parents were British gives her the in. Sure, she’s smart enough to be a code breaker, but she’s also a girl. And that’s what girls do in the 1940s–they file and they type.
However, once settled at No. 10 Downing Street tensions begin to mount, mysteries arise, and it becomes all the more evident she’s closer to the front lines than she ever imagined.
For a debut novel, MacNeal sets a grand stage. You take in the theatre–even as a war looms–hear the air raids, huddle in the bomb shelters. It seems she’s done her homework. And she has, even going so far as corresponding with one of Churchill’s secretaries (Mrs. Elizabeth Layton Nel). Of course, even Mrs. Nel admitted the secretaries would have never had the time for such shenanigans. I imagine that’s true–but few of us can live the romance and intrigue found in novels. That’s just one of the reasons we love them so.
Needless to say, I truly enjoyed this novel. It proved the perfect companion for a blustery winter evening. What I’d call a light mystery, it had more light than dark, more character than horror.
Oh, and if this sounds like your cup of tea, you’ll be glad to know it’s the first of a series; it’s followed by His Majesty’s Hope and The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent (June 2014).