Book Review: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

If you haven’t noticed in my recent book reviews, I’ve been trying to read the books that I’ve been meaning to read for years but never gotten to. However, this book wasn’t actually on my TBR, though when it came out six years ago I told myself to read it and yet I never did.

That is, until Joyce talked about the series on her blog (Joyce’s Mystery and Fiction Book Reviews With Some Non-fiction Too). She was reviewing the most recent book in the series, but I wanted to go back and start from the beginning. My feelings about this book are a bit mixed but mostly positive, so let’s get into it!

Release: January 1, 2012

Synopsis: Set in 1940, Winston Churchill has been sworn in as war rages across Europe. Maggie Hope, a bright recent college graduate, is hired as one of the typists in his office. However, soon a tangled web of lies and murder threatens to turn the tides of war and put Maggie herself in danger.

Non-Spoiler Review

My favorite part of this book by far is the historical setting. MacNeal is one of the lushest writers I have read in a long time when it comes to historical context. Her descriptions are vivid and detailed and the political conversations between characters are amazing!

I will say, I was expecting much more of a mystery and this book is more of a historical novel tinted with suspense. I didn’t mind this, but it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. Saying that, the suspense itself built slowly but consistently, inserting enough clues and red herrings to keep me interested until the ending.

I’ll get more into the mystery side of the plot in the spoiler section, but I absolutely loved the balance between the plot to assassinate Churchill and Maggie’s search to find out who her father was. Some readers might find the book a bit slow-moving in the beginning, but I found it a perfect balance between action and quieter scenes.

I will say, there are quick a few friends in Maggie’s circle (Paige, Sarah, David, John, to name a few) who add little to the story. I didn’t hate them, and in fact they were all pretty fun characters, but their positions in the story still felt rather replaceable. Many of them could have been combined into other the characters without losing any of the story. Saying that, though, there was only one character I displeased immensely.

And that character was Maggie herself. I want to prelude this by saying that Maggie is young, and a lot of the issues I had with her could easily be contributed to a lack of maturity. However, when I’m reading an adult book with an adult protagonist, it is extremely frustrating when that said adult protagonist acts like she’s twelve about half the time. She’s offended by absolutely everything, hates the majority of men, and argues vehemently with anyone who disagrees with her. She’s petty, immature, and rash.

I understand that the book wants to portray her as extremely intelligent, which I agree she is, but there is a massive difference between mental maturity and emotional maturity. Of the former, she is extremely observant, learned, and book-smart, however for the latter she is so immature I found myself disliking the otherwise well-written book.

Maybe I am being too harsh on her. And maybe as the series continues she becomes wiser and kinder. She is only in her really early twenties, after all, and it seems like she was sheltered growing up. So sheltered that she is filled with prejudices and is rarely able to see from another’s perspective. I could talk for hours about individual examples, but take would fill a book probably longer than this actual book.

While she definitely got better as the story went along (as I’ll talk about in the spoiler section), it was less because she matured emotionally and more because the story became more action-driven and less character-driven at the two hundred page mark.

Spoiler Alert!

Like I said, at the two hundred page mark things really started to pick up. After Paige, her roommate and one of her closest friends ‘died,’ the plot really took a twist from cozy mystery to suspense thriller.

The second half of the book was filled with twists, none of which I saw coming. In fact, I was convinced at one of the characters (David) was the mastermind…let’s just say I was so far off. From the bombing scenes to decrypting codes, this story was so amazing I cannot gush about it enough.

But let’s get to the ending…actually, more like the twenty endings. Yep, this book pulled a Lord of the Rings and had tons of places where the story could have ended, but it just kept going. It felt as if the author was trying to tie up all the loose ends. You had to have John and Maggie get together. You had to have Maggie and her father build a relationship. You have to have Claire’s and Murphy’s plots tied up. Everything just felt as if the story was continuing on and on just to tie up plotlines which didn’t really need to be tied up. I mean, this is a series, and this book felt as if it were written to be only one book and then it got popular and the author kept writing it…that’s just my opinion.


So, my final thoughts.

While Maggie was an incredibly annoying character and the ending wasn’t perfect, I loved this book. It is such a historically rich suspense novel. It is clear that the author did her research, which I appreciate since I feel so many authors do not. The characters were memorable and stood out clearly from each other (at least, the main characters). Churchill was portrayed in a positive light, which is nice since so many modern writers (and Hollywood) seem content to spread lies about him.

All in all, I would recommend this book. While it wasn’t perfect, it was enjoyable.

Have you guys read this series or at least this first book? Is it a book you might read? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more adventure and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

12 thoughts on “Book Review: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

    1. I did try to give it a chance. I continued on to read the second and third books. While I did get used to Maggie, I never really grew to enjoy the books. But I’m glad you liked the books so much.


    1. I wouldn’t go that far! There is a big difference between lying about someone and killing millions of people. But I get your point. It’s a bad thing to lie about anyone, especially the one person who stood between Europe and complete annihilation.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This was a great review! It was so detailed and informative. I enjoyed reading about the beginning of the series again. Yes, as one of the comments noted, characters that you mentioned are in other books.
    I am glad that you enjoyed the book overall. Many thanks for mentioning my blog in your review.

    Liked by 1 person

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