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.
©2012 Susan Elia Macneal (P)2012 Random House Audio
“This wonderful debut is intelligent, richly detailed, and filled with suspense.” (Stefanie Pintoff)
“A terrific read.... Chock full of fascinating period details and real people including Winston Churchill, MacNeal’s fast-paced thriller gives a glimpse of the struggles, tensions, and dangers of life on the home front during World War II.” (Rhys Bowen, author of Royal Blood and winner of the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards)
“Think early Ken Follett, amp it up with a whip-smart young American not averse to red lipstick and vintage cocktails, season it with espionage during the London Blitz, and you’ve got a heart-pounding, atmospheric debut. I loved it.” (Cara Black, author of Murder in Passy)
I didn't actually like the Jacqueline Winspear books, although I wanted to, but I did like this one. I've started the second in this series and it's even better. In this first book, I think the writing was a bit 'loose', if that makes sense. I mean that sometimes people seemed to talk too long about a topic, but overall I liked it very much. It really is, as someone said, a cozy spy book, which I think is a new genre. There was a lot more plot than I expected, with some real surprises and the heroine is definitely the 'heroine', meaning a bit larger than life. It's many decades since I read Nancy Drew, but I remember admiring her as a young girl and this heroine is worth looking up to as well, as she solves problems that don't tend to happen in everyday life.
One always associates the "Keep Calm and Carry On" motto to the British and the 'stiff upper lip", but I had never really connected it to wartime, Winston Churchill, and that resolute attitude he helped the Brits maintain, before it was known that Hitler was not going to be able to steamroll over Britain as well. I find it a more inspiring quote now, plus we learned a variation: KPO for Keep Plodding On and another variation in Book 2. Good for some days at work! Also, helps one to remember every day to be grateful for NOT being in a war zone.
About the audio production: **Just my 2 cents** First off was my confusion on narration: the listing on audible says Wanda McCaddon but the intro of narrator says Donada Peters I guess they are one in the same but then the intro and the listing should use the same name. Wanda/Donada was a good narrator there were times when slipping in between the British and American accents didn’t work well for me, there were times they were kind of a cross between the two and it was hard to tell who was talking. But I did enjoy her narration as whole.
This book was not what I was expecting; I didn’t expect it to be a spy/war/mystery/family secrets story all rolled into a really good book. The setting was fascinating; the beginning of WWII and with people like the US Ambassador Joseph Kennedy who lost his post for being a Nazi sympathizer and an anti-Semite which I looked up and was a bit shocked to find this all to be true. And of course Winston Churchill it was fun to hear about his pets running rough shod over 10 Downing (I looked that up too and found it to be true). So this book was well researched and made me want to look things up and as I’ve said before that’s what makes a good historical fiction novel.
I really liked Maggie she did remind me a little of Maisie Dobbs but that could just be the setting and the fact that she is a strong independent woman in a time that was a bit frowned upon. I also liked the fact that Maggie was raised an American but by the end of this book has been found to be a valuable asset for the England. There are at times a lot of characters to keep track of and I did get confused a couple times as to who was who so I hope in the next book this will be tightened up a bit. I do look forward to reading more of Maggie.
I felt this book was kind of a Cozy Spy Thriller it had all the great elements of a good spy novel plus the best of a cozy mystery. I look forward to more by this author.
Tell us about yourself!Omnivorous catholic reader who especially enjoys unusual mysteries and thrillers
Born in 1939,a month after WWII was declared,I grew up on war stories and experiences from my British grandparents and uncles who had served "over There"."Mr Churchill's Secretary" by Susan Elia MacNeal enthralled me as it fleshed out many of the ideas and impressions which I had absorbed in my early years.
Maggie Hope is an engaging heroine,born English but raised American, who has returned to England in 1939 to dispose of her grandmother's house in London according to the terms of her will.When war breaks out she takes a position as a typist at 10 Downing St and so begins her "great adventure".
Susan Elia MacNeal has obviously done a tremendous amount of historical research to write this novel and she weaves this almost seamlessly into her riveting plot.
The few anachromisms present eg.Maggie's occasional rants about sexual and personal equality,seem out of place in a woman of this time and background,however,the absorbing plot and likeable characters make up for any minor flaws.
As a long-time follower of authors such as Anne Perry, Laurie R.King and Jacqueline Winspear et al, I find that "Mr Churchill's Secretary"shows great promise as a first novel and hopefully will become a series I cannot miss(especially if Wanda McCaddon continues as narrator).
I had no particular problem with any of the book. All women know the predjudice involved in evaluating our skills. I always enjoy a book about a woman who has interests, as an adult, that uses intellectual skills with being dehumanized. Maggie is smart, analytical, but very empathetic too. She doesn't try to be one of the guys except to try to excel at the things she does best.
The blending of history and fiction is very masterfully done. I am a Churchill fan and have read his biography. What a character.
Maggie because she is bright, grows with each experience and is very plucky.
When Maggie was being pursued and was hiding in the Anderson shelter. It taxed one to think a out how she could escape. Kept your attention.
What History Didn't Tell Us.
Immediately listened to the second book and am looking forward to the next. My dad was a WWII vet and I have read extensively about that era. It is fun to see the authors skill in using fact and fiction.
But the main character had to be a super hero.
If you are looking for a thoughtful story of code breaking and the inner workings of the war room go to a different book. Maggie gets caught up with IRA terrorists and an unlikely side story of her long dead father being kept as a mad professor at Betchly park (still very much alive). The first couple hours are spent introducing forgettable characters. Then you spend the rest of the book trying to remember who "was that?". The last couple hours were exciting and the action was well done. But I was expecting a much more brainy book and instead this was very much more action/adventure. Badly out of place hand wringing and the obligatory gay character (with no real impact on the plot) round out a not great book.
I think this author knows how to write, but could not quite decide what the book should have been about.
I loved the historical setting.
No detailed graphic violence.
Yes. I thought it was well performed given the multiple nationalities.
Another piece of the great of the great war.
Love books! Classics and lighter fiction, mysteries (not too violent please :-). And selective non-fiction--whatever takes my fancy.
I liked that she was a capable young woman, earning recognition for herself during a time when women were starting to be noticed in new ways (during the war).
I don't know--I might have read it differently than listening to it. I don't think she is the worst narrator, but really, not the best. I don't think she could decide if she was American or British. Some of the American accents shifted from southern to more northern, and I couldn't really tell about the British. I didn't really enjoy her voice quality for certain characters. But she did do a good job of creating different voices for everyone.
I had hoped it would have been better---a great premise, but too many anachronisms (Like, "Playing the Italian card." That expression is pretty new--wasn't being used in the 40's. )
What a nice change of pace for both historical fiction and spy stories. Although the story gets a little convoluted and confusing introducing all the characters, I am sure this was laying ground for the remainder of the series.
What was not good was the narration. She was too English. Her American accent was non-existent, making it slightly confusing to distinguish some of the conversations. Other accents were equally poor.
But that was a minor flaw compared to the simplicity of this delightful tale. It was not quite believable at the end, but it was fiction after all.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
Susan Elia MacNeal is a new author to me. What made me chose the book was Winston Churchill name in the title and the heroine is his secretary. There was some information about Churchill and he was prominent in part of the book but it was mostly about spies and the IRA bombing London. The narrator had to go back and forth between Irish, British and American accents and did a fairly good job. I was pleased the author chose to make Maggie Hope a mathematician and speaking 3 languages and having trouble getting a job that would use her skills. In the end she leaves Churchill to work for Mi5. She finds her father is not dead and is working as a code breaker. The story is well research on the era and about insights of Winston Churchill. The story gives some insight into how the British lived and worked during the early part of the war and the Blitz. The story does feature the problems women had trying to be equal to me even if they had gotten the vote. Look forward to the next in the series.
Maggie - she's bright, clever and stubborn and resourceful
She has a great range of voices, but sometimes she did appear to select the wrong accent from her repertoire
Yes - but it's too long for that
Loved all the books in print, now thoroughly enjoying the audio versions
The story was a bit childish with superficial characters and there were historical glitches such as commenting on fights on Calais and Dunkirk when the novelist just said that the Germans were invading Belgium and they were no in France yet, and talking about the non existence of the British Empire in 1940. Despite this it was enjoyable enough to finish and when I feel undemanding I will probably will listen to the other books
"almost very good"
I really enjoyed the concept & the clever plot, with good characters and good twists & turns in the plot.I would've given it 5 stars but for the irritating 'americanisms' which replaced the english eg windshield & hood; fall instead of autumn, alluminum instead of alluminium etc etc. if it was an english story set in London, then that irritation spoiled it for me. I also didnt enjoy the narration - whilst I enjoy some accent characterisation, I felt it went a bit all over the place at times, getting accents mixed up in the wrong places and following the accent through after the dialogue was over &this distracted rather than added to the enjoyment. Having said that, i'm going to give the sequel a go!
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