Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mr. Churchill's Secretary, by Susan Elia MacNeal

This story begins with Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill being sworn in as Britain's new Prime Minister just as WWII is beginning. At a time when women were not considered for high positions in the British intelligence war department, no matter how qualified they were, the female protagonist, Maggie Hope, breaks all the barriers of that day and age. Her intelligence and
unprecedented code breaking skills ultimately save the Prime Minister's life and gains Miss Hope a higher security clearance than she could have ever imagined. In doing so, she baffles and gains the respect of the highest men in the British government of that time.

Maggie was born in London, England, where she would have grown up, except for her parents being killed in a tragic car accident when she was very young. She was taken in and raised by her Aunt Edith, who was a professor at Wellesley College, an all women's school, in Massachusetts, USA. This afforded Maggie to get her college degree there, graduating at the top of her class, enabling her to receive a scholarship at MIT to continue her loved math academics.

Her plans and life get turned upside down when she learned that she had inherited her Grandmother’s house in London. She reluctantly puts her schooling aside to go take care of the business of selling the house she inherited. A loyalty to her native land develops because of the onset of war. Working at No 10 Downing Street, Churchill’s underground command central during the London Blitz, it is soon discovered that the Nazi’s are not Britain’s only enemy. The pre-war espionage attempts by the IRA continue, and hit even closer to home. In fact her long time friend and college buddy from the US, Paige, her now roommate, is not who she thought she was. One of the many wicked twist and turns, amongst many, that kept me flipping the pages.

I've read about the pros and cons of using a prologue in novels. This book provides an exemplary use of a prologue. A stand-alone murder of poor Diana Snyder, Mr. Churchill’s secretary. Why Maggie was needed, i.e. to replace her, and more...deliciously revealed as the novel unfolds; spans out to give us the whole picture. Very nice.

I give Mr. Churchill's Secretary, by Susan Elia MacNeal, five stars because it is rich with subtext, and so many twists and turns, mystery, murder, romance, and plays off interesting historical facts that it culminated into a fantastical reading experience.

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