Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal is an enjoyable historical fiction book taking place in the early days of World War II. This is a debut effort for Ms. MacNeal, who has a wonderful World War II blog which is well worth a read. The second book in the series, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, is already out and I’m already looking forward to the third one.
Maggie Hope, an English citizen raised in America, journeys across the pond to sell the estate of her late grandmother. While unsuccessful at her original endeavor, she feels camaraderie with the British people who are in war.
Maggie puts her PhD in mathematics on hold, makes friends and get a job as a secretary at 10 Downing Street typing up Prime Minister Churchill’s memos. As a brilliant mathematician, Maggie recognizes code when she sees it helps crack an espionage ring.
The emphasis on Mr. Churchill’s Secretary is certainly more on the fiction part and less on the history, which makes it a fun ride (even though I like my books to be historically accurate). When reading this book keep that in mind--it is not meant to be substantial on the historical front.
Ms. MacNeal managed to write a compelling and captivating debut, while creating a saucy character (damn, I never thought I’d use the word “saucy” anywhere but a bar-b-q pit). While one could certainly sense that this book was meant to be part of a series, and hence an “origin” story, it is still energetic and involving.
It seemed likely to me that the book was not written by an English person but by an American; the language does not ring true and the choice of syntax was a little distracting throughout. But that’s being picky since, as I mentioned, the book is a fun ride and the author fully admits that she was not writing a historically accurate novel, and the characters are fun and engaging despite (or maybe because) they funny talk.