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Jaylia3

Reflections

Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.

Mr. Churchill's Secretary (Maggie Hope Series #1)

Mr. Churchill's Secretary - Susan Elia MacNeal Maggie was supposed to be at MIT earning a graduate degree in advanced mathematics, but instead finds herself in WWII London trying to sell the rundown but elegant house she inherited from a grandmother she had never known. Born in England to British parents, Maggie hadn't been back since she was a baby, which was when she left to live in America with her aunt after her parents were killed in a car accident. At first the blip in her academic plans felt like an annoying roadblock, but after living in and enjoying London for a year, and with the war now started, she decides to stay and do her part. And after all, even with rations, blackouts and air raids, life goes on and most of the time is anything but grim. There's dancing, theater, good friends, and great housemates, including Paige, her longtime friend from home, Sarah, a ballerina who gets them all tickets to her shows and Charlotte, known as Chuck, who has a boyfriend in the RAF. Plus there's the job Maggie has gotten as secretary to Winston Churchill. Of course Maggie, with her knowledge of mathematics, languages, and codes, is qualified for much more than typing and filing, but women are excluded from that kind of work and at least she is contributing to the cause from a front row seat. Author Susan Elia MacNeal is very good at crafting the right details to capture a scene and set a mood, and as Maggie's intellectual skills inevitably lead her to become more and more involved in secret and dangerous war work the pace of the novel accelerates until it is almost impossible to put down. It is mainly Maggie's story, but there are multiple points of view and in the early part of the novel it took a little vigilance to keep all the characters straight. A slowly building romance adds tension and interest to the narrative, but it doesn't dominate the plot. MacNeal has done a lot of research on wartime London, including reading the memoirs of actual secretaries to Winston Churchill, which allows her to paint a colorful picture of a highly compelling era. This is the first of a very promising series and I can't wait to get my hands on the second installment, Princess Elizabeth's Spy.