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3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
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on 24 June 2012
Let me say right off, that I really wanted to like "Mr. Churchill's Secretary" by Susan Elia MacNeal. I thought that would be interesting and would be a good read. But I have to admit that I found myself flipping pages and hoping that it would end sooner rather than later. I thought that there were two many characters and I was having to review earlier pages to refresh myself on the characters names. Also I thought the whole idea of Maggie Hope's (the main character)father popping back up seem just a little silly.
Overall I didn't like "Mr Churchill's Secretary" and I know that I will not be getting the follow up book.
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on 29 August 2013
For me a complete turn-off was the amount of technical detail that was plain wrong.

"There was a black gate with an electronic buzzer" Electronic ?
In 1940 ? Would have been lucky to have an electric bell !

"Through the aluminum roof of the Anderson (shelter)"
At a time when housewives in the UK were asked to give up their aluminium pans for recycling into airplanes, Anderson shelters were most certainly not made of aluminium, but of steel sheet. (And why "aluminum" in England, please ? )

When disarming a bomb with a timer made from an old-fashioned pocket watch :
"He snipped the orange wire. The ticking stopped."
Cutting an electrical wire stopped the watch ? Really ?

Sorry, but the unbelief cannot be suspended that much.
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on 25 September 2012
I bought this book for a bit of light reading. Unfortunately it is full of historical inaccuracies which spoilt my enjoyment of it. Just a very few examples - the Wrens are wearing brown uniforms when it would have been blue, the emergency vehicles have sirens when it would have been bells (used in the UK until the 1960s), a van has sliding doors (not in use before the 1950s) and a character speaks of 'collateral damage' (a term which originated in the 1960s during the Vietnam War). If the author had just watched a selection of British war movies before writing this book most errors like this could have been avoided.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 24 November 2016
I grew up on a diet of British mystery paperbacks, and am always keen for a good World War II yarn, so I picked up this first book in the "Maggie Hope" series hoping for a good diversion in the vein of the Foyle's War TV series. The premise is that an Anglo-American woman who graduated top of her class from Wellesley with a brilliant mind for mathematics and code is living in London at the time of the Blitz. She's applied to be a "Personal Secretary" in the Prime Minister's office (sort of a project manager/adviser position), but because she's a woman, she's only offered a typist's job. Thanks to a murder and then a convenient illness, she starts to work directly for Churchill, and is soon embroiled in intrigue.

That's all fine as a premise, but the execution is mediocre at best. The pace is sedate, and even though pages and pages are devoted to the socializing done by the heroine and her housemates and their male hangers-on, the author focuses on period clothes, and food, and drinks, and music, rather than actually creating fully realized characters that one actually cares about. There is, of course, a romantic subplot, but it's fairer to call it a sub-sub-sub plot, since the man in question is such a damp squib that it's very hard to understand until near the end that there's supposed to be some frisson between them.

The espionage plot involving sleeper agents and coded illustrations referencing code names a 4-year-old could infer from is absurdly far-fetched, while also failing to be gripping in any way. I read until the end hoping it would get better, but it didn't and I certainly won't be reading any more in the series. Note: For those that care about such things, I've gathered from other reviews that the book is rife with historical inaccuracies.
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on 17 June 2015
Maggie Hope is living in London at the start of World War Two. An excellent mathematician, Maggie has come to London to sell her Grandmother’s house but finds herself staying longer than expected. Turned down for any high level war jobs purely because she is a women, she finally accepts a job as a secretary at 10 Downing Street.
Impressed by her skills, Maggie soon becomes Winston Churchill’s secretary.

However, if Maggie thought that she would be trapped at a desk typing then she is wrong. Everyone knows that the country is fighting a war against the Germans but very few people knew of the war that MI5 and the security services were fighting an enemy MUCH closer to home.

Maggie’s time at 10 Downing Street is far from boring, drawn into a web of lies, espionage, betrayal and danger, which is linked very closely to her personal life.

Will Maggie and her friends find the cause of the danger and betrayal before it is too late?
A gripping read with 1940’s London brought to life by the authors amazing descriptions. You can sense the fear that has taken hold of the capital and those in charge. Loved this book and will look forward to reading the next 2 books in the series.
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on 27 May 2015
London 1940. Margaret “Maggie” Hope wants to work for the British intelligence, but as she is a woman she ends up being a typist at No. 10 Downing Street. But she has a knack for code breaking and soon she does a lot more den typing for the prime minister.

This book was OK, not fantastic to read, but enjoyable since I love historical mystery books. Maggie Hope is a good character and there were a lot of likable characters around her. I can't say that I really liked her relationship with John. For some reason, their relationship didn't click for me. The plot in this book was interesting, there is a plot to kill Winston Churchill and it doesn't take much brain work to figure at that one person around Maggie isn't who she is saying she is the question is who? There wasn't really any real twist to the story, no real aha moments. Everything unfurled nicely along the way and that was the problem, I wanted the story to be a bit more problematic, more nerve chilling, but alas, it was not to be. Still I will continue with the series. I liked the book enough to feel that I want to read more and I especially liked Winston Churchill in this book.
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Maggie Hope has come to London to sell her grandmother's house. While technically a British citizen, she has spent her life in America being raised by an aunt. When the house doesn't sell, she decides to stay and even gets a job as one of the secretaries to new Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

But 1940 London is a dangerous place to live. There are almost daily raids from the Germans as they bomb the cities. But the danger is about to get closer to home as Maggie unknowingly becomes involved in some plots. And her family's past is about to come to the surface as well. Will Maggie survive the shocks to come?

The plot of this book is very slow to get going. While there are plot threads and hints of things to come introduced early, it didn't really get going until the half way point. When it picked up, it was very hard to put down.

Even before that, the story was always engrossing. I liked Maggie and her friends, and I was drawn into the world that was being created. Even though the story was slow, I was always enjoying the book.

Another minor issue was an outburst on slavery that seemed out of place and the glowing view of homosexuals that felt more like a PC sales pitch than a true part of the story.

So if World War II is a subject that interests you, this novel will certainly entertain. Just don't expect a thrill ride from page one.
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on 8 February 2015
The author says she did lots of research, but not enough. It took me a while to get into this as I struggled to get past the little niggling things that were wrong - in May 1940 one character says she spent all her 'clothing rations' on a new hat. No one would have phrased it like that, they said 'clothing coupons', but clothes weren't rationed until 1 July 1941. The very British head of MI5 would never have described the seasons as 'summer and fall', he would have said 'summer and autumn' - I know the book is by an American author, written for a US audience, which is why I'm not complaining about words like 'sidewalk' instead of 'pavement' - the book is mostly from the point of view of an American girl, so that seems appropriate.

However, once I got into the story, it became more and more exciting and I stayed up until 1am to finish it - a great adventure, just a shame there wasn't a British editor involved to correct the historical inaccuracies.
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on 20 January 2015

This novel is set in London 1940 at the beginning of London Blitz. Maggie Hope is a UK born American immigrant with a degree in maths, who works as Winston Churchill's secretary. She lived in old Victorian house she inherited with several other girls.
Maggie Hope gets involved in code breaking and espionage while trying to track down her father.
This is a very good and easy read, fast paced and informative (I never knew about code breaking centres or types of codes used so it was interesting to read this). However, it is not a historical novel so read it if you like a good World War mystery. Also some of the phrases are really not British but the author seemed to think they are.
In summary, this was an interesting and quick read but I wish it had more of a historical element to it and considering it was about Churchill's secretary, more on Churchill himself during the war would have been nice.
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on 28 September 2014
Far too simplistic. One step above Enid Blyton. In fairness I think that it is difficult for an American writer to understand and empathize with the period in which this action took place.
Lack of background detail does not help. For example why did the IRA hate the British so much that they supported and aided the Germans.
Sorry but unimpressed. I read it because it was chosen as our Book Club read.
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