I am of two minds about the two Maggie Hope mysteries that I just finished reading. On the one hand, I thought that they were darned good. On the other hand, I thought that they could’ve been better. Now, that is not to say that I won’t be reading the rest of them, because I have already pre-ordered the third, and am really looking forward to the release date, which to my mind is way too far away. I expect that Ms. MacNeal’s series will only get better and better as it progresses.
Anyway, the Maggie Hope series, at this point, is two books long. The first book, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, introduces the main character, a young British woman, Maggie Hope, who has been raised in America by her aunt because both of her parents died in a car accident when she was very small. On the eve of World War II, on the heels of Winston Churchill being named Britain’s Prime Minister, Maggie delays her matriculation at MIT to go to London to sell a London house that she had recently inherited. Maggie is a very engaging character: smart, modern, and absolutely determined to succeed in a man’s world.
There are some infuriating (from the perspective of a feminist) scenes where Maggie is obviously discriminated against because she is a woman, and her reactions are probably anachronistic. Overall, though, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary is highly entertaining. There is a little bit of romance, and a lot of espionage, and the WWII London setting is fantastic. The cryptography references are well-done, and Ms. MacNeal has obviously done her homework on the time period and other historical details.
There is something inevitably addicting about a good historical mystery series, and the Maggie Hope series is no exception to this rule. I downloaded the second book directly on the heels of the first book. In some ways, I felt that this book was stronger, and it others, I felt that it was weaker. I enjoyed the mystery, and Maggie’s further character development is very convincing. She gained both confidence and competence in her new role working on behalf of England.
Occasionally, though, some of the male characters devolved into caricatures, particularly one of Maggie’s handlers, whose boorishness and misogynism was satisfying dealt with by the newly outspoken Maggie, but was a bit over the top. However, this book really moved Maggie’s story forward, and the revelations at the end of the book about her parents were riveting. I can’t wait for the sequel.
Please, please, please, though, don’t let this series get sucked into the dreaded love triangle trap. It appears to be headed in that direction.