I didn’t start this book expecting the best book of the century, but I was disappointed that it wasn’t even a good bad book. Macneal apparently did a great deal of research for the novel, but that research feels oddly absent from the book itself and the end product is vague and the writing without character, like the book has been edited too many times.
While ostensibly a Strong Female Character (which I love), protagonist Maggie Hope is unsympathetic and unlikeable and her cast of friends indistinguishable from one another. Even the love story – the most interesting part of the whole novel – was anticlimactic. I stopped reading the book twice and only finished it so I could add it to my “read list”. By all rights, the story should have been interesting – London, spies, love, mystery – but it was as bland as the writing itself.
Title: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary
Author: Susan Elia Macneal
Publisher: Bantam Books
Rating: 3/5 (Goodreads rating, for comparison: 3.66/5)
The best feature of the book: It’s a quick read if it keeps your interest long enough.
The worst feature of the book: Vague and unsatisfying prose and characters and a plot that strains suspension of disbelief.
Trigger warnings: Violence, war, torture.
You’ll like this if… You like glib mysteries or if you’re looking for a less-than-rosy beach read.