Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Maggie Hope

Last summer I attended a series of literacy education workshops, which actually was a lot more fun than this sentence makes it sound.  My  favorite workshop was about teaching kids to love reading.  The presenter began her session with just getting us to recommend books.  Everyone shared what books they were reading.  Being a hoarder of recommendations, I wrote them all down and have been working my way through the list for the past year.  One of the books recommended, Mr. Churchill's Secretary, was particularly intriguing to me because it incorporated two of my favorite things: Great Britain and history. 

 About a month or so, I finally got the book started - and finished it in 24 hours flat.  I then immediately went to the library, turned it in, and got the second book in the series, Princess Elizabeth's Spy.  That one took me two or three days simply because I chose to do silly things like feed my children and sleep.  As soon as I inhaled that one, I went back to the library for #3 in the series, His Majesty's Hope.  Locked myself in my room for an entire Sunday afternoon to finish that one.  The next book in the series, The Prime Minister's Secret Agent, comes out in July, and only my training as a Sherlock fan is keeping my afloat until it comes out. 

I have, quite frankly, fallen in literary love with the young, talented and beautiful heroine named Maggie Hope. 

Maggie Hope is a 1940s British citizen who, because of the tragic death of her parents, was raised in American by her aunt.  As was preparing to begin work on her doctorate in mathematics, her English grandmother died and left her an Edwardian house and a whole lot of paperwork to deal with, so off Maggie went to England...where she was swept up in the fervor of pre-war Britain and decided to stay on indefinitely.  As the bombs begin to fall all around her, she secures a job as a secretary at No. 10 Downing Street, and suddenly her life blossoms out into a world of spies and codes and secrecy.  Not only that, but she soon discovers that nothing she has ever believed about her family is precisely the truth, and as she seeks out what really happened to her family, she finds herself in the middle of a web of intrigue that only her brilliant brains can her help her make sense of it all. 

Susan MacNeal has created a wonderful female character that the reader feels like that could sit down and be friends with.  Maggie is smart, funny, doesn't take anything from anyone, and is an entirely likable character.  What's more, MacNeal manages to write a fantastic plot that keeps you guessing clear till the end of the book.  During all three books, there were times I was sure I had it all figured out, only to be completely fooled.  MacNeal also managed to weave in true historical figures without being campy or disrespectful at all, and her research on the time period in question is very well done.  She examines different aspects of war, the culture of 1940s Britain, what was really going on in Germany at the time - all while keeping you enthralled in a mystery thriller that makes it impossible to go to sleep before you finish the book.  Trust me. I tried. 

On a side note, because I like to give my readers the whole picture, I will state for the record that the book is of the PG-13 variety.  There are a few instances of language, violence, and sex scattered throughout the series, and I certainly don't agree with all the life choices of Maggie and her friends.  That being said, the series is still quite enjoyable, and I don't have to agree with everyone in order to enjoy their story. 

Maggie Hope was worth my time checking out.  If you like history, mystery and fast reads, she'll be worth your time as well. 
Reading now: A Higher Call by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander
1. The Queen's Man by Sharon Kay Penman
2. Follow the River by James Alexander
3. Lost in Translation Volume 1 by John Klein and Adam Spears
4. Four Blood Moons by John Hagee
5. The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George

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