The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal

I’ve had a little more time on my hands to read these days, but I still have trouble concentrating, so it’s hit and miss. I had this ebook for three weeks before I actually started reading it, and I really only did so because I was going to have to return it to the library.

This book isn’t as heavy as the previous one, taking place mostly in rural Scotland. Maggie is trying to heal from her ordeal in Berlin and suffers from PTSD while working to train the next group of SOE recruits. She gets caught up in another mission when she goes to visit her friend Sarah (the ballerina) who is performing in Edinburgh with the Vic-Wells ballet. The main plot wraps about about 70% through the book and you’re left wondering why it continues.

There’s also WAY TOO MUCH fanfic about the intelligence breakdown that led to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. With the exception of setting up the next book (Maggie goes to America), it had ZERO to do with Maggie’s plot and I just didn’t care. It felt like padding because the Maggie plot was pretty thin.

Maggie’s RAF ex boyfriend reappears, and it seems like they are moving towards a reconciliation. Hopefully, if that’s the case, the author will show us why we should root for them because so far, everything about their “romance” has happened off screen. We also get an update on Hugh, but he doesn’t appear, so I’m not hopeful she’ll reconnect with him.

I was happy to return to this universe, though it was a little hard to get into the WWII mindset with all of the craziness happening in this country this weekend. I’ve got the next “I Heart” book from the library, so I hope that will be a nice distraction from …. *gestures at everything.*

His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal

15784968This one was rough. Like anything that’s set in Nazi Germany, it obviously wasn’t going to be fun and games, but damn, it was hard to read about nonetheless. We also get know more of Maggie’s family, including her little sister Elise, who finds out just how terrible the Nazis can be, even though her mother is high up in the party. This book also moved the series more into thriller territory than I was prepared for, almost from the word go. Like you know, Maggie’s going to be okay because there’s like six more books, but she’s in danger from the start IN NAZI GERMANY, so it’s pretty tense most of the time.

Maggie comes through her mission (which doesn’t turn out anything like it was supposed to), but she’s damaged by what she’s seen. It’s kinda like the first two books were early season Covert Affairs where Annie flirts with Eyal and goes on vacation with her sister, but this book took it to last season CA where Annie goes rogue, kills more, everything is generally dark and twisty (to borrow from another show I watch). Maggie returns to London, leaving in the bullet that threatened her life (even though literally EVERYONE tells her to have it removed – and I’m not even sure how they fixed the internal damage without removing it in the first place) and just lost about the war, her place in it, what she’s done, and how to live her life. She ends up slogging back to Scotland to train spies (which doesn’t sounds like a good move for her or the newbies, but whatever).

There was more love triangle nonsense once Maggie got back to London, but I’m hopeful that now her “first love” has shown his true colors, she can move on, even if it’s not with my first choice for her. There’s more family drama in the offing with Edmund and Clara meeting again for the first time since Clara showed her true colors in the first World War. Her mom sucks, but given how this book ends, she seems here to stay.

Given that I need to finish a book every three days in order to make my goal, I’m taking a break from this series and hopping on the Lindsay Kelk train for a little bit. And maybe I’ll finally get myself to finish Michelle Obama’s book as well.

Princess Elizabeth’s Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

As per usual, I’m behind on my catch-up plan for reading all 24 books this year, but I’m ahead of last year, so I KPO (as Maggie Hope would say!).

13330549I liked this mystery a lot better than the first book, and I don’t think it’s just because it features royals. It started out a little tiresome with yet MORE secrets being kept from our heroine and some “all-knowing” man thinking it’s for the best to keep her in the dark, but hopefully, we’ve reached the end of Maggie’s crazy family secrets and she can now just do her awesome job.

It was fun to see “behind the scenes” at the British version of “The Farm” (which I mainly know about because of watching Covert Affairs!) in the 1940s, even if Maggie was NOT having a good time there. Loved how she got placed at Windsor Castle (and having been there, it was fun to be able to really picture it as described) and got to know the little Princesses. Maggie’s spycraft leaves a little to be desired, but it did feel more realistic that she didn’t always know the right clues to follow.

There was a LOT of off-stage romance that left me a little cold; we return to Maggie’s story with John having proposed to her after he’s joined the RAF, she says no because she’s mad he joined up and then his plane is shot down over Germany. “Missing, presumed dead.” Obviously, no one seems to stay dead in these books, but since it didn’t really feel like she liked him all that much, much less loved him in the first book, it felt odd to have her pining over his marriage proposal for much of the book. She had a LOT more chemistry with her handler, Hugh, and their romance seemed to develop more organically. Of course, nothing can be easy in this universe, so I foresee some major complications ahead, but I’m rooting for Maggie and Hugh!

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

10161216A colleague suggested this book series to me some time ago, and I’ve actually gotten it from the library a couple of times without really getting into it before it had to go back. I finally got it through Libby last week and jumped in as part of my effort to finish my 2019 reading challenge.

There were a few too many characters introduced at once, which made it hard to keep everyone straight at first, but I loved the setting of London during WWII. Maggie Hope is a compelling protagonist, though her familial struggles were a bit much for one novel, given everything else that was going on. (I really could have done without the vague letters from her aunt about how things were for Maggie’s own good.)

I didn’t totally buy the romance as it felt shoehorned in because there had to be a romance, but I did love her friendships with the others in the office. I loved the way everything resolved and set up Maggie’s new trajectory in service to her country. It didn’t feel totally earned that everyone was protecting her instead of just being misogynist jerks about a woman’s place in the workplace, but I’ll take it.

I’ve already downloaded the next book in the series (there are 8 so far, with a ninth coming in February 2020), so I’m looking forward to catching up with Maggie and seeing what happens next.

The Summer Country by Lauren Willig

Reading two novels with racism themes running through them back-to-back was a bad idea, since I put a pin in writing this entry for two months. Oops!

42653795I’m usually a huge fan of Lauren Willig’s standalone novels, but this one was tough. Set in the Caribbean and told partly in flashbacks, it was hard to keep everyone straight – who exists in which time period, who is European and native, etc. But it’s clear that most of the characters suck, which is to be expected when it comes to white people and the exploitation of black people on sugar plantations.

I started out reading this in hardcover, but never wanted to bring the book with me anywhere, so I borrowed an ebook from the library. It was a lot easier to pick up on my Kindle app on my phone for a few pages at a time (though perhaps this contributed to my confusion about who and when things were happening. I did like a bit of the open-ended ending, but at that point, I was so confused and upset that I was mostly happy the book was over.