Princess Elizabeth’s Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal
Author: Susan Elia MacNeal
Genre: Fiction (Historical / WWII / Monarchy / Political Conspiracy / Espionage / Wellesley Grad / Ex-Pat / War Work / Cryptography)
Publisher/Publication Date: Bantam (10/16/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: Liked a good deal!
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: Wellesley grad Maggie Hope joins MI-5 and finds herself babysitting the royal princess when one conspiracy after another forces her to use all her wiles, skills, and strengths to survive.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction
Do I like the cover?: I adore the cover -- Mick Wiggins, who does the art for all the books, is spot on with design, style, and mood.
I'm reminded of...: Carol K. Carr, Janice Law
First line: The midday summer sun in Lisbon was dazzling and harsh.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy -- this isn't quite a cozy mystery exactly although there's a personable-ness to the story that is appealing. Get this and the first book, and be excited for the next two that are coming!
Why did I get this book?: I have a thing for WWII mysteries and I was smitten with Maggie after the first Maggie Hope novel.
Review: Earlier in the month I read the first Maggie Hope novel, Mr. Churchill's Secretary, which I've grown fonder of as time has gone on; and when I dug into the second Maggie Hope novel, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, I felt that satisfying happiness of returning to a friend.
The opening scene, with the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson negotiating the British monarchy in exchange for money and a promise to help the Nazis, left my jaw on the ground. From that opening, a thread of insidiousness, betrayal, and double-cross darted through the story, and I found it a fun counterbalance to the kind of 'cozy' feel of the book.
Maggie, now no longer working for Churchill, is instead training with MI-5 as a spy, but can't cut the physicality of the work. (I was delighted by that twist because I dreaded Maggie was going to become a super spy; it was refreshing to see she wasn't perfect at everything!) Instead, she finds herself assigned to the royal family as a tutor for Princess Elizabeth, which of course, turns out to be a far less sedate assignment than she anticipated.
The book's plot is pretty action heavy, reminiscent of a James Bond story set during WWII, but I was fine with that. Some readers felt it got a little too crazy toward the end, but for me, it was the sort of almost over-the-top craziness you get from a good spy flick (I was reminded a lot of the the tv show MI-5/Spooks while reading.) Actually, my only frustration with the story was the formation of the love 'triangle', which was obvious from the first handful of pages. Probably one of my least favorite angles in a book series; I'm dreading the drawing out of it that I'm sure will happen in the third book. Otherwise, this book satisfied: drama, cute heroine, brushes with death, puzzle solving, ambiance, historical tidbits.
There were moments while reading when I thought, what does Queen Elizabeth think of all this?, and I realized I don't think I've read much historical fiction -- or any -- in which one of the historical figures, fictionalized, is still alive!
I'm definitely keen to get my hands on the next book -- as with this one, I'm eager to spend more time with Maggie. I think this is fine as a standalone but start with Mr. Churchill's Secretary first as some of the plot in this book spoils the first one.
*** *** ***
I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Princess Elizabeth’s Spy to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 11/23.