Monday, December 28, 2015

Book Review: Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal (Maggie Hope #5)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Some interesting history brought to life
Cons: Extremely weak mystery, poor characters, political lectures
The Bottom Line:
Book stumbles leaving
Very little to enjoy
Series fans only

Maggie’s Return Home is a Disappointment

I enjoy World War II history, so I wasn’t surprised by how much I’ve loved the Maggie Hope series, which features a dual American/British citizen who has been working for Britain during the early days of World War II.  I knew that Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante would find Maggie returning to America in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, and I’d been looking forward to seeing what kind of mischief she could get into here.  Unfortunately, the series’ flaws were so pronounced here that it ruined the book.

As the book opens, Maggie has rejoined the Prime Minister’s staff, ostensibly as his secretary, but with the idea that she can use her training as a spy if anything were to happen while Churchill and his entourage are in Washington DC for his meetings with new ally President Roosevelt and the two leaders work on a strategy to defeat the Axis.

And it’s a good thing that Maggie comes along, too.  The day they arrive, Mrs. Roosevelt’s personal secretary never arrives to work.  When Mrs. Roosevelt and Maggie go to her home, they find her lifeless body – an apparent suicide.  However, Maggie finds a clue that implicates the First Lady.  A scandal could disrupt the fledging alliance between the two countries and derail the war effort.  Can Maggie learn the truth?

These books have always been written in third person from multiple points of view.  At times, that has been used to help enhance the suspense as we know what the villain is up to even if Maggie is still unaware.  It has also been used to include some sub-plots that slow things down.  Sadly, that’s the case here big time.  While most of the action takes place in DC and the surrounding areas, we get a good chunk that takes place in England and even some in Germany.  Then, late in the book, a new location is introduced as well.  None of these add to the mystery at all.  They do cover some of the other historical things happening in the war effort at the time and advance a couple of supporting character’s story arcs, but they detract from the mystery.

Not that the mystery is that great either.  Between the other storylines and the scenes that are just bringing history to life, we can go pages at a time without Maggie (or us) even thinking about it.  The solution is rather abrupt as well.  I’m not saying we didn’t see it coming thanks to third person scenes from the villain’s point of view, but Maggie makes some pretty wild leaps.  Really, the mystery, the things we are supposed to be reading this book for, is a sub-plot at best behind watching history unfold.

In the last book, we got some major character development that really enhanced Maggie.  I loved watching that.  In this book?  All the characters were flat, although a few of them were annoying when they weren’t flat.  I was hoping that the awesome character growth would continue here, but it was not to be.

Finally, there are the lectures.  While there have been aspects in the past that were obviously aimed at advancing modern agendas, it was never as blatant as it was here.  The author never misses an opportunity to denounce the civil rights of the era (even saying Hitler took ideas on how to treat the Jews from segregation in the US), women’s rights, imperialism, and capital punishment.  There are a few scenes that are characters talking about these issues while other times it’s just a pointless dig here or there.  I don’t read fiction to be lectured to.  In fact, if I wanted to see pointless debates on these issues, I’d go on Facebook.  Worse yet is what these scenes do to a character I liked in previous books.  I’m not saying that things were great in America during this time period, but the blatant lectures in a book of fiction were a real turn off.

I think I’m so disappointed because I’d enjoyed the series so much and was looking forward to this new one.  Sadly, only the most diehard fans of the series need to consider reading Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante.

While I don't recommend this book, I did enjoy the earlier books in the Maggie Hope series.


  1. Oh no! I've been wanting to read this series and was thrilled when I got a copy of this one from NetGalley. I really dislike being lectured in books. Like you if I want pointless debates I'd go on Facebook! I may take a pass on this one and read the first in the series because it does sound interesting. I suspect if I start with this one I won't want to read any more.

    1. I definitely recommend the first book. In fact, I'd really been enjoying the series before this one, so that's at least four great books in the series.

    2. I liked it and think it would be a shame if you didn't read it just because of this review. Why not just give it a try?

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