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4.1 out of 5 stars
Princess Elizabeth's Spy: A Maggie Hope Mystery
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
I liked the premise of this book, but I could never really get into it. Every time the plot started to get interesting, I stumbled across something impossible like stores open on Sundays in Britain in the 1940s. Editing was terrible; there were sequences where days of the week and even entire years were confused. The main character alternates between a plausible 1940s character and a 21st century woman who has time traveled back to WWII. Every few chapters there is a public service announcement for the value of mathematics for women, starring the future Queen Elizabeth.

If you want a good accurate mystery set in England during World War II, try the television series Foyle's War.
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42 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
It is always interesting to me to imagine how real life historic figures, or even fictional characters, reacted to the momentous circumstances around them. In the best of these genres we are treated to plausible situations and multi-dimensional characters. The plots are creative and if they require a bit of suspension of disbelief, that is just part of the fun. I am thinking especially of Laurie King's Holmes and Russell series, the Maisie Dobbs novels, Charles Todd and Anne Perry, among others. Best of all, in these works the writing is excellent; clear, insightful, descriptive prose that is free of cliches and well edited.

This series started promisingly, if a little on the predictable side, with "Mr. Churchill's Secretary". The cover art is great, which usually indicates a real investment on the part of the publisher. As a rule, they won't waste that kind of investment on junk. So it wasn't in the same league as King, Winspear and Perry. It was still diverting.

Then came "Princess Elizabeth's Spy". It plods along predictably for awhile, not horrendous but certainly not very good either. But I stuck with it. The scene arrives where the Princesses are putting on their Christmas pantomime when BANG! shots ring out. Wait, shots ring out?!?! Are you kidding me? The King is shot?!? Never happened and reality is all down hill from there.

You can put disclaimers all over something that it is fiction, as they do here, but to make up such extreme events is just infuriating. I will not go into detail to avoid more spoilers. But the end of this book is so ridiculous I would not have been surprised if the author had thrown in that little green men from Mars had intervened and ended WW II. That is how plausible her actual scenario is. As far as I am concerned, this was pure laziness. It takes work to fit a fictional story into history. It takes no work at all to ignore history and make up your own to fit your plot.

I always hesitate to give a bad review, mostly because at least that author has done more than me and has actually gotten something published. But this is out and out preposterous junk and, for me at least, was not worth the money.

Too many characters, too many coincidences, plots that are unlikely can be forgiven when you know what you are getting into. There is nothing wrong with pure escapism and many of these lesser books are fine for that. But to literally rewrite history is going too far for me, especially when the book is not so great in the first place. This was a waste of time and money.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 11, 2012
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeil was so very good there is no way that I can write a review to do it justice. It is the perfect marriage of historical fiction of World II and a delectable mystery. I loved peeking in the Prime Minister's life and the future Queen Elizabeth's. Each time that I sat down with this book, I knew I would that I would be entertained and learn some history at the same time.

The book even has a little bit devoted to reading codes and some history behind them. I have alwayed loved to read about code breaking and the necessary secrecy surrounding it.

Maggie Hope, the main character has been in a previous book; Mr. Churchill's Secretary and will be in a future book, His Majesty's Hope. I want to read all the Maggie Hope books. She is strong, spunky, sharp at math and human. She has been assigned to be math tutor to Princess Elizabeth publicly but also to be a sponge for what is going on in Windsor castle. She makes mistakes but really shines in crisis.

Windsor Castle with its underground tunnels is vividly described as are all the characters in this book. You can bet that this castle is now on my list of what I want to see when I finally go to the U.K.

Princess Elizabeth's Spy was a perfect dip into history. Susan Elia MacNeil makes the Princesses Lillibet(short for Elizabeth) and Margaret seem so real, mischievous, have a great sense of humor and already possess a stiff upper lip. Even the controversial Duke and Duchess of Windsor were in this book.

I highly recommend this enchanting book to all historical fiction and mystery fans.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
After reading the first book in this series, I was excited to pick up the second. I expected a enjoyable, if not particularly historically accurate, novel and that is what I got. The characters are fun, the insights into life in WWII England interesting, and the code-breaking tidbits intriguing. All was well until the entire sub-plot regarding Maggie's parents started to emerge- as a fan of the TV show Alias, I was shocked to discover the wholesale use of the entire plotline about Sydney's parents. Even the lines that Hugh utters about a wall of poppies are lifted from Vaughn's speech to Sydney about the wall of stars at the CIA. This was no small similarity in circumstances- this is essentially lifting the plot of several Alias episodes and just changing the names of the characters!

I was deeply disappointed by this lack of originality and it undermined my enjoyment of the novel as a whole. If I were not a fan of Alias, I would have given this book four stars, but knowing how a central plot element was shamelessly stolen from the TV series, I'm only giving it one star because that is as low as I can go.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The four star average review is inexplicable to me. The plot is both risible and predictable, the style is monotonous and simplistic - it reads like a Creative Writing class assignment - all telling, no showing. The dialogue is full of historical exposition - people who would already know something explain it to someone else who would already know it for the sole intent of giving the reader some historical background (and it's not always accurate either). The heroine is unlikeable but apparently irresistible to everyone else, man or woman none of whom can resist telling her everything they know and trust her immediately with really private information. She went years believing she had no parents and by the end of this book, can you guess how many she now has...? The love of her life spends most of the book missing presumed dead and she is griefstricken but the minute she is told to accept that he must be dead, she is ready to jump into bed with another man. And would you believe it? It's apparent from the first chapter of the next book in the series (which is provided at the end of this one) that he is alive after all! Wow! What an unexpected plot twist! Just awful.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I read the first book in this series and liked it. Ths one is just dreadful. The writing is atrocious. The author thanks several editors, but I fail to see why, since there was no ediing. It reads like a very rough first draft, and not very well done at that. If an author can't be bothered to keep track of their own plot, why should we bother to read the book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I bought this book from a B&N store, but they didn't have the first book, so I bought that one on Amazon, and I really enjoyed it. Then I read this one. What a let down of bad research and a compeltely plagiarized plot.

Well. If you loved Alias, as I did, you will LOVE this book. And that's because it's exactly the same. *Looks around nervously and whispers*... EXACTLY the same.

In 2001 a fantastic new TV show was launched following a grad student CIA spy (Sydney Bristow) through her adventures with her friends and her family and of course her work.
In 2012 Susan Elia MacNeal wrote a book set during WWII about a young grad student MI5 spy (Maggie Hope), and Princess Elizabeth's Spy takes the reader through her adventures with her family, friends and work.

Sydney has a father she barely knows who is also a spy, and a mother tragically killed in a car crash.
Maggie has a father she barely knows who is also a spy, and a mother tragically killed in a car crash.

Sydney has a fiancé who was tragically killed.
Maggie has a boyfriend, whose proposal she turned down, tragically killed.

Sydney has a hot, young Michael Vaughn as her new handler.
Maggie has a hot, young Hugh Thompson as her new handler.

When her bosses realize how important Sydney is, they assign a new `more experienced' dick of a handler.
When her bosses realize how important Maggie is, they assign a new `more experienced' dick of a handler.

Sydney threatens not to hand over important information unless Michael is her handler again.
Maggie threatens not to hand over important information unless Hugh is her handler again.

Michael is Sydney's handler again!
Hugh is Maggie's handler again!

Sydney goes to meet her father for dinner to discuss their past and her mother, but her father never shows. Michael consoles her.
Maggie goes to meet her father for dinner to discuss their past and her mother, but her father never shows. Hugh consoles her.

Sydney finds a code written in a book that her father had bought for her mother in Russia, cementing her idea that her father might be a double agent working for the enemy.
Maggie finds a code written in a book that her father had bought for her mother in Germany, cementing her idea that her father might be a double agent working for the enemy.

Sydney investigates and discovers that an agent was tasked with investigating her father, and was killed in the same auto-accident as her own mother. She suspects that he was really killed by her father.
Maggie investigates and discovers that an agent was tasked with investigating her father, and was killed in the same auto-accident as her own mother. She suspects that he was really killed by her father.
(in Alias, the agent who followed her father was Michael's father. In Princess Elizabeth's Spy, Hugh's father was on a hit list revealed by the code in the books. So essentially both Michael's and Hugh's fathers were killed by Sydney/Maggie's fathers.)

Michael's affable best friend at the office tells him that if he's beginning to have feelings for Sydney, he must break it off with his current girlfriend. He agrees, and does.
Hugh's affable best friend at the office tells him that if he's beginning to have feelings for Maggie, he must break it off with his current girlfriend. He agrees, and does.

Michael talks movingly about all the stars on the wall of the CIA representing people who had given their lives for their country, and that they'll never be forgotten.
Hugh talks movingly about all the poppies on the wall of MI5 representing people who had given their lives for their country, and that they'll never be forgotten.

In a big meeting, with all the big cheeses at the CIA, AND her father, Sydney is told that her mother is not in fact dead, that it was SHE who was the agent for the enemy and who had killed the other agents, including Michael's father.
In a big meeting, with all the big cheeses at MI5, AND her father, Maggie is told that her mother is not in fact dead, that it was SHE who was the agent for the enemy and who had killed the other agents, including Hugh's father.

There are hints that Sydney may have a half-sister who she will need to track down.
There are hints that Maggie may have a half-sister who she will need to track down.

There were many other instances, to include dialogue, that seemed to have been lifted directly from Alias. There were also HUGE plot issues and problems with the author not understanding the times in London. But they pale into comparison to the plagiarism here. It's a huge shame, because the first book was a lot of fun.

I've just read some Goodreads reviews for this book, and people are claiming she took the murder and detective parts directly from Foyles War, and large aspects of Susan Isaac's novel Shining Through (also a movie) in her next book, Her Majesty's Hope. I'm beginning to think that her deadlines came quicker than her ideas did.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2014
Format: Paperback
One reviewer said it was full of "jarring anachronisms," and they couldn't have been more correct.

But the most jarring thing to me was how much of this book's seemed to have been copied. Roughly the first half of the book revolved around the same plot as "The German Wife" episode from Foyle's War. An English noble is decapitated while out riding because of her German heritage? Sounded familiar. It was even more obvious when the Detective Chief Superintendent came to investigate--a man described as a World War I veteran who had at first tried to serve his country during World War II, only to find that it was more important than ever to uphold law and order while the war raged on. And his son served in the military. Sound familiar yet? The details about the DCI were unimportant--seemingly had zero impact on the story--other than to make the copying of Foyle more overt.

If that wasn't enough, the author then ripped off Alias. I could hardly believe it. In a matter of a few paragraphs, the protagonist discovers her father was suspected of being a double agent and accidentally caused the death of her mother in a car accident with his MI5 pursuer. There's more, but at this point, I started feeling righteous indignation towards the author. So much of the plot was brazenly stolen from elsewhere--it's almost too incredible to believe.

The rest of the parts between the "borrowed" segments? Anachronisms. Plot inconsistencies. Predictable romance--seemingly out of nowhere. The first half of the book, the protagonist loses her almost-fiance. The second half of the book, she's falling for her handler. ("Alias" knock-offs abound here.)

I suspect that because so much of the creativity behind this book was borrowed, that it might be the reason that the important plot points were rushed through. Some scenes went by quickly, without foreshadowing or character consistency. Gregory and David's chemistry came out of nowhere, and while some scenes lingered on long conversations with the 14-year-old princess, and Maggie's confrontation with her handler of only-a-few-pages---major plot points like MURDER, and ESPIONAGE, and the KING'S ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT--literally fly by.

Oh, yes, you read that right. The King of England is shot. Cause apparently "historical fiction" means "not remotely based in historical reality."
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon October 9, 2012
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have been looking forward to reading this sequel since I finished Mr. Churchill's Secretary, and I was not disappointed. With a skillful combination of evocative writing and detailed research, author Susan Elia MacNeal transports the reader into WWII Windsor Castle where antiquated dungeons now serve as air raid shelters for the royal family and staff. Using a knack for calculation and codes to do her part for the war effort, Maggie Hope is the same sensible, quietly passionate character she was in the last book, but she's now battling Hitler undercover as Princess Elizabeth's math tutor. Her real mission is to protect the princess and prevent the Nazi's from maneuvering her uncle, the former King Edward VIII, back onto the throne.

Maggie Hope is my favorite kind of character. Her brains, determination and good intentions coexist with human emotions and flaws in judgment, so she's no superhero. In spite of her lack of god-like prowess, author NacNeal doesn't cut Maggie any breaks. In order to do her job Maggie ends up deep in a heart-stopping predicament that will have tragic consequences and appears impossible to solve until Maggie figures out a potential but dangerous solution. Maggie is also dealing with uncertainty and heartache because her not-quite fiancée is missing in action and presumed but not known to be dead. Still, life goes on, and the British stiff upper lip means the characters manage to find joy, pride and pleasure even in unlikely circumstances. Along the way Maggie discovers some startling new information about her parents, we're set up to learn more about this in the next book, and the reader discovers that even as a young girl Elizabeth has a thing for those cute but snappy short-legged Welsh corgis.

I believe Princess Elizabeth's Spy could be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, but its predecessor provides more background and is wonderful reading itself so I'd recommend starting there.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 10, 2012
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Maggie Hope is at it again. In Mr. Churchill's Secretary, Susan Elia MacNeal's first book about spies and skullduggery in London in the 1940s, Maggie was a secretary for Prime Minister Winston Churchill -- and wound up solving a thorny set of murders. The second book in what promises to be a continuing series brings her to Windsor Castle, where Maggie -- who, unlike most women of her time, is openly proud of her prowess in math -- has been "planted" by the government to tutor the young Princess Elizabeth in "maths." Of course, Maggie's real purpose is to ferret out one or more Nazi spies who are believed to be working in the castle. War has begun, London is being bombed and talk of a German invasion is all around. A German sub is lurking off the coast.

MacNeal has done her research, and the royal family and some of its retainers are fully fleshed-out amid the fictional characters. Elizabeth, who's 14, already is starry-eyed over Philip Mountbatten, her future husband, and her younger sister Margaret is full of the mischief that caused her problems in later life. I found it a little strange to be reading about the current "granny" queen as a young girl, but that made the story all the more interesting. Also interesting were the details about the castle itself, a royal rabbit warren of rooms, hallways and underground tunnels. There's also a glimpse into the rigid etiquette required of those at the castle -- etiquette that Maggie flouts on occasion.

I enjoyed this novel just a bit less than the first one, perhaps because war has begun and everything is much more serious now. Also, several developments have taken place between the events of the two books that I think are too quickly glossed over. Some of the action is a bit over the top for me, though I suppose it could have happened just that way. But the characters are lively and engaging, and the book was a fast read.

The third installment, "Hitler's Nightingale," is being written, and it might just land Maggie behind enemy lines in Germany. An excerpt will be published in the current book.
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