‘Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante’ by Susan Elia MacNeal, Bantam Dell/Random House, $15, paperback
“Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante” is the fifth book in Susan Elia MacNeal’s series about Maggie Hope, a special agent for England. In this story, she travels with Winston Churchill across the pond as he negotiates wartime business with Franklin Roosevelt. When one of Mrs. Roosevelt’s aides is found dead, Maggie is asked to step in and assist the first lady to avoid a scandal.
I had never read a Maggie Hope novel before, but it is quickly apparent that she is a fearless woman who can handle herself in tough situations. She faces problems head-on in her personal and professional lives. At one point, she is involved in a dangerous mission visiting a black church likely to be attacked by protesters, while her male companion attends a party and mingles with the local wealthy families. It’s an interesting role reversal for a book set in the ’40s.
While I didn’t feel lost when I was reading “Confidante,” I did feel that I might have spoiled some key aspects of the previous books by reading them out of order. I also think the side storylines involving Maggie’s family and her relationship with her former fiance would have been more enjoyable if I had known the backstory.
Fans of historical fiction will be delighted — the book is obviously well researched and packed with factual tidbits. But MacNeal takes enough liberties to make it fun guessing what’s real and what is a product of the author’s imagination.
The portraits of Churchill, FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt and other prominent figures are particularly amusing.
Though the story takes place in wartime, there still are modern elements to it — one of Maggie’s traveling companions is gay, and she readily accepts this. And themes of the book involving racial tension still resonate today.
Admirers of strong women will find a heroine to root for in Maggie Hope.