by Shirley Wetzel
As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Christine Butcher knows she can do better than her boring temp job at the Appleton’s supermarket headquarters. She performs her duties above and beyond the requirements, rising out of the herd of other workers. Her hard work pays off when Mina Appleton, daughter of the chain’s owner, asks Christine to become her personal assistant.
Mina mingles with the rich and powerful. Her face is known all over England because of her frequent appearances on television and her support of many charitable causes. Christine quickly becomes indispensable, anticipating Mina’s every need, keeping her busy life running smoothly. She becomes more than a mere secretary, joining her on international business trips, bumping elbows with the cream of society, privy to her innermost secrets. She goes so far as to believe they are friends. As the years go by, she realizes how wrong she was.
Appleton’s is a family business, started by Mina’s grandfather. It passed into the capable hands of her father, Lord Appleton. While not the largest of grocery chains, the business has a reputation for treating their suppliers with fairness and courtesy. The high quality of Appleton’s products has kept the customers coming back for decades.
Mina disagrees with what she sees as her father’s antiquated business practices. She wants to take Appleton’s into the modern world, and she’ll do anything to make sure it does. When her father starts making mistakes and serious errors, the board reluctantly forces him into retirement. Christine knows that her boss is behind the campaign to discredit Lord Appleton, but she has signed up for this ride to the top and she keeps her silence.
For twenty years she pretends she doesn’t know about the dirty tricks Mina uses to cheat the suppliers and workers who’d been loyal to her father for so long, the unethical practices she used to kill the competition, the ugly behavior in her private life. She’d sacrificed her own personal life to the demands made on her, losing most everything she held dear. Sometimes the cost of living this life, keeping all these secrets, might just drive the most devoted secretary to her limits and beyond.
THE SECRETARY is a wickedly twisted psychological thriller, a page turner, a nail-biter. The protagonist is flawed, and for much of the book she is not especially sympathetic or likable. Still, it is difficult to watch the woman gradually give up her soul to the Machiavellian, narcissistic, and soulless Mina. Highly recommended.
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