Review: Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

Posted February 16, 2015 by Lily B in Reviews / 2 Comments

Review:  Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan MeissnerSecrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner
Series: Stand-alone
Published by NAL on February 3rd 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 386
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 5 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


She stood at a crossroads, half-aware that her choice would send her down a path from which there could be no turning back. But instead of two choices, she saw only one—because it was all she really wanted to see…

Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades...beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden--one that will test her convictions and her heart.
1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, one million children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed…

The moment I saw that Susan Meissner wrote another book, I knew I had to have it. Last time I read one of her books I fell completely in love with her elegant writing and storytelling and found myself falling in love all over again. She is one of many authors that keep my interest with historical fiction alive and why I keep coming back to this genre over and over again.

The story mostly follows a 15-year-old girl Emmy Downtree, her story told by Isabel McFarland when a young scholar comes to interview the elderly woman in hopes of learning some secrets about the war. Emmy has big dreams, and all she really wants is to find love and acceptance from her mother, for her to be proud of Emmy. She loves to draw wedding dresses, so when she get’s a job at a wedding dress shop, it feels like a dream come true. When her boss informs her that she knows a man who is willing to look at Emmy’s brides and could offer her an apprenticeship, Emmy can’t believe her luck. Luck, that unfortunately soon starts to run out. When the war escalates, Emmy’s mother signs both of Emmy and her half-sister Julia to evacuate London and find refuge in the country side. What happens next changes both of the girl’s life forever…

Such an emotional, riveting tale about love, lose, hope and perseverance. I found myself glued to page after page, immersed in the fantastic storytelling by Meissner. Emmy was just a young girl who thought she was doing the right thing, who just wanted to make her dream come true. In turn she watched her entire world crumble into pieces when the blitz hit and she found herself losing everything that has ever been important to her. I don’t want to dig into the story as much as I want to talk about it more with a fear of revealing a little too much. I did find myself irritated by Emmy’s reckless behavior, I found it selfish and one-sided, but I understood that she was just a young girl who was looking to make her mother proud. In hopes that Emmy would never feel like she had ruined her mother’s life, she wanted to show her that she could do something good with hers.

I found myself in tears by the end of the book. Everything that left me with questions midway through did get answered at the end of the book. Luckily there was closure, or else I am not sure how I would have done without it. I wanted to know what became of Emmy and how she coped with the hand that was dealt to her. How she managed to get through with losing so much in so little time. Her tenacity and ambition to make things right were inspiring, so was the fact that she had a hard time giving up. The 15-year-old girl had to grow up fast during the blitz and become a strong and independent woman.

I could have just hugged this book after reading it. Enjoyed it immensely, glad I gave it a shot and hope to see more from Susan Meissner soon.

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