Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

About the Book:
The author of A Fall of Marigolds journeys from the present day to World War II England, as two sisters are separated by the chaos of wartime ...

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, hundreds of thousands of 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.…
My Thoughts:
I've read some of Susan's novels, and I've always enjoyed them.  But the historical genre is not my favorite, so it's unusual that I will request a copy to read.
When I was offered the opportunity to read an advance copy of "Secrets of a Charmed Life" I must admit....it was the cover that drew me in.  Kudos to the designers!  But then I opened the book, and I was swept away.
"Secrets of a Charmed Life" reminded me why I love to read.  The story takes place during the reign of Adolf Hitler, and is set in England.  I've studied World War II many times, but place fictional characters in the midst of the Blitz and history comes alive.
I cannot fathom the fear and the pain one must face when life is so uncertain and dangerous that you must send your children away to live in safety.  Reading about the mass exodus of England's children was mind boggling, to say the least.
And I felt every bit of Emmy's resentment at being shipped off to the countryside and to strangers.  To be almost at the age of adulthood and yet treated like a child had to be maddening for her.  But when she made her pivotal choice I wanted to reach into the story and grab her, stop her from making that devastating choice.
This book is so well written that you'll be reading, then look up and be shocked to see that you are in 2015 and not in war torn England.  You'll feel the bombs as they hit, choke on the dust and debris, and feel the losses that come from that devastation.
Susan isn't an author in this instance.  Instead, she is an artist, creating a masterpiece of fiction that had me riveted from start to finish.  My only issue were the final chapters.  I enjoyed the storytelling within the story so much, that to be left reading letter after letter did slow down the book.  But that is such a minor quibble.
"Secrets of a Charmed Life" releases today, so get your copy soon.  You won't regret it.  My thanks to Susan for allowing me to be a part of her Dream Team in exchange for my honest review.  This one is highly recommended, and "Secrets of a Charmed Life" is a book I will read again!
Happy Reading!



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