#BookReview: Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

Reviewer: Allie

secrets of a charmed lifeI received a review copy

During World War II, the English government decided to evacuate the children of London, to protect them from the brutal bombings of the Germans.  Fifteen year-old Emmy and her younger sister, Julia, are sent to a foster home in the English countryside.  Despite the fact that the girls are assigned to a loving home, Emmy is resentful of her circumstances.  At fifteen, she is only a few months shy of being an adult.  She’s eager to return to London and begin her apprenticeship will a well-known dress designer.  She can’t wait to begin her life, far away from her single mother, who Emmy suspects is supporting the family in a morally questionable way.  More than anything, Emmy wants to live a different life, one that her mother will be proud of.

Emmy comes up with a plan to return to London, so she can begin her apprenticeship.  Unfortunately, Julia stumbles upon her goodbye letter and demands that her sister take her along.  In panic and desperation, Emmy agrees.  The young girls manage to make it back to the city, on the very day that Germans begin the blitz of London.  Emmy makes a fateful mistake that separates the sisters and changes her life forever.

Seventy year later, an Oxford graduate student gets the opportunity to interview the artist Isabel Crofton for her thesis.  Isabel is a survivor of the London blitz and she tells Kendra the sister’s tale.  That’s when things get very interesting – and I cannot reveal any more, or it will spoil the book.

Obviously, this book is not your typical chick lit – but it is a fantastic and compelling read.  The character of Emmy comes alive on the pages as you read about her dreams of being a wedding dress designer and proving to her mother that she can do things the right way, the respectable way.  As is typical of most teenagers, Emmy takes everything personal – including the German blitz of London.  Damn the Nazi’s if they were going to mess up her plans.  Besides being selfish, fifteen year-olds are also very compulsive, naïve, and inexperienced, which can often be a fatal combination.

Meissner’s descriptions of the London bombings are brutally realistic, and the reader should be prepared to feel anxious.  The author’s description of the post-traumatic stress that afflicted the children of London is heartbreaking.  The question of what happened to Julia is central to the book, but the mysteries of fate and providence are what kept me enthralled.  Are the consequences of our actions, beyond our control?  This is the story about coming of age at a time when the world is falling apart, the lengths one goes to survive, and a young girl’s quest for redemption.

I highly recommend this thoughtful and engrossing read.

5 Stars

In My Mailbox: Week of February 2

second deathTitle: Second Death

Author: Emily Reese

Received: CLP Blog Tours

Synopsis: When Meghan Monroe went missing, her twin brother Mike swore to find her. The harder he looked, the less he seemed to find until he came across a book called The Collector. If his hunch is correct, his professor, Claire Wallace, holds the key to finding his sister. But no one knows better than Claire that finding Meghan might be the least of Mike’s worries.

After he ignores her warnings to go home and forget about the book, Claire must make a choice: let Mike’s discoveries lead him to certain death, or face down her own demons to help him. Knowing The Collector is much more fact than fiction, Claire must decide whether to protect the secret she has kept for eighty years, or reveal her true nature to save another girl from sharing the same dark fate.


perf5.000x8.000.inddTitle: Red Hot Blues

Author: Mickey J Corrigan

Received: CLP Blog Tours

Synopsis: Growing up in the fast lane…

Sixteen year old Telluride Marshall loves her sex kitten mother, but the woman is a thug magnet. Kittie’s love affairs always end the same—packing only what they can carry for a middle of the night escape. On the road once again, Tellie tries to warn her mom about the dangers they’ll face in the stolen hot rod with thousands of dollars belonging to Kittie’s abusive ex. But while Tellie wants to shape a different kind of life, all Kittie wants is another man. The question becomes, who does the road belong to when you’re racing down the interstate in a red hot sports car?


the trouble with st johnTitle: The Trouble with St. John

Author: Katie Bloomstrom

Received: Katie Bloomstrom

Synopsis: “After all that work and sleuthing and investment in my great detective notebook, I had nothing. In fact, the only successful thing I’ve done since stepping foot on this island was successfully believe all the lies everyone told me. Oh, I’ve also successfully been kidnapped, successfully almost drowned, and successfully eaten more Xanax than I’ve ever eaten before in my life. And in two days I’m supposed to just leave and pretend none of this ever happened. If I can even leave after being framed for murder.”

When shy, medium-looking Samantha Stone winds up on the romantic tropical island of St. John after getting dumped at the altar, she’s faced with two options: (1) sit in her sweaty villa and cry over her un-marriage to her idiot ex-fiancé while watching Love Actually on repeat and mass-eating Oreos and Xanax, or (2) pursue a hot vacation sexcapade with the gorgeous travel god she meets at baggage claim. Really, what’s a girl to do?

But, after losing both her super spendy non-diamond engagement ring and her mysterious tropical island fling candidate in the same drunken night, Sam quickly learns that St. John isn’t quite what she bargained for. In fact, she’ll be lucky if she can make it back home alive.

Join breakthrough author Katie Bloomstrom as she takes you on a journey into a picture perfect paradise filled with men, money, and mystery where nothing – and no one – is quite what it seems.


bridge to destinyTitle: Bridge to Destiny

Author: April Marie Libs

Received: Soul Mate Publishing

Synopsis: Avery Lawson’s life, once so perfect, spins out of control, not once, but twice in twelve months. Not only does she lose the only man she has ever loved, fate threatens to take her next greatest treasure, her four-year-old daughter, Hannah.

BRIDGE TO DESTINY is a heartwarming story that chronicles the struggles a single mom has to endure with her tenacious, headstrong daughter who is fighting to regain all of her motor skills from a head injury. During her daughter’s recovery, Avery stumbles into an unforeseen relationship with her neurologist, Nathan Banst, first professionally, and then personally, when she sends him an inappropriate text message after a night out drinking. Although mortified, this pushes Avery into a more personal relationship with Nathan, but is it too soon after her husband’s death?


Starting From Lost CoverTitle: Starting From Lost

Author: S.K. Wills

Received: CLP Blog Tours

Synopsis: Love is a risk. If you lose it all, would you dare to risk it twice?

Hannah Rogers is lost: cynical, insecure, and withdrawn. Skeletons forged through a bad breakup that should have been a marriage proposal. Now four years later, Hannah follows her dead-end job to the big city where her only hope is to survive the next eight months as her flirtatious boss’s personal assistant. The last thing her predictable life needs is to collide with the boy responsible for breaking her heart, or the twist of fate that sends a sexy new neighbor to awaken feelings she’s long since put to bed.

Alex Sorrento doesn’t have any room in his life for another pet project. He’s already put aside his career and his personal dreams to follow his half-sister Mackenzie to the big city. Lost in the guilt over the events that nearly took her life, he feels he owes her that much. When Mackenzie befriends the new girl on the third floor, Alex finds himself defenseless against the sizzling chemistry between them and the sadness in her eyes. Can he protect Hannah from her ex without losing his heart?

In this turbulent journey about self-discovery, forgiveness, and love, some second chances aren’t worth taking, but others have their own rewards.


secrets of a charmed lifeTitle: Secrets of a Charmed Life

Author: Susan Meissner

Received: Penguin/Random House

Synopsis: 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…