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Secrets of a Charmed Life

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  44,435 ratings  ·  5,028 reviews
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 th
Paperback, 386 pages
Published February 3rd 2015 by NAL
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Susan Meissner I would say anyone from age 15 or so on up would be able to handle the war time themes and the complexities of the human relationships inside the page…moreI would say anyone from age 15 or so on up would be able to handle the war time themes and the complexities of the human relationships inside the pages. (less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Beth I think Emmy was more concerned on hiding from her mistakes she made before she assumed the name of Isabel. I also think she believed her sister too y…moreI think Emmy was more concerned on hiding from her mistakes she made before she assumed the name of Isabel. I also think she believed her sister too young and helpless to search for Emmy.(less)

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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  44,435 ratings  ·  5,028 reviews

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Oct 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book ALMOST made my list of best books I've ever read. I've rarely been so swallowed up in a story since I was ten and read the Little House series. Susan did a masterful job of making me care about Emmy and Julia and then, well, stringing me along on a horrific ride through the London Blitz.

And then. And then we came to the last section of the book presented as journal entries and although there was no way I was going to quit reading at that point, the story lost its momentum. I no longer
Jul 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a tragic story of a girl during wartime in London. She has talent as a dressmaker/designer and unfortunately makes bad decisions while chasing her dream. I loved Charlotte (the foster mom) she was a lovely character. This is kinda a depressing book, so I’d avoid reading it on a sunny day! 😎
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
It was 4 stars until some things got on my nerves.
Feb 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved it! I really appreciate the fact that Meissner didn't feel the need to create a complicated "present" story... the past took center stage. Wonderfully and descripitively written to where I felt compelled to Youtube videos from the "Blitz". Must have been a truely terrifying time to be a Londoner. I look very forward to reading more by Meissner. 4.5 stars.
Fiona Sheppard
Feb 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
Only just started this book but it is already irritating me! With alls it's talk of 'sidewalks' and putting their foot on the 'gas' when referring to the accelerator in a car. I keep expecting to find out that the main protagonists are recent American immigrants . If you are going to write a book about the Blitz in London from an English perspective and expect English readers to take it seriously little things like this are important. I keep waiting for the next gaff ( mistake ).
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
"Fear is worse than pain, I think. Pain is centralized, identifiable, and wanes as you wait. Fear is a heaviness you can't wriggle out from under. You must simply find the will to stand with it and start walking. Fear does not start to fade until you take the step that you think you can't."

This is a relatively simple story of ordinary people during an extraordinary time, but is complex in its development. It is the story of how one decision can change your entire life.

I think I often fall into
Jun 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
American authors should really just stick to American fiction. This story reads like a modern American teenager throwing hussy fits when nothing goes her way, only in a Blitz setting. The disconnect between history and character reaction is gaping. Just think, this is similar to a blend of High School Musical and the SS marching down the street in the same plot. It's disconcerting to say the least. Not the least concession was made to the fact that this book was not set in the modern US.

I might
Tara Chevrestt
I love being shocked, being forced to think, and becoming completely engrossed in someone else's story. This book certainly didn't disappoint. I was sucked in by the engaging narrative. I was left in suspense as to the ending. I was forced to think hard on the issue it tackles: blame. Notably blaming oneself for things out of one's control.

And this was a good lesson for me right now.

The lowdown: It's London, WWII; the actual focus is what happens during the Blitz. Though the story delves into th
Katie B
I have had my eye on this book for awhile not only because the premise sounded like something right up my alley, but also because I really love the book cover. After I read and enjoyed the author's latest book, The Last Year of the War, I quickly added my name to my library's wait list for this one. Even though I have rated both books at 4 stars, I do think this book was slightly better.

American Kendra Van Zant is studying in England when she is given the opportunity to interview an elderly woma
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I received this book through a goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this story! I thought it was beautiful in a simple way but still left an impact on me. I just cannot imagine going through something like the London Blitz in WWII. Such a sad and devastating time. This book made me feel like I was there going through it with Emmy. I could feel her loss and hopelessness. I could feel her desire to prove herself and to shed herself after losing so much. Emmy's story was wond
Mar 01, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: the-book-dump
Warning: If you get irritated by "prudish" reviews, stop now. You won't enjoy this one.

I feel very disappointed right now. Susan Meissner has a way with words and I was immediately swept away by her beautiful prose and fully developed characters. I started to get a bit uneasy when the Lord's name was taken in vain a couple of times, but thought it surely would be a rare occurrence and I could press on. Meissner is a Christian author after all. Then I realized that the book really didn't contain
Retired Reader
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Whyyyyyy did I wait so long to read this book?! It is an excellent, beautifully written novel of two sisters who are tragically affected by the World War II bombings of London. Emmy is a strong female character who has lofty dreams, and we see her mature into a woman on a quest to make up for regrets. Julia is the younger sister who lives with different regrets and is deeply affected by what occurs in London. I had a lump in my throat for the entire last part (of 3). Many life lessons can be lea ...more
Mar 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
I deeply appreciate writers who tackle historical fiction and mean Ms. Meissner no disrespect. I truly wished to read a good story about War Time London but this poorly crafted story simply did not deliver.Perhaps it would have worked if it was listed as Juvenile Fiction? As an adult consumer I was annoyed by this poorly constructed story. At every twist and turn the plot was advanced through the use of transparent props. The blitz has happened; Winter is coming, Emily needs a warm coat; oh my t ...more
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an exceptional book that mostly takes place in London, during the Blitz. So many historical fiction WWII books take place in Europe, but this one has the reader experiencing the Blitz in London almost first hand.

As is usual today, the story takes place in two time periods: the present day when an American scholar, Kendra Van Zant, sets out to interview an elderly famous artist, Isabel MacFarland; and in 1940s England, where two sisters, Emmy and Julia Downtree are sent into the English
Sherri Thacker
Loved this story from the beginning to the end!! Susan Meissner sure can tell a great story and make it seem
So real!!
Quite the enthralling story!!!!

We make our choices - you and I - in a world that isn't perfect. And while I wish I had made different choices, as I know you do, which one of us can say that if we had, nothing bad would have ever happened to the people we love?"

A story of mothers and daughters and sisters, uniting and colliding within the volatile realities of war - real and imagined wars. And so much more: shattered dreams, burning hope, love, loss, grief, solitude, redemption, and restoratio
Mar 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sara by: Carolee
3.5 stars rounded up.

This tale of two sisters, Emmy and Julia Downtree, takes place during the days of World War II when London was under the Blitz and children were evacuated out of the city into the countryside. It is a story of misconception, too many assumptions, too many actions without enough forethought to avoid dire consequences and the grief that comes from making a mistake you feel you can never rectify.

Throughout the story you want to scream at Emmy, “don’t do that” or “think about wh
Aug 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to TL by: birthday present from my friend Shaun
3.5 stars :) *Some editing, more thoughts on the story*

This is inspirational fiction but it doesn't feel preachy, it's just a lovely story... I normally don't read much of this genre (nothing against it, just doesn't cross my radar very often) but the synopsis had caught my eye and (thanks to Kate Morton, I love these kinds of stories) I was eager to read it... dove into it without reading any reviews.

Thanks again to my friend Shaun for gifting me this for Christmas :).

It starts off slow, buildi
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Slow to start but interesting to read as the story unravels. Secrets of a Charmed Life is a beautiful historical fiction full of joy, heartache, surprises, tension, and sadness. The author captures WWII in England and the evacuated children well. Highly recommended if you like to read WWII historical fiction books about sisterly love and how fate can change lives. This will definitely not be my last Meissner book!
Mar 12, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Could not get past the first few pages. Tedious, excessive references to irrelevant details (i.e. scenery). Predictable and cliche descriptions (i.e. English cottage). And really? They scheduled her interview with the lady on the same day as her 93rd birthday party? How realistic is that? Well, just as realistic as everything else I read the first few pages....not at all. I'm all for running away, fantasy, a perfectly dreamy world to escape to, etc. But this is just too much.
May 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What an awesome journey Meissner takes us on!!! I love to learn history while submerged in a story full of events and characters that touch my emotions! Highly recommend!!
Colleen Chi-Girl
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
5 STARS! I finished Lilac Girls just before the audio for Meissner's historical novel became available and was concerned I wouldn't enjoy another WWII theme back to back, especially since Lilac Girls didn't rock my boat. Historical fiction is something I immerse myself in and take seriously. But no fear, I was sold in the first ten minutes. What grabbed me quickly were: the female narrator has a clear and easy voice, with a nice cadence - always important in an audio; also the book's beginning g ...more
Feb 06, 2015 marked it as dnf
DNF @ 42%

Dynamically annoying sisters.
Flat plot.
Lack of historical atmosphere.
Mlpmom (Book Reviewer)
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle-books
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved Susan's last book, Fall Of Marigolds, & this one is every bit as good. She writes 2 story lines, one from the past, and one present day. I always favor the historical story, and was so glad this focused on the WW2 tale of Emmy and Julia, 2 sisters who were separated during the bombings on London by Germany. The only minor thing I wasn't fond of was the 3rd part told by Julia in letter form. If you are a historical fiction fan, this should be on your list to read soon! I look forward to h ...more
Lily (Night Owl Book Cafe)
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 in
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Oh how I loved this book about a young London woman (girl) during the Blitz. The author does such a fantastic job describing the complete incongruity of the situation, set against Emmy's idealistic nature. And the theme of sisterhood- wow. I was completely enchanted from the first page. Highly, highly recommended.
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Once I picked this book up I couldn't put it back down.
The characters were easy to love and to feel their pain.
Historical fiction at its best.
Highly recommended.
Jan 31, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
This book was an enjoyable read, but I must admit I am a little baffled: I've read nothing but rave reviews and high praise about this novel, so I was anticipating it to land among my favorite books, but it fell drastically short.

Again, I reiterate: I liked this book. But I also found it lacking—what, exactly, I can't quite figure out. Perhaps this book was at the disadvantage of having just been read after a book of approximately 530 pages (and before that, a book of 870 pages) because I felt
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Susan Meissner is a USA Today bestselling novelist with more than half a million books in print in fifteen languages. Her critically acclaimed works of historical fiction have been named to numerous lists including Publishers Weekly’s annual roster of 100 best books, Library Reads Top Picks, Real Simple annual tally of best books, Goodreads Readers’ Choice awards, Booklist’s Top Ten, and Book of t ...more

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104 likes · 74 comments
“Fear is worse than pain, I think. Pain is centralized, identifiable, and wanes as you wait. Fear is a heaviness you can’t wriggle out from under. You must simply find the will to stand with it and start walking. Fear does not start to fade until you take the step that you think you can’t.” 33 likes
“Truth is a strange companion. It devastates one moment and enthralls the next. But it never deceives. And because of that, in the end, it comforts.” 25 likes
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