Secrets of a Charmed Life: A Novel. Susan Meissner. Penguin Publishing Group (USA). February 2015. 416 pp. ISBN#: 9780451419927.
“You said wishing something doesn’t make it come true. Doing it does. Someday I hope you will be proud of me.” These words were penned by Isabel MacFarland many years ago and which she is now sharing in an interview with American scholar Kendra Van Zant. While Kendra pictures a perfect world where everything works out for the better, what she hears from Isabel is anything but perfect. This is the story of choices made out of a determination to shape one’s own destiny, choices that call for desperate decisions affecting more than one’s own future.
Emma dreams of creating bridal dresses. Her persistence leads to her first job as a seamstress for the owner of a bridal shop. When Emma shows her own designs to the owner of the shop, Mrs. Crofton hires her immediately and says she may have a connection to help Emma meet with a designer who might be interested in these gorgeous bridal designs. WWII, however, interferes and Emma and her sister Isabelle are forced as children to be evacuated to the British countryside for safety from the German bombs falling on London and other British cities on a daily basis. At least that’s what they are told even though the bombings are as yet infrequent. Emma has no support from her mother; in fact her mother acts as if she resents Emma because giving birth to her meant the end of her mother’s own dreams of a promising future.
So begins a harrowing story in which Emma returns to London to explore an opportunity. An act of sisterly betrayal followed by the most intense bombing imaginable causes Emma and Julia to be separated for years. During those years, Emma will discover the secret behind her real father’s identity, will fall in love and lose it just as quickly. Years later Emma will receive a letter from her sister that makes Emma realize the stark reality of that choice made so long ago. In that time Emma has fashioned a completely new identity as well as a very successful business.
Secrets of A Charmed Life: A Novel is title that belies the mystery, danger, and passion behind the quest for a career creating beauty for that one special day in a woman’s life, her wedding! The catastrophic events of the London Blitz combined with a dysfunctional family reeling from previous mistakes make for riveting reading! Highly recommended historical fiction!