The description of this book intrigued me, especially since it was set in old-time Hollywood during the filming of Gone with the Wind. Meissner populates her tale with a mix of real and imagined characters, as she follows two young women trying to find their way out of the secretarial pool at Selznick Studios. They have come to Hollywood with dramatically different goals, which is at times perfect and at others difficult for their budding friendship. I loved how Violet first discovered Audrey at the studio, how they became roommates, and soon, friends. The details were just right, the setting vivid and the characters, alive. I think Meissner worked hard to get me to dislike Audrey, a relentless schemer determined to get her break as an actress, but instead, I found Violet far more sinister, because she pretended to want nothing, but wanted everything.
Once the story is well under way, and Violet has committed what she acknowledges as a treacherous act, I had the relentless feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. But for me, it never really does. Meissner introduces characters from the present day, adding, for me at least, an unnecessary, almost jarring sidebar. It seemed as if this was the only way Meissner could accomplish the “twist” alluded to by Violet earlier, but the characters here are barely sketched in, and their relative importance to the earlier story seemed weak.
In any case, there are definitely things to like about this book, especially if you are looking for a story that takes place in this time period but is not a story about World War II. I have not read Meissner’s other books, but Secrets of a Charmed Life was a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction in 2015.