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Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Newest Meissner Historical Another Immersive, Absorbing Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

An Irish immigrant, Sophie Whalen will do anything to get out of New York City, where she lives in squalor in a crowded tenement building.  She's even willing to move to far away San Francisco and marry a man she's never met.  A handsome widower, Martin Hocking desires a living wife to give him a proper family man appearance in order to better sell insurance.  His 5-year-old also needs a mother.  Sophie steps in, figuring love or at least a warm friendship will eventually grow between her and her enigmatic new husband.  Even though she's more interested in being a mom than anything else, Sophie's still confused by Martin's cool treatment of her.  He's gone all the time, shows no desire for her physically, ignores his own daughter, and is always vague about his work.  It's becoming increasingly obvious that Martin is hiding something, but what?  

On the eve of the great earthquake that will bring San Francisco to its knees, Sophie receives a shocking visit from a stranger.  The young pregnant woman bears more questions than answers, but it's enough to make Sophie desperate to get them all away before Martin returns home.  When the unthinkable happens, she finds herself on the run in a crumbling city with a laboring mother and a terrified child.  With chaos and destruction all around them, can the trio find safety from the earthquake, its devastating aftermath, and the terrible secret that binds them together?  Will Sophie ever triumph in her ongoing quest for security, happiness, and love? 

I'm a fan of historical fiction, disaster novels, and Susan Meissner, a tantalizing trifecta that comes together perfectly in The Nature of Fragile Things, the author's newest offering.  I buzzed through this book in a day because it tells such a compelling, engrossing story.  Even though the novel really isn't about the San Francisco earthquake, the disaster makes an intriguing, dramatic backdrop for this tale about a woman's plight to forge ahead despite her devastating past and uncertain future.  Sophie is a sympathetic heroine, one who's brave, loyal, and determined.  It's easy to root for her survival and success.  What she discovers about her husband is not what I expected, but it creates a tense, suspenseful plot that kept me burning through the pages.  The Nature of Fragile Things is an absorbing read that reminds me why I enjoy Meissner's work so much.  I can't wait to see what she does next.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain and of Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan Henry)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, mild sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Nature of Fragile Things from the generous folks at Penguin Random House via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!


  1. I've been curious about this book since I saw your post about it. Historical fictions are sometimes slow-going, but I'm glad it compelled you enough to finish it in one go. Definitely interested in learning about this devastating fire.

    1. I'm a hist-fic fan, so I'm used to the slower pacing. I don't mind it at all as long as the story is engaging and the plot goes SOMEWHERE. LOL.

  2. The description makes this book sound really good. An earthquake, secrets, and females banding together? Sign me up.

    1. I thought all the various elements worked together really well to create a compelling story.

  3. This really sounds good...reading it in one day is a sure sigh. I don't think I've EVER done that with even the books I end up loving most and longest. I'll have to take a closer look. This is another of those new-to-me authors I want to know more about.

    1. Really? I've done it many times. When I get into a book, I REALLY get into it, I guess :)

      Susan Meissner has written a lot of books and I haven't read all of them yet. I particularly like her dual-timeline novels that focus on important historical events. Some are better than others naturally, but they're generally well-written, compelling, and clean (they deal with heavy subject matter but don't have graphic language, violence, or sex). If you like those kinds of books, you'll probably enjoy Meissner.

  4. I have a growing list of books by this author that I really want to read. I'm adding this one to it.

    1. I've read eight books by Meissner and I've enjoyed them all. I think A FALL OF MARIGOLDS is my favorite, followed by THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS.

  5. Wonderful review Susan. I am looking forward to reading this one. I have not read anything set during this time, so even though it isn't the major part of the story, I think it would add a very interesting setting.

    1. The earthquake is a major part of the story, but it's not what the story is really about, if that makes sense. It's more about the heroine's search for belonging than anything else. It's an interesting time period/setting to read about to boot!

  6. I am not sure if I have read any of her books yet or not. This sounds like something that I would really enjoy. Thanks for putting it on my radar!

    1. Meissner's fairly prolific and she's been publishing for about 20 years, so it's possible you've read something by her already. I like her books a lot, although like I said above, some are better than others.

  7. I've put it on a wish list on Netgalley! lets see if I get lucky this time around.

    1. The book just came out, so hopefully it's still available on NetGalley. Fingers crossed!

  8. Great review, Susan! This sounds like a fascinating read with the characterisations and the premise. Will have to check out this author's works.

    1. Let me know what you think of Meissner's books if you do try them out!

  9. I’ll take that as a recommendation, and I’m always looking for historical fiction not about war. It’s on my list!

    1. Ha! Right? I get tired of war books, too, and I like disaster-type settings (adds to the drama), so I always seem to be reading about historical fires, tsunamis, storms, etc. I just finished one about the Great Fire in Chicago!

  10. I'll add this one to my TBR. Great review!

  11. I have yet to read anything by Meissner even though she's been on my list for ages. This sounds absolutely amazing and like one I'd really enjoy!


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