Monday, December 28, 2015

Review: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

Publisher: NAL
Publication Date: January 5th, 2016
Pages: 400


In this new novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life, two women working in Hollywood during its Golden Age discover the joy and heartbreak of true friendship.

Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind  ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie… 

Los Angeles, 1938.  Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her  dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide.  What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future. 

What Did I Think About the Story?

Susan Meissner's last novel, Secrets of a Charmed Life, was my first 5-starred book of 2015. This being the case I was beyond excited to read her newest, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, not only because she's one of my favorite authors but because Gone with the Wind is my all time favorite movie. I've watched it more times than I can count and have always marveled at the costumes and complicated characters. Getting to see beyond the spectacle into the real world making of the movie....yeah, sign me up for that! Sometimes this kind of high expectation has lead me to disappointment, but I'm delighted to say Stars Over Sunset Boulevard was just as wonderful as I expected!

The modern storyline involving Christine McAllister and her discovery of the iconic green curtain hat from the making of Gone with the Wind is told more as small snippets that connect Christine's past to one of our characters from the 1930's than as its own standalone storyline. The small mystery of how the carpet hat made its way out of the hands of the movie makers and into a woman's private collection and how that woman connected to Christine kept the snippets interesting, but the real heft and emotion of the story resides in Violet and Audrey's relationship starting when they meet as secretaries on the set of the movie.

Audrey and Violet make wonderful counters for each other and serve to represent two distinct kinds of women during this vibrant and unique time and place in history. Audrey wants nothing more than to be a movie star and is as vivacious, beautiful and outgoing as one could want in a woman with this ambition. Violet, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to be a wife and mother and is shy and naive to the ways of Hollywood. Both are hiding secrets from their pasts that hamper there ability to get what they want most. However, when circumstances present themselves that will allow both women the chance at their greatest happiness, they take it, not realizing the consequences that might come. Watching each sacrifice so much and make choices they know aren't right in the hope that the outcome will be was poignant and touching.  In the end the saying "be careful what you wish for because you just might get it" comes into play for both and they have to face the fact that what they thought they wanted might not have been worth what they did to get it.

While the gold of the story is the relationship between Audrey and Violet, I can't forget to mention the behind the scenes view into the making of Gone with the Wind, as it is as fascinating as you would imagine. Learning little tidbits, like the fact that Vivienne Leigh was not cast as Scarlett O'Hara when filming started, really fed my need to know more about the making of the movie. Susan Meissner did an exceptional job of perfectly describing this world so I felt completely immersed and could envision it all, from movie sets to Audrey's bungalow to the streets and sounds of old Hollywood. It was a perfect backdrop for this exceptional story.

I can't recommend Susan Meissner's novels enough for those that love glimpses into interesting times in history mixed in with a modern storyline that connects to the past. The characters are always well drawn and interesting and never fail to tug at my heart. Stars Over Sunset Boulevard is now another favorite of mine, and I cannot help but get excited to see what she comes up with next.  

What Did I Think About the Cover?

This might be my favorite cover of the year (it's a close tie between this and the cover for The Conqueror's Wife)! The woman on the front is just so elegant and her dress is to die for!! The green and blue and pink (my favorite!) all compliment each other so nicely. Great job cover designer!!

My Rating: 5.0/5.0 

I received a copy of Stars Over Sunset Boulevard from the author in exchange for an  honest review. Thank you so much, Susan! Continue below for more information about the author and her delightful new novel!

Praise for Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

“Susan Meissner tackles Old Hollywood with her trademark heart, depth, and lyrical style. A touching portrait of two memorable women who will remind readers of the friendships that shape us.” —Michelle Gable, International Bestselling Author

“Susan Meissner deftly casts a fascinating friendship between two complex women against a glittering 1930s Hollywood backdrop. You will love this book for its very human characters and for its inside look at one of the greatest movies ever made.”— Marisa de los Santos, New York Times Bestselling Author

“Beautifully simple yet impactful" Romantic Times, 4 stars

"A lovely, well-crafted story that peeks at a fascinating moment in cinematic history and examines the power and vulnerability of sincere friendship." - Kirkus Reviews

Buy the Book

About the Author

Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a backgroundA Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the 100 Best Novels of 2008. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University. Susan is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When she’s not working on a novel, Susan writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church.
2014, and
in community journalism. Her novels include
For more information on Susan and her books visit her website, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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