Friday, May 19, 2017

Review: A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner

Publisher: Berkley Books
Pub. Date: March 14th, 2017
Pages: 384


Wartime intrigue spans the lives of three women past and present in the latest novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life .

February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy.

Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark...

Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.

What Did I Think About the Story?

I fully admit that when I see a new Susan Meissner book is coming out I get a little squeaky with joy. This is true to the point that, after having joined a "street team" to read, review, and promote her previous two books - Secrets of a Charmed Life and Stars Over Sunset Boulevard - I reached out to her this year to see if I could join the team again. While she wasn't going to do the same sort of thing this time around she did generously offer to send me a copy (and she even signed, it, which made it extra special!). It was a bit of a waiting game for me to be able to fit it into my review schedule but once I did I sat back and prepared to enjoy this newest ride back and forth through history.

In A Bridge Across the Ocean we get to experience both present day California and WWII Europe, America, and the great open ocean aboard the RMS Queen Mary. Susan Meissner's ability to fully carve out both a present and past storyline within one overarching story, tying everything together in some way by the end, has always fascinated me and continued to do so with this story. So often when I read a dual timeline book I favor one over the other (usually the historical storyline) but with Ms.  Meissner's writing I tend to really enjoy both equally, with lessons and heartache and hope found in all corners of the story no matter where or when it takes place.

For this particular novel I found Brette's journey in present day California quite unique. She's able to communicate with those she calls "Drifters" - basically people who have passed away but not moved on to their final destination and, instead, drift around as ghosts searching for some sort of assistance - but has grown up trying to stifle this ability and pretend it doesn't exist. However, when she goes aboard the RMS Queen Mary, now docked at Long Beach, she is forced to face a Drifter that desperately needs her help and whom she feels, for the first time, that she actually wants to help. This journey leads her not only into the depths of our other storyline but to the discovery that, by always letting fear and uncertainty cloud her ability to let go and experience the life she's been given to the fullest, she will never be truly happy. Beyond these lessons I absolutely love ghost stories and the descriptions of Brett's interactions with these Drifters were delicious and eerie and I only wish there had been more of them!

During the portions of the book where we travel back to WWII and directly after, the tone of the story shifts markedly. There is so much pain and loss for not only Simone and Annaliese, our two main protagonists, but for all the secondary characters we meet as well, and seeing them move past that heartache for the hope of a brighter future was inspirational. The backstories for both Simone and Annaliese were quite sad and I so enjoyed watching their interactions and trying to discover how they would arrive at the point that one of them wouldn't make it off the Queen Mary when it arrived in New York. I will mention that we learn pretty early on which woman doesn't make it off the ship in New York, which was slightly disappointing as I was hoping for more of a mystery, but learning the how's and why's of that discovery was still enjoyable.

Probably my favorite part of the novel was the time spent on the RMS Queen Mary (in both timelines). The boat sounds so beautiful and has so much history behind it that I would have enjoyed even more time spent digging into the depth of it's history. I loved learning about the daily life of a war bride traveling on the boat and really wish more time was spent getting to know those other women and their stories, especially Simone and Annaliese's roommate, Phoebe, who I felt was a little overlooked as another potential important and interesting piece to the story. And, as I said before, I loved the ghosts that Brette discovered as she moved through the labyrinthine world of the boat and tried to put together the pieces of what happened onboard so many years before.       

The only thing I didn't really enjoy about the story (other than wanting more from some of the secondary characters and more mystery regarding what happened on the boat in 1946) was the final realization as to who the Drifter was that led Brette to Simone's and Annaleise's story. For me it came off as somewhat of an odd letdown, but this in no way detracted from my overall enjoyment of the story. I will also add that I wish there was an author's note at the end of the story that gave more facts regarding war brides and their journey to America, but I have an advanced reader's copy so that might be included in the final printing.

A Bridge Across the Ocean continued my appreciation of Susan Meissner's writing and once again brought new parts of history, as well as interesting contemporary perspectives, to my attention. While I can't say that this was my favorite of her novels I can say that it was a wonderful and entertaining read and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys dual timeline novels and interesting and complicated characters. 

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I love it! The last few books she's written have had similar covers, which I love, with a lovely woman front and center on the cover (if without a whole head) and some nod to the story within below her. For this book I think it's fitting to have the RMS Queen Mary and the Statue of Liberty below her and I can't think of anything else I would have preferred on the cover.

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

My Reviews of Susan Meissner's Other Books

Lady in Waiting
A Sound Among the Trees
Secrets of a Charmed Life
Stars Over Sunset Boulevard
A Fall of Marigolds

I received a copy of A Bridge Across the Ocean from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. You can find more information about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy, on Goodreads.


  1. Wow! Want to read this! My lucky cousins got to sail back and forth on the Queen Mary when they were kids. They lived in Greece for a few years. Would love to find more about the Queen Mary and love this author!

    1. Oh wow, how lucky of your cousins! I would love to go on the Queen Mary, even just to walk around. I hope you love the book!