By: Susan Meissner

Published: February 2, 2021

Publisher: Berkley

Historical Fiction

Susan Meissner is known for writing compelling historical fiction. She has written about war, plagues, 9/11, and now the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Her character-driven novels will keep you turning the pages to find out what could possibly happen to your characters next.

Sophie Whalen is an Irish immigrant who answers a personal ad to escape her life in New York City. She agrees to marry a man in San Francisco and care for his young daughter, Kat. Martin Hocking is a recent widower and businessman who needs to keep up the appearance of happy home life. Or that’s what he tells Sophie. Sophie can’t believe her luck at living in a beautiful home with a daughter who she quickly falls in love with. She doesn’t care that she and Martin haven’t made any romantic connections. She had no illusions that falling in love would be the case.

I don’t think love is something you can start and stop by choosing. Our hearts tell us who we will love, and not the other way.


One night a woman named Belinda knocks on Sophie’s door and her world is turned upside down. In the space of trying to deal with the news, the earthquake happens and nothing will ever be the same for Sophie, Kat, or Belinda.

It is the nature of the earth to shift. It is the nature of fragile things to break. It is the nature of fire to burn.


The story is told from Sophie’s point of view but intermixed with interviews with a US Marshal after the earthquake. So, even though you are being introduced to Sophie and her new life in San Francisco, you know that something bad is looming and more than just the earthquake.

The story was pretty fast-paced for a historical fiction novel. The characters were the main focus and even once the earthquake hit, that was also the case. There was some description of the fires and the people fleeing and living in the Golden Gate Park. But, since Sophie told the story and didn’t go many places and only knew what other people or the newspapers reported about the earthquake, the reader also knew very little. If you want a deep dive into the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, this isn’t the book for you. The characters and their stories were the focus here.

Once Belinda entered the story, the pace really picked up for me and I read late into the night on two nights to finish because I had to know how this was all going to play out for Sophie. The reader does get the full story and there isn’t anything left unsaid. There is a nice twist in the epilogue which I loved.

Fans of historical fiction with a bit of a mystery will love this newest release from Meissner. Readers will be rooting for Sophie all the way through. Even when secrets are revealed, you can’t bear to see Sophie suffer. Meissner introduces her characters and gets the reader to care about them. She keeps hope alive for the reader so we continue to root for them all the way to the end.

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Thanks to the publisher for sending an eBook for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to make a purchase through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase.

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