Category Archives: Books

There’s still time to order a signed paperback for #Christmas

Don’t worry… there’s still time to order Christmas presents for your book-loving family and friends. If you know someone who loves stories about family mysteries, sagas, secrets and a touch of romance, then they’ll love the ‘Identity Detective’ series. Why not give them a signed paperback copy of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ or ‘Connectedness’? Simply click the links below to order at my website. Payment is quick and secure by PayPal. Using the online form, it’s simple to specify your personalised dedication. It couldn’t be easier! Available in the UK only. Christmas

‘IGNORING GRAVITY’
ROSE HALDANE IS CONFIDENT ABOUT HER IDENTITY. SHE PULLS THE SAME FACE AS HER GRANDFATHER WHEN SHE HAS TO DO SOMETHING SHE DOESN’T WANT TO DO, SHE KNOWS HER DNA IS THE SAME AS HIS. EXCEPT IT ISN’T: BECAUSE ROSE IS ADOPTED AND DOESN’T KNOW IT
Ignoring Gravity connects two pairs of sisters separated by a generation of secrets. Finding her mother’s lost diaries, Rose begins to understand why she has always seemed the outsider in her family, why she feels so different from her sister Lily. Then just when she thinks there can’t be any more secrets…
ORDER ‘IGNORING GRAVITY’

‘CONNECTEDNESS’
TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALSO HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING
Connectedness is a tale of art, adoption, romance and loss, moving between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain and birthplace of Pablo Picasso.
Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane – who we first met in Ignoring Gravity – to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.
ORDER ‘CONNECTEDNESS’

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Give a signed copy of IGNORING GRAVITY or CONNECTEDNESS as a #Christmas gift https://wp.me/paZ3MX-gQ via #AdoptionStoriesblog

‘The Irish Inheritance’ by MJ Lee @WriterMJLee #history #genealogy

In 1921, a British soldier is killed on a hillside outside Dublin. In 2015, former police detective Jayne Sinclair, turned genealogy investigator, takes on a new client. The Irish Inheritance by MJ Lee is the first in the Jayne Sinclair series, weaving together stories of the Easter Rising in 1916 and the subsequent Irish War of Independence, with the unravelling of secrets kept for a century. MJ Lee

Jayne’s client, John Hughes, was adopted and raised happily in America. Now elderly, frail and dying, he is desperate to find the truth about his birth and adoption. The key piece of evidence he has kept all his life, is a book; but he doesn’t know how he came to possess it. He kept it knowing it was a link to his birth family. Jayne must dig deep into records and think outside the box to put together the threads of John’s story. Meanwhile she is having problems at home, John Hughes’s nephew is pressuring her for results, and she has the odd feeling she is being watched.

The strongest part of this story is the Irish strand and the mystery increases as we see Jayne in 2015 researching one mundane document after another, and then read the 1920s strand telling the true story of the Irish people she is trying to discover. The questions of how war pits family and friends against each other, retained guilt, apologising for war misdeeds, truth and forgiveness, run throughout.

I wasn’t totally convinced by the threat to Jayne, it felt rather shoehorned in to add a ‘crime’ element. Perhaps not surprisingly, after the Jayne Sinclair series MJ Lee has gone on to write the Inspector Danilov series of historical crime fiction.
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If you like this, try:-
The Lost Ancestor’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
The Indelible Stain’ by Wendy Percival
Deerleap’ by Sarah Walsh 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE IRISH INHERITANCE by @WriterMJLee #history #genealogy https://wp.me/paZ3MX-6m via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Christmas is coming… give someone a signed paperback

Are you planning your Christmas present list yet? If you know an avid reader who loves the touch and smell of real books, why not give them a signed paperback copy of one of the ‘Identity Detective’ books, ‘Ignoring Gravity’ and ‘Connectedness’? I’ll write a personalised dedication of your choice. Simply click the link below to order at my website. Payment is quick and secure by PayPal. It couldn’t be easier! Available in the UK only.Christmas

First comes ‘IGNORING GRAVITY’…
ROSE HALDANE IS CONFIDENT ABOUT HER IDENTITY. SHE PULLS THE SAME FACE AS HER GRANDFATHER WHEN SHE HAS TO DO SOMETHING SHE DOESN’T WANT TO DO, SHE KNOWS HER DNA IS THE SAME AS HIS. EXCEPT IT ISN’T: BECAUSE ROSE IS ADOPTED AND DOESN’T KNOW IT
Ignoring Gravity connects two pairs of sisters separated by a generation of secrets. Finding her mother’s lost diaries, Rose begins to understand why she has always seemed the outsider in her family, why she feels so different from her sister Lily. Then just when she thinks there can’t be any more secrets…
ORDER ‘IGNORING GRAVITY’

…and next is ‘CONNECTEDNESS’
TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALSO HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING
Connectedness is a tale of art, adoption, romance and loss, moving between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain and birthplace of Pablo Picasso.
Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane – who we first met in Ignoring Gravity – to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.
ORDER ‘CONNECTEDNESS’

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Give a signed copy of IGNORING GRAVITY & CONNECTEDNESS as a #Christmas gift https://wp.me/paZ3MX-gE via #AdoptionStoriesblog

#Genealogy #Mystery ‘The Lost Ancestor’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin @NathanDGoodwin 

When forensic genealogist Morton Farrier is asked by a dying client to find out what happened to his great aunt, who disappeared in 1911, Morton doesn’t expect to find his own life threatened. The Lost Ancestor by Nathan Dylan Goodwin is a moreish combination of mystery, history about the pre-Great War period, and family history research. Nathan Dylan Goodwin

If you like Downton Abbey, you will identify with the 1911 sections about Morton’s great aunt Mary Mercer. In an effort to escape her rough, unemployed father and unpleasant mother, Mary takes a job as third housemaid at Blackfriars, a great house at Winchelsea in East Sussex. Little does she realize the love and heartache she finds there will shape her life. A dreamer who imagines she is the lady of the house, Mary has a rude awakening on her first day at work. She had no idea what the job of a chambermaid entailed. But the presence of her cousin Edward makes life easier to bear. When her parents fall ill, Mary gives them all her wages and so loses her chances of escaping to a better life.

Goodwin knows the Winchelsea and Rye area so well that I immediately felt I was there. His descriptions of Rye, where Morton lives and work, feel real: the streets, the old houses, and the Mermaid Inn are described with a light pen.

The story is told in two strands. Morton searches online and at local archives, and visits the real Blackfriars house, now open to the public. This story alternates with Mary’s in 1911. Goodwin weaves the two tales together so as we get nearer to the truth of Mary’s disappearance and why her mentions in all official records stop – did she die, was she killed, did she change her name and run away to Scotland, or emigrate – the threats on Morton’s life, and that of his partner Juliette, get serious. The mystery in both strands build as the family connections between past and present are revealed. I did not forsee the ingenious ending.

The Morton Farrier books are excellent. Although the cover designs are a little old-fashioned, don’t let this put you off reading them.
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Read my review of the first Morton Farrier book, Hiding the Past.

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
The Marriage Certificate’ by Stephen Molyneux
Run’ by Ann Patchett
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE LOST ANCESTOR by @NathanDGoodwin #bookreview https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5L via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Familysecrets ‘Tainted Tree’ by @jackieluben #saga #romance

American Addie Russell was adopted at birth after her single mother died. Always happy with her adoptive parents in Boston, USA, advertising copywriter Addie starts to ask questions when she inherits a house from a stranger in England. Tainted Tree by Jacquelynn Luben is an adoption mystery combined with romance. It combines genealogical search and US/English differences with the joy and abandonment of teenage love. Jacquelynn Luben

Addie arrives in England at the house she has inherited. Glad to cross the Atlantic and escape her job and the boss which whom she had an affair, she is determined to find out more about her birth mother Adrienne and perhaps identify her birth father. But the local lawyer handling the estate is cold and stand-offish, sending mixed signals that Addie doesn’t understand. Undeterred, she does her own research and traces her maternal grandparents but is shocked that they rejected her when she was born. Why did they hate her so?

The action moves back and forth between Addie’s new house in Surrey and the West Country, where her mother grew up. Although this story has a fair amount of romance, both in the modern story and that of Adrienne, it also has a dark streak of abuse and violence. There are some wonderful minor characters, Ada became a favourite. Luben is good at creating atmosphere and darker, threatening personalities.

I did want to see more of Adrienne’s viewpoint directly, rather than simply reading about Addie reading Adrienne’s diary entries. Her teenage love affair in the Sixties rang true and Luben populates the story with well-drawn supporting characters, particularly the three Amerys and the Graingers.

There were times in the first third when I felt bogged down with information overload and I got a couple of the historical characters muddled up, but as the middle section took off it started to become clearer. The action scenes really move things along though the pace does vary as Addie spends a fair amount of time reviewing what she knows and doesn’t know. Luben carefully handles a complex story, allowing Addie to discover contradictions and dead ends, unhelpful personalities and unexpected curve balls.
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If you like this, try:-
The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies
Shadow Baby’ by Margaret Forster
Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
TAINTED TREE by @jackieluben #bookreview https://wp.me/paZ3MX-gW via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#UnplannedPregnancy #Adoption ‘Shadow Baby’ by Margaret Forster

A slow-build read which, by halfway, Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster had me glued to the page. It is in part a story about unplanned pregnancy – choices, motherhood and how a girl grows to be a mother herself – and part social history. The history is the skeleton on which the flesh of the story hangs and inter-connects.

Margaret ForsterTwo young women fall pregnant, Leah in 1887 and Hazel in 1956. Both abandon their babies. Shadow Baby is the story of Leah and her daughter Evie, Hazel and her daughter Shona. The circumstances are different – Evie is brought up first in a children’s home and then by reluctant relatives; Shona is adopted by a family desperate for a child with a mother whose care is suffocating – but the stories so similar. Both daughters are obsessed with their birth mothers.

From generation to generation, mistakes are uncannily mirrored. Attitudes from the 19thcentury reappear in the 20th. Shadow Baby is a thoughtful and measured exploration of how the nature of being a mother differs from woman to woman, expectations, fears, well-meaning but hurtful family and social pressure. And how, when the daughter grows into a woman who in turn becomes pregnant, the same fears, expectations and social pressures kick in. Forster is perceptive about the rejection felt by the daughters, and the shame of their mothers, shame which prompts denial and continued rejection. These women have to make hard decisions to survive, decisions a million miles away from how we live today in our comfortable 21st century lives but with a stark reminder of how the actions of a previous generation can affect the next.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Run’ by Ann Patchett
Innocent Blood’ by PD James
Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#UnplannedPregnancy #Adoption SHADOW BABY by Margaret Forster https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5H via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Adoption #BirthMother ‘Run’ by Ann Patchett

One snowy night, an accident brings together a group of people. Run by Ann Patchett tells the story of grown-up adopted brothers, Tip and Teddy, and the troubled relationship with their widowed adoptive father as they become men. And a mysterious figure is watching. The accident is the turning point that makes all of them face up to things that happened in the past, and work out how to live their lives now. Patchett is a brilliant writer and this is a complicated story full of twists, turns and family secrets where all is not as it seems. Not a page turner, but a book to savour. Ann Pratchett

When you are a novelist, as I am – not even writing, but at that early stage of tossing around ideas in your mind – sometimes you read something which sets your creative juices flowing. Run by Ann Patchett did that to me. Ignoring Gravity, the first book in my Identity Detective series, was written and I was well into the planning stage of its sequel Connectedness. It was at this point that I read Run, the story of Bernard & Bernardette Doyle an American couple who, after the birth of their son Sullivan, are unable to have any more children. They adopt Teddy, and then his older brother Tip too. It is a story about family, biological and non-biological combined.

The phrase that leapt off the page at me was this, “‘They could have gone to someone else,’ she’d always said to him. That was the part of it she never could get over; that these sons who were so unquestionably hers could just as easily have gone to another home, a different fate. But what they never said was that they had already belonged to someone else, and they could have just as easily stayed where they were.”

Bernadette’s sense that they could so easily have missed adopting Teddy and Tip, and that if they had life would have been so different, gave me an insight for a character I was developing for the ‘Identity Series’.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Innocent Blood’ by PD James
In the Blood’ by Steve Robinson
The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies 

Identity Detective seriesIn Ignoring Gravity, Rose Haldane is confident about her identity. She pulls the same face as her grandfather when she has to do something she doesn’t want to do, she knows her DNA is the same as his. Except it isn’t: because Rose is adopted and doesn’t know it.
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First in the ‘Identity Detective’ series, watch the book trailer.

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#Adoption #BirthMother RUN by Ann Patchett https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5C via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Family #mystery ‘The Orphan’s Gift’ by @RenitaDSilva #orphans #India

The Orphan’s Gift by Renita D’Silva tells the stories of two women, Alice and Janaki, and moves across four decades between India and England. It is a deceptive tale of love and loss and the mystery of how these two young women are connected at a time when certain love was forbidden. It is an unforgiving world where broken rules may be punished by death, isolation and poverty and where the sanctions may come from those closest to you. Renita d'Silva

We first meet Alice, aged four, living a privileged life in the house of her parents, surrounded by beauty, warmth, and servants. But there are shadows too. Alice’s parents are distant and she finds love and companionship with her Ayah and Ayah’s son, Raju. Alice’s mother is delicate and spends all her time in a shadowed bedroom, her father is Deputy Commissioner of the British Government in India. Alice’s story starts in 1909 when the first agitations of Indian independence begin.

Janaki’s story begins in 1944 when she is raised by nuns in an Indian orphanage, she was left there as a tiny baby, wrapped in a hand-made green cardigan. Desperate for love, Janaki learns a difficult lesson; that even when love is found, there is no insurance against future pain.

The lives of both women are coloured by their early years and their differing experiences of love. Each story on its own is fascinating, but the fascination comes from how the two women are linked. Occasionally we see a tantalising glimpse of the elderly Alice in India in 1986, as an unknown visitor arrives. Hints are given in the Prologue which of course I read then forgot about as I became enthralled in the world of the book. Only as the book approaches its end does the significance of the Prologue become clear. D’Silva’s theme is how life turns on a sixpence. ‘It takes so little to change a life.’

I particularly enjoyed Janaki’s life at the orphanage, her friendship with Arthy, the pact the two girls make to study as doctors after meeting Mother Theresa and seeing one of their friends die because of the orphanage’s inability to pay for a doctor. Janaki’s story jumps forwards to the 1960s when she is a trailblazing doctor of gynaecology, at a time when female doctors are rare and given many column inches, but when she feels at her loneliest.

Love and its subsequent loss is not always fair, it hurts and sometimes is unjust. But this is also a story about the strength and truth of honest love which transcends prejudice, poverty and status. This book is full of the colours and scents of India but at its heart is a darkness and sadness which jabs an emotional punch. D’Silva is my go-to author for novels about India; she creates a sensory world which never fails to delight but into this setting she weaves stories tackling moral and heart-breaking themes.
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If you like this, try:-
The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies
Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger
The Pearl Sister’ by Lucinda Riley

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE ORPHAN’S GIFT by @RenitaDSilva #bookreview https://wp.me/paZ3MX-f2 via #AdoptionStories

#Searching #AdoptionReunion ‘Innocent Blood’ by PD James

If you are a PD James fan, I should say up front that Innocent Blood is very different from the Adam Dalgliesh detective series. It is a psychological thriller, a slow-building mystery which starts with little steps then, as the odd details start to make sense, the tension builds. It is the story of a young woman who knows she is adopted, who exercises her right to know the names of her birth parents, and finds something she never in a million years expected.PD James

Philippa Palfrey is 18, about to go up to Cambridge, until she decides to find out the truth of her adoption. Her birth father is dead, her mother though is still alive. Philippa’s adoptive father warns caution, tells her to do her research and think carefully before contacting her mother but Philippa, driven by the need to know who she is and where she came from, goes ahead anyway. With the arrogance and naivety of youth, she embarks on a complicated path full of moral dilemma, tragedy and loss.

It is a novel of family blood and relationships, violence, redemption, revenge and acceptance. Is there a threat, real or imagined, and where/who does that threat come from? As the story progresses, that threat advances and retreats, reforming in another shape. Is Philippa right, or should she have listened to Maurice’s warnings?
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger
The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies
File Under Fear’ by Geraldine Wall 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#Searching #AdoptionReunion INNOCENT BLOOD by PD James https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5y via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Adoption #Mystery ‘The Moon Sister’ by Lucinda Riley @lucindariley

Fifth in the Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley, The Moon Sister is the story of Tiggy, wildlife conservationist and warm-hearted introvert. Each of the D’Apliese sisters is different with diverse skills, interests and hugely varying birth stories. Tiggy’s story alternates between a Highland estate where she is managing the rewilding of Scottish wildcats, and the flamenco world in Spain during the 1930s. Lucinda Riley

The Kinnaird Estate is a beautiful, isolated, wild place. The four wild cats move into their custom-built enclosure and Tiggy moves into a shared estate cottage with fellow worker Cal. Riley builds the Kinnaird community quickly and skilfully from new Laird Charlie to housekeeper Beryl and old retainer Chilly. It is Chilly – speaking in a muddled mixture of English, Spanish and Romani – who introduces the first hints of premonition, seeing and herbal remedies. He tells Tiggy she has healing hands. Caught up in the twists and turns of the Kinnaird family, the frictions in Charlie and Ulrika’s marriage and their tempestuous daughter Zara, Tiggy grieves for Pa Salt and is curious about her own birth family. In his farewell letter, Pa Salt tells her she comes from a gifted line of seers. She must go to Granada in Spain, to the gypsy area called Sacromonte, where she must knock on a blue door and ask for Angelina. Tiggy delays, unsure of the truth, attracted to Charlie. But when she is injured in a poaching incident on the estate, Tiggy feels upset, confused and wronged. She flies to Granada. This is a quick reminder that Tiggy, who lives the most normal, ordinary life of the sisters so far, is far from a normal girl and when times get tough, the D’Apliese wealth is ever-present.

The second storyline is that of Lucia, Tiggy’s grandmother, who rises from a tiny girl living in deepest poverty in Sacromonte to a world-famous flamenco dancer. Though Tiggy’s character and situation is appealing, I found Lucia a more difficult character. By nature energetic and stubborn, Lucia turns into a selfish, spoiled woman who rides roughshod over others. Exploited by her feckless father who keeps control of her money and career, Lucia’s few moments of caring for others were not enough for me to warm to her. But the world in which she lives, the Sacromonte community, the gypsy brujas, and the violence and depravities of the Spanish Civil War were fascinating to read. As with the stories of the other sisters, Riley concentrates most of the birth family story on a generation further back than the birth parents and there were times when I longed for less flamenco and more bruja. I also wanted to know Chilly’s story and how he came to work on a Scottish estate.

There are more teasers in this book about the truth of Pa Salt’s identity and death, but nothing concrete. There is also the reappearance of Zed Eszu, who can only be described as a sleazy millionaire cad, who first appeared in Maia’s story. What lies behind his fascination with the six D’Apliese sisters. And is Pa Salt really dead?
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Next in the series is The Sun Sister, the story of Electra. Here are my reviews of the first four books in the series:-
The Seven Sisters
The Storm Sister
The Shadow Sister
The Pearl Sister

If you like this, try:-
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell
The Marriage Certificate’ by Stephen Molyneux
‘Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE MOON SISTER by @lucindariley #adoption #mystery https://wp.me/paZ3MX-df via #AdoptionStoriesBlog