Category Archives: Books

#Genealogy #Mystery ‘The Orange Lilies’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin @NathanDGoodwin 

This is a novella, a short book which I wanted to be longer. Set at Christmas 2014, The Orange Lilies revisits Christmas 100 years earlier, the first year of the Great War, and follows the story of one man in the trenches with the Royal Sussex Regiment. Third in the series by Nathan Dylan Goodwin about his forensic genealogist Morton Farrier, it is a little different from its predecessors in that it focusses on Morton’s own story rather than that of a client. Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Morton knows he is adopted but has recently discovered a complicated family secret. So in an effort to build bridges and learn more about his ancestors, he and girlfriend Juliette travel to Cornwall to visit his Aunty Margaret and Uncle Jim. Over the festive break, Morton and Margaret trace official documents telling the story of Morton’s great-grandfather Charles Farrier, who fought with the Second Battalion, the Royal Sussex Regiment. However as records are uncovered, more questions appear. At the same time we are told Charles’s story in 1914, with its own mysteries, contradictions and secrets. Unknown to Morton, old and modern mysteries are inter-linked.

I love the formula of the Morton Farrier books, the combination of present and past, secrets and lies, the hunt for truth and puzzles solved. This book is a little different, I think for two reasons. First, I longed in the first half for more dynamic detail of Charles’s story rather than dry factual reporting. At the front of the book, the author explains that two of his own relatives fought with this regiment. At the end of the book, the author explains that the movements of the Second Battalion are recorded as faithfully and accurately as possible. It feels as if the history bound the creative hands of the author. The second difference is that Morton is researching his own family and so the emotional attachment is different. Unlike when he is searching for clients, there is no immediate danger to his life, property or loved ones.

I raced through this book, intrigued by the mystery of Charles and his young wife Nellie. If you are new to the Morton Farrier books, you will appreciate this novella better if you have already read the first two in the series.
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Read my reviews of the first two Morton Farrier books, Hiding the Past, and The Lost Ancestor.

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Shadow Baby’ by Margaret Forster
Innocent Blood’ by PD James
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#Genealogy #Mystery THE ORANGE LILIES by @NathanDGoodwin https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5P via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

A #genealogy #mystery ‘The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing’ by @mspaulsonellis

A group of Great War soldiers is waiting for orders. During the last skirmishes of the war, men are still dying. Will the men receive orders to retreat or advance? Who will live or who will die? There are two strands to The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing by Mary Paulson-Ellis and the title refers to the second. A contemporary man in Edinburgh, an heir hunter, finds a pawn ticket amongst the possessions of Thomas Methven, an old soldier who died alone. Mary Paulson-Ellis
This is a detailed story with many layers and many characters introduced as the two strands are told and hesitantly connected. At times the detail became confusing with so many descriptive repetitions I found myself skipping forwards. Paulson-Ellis writes scenes so well – the soldier’s gambling scene with the chicken is totally believable, and her portrayal of the foundling school in NE England is heart breaking. As Solomon tracks the life story of the deceased soldier, we see flashes of his own story, orphaned at seven and sent to live with his grandfather. Though interesting I found this distracting, it took me away from the story of the soldiers and added even more characters and family trees to remember.

The message is that the debts of the past do not disappear. Captain Godfrey Farthing is waiting, always waiting; to live to die, to advance, to retreat. He is simply trying to keep his men safe to the end of the war, which they suspect may come at any time. But Farthing’s intentions may be wrecked by enemy attack, by orders to attack, or by his own men themselves who are confined and bored. ‘A strange peace was coursing through his veins; that terrible calm that comes when a man knows the end is coming, but not in the way he had imagined when he began.’

Gambling is a continuous theme throughout the WW1 strand, and I lost track of the treasures gambled, won and lost, coveted, stolen and hidden. There are 11 soldiers involved, surely too many. Like The Lord of the Flies, the boredom of the men, their jealousies, petty rivalries and guns come to dominate their world, as if the war is already over. The treasures they gamble can be the smallest thing which to us may seem irrelevant but in war is crucial. Not monetary value as known at home, but representing an emotional or practical value.

Different rules apply during wartime and items that are significant then are cast into the spotlight when they survive across the generations to be found by modern day relatives. I admit to confusion about who was related to who and perhaps the cutting of a few peripheral characters would help. Given my interest in family history and WW1, I expected to love this book but longed for a firmer editing hand.
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If you like this, try:-
File Under Family’ by Geraldine Wall
Fred’s Funeral’ by Sandy Day 
Hiding the Past’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE INHERITANCE OF SOLOMON FARTHING by @mspaulsonellis #genealogy #mystery https://wp.me/paZ3MX-em via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Genealogy #mystery ‘The Love Child’ by Rachel Hore

The Love Child by Rachel Hore is not just an adoption story of birth mother and daughter, it is a story of women’s lives between the wars when shame and public expectation, not love, governed family decisions. In 1917 Alice Copeman, a 19-year old nurse, falls in love with a soldier home on leave. They expect to marry but he is killed. No one else knows of their relationship, it is wartime and everything happened so quickly. But Alice is pregnant. Rachel Hore

Mourning for Jack, Alice is forced by her father and stepmother to give the child up for adoption. In the Essex seaside town of Farthingsea, Edith and Philip Burns long for their own child. When they adopt a baby girl Irene, they expect their family to be happily complete. But Irene feels different from her parents and grows frustrated at the lies told about her birth; in particular she struggles to connect with her mother Edith and often feels rejected. At school she is bullied. At home she feels second rate to her younger brother, conceived by Edith and Philip after they adopted Irene. Things improve for Irene when she makes friends with a boy from the disreputable artistic part of town; Tom lives with his single mother and he too is different. Both Tom and his mother are positive influences on Irene.

This is a story told in two strands – Alice and Irene – first as each makes her own way in the world, and then as their paths come closer together. Alice’s story – qualifying as a doctor and working as a GP – is fascinating and a glimpse of a time when female doctors were starting to appear. Irene is also independent, leaving Farthingsea to work in London at an art gallery. In these inter-war years, it was still difficult for independent women to make their own way. Old-fashioned standards and expectations prove a challenge for both Alice and for Irene and often at the hands of other women.

A little slow to start, not helped as the storyline jumps around from year to year, it settled down halfway through. At times I confused Irene’s adoptive mother Edith with Alice’s stepmother Gwen, both are sharp-edged women whose words can wound.

This is a novel of love, separation, shame and mother and daughter dynamics; it ultimately shows how the road to love can take many diversions and twists along the way. Both Alice and Irene are rather self-contained and defensive, afraid of being hurt, but they are also capable of being loved if they allow their self-protection to drop. This is a reflective and sensitive portrayal of the adoption dilemma when the hunger of one individual for the truth may cause pain to others.

A note about the cover; I could see no link between the story and a rowing boat at sunset.
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If you like this, try:-
The Marriage Certificate’ by Stephen Molyneux
‘Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan 
Shadow Baby’ by Margaret Forster 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE LOVE CHILD by Rachel Hore #genealogy #mystery https://wp.me/paZ3MX-eX via @SandraDanby

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