Tag Archives: adoption mysteries

#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.
BUY THE BOOK

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

True #adoption story… Mary Anna King #adoptionstories

Over two decades, Mary Anna King refined her angst about her status as an adoptee. “I had always told myself that it was a kind of triple-win scenario – birth families relieve the pressure of a child they are unable to care for, adoptive families gain a much wanted child, a child gains a stable, loving family. But I was beginning to see there was a flipside. There can be no winners without losers. Once adoption was on the table everyone had already lost – lineage, origin, the visions of the future lives they thought they would live – and all our losses were attached to someone else’s gain in an endless, confusing loop.”

Mary Anna King

Mary Anna King [photo: Barry J Holmes/The Observer]

Mary was born in the Eighties in New Jersey, USA, the second eldest of seven children. Her father ‘Michael’ was ‘semi-present’, her mother struggled with money. Mary, her mother and siblings lived in an apartment building full of single mothers. “It operated like a commune of amputees, living with the lost limbs of former lovers. Resources were shared, the kids were subject to discipline of whichever mother happened to be nearest by at the time, rides or walks to school were shared and alternated… that sort of thing.”

Eventually, four of the children were adopted by different families on the East Coast. Mary and her sister Becca were adopted by their maternal grandparents in Oklahoma [below].

Mary Anna King

Mary Anna King and sister Becca, with the grandparents who adopted them [photo: Mary Anna King]

Eventually, each sibling searched for their birth family and the seven were reunited. Says Mary, “It is amazing that they all came back, because the truth is that not all adopted people search. What I have come to learn is that women tend to search more than men, and that this urge to search is spurred on when they start having their own children. Doctors start asking questions about family health history and people start to wonder. The discovery that the adoptee has siblings is another motive, especially among those like my sister Rebekah, who were brought up as only children.”

Mary Anna King

Mary King [photo: Braden Moran]

Read the full Guardian interview here, and there’s more about Mary Anna King at her blog. Or read her memoir, Bastards.

Mary Anna KingBUY THE BOOK

If you like this true story, read:-
Jessica Long
Eileen Heron
Alice Collins Plebuch

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
True #adoption story… Mary Anna King https://wp.me/paZ3MX-dP via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

True #adoption story… Brian Moore #adoptionstories

In his 2010 autobiography Beware of the Dog, England rugby player Brian Moore – who was adopted as a baby – wrote about his Malaysian birth father. But when he attended his birth mother’s funeral in 2020, he met birth relatives and discovered his birth father was actually Chinese.

Brian Moore

Brian Moore [photo: Getty Images, Daily Mail Online]

“Went to my birth mother’s funeral yesterday,” he posted on Twitter. “Strange feeling meeting my brother and sister and a whole set of blood relatives I never knew about. Turns out I’m half Chinese, not Malaysian, and my birth grandfather was a steelworker in Rotherham.” When he was an adult Moore had traced his birth mother, Rina Kirk, who told him his birth father was Malaysian.

Moore, who won 64 international caps playing rugby for England, now works as a solicitor. He was born in Birmingham in 1962 and was adopted by Ralph and Dorothy Moore when he was seven months old.

Brian Moore, middle, in a game at Twickenham in 1991 [photo: Getty Images, Daily Mail Online]

Ralph and Dorothy had two children of their own and an adopted Chinese daughter; they lived on a council estate in Illingworth near Halifax in West Yorkshire.  The Moores taught Brian about the country they believed he was from –  Malaysia. “I remember having a book about rubber plantations in Malaysia, and I pictured jungle tigers stalking the land.” In his book he added, “I never hide the fact that I am half Malaysian, nor have I ever felt ashamed of it, but nor do I think it very relevant to who I am.”

Brian MooreBUY THE BOOK

If you like this true story, read:-
Whitney Casey 
Sheila Mercier
Emmeline Pankhurst

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
True #adoption story… Brian Moore https://wp.me/paZ3MX-dl 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?
BUY

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

True #adoption story… Ray Victor Lewis #adoptionstories

Three generations of adoption in one family is unusual. The story starts in 1936 when Ray Victor Lewis’s mother gave him up for adoption. She left with him a small Bible. Inside the front cover, the inscription reads, “Ray of Sunshine, Victorious over all.”

Ray Victor Lewis

Ray Victor Lewis, his daughter Karen and granddaughter [photo: Felix Clay for The Guardian]

Unusually, Ray’s name wasn’t changed even though he was adopted as a baby. Ray always knew he was adopted, that his birth mother couldn’t keep him as she was only 17 when she had him, and that she visited him until he was a toddler. ‘The last letter she wrote was one my [adoptive] mum treasured,’ Ray, 78, tells The Guardian. ‘I think she felt it would help me to have something to explain why my birth mother couldn’t keep me.’

Ray’s adoptive parents were already fostering children, but he was the only child they adopted. He remembers an idyllic childhood in the Kent village where he still lives. He has never traced his birth parents. ‘I never felt the urge to trace my birth mother. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life and was very close to my mum and dad, so I just didn’t see the point.’

When Ray married Janet in 1968, they decided to adopt a child. ‘It felt the most natural thing in the world – probably more natural than having our own because it was all I’d known.’ They adopted nine-day old Karen.

‘As long as I can remember, Mum and Dad told me I was special and chosen. There was no day where my whole world, as I knew it, changed for ever,” Karen told The Guardian. Karen knew nothing of her birth family and her mother, Janet, told her not to mention her adoption to anyone. ‘She worried that I might be teased and I was quite secretive about it. I still don’t offer it as information to strangers.’ But Karen wanted to know more. When she was 30 she applied for her birth certificate, discovered she had a different birth name, and met her birth mother once.

‘It was in a hotel, where we shared photographs and stories. She didn’t want to meet again and I was okay with that because that one meeting gave me what I needed – answers to what she looked like, what she was like and, most importantly, the reassurance that she was okay.’

When Karen married and IVF failed, it seemed natural for her and her husband to consider adoption. ‘Adoption is the norm in our family so when I didn’t get pregnant, we wasted no time in applying to adopt. In fact, social workers wondered why we hadn’t considered IVF first.’ Her daughter’s story is a little different, ‘Her adoption story is probably the starkest because she wasn’t relinquished, but removed from her birth family due to child protection issues” explains Karen.

The availability of information about the past is key when growing up, Karen says. ‘Details about your past are never easy when you’re adopted, no more so than with today’s adoptions, but it makes such a difference’.

If you like this true story, read:-
Annie from New York 
Amy Seek
Helen Harrison

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
True #adoption story… Ray Victor Lewis https://wp.me/paZ3MX-bF via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

True #adoption story… Esther Robertson #adoptionstories

By the age of three, Esther Robertson had had three different first names and surnames.

Esther Robertson

Esther Robertson [photo: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian]

Born in 1961 in a Glasgow mother and baby home, Esther’s first name was Catherine Anne Lindenberg. Her birth parents were a 17-year old Jewish girl from Edinburgh and a black American airman. Following family pressure, Catherine’s mother placed her for adoption. Robertson told The Guardian, ‘I don’t know if she accompanied me to the children’s home in the Borders where I was temporarily sent. I do know that she paid 30 shillings each week for my keep. I’ve never seen a photograph of myself as a baby. I don’t even know if any were taken. I’m pretty sure I was as cute and ready to be cooed over as the next child. But adopters were looking for blonde, blue-eyed bundles of joy. Not one with Afro hair and brown skin.’

Esther Robertson

Esther Robertson as a young girl

After seven months in the home, Catherine was first fostered by, then adopted by, the Revered Robertson and his wife who named her Esther. Slow to speak and knock-kneed, Esther’s development was a cause of worry for her new family. ‘A year after my adoption, the Robertsons requested me to be rehomed on the grounds of my slow development and Mrs Robertson’s poor health. In July 1963, aged two and a half, I was given a new home and another new name.’

Next she was adopted by the Grahams who re-named her Doreen Ann Graham. But after three months, Doreen’s adoption by the Grahams was contested. The Robertsons had changed their mind and wanted her back. Esther was 25 before she learned about her three months with the Grahams.

Now settled with the Robertsons, Esther felt different, questions were unanswered. ‘I felt like an outsider. I felt different. My hair was certainly different. Hours were spent trying to brush, comb and cajole it, but it steadfastly refused to be tamed. On shopping trips with Mum, which I adored, she always introduced me the same way: ‘This is Esther, my adopted daughter.’ Just one extra word, but it jarred. I was so different, it seemed, that I came with an explanation.’

Now in her fifties, Esther is settled and is a social worker. She understands that she coped by using her imagination ‘to escape the constant upset and upheaval of my childhood. Creativity remains my weapon of choice.’

If you like this true story, read:-
Brenda Rhensius
Sheila Mercier 
George Orwell

If you’d like to share a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
True #adoption story… Esther Robertson https://wp.me/paZ3MX-by via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

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

I really enjoyed The Pearl Sister, the fourth in Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters adoption mysteries. While Maia, Ally and Star have already investigated their birth stories, Celaeno, CeCe, has shown no interest in her own. She is feeling sorry for herself, alone now that Star has become independent. Until her curiosity is piqued. Pa Salt’s lawyer tells her about a bequest, a large sum of money, and a photograph of two unidentified men. He advises CeCe to investigate Kitty Mercer from Broome in Australia. Lucinda Riley

On her journey to Australia, CeCe stops off in Thailand, staying at Railey Beach where she has holidayed in the past with Star. As she wonders why she is there alone, feeling envious of Star’s new home and new love in England, she meets a mysterious man on the beautiful beach. They bond over the morning sunrise, both are hurting – CeCe is missing Star and feeling betrayed by her sister’s newfound life, while Ace is hiding a big secret he cannot, or will not, explain. Riley hints that behind the beauty of Railey Beach there is a dark, sordid side. Could Ace be involved in drugs? Then when CeCe steps off the plane in Australia, she discovers Ace has been arrested and believes CeCe betrayed him to the press. As the journalists identify CeCe’s name and location, she runs away to Broome.

As with all the earlier novels in the series, the story of The Pearl Sister is told in two strands. CeCe is in 2008, Kitty Mercer’s story starts in 1906. The eldest daughter of a Edinburgh preacher, Kitty goes on a nine month trip to Australia as companion to the wealthy Mrs McCrombie. It changes Kitty’s life. She drinks alcohol for the first time, kisses a man, and acts immodestly in ways that would shock her clergyman father. Two men, twin brothers, pay attention to her. Drummond is the dangerous brother, the one who kisses her. But Kitty reverts to type by marrying the steady, safe, Andrew Mercer, and moves to Broome where he runs the family’s pearl fishing company for his father.

I found Kitty’s story enthralling, she is a true rebel at a time when women were finding their feet and their voices. She has a way of identifying people needing help. Along her life’s journey she collects waifs and strays, rescuing them from hunger, mistreatment, poverty and racism, giving them opportunities, security and winning their loyalty. Each of them comes to play a critical role in Kitty’s life; from Camira, the pregnant Aboriginal servant girl thrown from the house by her master, to Sarah, the fifteen year old orphan met on a boat from England who has a gift with the sewing needle.

Australia the country and the lives and customs of its Aboriginal people are a dominant presence throughout this novel. Be warned, it will make you want to visit. Throughout it all runs the enticing descriptions of Aboriginal art, by real artists such as Albert Namatjira who lived and worked at the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission outside Alice Springs, which CeCe visits.

The loose ends come together in the end though Riley did keep me guessing on a couple of the links. The significance of Ace and CeCe’s time in Thailand was one such puzzle. These are all hefty books, but I read this one quickly. It’s my favourite of the series so far which seems to get better with every book.
BUY

Next in the series is The Moon Sister, the story of Tiggy.

Read my reviews of the first three novels in the series:-
The Seven Sisters
The Storm Sister
The Shadow Sister

If you like this, try:-
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain
Blood Atonement’ by Dan Waddell
‘Blue-Eyed Son’ by Nicky Campbell 

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

#Bookreview ‘The Shadow Sister’ by Lucinda Riley @lucindariley #romance

Star d’Aplièse, the third of the six adopted sisters in Lucinda Riley’s dual-timeline adoption mystery series is the subject of The Shadow Sister. Riley excels at combining a contemporary mystery with a related historical story and so far in the series Star has been something of an enigma. Almost twinned to CeCe, her nearest sister in age, she is the quiet unassuming one in this flamboyant family. In The Shadow Sister,she steps out of the shadows and discovers a past involving Beatrix Potter, Mrs Keppel and the King of England.

adoption reunion

When their adopted father Pa Salt dies, he leaves each girl a letter and clue about their birth. Star’s journey takes her first to Kensington, London, to an eccentric rare bookseller where Star, grieving and feeling adrift in life, takes a job as bookshop assistant. She soon proves herself irreplaceable to shop owner Orlando who invites her to his family home in Kent. There she meets his surly brother Mouse – who Star thinks of as ‘The Sewer Rat’ – and delightful nephew Rory. As Star becomes caught up in the turmoil of the Vaughan family, distance grows between herself and CeCe. Slowly Star recognises that in order to work out who she is, she must be separate from her sister.

This novel is not just the contemporary story of Star ‘finding herself’ it is also the story of her ancestry. The historical strand takes us back to 1909 to Flora MaNichol who lives at Esthwaite Hall in the Lake District, and is a neighbour to Beatrix Potter. Flora’s family life is enigmatic, although she is the older sister it is the younger Aurelia who is given a London season and engagement to Archie, destined to be Lord Vaughan, encouraged. Flora would rather run wild on the fells, drawing animals and plants, avoiding her censorious father. Her life takes a turn when she too must live in London, at the house of Mrs Keppel, notorious mistress to the King. Star’s clue hints at a wealthy inheritance, a small onyx animal figurine named ‘Panther’. How can this be connected to Flora; why is she feted as a guest by Mrs Keppel, and what are the connections to Star a century later?

One issue I have with the series is that rather than actually being about the sisters’ mysterious parentage and how Pa Salt came to adopt them, they tell a historical story set two or three generations earlier. So far I have enjoyed all three of the historical stories; I am reading the series in order. The historical strands are linked to each relevant sister, but I am left feeling slightly short-changed about the truth of their birth. I want to know more about the birth parents and how Pa Salt came to adopt them. However in this book, more than the first two, his shadow is more evident so perhaps his story will be unveiled in the seventh book of the series.
BUY

Next in the series is The Pearl Sister, the story of CeCe.
Read my reviews of the first two novels in the series:-
The Seven Sisters
The Storm Sister

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain
‘Blood-Tied’ by Wendy Percival
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE SHADOW SISTER by @lucindariley #adoption https://wp.me/paZ3MX-3K via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

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

Second in ‘The Seven Sisters’ series of adoption identity mysteries by Lucinda Riley, The Storm Sister is the story of the second oldest d’Aplièse sister, Ally. Very different from the first novel of the series which was set in hot and steamy Brazil, this book encompasses professional yacht racing, classical music and Norway.

Lucinda Riley Like Maia’s story in The Seven Sisters, Ally’s tale starts with the death of their father Pa Salt. Ally reads his letter and ponders two clues. A small ornamental frog and a book from his library ‘by a man long dead named Jens Halvorsen’ lead her to Norway. This is an ambitious timeline, skipping back 132 years to 1875 and the fascinating story of Jens Halvorsen and Anna Landvik. What follows is a lovely tale of Anna being plucked from her mountain farm to sing the soprano’s part in the premiere of Grieg’s ‘Peer Gynt’, ghost-singing for an actress with an inferior voice. This performance kickstarts Anna’s career, and she settles into a new life in Christiania [modern-day Oslo] and falls in love. Of course, true love never runs smoothly and Anna continues to long for the hills of her homeland rather than the city streets. The Norwegian settings are wonderful and I wanted to stay with Anna’s life, Riley invests so much in this section it almost feels like a book-within-a-book. But The Storm Sister is an adoption mystery about Ally’s parentage, so despite loving the Anna storyline I started to wonder why Riley takes us so far back in time to the nineteenth century and the story of who in terms of age are Ally’s great-great-grandparents. When is she going to tell us about Ally’s parents and her adoption by Pa Salt?

Riley excels at the immersive detail of both sailing and singing. The inclusion of Grieg’s music and the story of Ibsen’s ‘Peer Gynt’ – which offers parallels of Peer with Jens – made me listen to the music. But three quarters of the way through the book, I started to lose interest. That surprised me; I haven’t felt that way with Riley’s other books. The mystery is thinly strung and additional storylines and characters added in the last quarter feel hurried and shoehorned in. I found myself worrying I’d missed something and started flicking back through the pages. It picks up again at the end of Ally’s story, finishing at a pace before the final chapter acts as a preview to the next book, the next sister’s story.

A doorstop of a book, The Storm Sister comes in at 720 pages. Darker than the first of the series, there are love affairs and betrayals, grief, tragedy and the depths of despair and cruelty. Each novel is the standalone story of one sister, but reading them order brings the cumulative benefits of understanding the six sisters who were raised together at Atlantis. Next in the series is The Shadow Sister, the story of Star.
BUY
Read my review of The Seven Sisters, first in the series.

If you like this genealogy mysteries, try:-
Relative Strangers’ by Hunter Davies
Blood-Tied’ by Wendy Percival
The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A frog & a book lead to Norway: THE STORM SISTER by @lucindariley #adoption https://wp.me/paZ3MX-2a via #AdoptionStoriesBlog