Tag Archives: genealogy fiction

#Adoption #mystery ‘The Missing Sister’ by @lucindariley #books

Well, what I thought would be the final book, the seventh in the wonderful Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley, turns out not to be the last after all. The Missing Sister will be followed later this year by Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt. So, I finished this latest book with many questions remaining. This is an example of a family saga that you want to run and run. The publication of the eighth book sadly follows Lucinda Riley’s death in 2021, so the forthcoming eighth book will be based on Lucinda’s draft and completed by her son Harry Whittaker.

The seven sisters of the myth were Maia, Alcyone, Asterope, Celaeno, Taygete, Electra, and Merope. Their parents were Atlas, a Titan commanded by the god Zeus to hold up the earth, and Pleione, the mythical protectress of sailors. The Missing Sister is the story of Merope – Mary, or Merry, as she is called in the book – though it’s unclear whether she is lost, or simply ‘missing’ from the family because Pa Salt didn’t adopt her. The confusion over the first name adds to the twists in a book packed with twists and turns when the missing D’Aplièse sister is identified as either a mother and daughter, both called Mary. The pursuit begins with the announcement by the family lawyer that the missing sister is in New Zealand. Mary can be identified by the distinctive diamond and emerald ring she wears.

The story is told in various timelines. In the present day we hear the voices of recently-widowed Merry McDougal who leaves New Zealand on a Grand Tour around the world, of her daughter Mary-Kate left at home to run the prize-winning winery, and of the six D’Aplièse sisters who follow the clues. Plus two historical timelines – of Nuala Murphy, a farmer’s daughter in the West of Ireland in July 1920, a critical time in Irish independence; and of Mary O’Reilly starting in October 1955 in the Irish valley of Argideen.

Riley, herself Northern Irish, tells of a chapter in Irish history with a fascinating insight into the impact on a small rural community, the bravery, secrecy, divisions, the betrayals and deprivations. New to me was the ‘Cumann na mBan’, the Irish women’s volunteer movement, and its role not simply in feeding and clothing the fighting men but as couriers delivering not only messages but weapons. An inspiration to the Irish is Michael Collins, from Clonakilty in West Cork, close to where Riley sets her story. ‘The Big Fellow’ rose to be director of intelligence for the Irish Republican Army. Another real person appearing in the story is local Clogagh fighter Charlie Hurley.

My mind swirled with all the options. First of all, is Pa Salt really dead? If he’s alive, why lie to everyone and put them through so much grief? The concept of the adopted sisters raises multiple questions: who is this man, Pa Salt, who collected babies from around the world to care for them. And why does the story of Merope feel different from the others? So many new hints are dropped in this seventh novel, things that don’t add up. Most certainly this is a book to read having read the rest of the series – read as a standalone it will only disappoint.

I finished it with mixed feelings. It’s a long book [the hardcover is 816 pages] with scenes included that might have been shortened or deleted. I found the sisters’ determined pursuit of Mary at best eager but often selfish and inconsiderate. But the Irish sections are wonderful. It’s clear these were close to Riley’s heart which adds emotional depth and understanding. If you enjoy dual-timeline historical fiction combined with the globetrotting glamour of Penny Vincenzi, please pick up The Seven Sisters and start reading this series.

BUY THE BOOK

Read my reviews of the first six novels in the series:-

THE SEVEN SISTERS

THE STORM SISTER

THE SHADOW SISTER

THE PEARL SISTER

THE MOON SISTER

THE SUN SISTER

If you like this, try:-

‘While Paris Slept’ by Ruth Druart

‘The Irish Inheritance’ by MJ Lee

The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing’ by Mary Paulson-Ellis

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:

THE MISSING SISTER by @lucindariley #adoption  via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#Adoption #Mystery ‘The Sun Sister’ by @lucindariley #mystery

Electra, the youngest d’Aplièse sister in the Seven Sisters series of adoption mysteries by Lucinda Riley, has always seemed the most explosive personality of the siblings. And so The Sun Sister, sixth in the series and the one dedicated to telling the story of Electra’s family history, is explosive too. It’s a 5* read and a long one, 850 pages, as Riley digs deep into Electra’s African origins and the drug epidemic of today’s world.

Supermodel Electra seems to have it all, fame, beauty, money, rock star boyfriend, a glamorous lifestyle in Manhattan. But she also has a drink and drug habit. Her behaviour is erratic, obsessive, selfish and angry, made worse by the sudden death of her adoptive father Pa Salt and being ditched by her boyfriend Mitch. Cutting herself off from friends and family, Electra is spiralling downwards when she receives a letter from a strange woman claiming to be her grandmother.

The Sun Sister tells the story of Electra’s life now in New York 2008, interleaved with that of Cecily Huntley-Morgan, daughter of a fine New York family who, in 1938, has just been jilted by her fiance. Taking up the invitation of her glamorous and eccentric godmother Kiki Preston to escape the gossip and return with her to Africa, Cecily finds herself part of the infamous Happy Valley set living beside Lake Naivasha in Kenya. Unable to stick with Kiki’s partying and frequent hangovers, Cecily makes a friend of Katherine Stewart, soon be married to cattle rancher Bobby Sinclair, who introduces her to life in the bush and to Bobby’s friend, fellow rancher Bill Forsythe. With war approaching, Cecily finds herself in an impossible position. She must choose whether to stay in Africa or take a risky passage home to America. She stays and life presents her with tragedy and a discovery that will change the direction of her life.

Cecily’s story is told to Electra by her grandmother, Stella Jackson, a prominent black rights activist in America. With Stella’s help Electra begins to understand how being black affected her childhood in a predominantly white world. In drug rehab Electra must face up to her addictive behaviour, understand its roots and learn to live life differently. Stella insists that in order to understand her birth family, Electra must first learn about Cecily’s life in Africa

Previous novels have concentrated on the stories of the individual sister’s birth family two generations back, and I have longed to know more about the sister’s birth parents. I wanted the family connections to be immediate, more accessible, and in The Sun Sister Riley delivers. The life of Electra’s birth mother acts as plot pivot which deepens the emotion of the story. Interestingly, in the previous six books I found Electra the least sympathetic and difficult to like sister, but The Sun Sister explains how Electra became the adult she is at the beginning of this ambitious series. She has the most dramatic character curve of any of the sisters so far.

Overall, The Sun Sister is excellent though perhaps slightly too long, understandable given the difficult subjects addressed. Only one book left to go, the mysterious, missing, seventh sister.

BUY THE BOOK

Read my reviews of the first five novels in the series:-

THE SEVEN SISTERS

THE STORM SISTER

THE SHADOW SISTER

THE PEARL SISTER

THE MOON SISTER

If you like this, try:-

The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon’ by Sarah Steele

Tainted Tree’ by Jacquelynn Luben

The Carer’ by Deborah Moggach

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:

THE SUN SISTER by @lucindariley #books via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#BookReview ‘The Letter’ by @KHughesAuthor #mystery #adoption

The idea for The Letter by Kathryn Hughes is enticing; the lives of two women, forty years apart, linked by a letter found in the pocket of an overcoat at a charity shop. What follows is a dual storyline – about an abused wife and her road to freedom, and a young woman in love for the first time as war breaks out. Kathryn Hughes

This is a story about two couples. In 1974, Tina Craig works in an office during the week and on Saturdays she volunteers at a charity shop to get out of the house, away from her abusive husband Rick. Staying, though she knows she must leave, Tina listens to the advice of friends but continues to excuse and forgive Rick’s behaviour. Until a mysterious letter found in the pocket of coat sets her off on the trail of the people involved. The letter is sealed and stamped but never posted. Why. When she opens and reads the letter she starts to think about Billy, who wrote the letter in 1939 as war broke out, and about Chrissie, the woman who never received his letter.

In the summer of 1939, Chrissie and Billy fall in love in the last days of peace. As Billy is called up, Chrissie faces the cultural judgements of the day combined with her bullying father.

Tina’s pursuit for the truth of the letter leads her across Manchester and to Ireland. Hughes tackles heart breaking subjects – forced adoption, Irish nunneries, bullying parents, domestic abuse – perhaps too many. The ending is predictable via a number of coincidences, facts fall into place and old hurts forgotten. Despite its frustrations, I enjoyed this story though I did long for more showing and less telling.

If you like your endings neatly tied up, you will enjoy this. A good read for holidays.
BUY THE BOOK

If you like this, try:-
The Orange Lilies’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin 
‘The Love Child’ by Rachel Hore 
‘The Irish Inheritance’ by MJ Lee 

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

#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.
BUY
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

#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.
BUY THE BOOK
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.
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

#Genealogy #mystery ‘In the Blood’ by Steve Robinson @SteveRobinson01

Steve Robinson is a new author for me and this is the first in his series of novels about American genealogist Jefferson Tayte. I warmed to JT quickly, he’s not a typical hero and seems very real. His assignment – to uncover the truth of what happened to a family who set sail from Boston to England in August 1783 – takes him across the Atlantic to Cornwall. Steve Robinson

There are two parallel timelines, the ship voyage in 1783 and JT’s trip to England set in the present day. The story weaves back and forth between the two, in fact I enjoyed reading the eighteenth century strand and would have liked more of the Fairbornes’ story. JT’s search, initially for documents, suddenly becomes dangerous when local woman Amy discovers a wooden box. Now Amy’s life is in danger too. But who stands to gain from a mystery 200 years old, and which Cornish locals can JT trust?

At times I wished there was a cast list at the front of the book as I got a little confused between the family connections, but as that is what JT was researching I guess it was inevitable.

If you like reading mysteries, try this. It’s an intriguing mixture of history, mystery, genealogy, set in Cornwall which is a beautiful backdrop. There’s lots about the countryside, Cornish history, wreckers and smugglers.
BUY THE BOOK

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:
#Genealogy #mystery IN THE BLOOD by @SteveRobinson01 https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5u via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

‘File under Fear’ by Geraldine Wall #genealogy #mystery #dementia

Second in the series about probate researcher turned genealogy detective Anna Ames, File Under Fear by Geraldine Wall takes off running from where the previous book left off. This is a well-written, page-turning series that combines family history, crime, family and secrets. But for me, the touchstone that makes it special is the sub-plot of Anna’s home life and her husband Harry’s dementia. If you haven’t read book one in the series, I suggest you start there to see the full emotional depth.Geraldine Wall

Anna’s new contract sounds boring: to write a business report on Draycotts, the company which makes Drakes lurid orange and green drink, analysing how the family members coordinate together to run a successful business. But there is a secret element to her contract, to locate a missing person for CEO Gerald Draycott. This case sees Anna physically and emotionally intimidated and encompasses bullying, illegal smuggling and rape. An intense story with red herrings and wrong assumptions made about family members, the actual crimes being committed and in which Anna questions who to trust. Backing her up are her very likeable family and the multi-talented more-than-workmate Steve. Some of the resolutions fall into place a little conveniently at the fast-paced ending, but this is a satisfying tale.

What makes this series so different, and adds the emotional depth in spades, is Harry’s illness and how the family and friends cope. Sometimes they struggle but ultimately they manage the reality of their life with compassion, humour and love. This series is maturing nicely.
BUY
Read my review of the first Anna Ames novel, File under Family.

If you like this, try:-
Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan
Hiding the Past’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Deerleap’ by Sarah Walsh 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#Genealogy #mystery #dementia FILE UNDER FEAR by Geraldine Wall https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5q via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#FamilyHistory #Mystery ‘Fred’s Funeral’ by Sandy Day

None of us have the luxury of hearing what is said about us after we are dead. In Fred’s Funeral, Canadian author Sandy Day tells the story of one soldier, returned from the First World War, who felt misunderstood and sidelined by his family. Only when he dies in 1986, seventy years after he went to war, does he observe his own funeral and find out what they really think of him. Sandy Day

Fred Sadler has lived his post-fighting years in one institution or another. Clearly he is suffering from some form of shell shock or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but this goes undiagnosed. There are periods of living in boarding houses, his family is unwilling to have him live with them, until his behaviour deteriorates and he is sent back to hospital. Now dead and trapped as an unwilling ghost, Fred observes his funeral presided over by Viola, the sister-in-law he always disliked. As the mourners sit around and share memories of Fred, he watches, frustration mounting, as he is unable to correct their observations. They portray a ‘Fred Sadler’ which he does not recognise. I kept expecting something to happen; a true memory of the war, an event, which would explain Fred’s illness and set the record straight with his family. But it didn’t come. The story is told in linear fashion; the anecdotes of Viola and the remaining family are interchanged with Fred’s reaction to these stories plus a few flashbacks to the war. Clearer signposting of these sections would make reading easier.

Day clearly captures the time and place of post-Great War Canada, a subject which is new to me. However I found the repeated digressions into the extended family history and details of the lifestyle a distraction from the main story [so many cousins, great-great grandparents and houses]. I so wanted to cut some of these unrelated sections to allow a stronger novel to push its way to the surface; simpler, more powerful. The inclusion of so many family details makes me wonder if the core of Fred’s Funeral is a memoir, inspired by a real family, from which the author feels unable to cut some relations and take the leap into pure fiction.

The portrayal of Fred’s experience at Whitby Hospital for the Insane is heart breaking, as is the disinterest of his family. For them, Fred is an embarrassment. It is a sad indictment of our treatment of soldiers returning from war and our ignorance that the effect of fighting can last a lifetime. It is easy to assume that in the 21stcentury this has changed, but the modern day strand of Day’s story suggests it hasn’t. It is as if Fred’s life has paused. “He banished feeling anything long ago. He feels timid. He feels tentative, like every step he takes is on a thick layer of ice and at any moment, he might crash through into a frenzy of drowning.”

At the end of the novel, there is no ‘reveal’, no surprise, and I felt a little let down. Overall, this is a thoughtful examination of how family tensions, petty jealousies and misunderstandings can spread down the generations. Gossip and guesses are transformed into ‘truth’.

Day also writes poetry and this shows in her neat turn of phrase. For example, cousin Gertrude puts on her eyeglasses which “magnify her grey eyes like two tadpoles in a jar”.
BUY

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Hiding the Past’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger
Blood-Tied’ by Wendy Percival 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#FamilyHistory #Mystery FRED’S FUNERAL by Sandy Day https://wp.me/paZ3MX-6h via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

#FamilyHistory #Mystery ‘Bloodline’ by @FionaMountain

This is a combination of genealogical mystery, murder investigation and historical examination of the Nazis. Bloodline by Fiona Mountain, the second Natasha Blake mystery, covers a lot of ground from its seemingly innocuous starting point when Natasha hands in her report to a client. But nothing is mentioned lightly in this book, everything has a meaning. Natasha is not sure why Charles Seagrove requested this particular family tree, but knows he is unrelated to any of the people featured. Fiona Mountain

The real reason for Seagrove’s interest in genealogy is at the heart of this storyline. There are many dead ends and I admit to losing track of who was who at one point but Mountain ties all the loose endings together so there is clarity at the end. At first, Natasha is simply conducting another genealogical research but everything changes when she receives an anonymous note, ‘Cinderella is in the bluebell woods at Poacher’s Dell’. Once her client is murdered with his own shotgun, Natasha feels threatened as well as puzzled.

There are many storylines to be connected including Charles Seagrove’s grand-daughter Rosa and her father Richard, Second World War land girls, and two soldiers – one German, one English – who meet in the trenches during the Christmas truce of 1914. This is a lot to handle but Mountain manages the complicated history with ease and I enjoyed trying to work out the solution.
BUY THE BOOK
Read my review of Pale as the Dead, the first Natasha Blake book.

If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
File Under Family’ by Geraldine Wall
The Ghost of Lily Painter’ by Caitlin Davies
The Seven Sisters’ by Lucinda Riley 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
BLOODLINE by @FionaMountain #FamilyHistory #Mystery https://wp.me/paZ3MX-6c via #AdoptionStoriesBlog