Book Review: 'Finding Mother' by Anne Allen

by - February 13, 2014

Prepare to be swept away by a heart-warming tale of family relationships and love

Three women. Three generations. Sacrifices for love…


Who is she really? Nicole is about to find out as she searches for her real mother; the woman who gave her away at birth. With her marriage in tatters, she sets out from England: travelling to Spain, Jersey and Guernsey before the extraordinary story of her real family is finally revealed.

Nicole becomes an unwitting catalyst for change in the family. Two women are forced to reveal long-buried secrets. One going back as far as the Second World War. Lives are transformed as choices have to be made and the past laid to rest…

This contemporary romantic drama is the second of The Guernsey Novels, a series of stand-alone books by the award-winning author Anne Allen. It is likely to appeal to lovers of the works of Joanna Trollope and Maeve Binchy.

"A sensitive, heart-felt novel about family relationships, identity, adoption, second chances at love… With romance, weddings, boat trips, lovely gardens and more, Finding Mother is a dazzle of a book, a perfect holiday read." Lindsay Townsend, author of The Snow Bride


I was attracted to the cover of Finding Mother when I was first sent the request to join the book tour. It inspires intrigue about who the woman on the cover is and the setting is so beautiful you want to read the book to find out where she is.

Finding Mother follows the story of Nicole Oxford; adopted by two incredibly loving and caring parents, and having grown up to become a strong woman who has a great job and husband. Or so she thinks! When Nicole discovers that her husband has been unfaithful to her, it completely shatters her world and everything she knew about herself. It is after this trauma that Nicole embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Nicole becomes curious about her biological family, and curiosity wins over as she decides to find them.

Anne Allan takes us on a wonderful trip to some really beautiful places. Her writing really brings the setting to life and makes you feel like you could be right there with the characters. The imagery Anne creates is so vivid that I feel anyone who has been to these places will feel like they’re being transported back to them, and those who haven’t will feel that they have been there.

I really like the characters in the novel, as they seem very real and believable. It makes it easier to connect with them as you can find familiarity in them. I particularly loved Nicole’s grandmother, Eve.

In Finding Mother, Anne Allen touches on some hard-hitting themes, such as adoption, and a search for one’s true identity. After reading the blurb I was expecting quite a heavy story, filled with many ups and downs, a lot of pain but hopefully happiness too. However, the Anne Allan does not delve too far into the nitty gritty of adoption as the book remains quite light-hearted and a lot of the issues that appear to arise for Nicole are overcome very easily – sometimes too much so.

The story is really enjoyable and Anne approaches the tough subjects with a beautiful sensitivity. It is a very easy read, that isn’t too heavy, so it doesn’t require you to be in a certain frame of mind to enjoy it. For my own personal enjoyment, I would have liked the story to have had a few more struggles that weren’t resolves too easily, as it would make the story seem more real. I found myself doubting whether real life would ever run so smoothly.

Overall it is a lovely story, and I love that it captures how adoption affects the adoptive parents, as I find they are often neglected in these situations.

It is a beautiful, light-hearted read that broaches difficult subjects with graceful sensitivity.

About the Author:

I'm a late-comer to writing, having only started in my, ahem, middle years. (I'm assuming we'll all be living to 100 from now on, won't we?) I'd often had an 'itch' to write but was focussed on my career as a psychotherapist and bringing up three children on my own. Writing was a luxury I simply could not afford! Then a few years ago I was a reluctant entrant (pushed by my mother!) into a writing competition run by Prima magazine. They wanted a True- Life story and I won the first prize of £500 J So I decided that writing wasn't such a bad idea and wrote my first novel, Dangerous Waters, shortly after; eventually publishing it in 2012. As I'm now more or less retired as a therapist I've devoted a lot more time to writing and published my second novel, Finding Mother, in October 2013.

A restless soul, I have moved around the country quite a bit, as far north as Scotland and south to Guernsey in the Channel Islands. I've learnt that the sea must be part of my soul and am happiest when living near it. I now live in Devon to be near my daughter and grandchildren so I have the best of both worlds. As a family we lived in Guernsey for many happy years and I left one son behind as a valid excuse for frequent return visits. My other son's based in London so great for when I need some cultureJ

Am happiest in warmer climes, however, and lived in Spain for a few years. My ideal would be to spend part of the English winter somewhere warm, possibly Spain, so that I can recharge my body and soul. So, if and when I write that bestseller…!



Chapter 1

‘I want a divorce!’

            Nicole’s cry hung in the air as she slammed out of the house. She flung herself into the driver’s seat of her car, an Audi TT parked adjacent to its twin. After substantial and unnecessary, but therapeutic revving, the car shot out onto the road as Tom appeared at the front door, shouting something Nicole couldn’t and didn’t want to hear.

            Half a mile along the road towards Bath, she pulled into a layby and, leaning her head on the steering wheel, sobbed.  A few minutes of unrestrained tears later, Nicole reached for a tissue from her handbag and, using the vanity mirror for guidance, wiped the black streaks of mascara from her face and blew her reddened nose.  A few deep breaths helped restore her breathing, but her head continued thumping from the release of emotion.

            I thought crying was supposed to be good for you, but I’ve never felt so awful.  Well, not since I broke my leg skiing when I was twelve.  In a rare moment of clarity she wondered which was worse – a broken leg or an unfaithful husband.  It was a close call. Reclining the car seat, Nicole stretched out her tall, slim frame, allowing her clenched muscles to finally relax. What a mess!

 It had all started when she wanted to order a food delivery from Sainsbury’s and couldn’t find her credit card.  After calling out to Tom if it was okay to use his – being a joint card – Nicole took the answering grunt from upstairs to mean a yes. As she opened his wallet a bill fell out.

            Picking it up, the heading caught her eye; ‘The Stratford Manor Hotel, Warwick Road, Stratford-upon-Avon’.  Odd, when did Tom stay there?  Opening it out Nicole saw it was a receipted bill for two nights in the name of ‘Mr and Mrs Oxford’ dated for the previous weekend.  Nicole held onto the chair as the realisation hit – he was still being unfaithful. Tom had assured her he’d got it out of his system and was now a devoted husband.  Except it appeared he wasn’t.

            Nicole’s feet felt as if encased in lead boots as she went upstairs to the bedroom.  As she flung open the door to the designer decorated room which, at least for her, had represented love and harmony, Tom was shrugging into his jeans.  He was freshly showered after his run and his light brown hair stood up glistening and spiky.

            Moving slowly into the room she threw the bill onto the cream velvet bed-throw.  Tom stiffened and looked up, the turned down mouth and contracted eyebrows offering the mournful look of a penitent.

            ‘Please, darling, it’s not what you think…’

            ‘Oh, what is it then?  Entertaining a new writer, perhaps?’ Nicole’s voice sounded harsh, even to her own ears.  As a television producer Tom often met with programme writers.  But meetings were not usually conducted in a hotel bed, or so she assumed.

            Tom opened his mouth but nothing came out.  Unheard of for him.

            ‘Didn’t you tell me you were attending a conference in Birmingham last weekend?  At a city centre hotel?’

            ‘Yes, but I. . .I wanted to get away from everyone.  That’s why I moved to Stratford.’ He must have seen the disbelief on Nicole’s face as he went on, ‘It wasn’t anything important, really it wasn’t, darling.  It’s you I love, you know that, don’t you?’

            He reached out to Nicole but she stepped back from him, a coldness clutching at her heart. The thought of being touched by those adulterous hands made her feel sick. Anger at his betrayal triggered off a flow of adrenaline, propelling her through the bedroom door and down the stairs, giving herself time to grab her bag and car keys before slamming out of the house.

Thinking now of her parting shot at Tom, Nicole asked herself if she really did want a divorce. They appeared to have everything. Both successful in their media careers – she being an investigative journalist for the same television channel – beautiful, renovated farmhouse near Bath; exotic holidays when they found the time; and no children to restrict them.

            She fell madly in love with Tom twelve years ago, when they’d met at the radio station where they then worked. He seemed equally smitten and proposed two years later with a huge diamond solitaire.

            Nicole sighed as she thought back to those early days when the world was at their feet. Both dynamic and ambitious, they progressed into television to further their careers. And there Tom met temptation.

            Another deep sigh escaped her lips as she lay back with her eyes closed. Her marriage mirrored her life generally – glamour and glitter on the surface but no real substance.

            It was too depressing for words and Nicole knew that something needed to change if she was to love and respect herself again.  It was clear Tom had not changed and, at thirty-seven, it wasn’t likely to happen.  At least not until he lost his looks or his power.  Or both.  Nicole wasn’t proud  that she’d been seduced by great sex, an expensive lifestyle and the kudos of being not only a “name” in her own right, but also of being married to an even bigger one in media.  Everything came too easily for her, beginning with the very comfortable and spoiled upbringing of an only child in Jersey.  The only thing to have marred the idyll had been her adoption. She’d known forever and, as a child, it hadn’t bothered her. But the problems building up in her marriage had led to feelings of discontent and unease. Unease in herself – who on earth was she really? Nicole knew she wasn’t like her parents, which was natural. She wanted to know who she was, who she really took after. That might help her to change the person she’d become and didn’t actually much like.

            Okay, pay-back time.  Nicole squared her shoulders as she sat up and started the engine before swinging the car round to face the house from which she’d driven so furiously what felt a lifetime ago.

‘We need to talk,’ she said, coming into the kitchen and finding Tom slumped in a chair.

            ‘Darling!  Thank God you’re back! Please, please let’s start again.  I swear I’ll never so much as look at another woman if only you say you forgive me and will stay.’

            He certainly looked miserable. She took in his tousled, uncombed hair, the pulled-down corners of his mouth and the blue eyes missing their usual sparkle.

            Tom rose to meet her but she shook her head and motioned for him to stay seated.  His gaze was wary as Nicole sat opposite him at the scrubbed pine table at which they hardly ever ate together, so busy were their respective schedules.

            Nicole took a deep breath, willing herself to stay calm and not let emotion sabotage her hastily rehearsed speech.

            ‘I do want a divorce, Tom…’

            ‘No, you can’t, darling! Let me…’

             ‘Please let me finish! Then you can have your say.  What’s happened is merely a symptom of what’s wrong with our marriage. And, I now realise, has been for some time.  I really believe we’ve stayed together for the wrong reasons and it’s time to think of the future.’

            She cleared her throat. ‘We… didn’t really talk about having a family but it could be that I’ll want children one day.’

            Nicole leant on the table as if it would give her the strength she needed to continue.

            ‘But I’d want a stable, happy home for my child and that’s not guaranteed with you. I’m not sure I can trust you. Not now,’ her voice fell to little more than a whisper as she plunged the knife into their ailing marriage.

            Tom’s eyes widened and his mouth opened wide in panic as he sought to save the relationship which had been his rock for so long. He reached out to grab Nicole’s hands but she pulled them out of his way, letting them twist together under the table.

            ‘Please, darling.  I know I’ve behaved badly and have been an absolute idiot. I have no excuse. You’ve been a brilliant wife and we’ve enjoyed such a great time together. Remember that trip to Paris? And that time in Venice? Surely you don’t mean to throw away everything we’ve shared!’ He flung out his arms.

            Nicole couldn’t bear to look at him and kept her gaze focussed on a spot half-way down his navy T-shirt.

            ‘We’ve achieved so much together – our careers, this house; doesn’t this mean anything to you?  We’re the Golden Couple of television! A team – and a damn good one!’ 

            She knew that in some ways Tom was right. They were a well-respected team at work. Admired and envied by those clambering up the ladder behind them. And she knew that if they were no longer a couple then she’d have to start again somewhere else. It would be impossible to stay at Bristol. A miserable thought. But her reputation would be enough to open doors elsewhere. At the moment she was tired, tired of the cheating and lying at home and tired of the pressure at work to strive forever upwards.

            She raised her eyes slowly, finally letting them rest on his, steeling herself against the look of pain she saw there.

            ‘It’s no good, Tom.  Maybe this was meant to happen. For my part, I need to discover what I really want from my life. Yes, we’ve had good times, wonderful times.  But that’s going back years. When was the last time we took a romantic break together?  When did we last laugh together?’

            Tom looked stricken. Even she didn’t remember so he certainly wasn’t likely to.

            She ran a hand through her expertly cut bob and went on, ‘We’re not having any fun now, Tom. And material possessions aren’t making either of us happy, are they?’

            Nicole waved her hand around the Smallbone kitchen which once represented her idea of happiness. She remembered the line in the company’s advertisement which had attracted her – “A Kitchen for Life”. Hmm, pity they couldn’t offer a marriage for life!

            ‘Please, Nicole, let’s not rush into anything. I can understand that you’re hurt and angry but that’s not the time to make major decisions. How about a trial separation? To give you time to see what you really want? I know I don’t want to lose you but I’m happy to give you space, if that’s what you want.’ Tom’s eyes pleaded with her from the other side of the table.

            Nicole thought for a moment. Perhaps they both needed time to think. ‘Okay, I’ll agree to a separation, let’s say six months.’ She noticed the hope flicker in his eyes. ‘But I’m not promising there’ll be no divorce. I still feel that’s the way to go. But I can’t leave my job at a moment’s notice, either. So I’ll carry on for the two months left in my contract and then go. Might take a sabbatical to keep my options open. And I want you to move out. You could get a flat in the city.’

            Tom took a deep breath which was part groan.

            ‘Yes, if that’s what you want. Do you want me to leave today?’

            She heard the despair in his voice and anger hardened her resolve.

            ‘Yes! It’s going to be bad enough bumping into you at work so I need to be here on my own. You can move back once I go away.’

            His eyes widened.  ‘Where will you go?’

            ‘To Spain, to see my parents. They’ll be back from their cruise by then and I can have a little time with them at the villa.’

            ‘Only a little time? So will you come back here afterwards?’ he asked, brightening.

            Nicole shook her head. ‘No, probably to Jersey. I’m going to ask Mum for help in tracing my mother.  My real mother,’ she said, her eyes unfocused.

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  1. Hi Jess
    Thanks you for offering to host my blog tour and for your lovely review. Everyone seems to have loved the grandmother and I'm planning to write another book centred on her and her experiences in WWII.
    Good luck to everyone entering the giveaway :)

  2. Jess, what a fab review. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Finding Mother.

    Thank you for taking part in Anne's tour.


  3. You're welcome Anne! Oooh the book centred on the Grandmother's WWII experiences sounds really exciting! I really enjoy reading stories that are set in that time period.. I look forward to it\1 xx

    You're welcome Shaz, and thank you! xx


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