The Lost and Found Girl
Grade : C+

The Lost and Found Girl is entertaining enough, but feels like more of the same from Maisey Yates. This could well be another of her contemporary romances, but it offers up no bold strides or new twists to her regular style aside from some rather dark plot choices.

Pear Blossom, Oregon is known for only two things – Ruby McKee, and the tragic disappearance of a young girl named Caitlin Groves. A foundling discovered by three young sisters on a freezing cold day before Christmas Eve in 2000, Ruby’s story had a much better ending than Caitlin’s; Ruby was adopted by the family who found her. The attention resulting from her discovery turned Pear Blossom into a center of tourism and capitalism in the region. As an adult, Ruby is a cheerful, world-traveling gadfly. She loves the McKees a lot, but she also loves traveling beyond the bounds of Pear Blossom. Then her sister, Lydia, loses her husband and sinks into depression, and Ruby comes home.

The McKee sisters are each as different as they can be. Lydia is dealing with the recent death of her husband, Mack, and feels a combination of misery over what she’s lost, guilt over her attraction to his foster brother, Chase, and because she’d secretly been planning on divorcing Mack prior to his death. She’s trying her best to raise six-year-old son, Riley and nine-year-old Hazel on her own.

Dahlia – aka Dee – is trying to re-start the Pear Blossom Gazette after years spent in the service industry. Dahlia loves Jane Austen and dreams of falling into the arms of Carter Swenson, who now works for the local police department but was once a high school big shot to her awkward alternative ugly duckling. Her shyness holds her back. She thinks that Ruby’s story might be a gateway to get attention back on the paper.

Marianne – married to Jackson Martin – has a moody fifteen-year-old named Ava and a less moody twelve-year-old named Hunter, and a wish for a family life independent of the McKee’s ongoing dramas. She too, is resentful that her family life must revolve around her siblings, especially the forever incandescent Ruby. Marianne continues to battle depression, which sunk her deep in her late teen years, and worries that Jackson is cheating on her. The reappearance of Ruby brings a deep trauma to life for her.

Everything changes when Ruby takes a job at the local museum and, working as an archivist under the taciturn Dana Groves – mother of the lost Caitlin - discovers some information collected to her long-ago abandonment. She thinks her biological father might be a neighbor to the McKees – but more importantly, that Caitlin’s disappearance connects to her discovery. She’s not driven to pursue it until Nathan, the town’s bad boy - who has recently returned after being drummed out years ago, when he was accused of and nearly tried in Caitlin’s disappearance - calls her the town mascot, which rubs her the wrong way. With Dee’s journalistic fervor and Ruby’s natural curiosity boosting the quest, Ruby decides to figure out her origin story. In the process, everything in Marianne, Ruby, Dee and Lydia’s lives will be upended, and new clues will emerge in Caitlin’s long-cold case.

The Lost and Found Girl sometimes reads a lot like Yates’ other contemporary romances, right down to the orphaned girl looking for her biological parents, who naturally falls for a handsome Mr. Wrong. Then in mid-stream it goes to a much, much darker place, leaving the reader stunned. If you enjoy her contemporaries, you might like this bit of women’s fiction if you can handle the heavy, dark plot shift that occurs here. Ruby is your classic spunky-and-horny Yates heroine with dignity, and the book is all about the relationship between the many women who make up the narrative.

But, Ruby… Ruby is also one of those annoying chirpy Mary-Sunshine types who actually well fits the description of a Mary Sue. The book tries to deal with the label the town has pasted on her vis her ‘specialness’ as a person, but it absolutely fails to deliver on the concept most of the time, no matter how loud the voice her sisters are given on the subject. Ruby only occasionally feels mortal. Yet I really liked her relationship with the much more bitter Dana, and her flashes of insight. It takes her half the story to change and grow. Much of the novel centers around her attraction to Nathan, who may or may not have done what everyone thinks he did all those years ago, and sometimes that cheapens the ugly tension of what’s going on with the Caitlin site of the book’s plot.

Marianne is the most interesting of the sisters, with deeply rooted depression that complicated her so-called perfect life, which leads back to a poorly dealt-with childhood trauma. I’ve been there, at least when it comes to the depression part, and that part of her story feels very true to life. I was disappointed that Lydia’s marriage was conveniently falling apart before Mack died, which removes the tension from her deciding to be with Chase – of course she would, they were emotionally intimate before they were physically intimate. It would’ve been much more narratively interesting if they’d been happily married and she wanted Chase the whole time. And as for Dee, can we please have a heroine who’s obsessed with anything but Austen or the Brontës?

As to the mystery of Ruby’s parentage, I found it surprising, and it definitely made me feel bad for a character I already liked, but the ending was far too neat and far too much of a deus ex machina. Fans of Yates will enjoy The Lost and Found Girl, but unless you’re in the mood for something heavy, newbies should start with her mainstream Harlequin titles.

Note: this novel contains bloody on-page childbirth of an unwanted baby by a teenager, and the off-page rape and on-page flashback grooming of two teenagers and the murder of one.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local independent retailer

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Reviewed by Lisa Fernandes
Grade : C+
Book Type: Women's Fiction

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : July 11, 2022

Publication Date: 07/2022

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Recent Comments …

  1. This sounds great. I’ve been reading a lot of historical mysteries lately and loving them, though less Victorian and more…

Lisa Fernandes

Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier
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