The Lost Daughter

Written by Sylvia Broady
Review by Katharine Quarmby

Set in Hull, East Yorkshire, in 1930, Broady tells the story of Alice Goddard, a woman fleeing domestic violence at the hands of her husband, Ted. The novel opens with Goddard losing her memory as she is involved in a road accident on the way to the police station to ask for help for herself and her daughter, Daisy. By the time she has recovered, and her memory has returned, her husband has gone, and her daughter is missing. Later, it emerges that her daughter has been taken into care, and then adopted. Alice embarks on a search for well over a decade to find her daughter.

This is well-paced story, well told and at times genuinely gripping. The period details, around Alice working with “fallen girls”, training as a nurse, then working in the Air Ambulance Service, are conjured vividly and with empathy and compassion. Women characters are well drawn, but Broady’s villain in this romance is too much of a cipher, with too little attention paid to his motivation. When he leaves his daughter with her grandmother, he does not look back. “Ted thrust the child into the startled woman’s arms. The lies came easy to him. ‘Your bloody daughter’s upped and left me for another bloke, and I’m off ter work, so you look after the brat.’” Broady, like other romance writers, has also explored adoption and the loss of children before, and perhaps the trope of the adopted child is a little over-used in the genre generally. This is a book for lovers of historical romance and Broady has established her place in the genre, with sympathetic main characters and a strong sense of place.