Equal parts tear-jerker and page-turner, Nicole Baart’s You Were Always Mine (Atria Books) entwines the heartbreak of a mother’s struggle with the urgency of a mystery that won’t let her (or you) go.

At the start of You Were Always Mine, we meet mother and teacher Jessica Chamberlain on the brink of a nightmare—and a plunge into regret—when her estranged husband is found dead. Her older son, in a surly teenage phase, seems to blame her for not having tried harder to repair the marriage and thus the family, while her younger son’s developmental challenges immediately intensify in the wake of the tragedy.

It would be a struggle for any mother to try to quietly deal with her own grief while pulling herself together to be there for her children. But Jess can’t piece together the odd string of events in the weeks leading up to her husband’s death—and isn’t sure she’ll be able to let go and move on until she can. Perhaps it’s maternal intuition driving her because soon she realizes her questions hit closer to home than she could have imagined—involving not only her husband but her younger son’s closed adoption seven years before.

The journey that follows is part search for healing and part search for answers.

I appreciate a story that can pull you into a suspenseful plot while keeping hold of the emotion that drives us all. You Were Always Mine is one of those rare books that does both equally well. I related to the characters even as I wanted to reach through the pages and plead with them to be more careful.

As subplots start to more fully develop, and minor characters begin to mystify you as to what their motives could possibly be, you can trust that you’re in good hands with Nicole Baart—who brings all the threads, even seemingly disparate ones, together at the end with the kind of satisfying finish that makes you want to say aloud: “Of course!” The underlying themes, about finding room in our hearts to expand our ideas of family, will stay with you.

Through it all, you won’t be able to put this book down. It’s compelling, heartfelt, and enjoyable to the breathless finish.

You Were Always Mine is available for purchase.

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Nicole Baart is the mother of five children from four different countries. The co-founder of a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, she lives in a small town in Iowa. She is the author of seven novels, including, most recently, You Were Always Mine. Follow her on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound Books and Goodreads.