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You Were Always Mine

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The acclaimed author of Little Broken Things returns with another “race-to-the-finish family drama” (People) about a single mother who becomes embroiled in a mystery that threatens to tear apart what’s left of her family.

Jessica Chamberlain, newly separated and living with her two sons in a small Iowa town, can’t believe that a tragedy in another state could have anything to do with her. But when her phone rings one quiet morning, her world is shattered. As she tries to pick up the pieces and make sense of what went wrong, Jess begins to realize that a tragic death is just the beginning. Soon she is caught in a web of lies and half-truths—and she’s horrified to learn that everything leads back to her seven-year-old adopted son, Gabriel.

Years ago, Gabe’s birth mother requested a closed adoption and Jessica was more than happy to comply. But when her house is broken into and she discovers a clue that suggests her estranged husband was in close contact with Gabe’s biological mother, she vows to uncover the truth at any cost. A harrowing story of tenacious love and heartbreaking betrayal, You Were Always Mine is about the wars we wage to keep the ones we love close, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jodi Picoult.

370 pages, Paperback

First published October 16, 2018

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About the author

Nicole Baart

15 books1,194 followers
Nicole Baart is the author of eleven novels, including Everything We Didn’t Say (an October 2021 Book of the Month selection and Amazon Editor's pick) and The Long Way Back. Best known for her “race-to-the-finish family dramas” (People), Baart is also the cofounder of a nonprofit and mother of five. She lives in Iowa with her family.

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/nicolebaart/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/NicoleBaart/
Twitter https://twitter.com/NicoleLynnBaart

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 430 reviews
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,419 reviews77.6k followers
October 4, 2022
Oh wow. This story was a breath of fresh air in a genre that has grown somewhat stale to me in the past year. Is it a domestic thriller? Yes. Is it women's fiction? I suppose, although I've grown to dislike that term, as it suggests that ONLY women will enjoy those novels, when in fact I know many men who greedily devour them as well. Whatever you want to call it, You Were Always Mine is a complex tale that vacillates between thrilling page turner and thought provoking and heavy thematic elements.

The synopsis gives you *just* enough information to get a feel for the story, but leaves out some things that are a crucial part of the plot. I'm not mentioning that as a criticism, more as an enticement to you, reader, so that it can drive you to pick this novel up as soon as you can get your hands on it. Muahahahahaha. There are chapters that include seemingly random statistics that become known to the reader once you reach the end, and I thought this was a brilliant move on Baart's part; the entire story was gripping, but this small feature took a really great book and turned it into a compulsively excellent one.

I don't want to give anything away, and I feel you'll understand exactly what I mean when you read this for yourself, but I welcome the author's special brand of including adoption themed stories in a world where these novels are few and far between. If you're looking for books that feature adoption themes in a wide variety, look no further, as Nicole is an adoptive mother herself, and includes her experience and research accurately in each book that she writes. I think there is something here for everyone, so I'm recommending to all! <3

*Many thanks to the author/publisher for providing an advanced review copy.
Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
780 reviews12.2k followers
October 23, 2018
Slow moving family drama about a woman trying to put the pieces back together after the unexpected and suspicious death of her husband. This is about a single mother grappling with a loss while trying to maintain a solid foundation for her two sons, 13-year-old Max and 6-year-old Gabe. The secrets she uncovers shine a light on the ugly side of adoption.

Jess, a mother of two, is stunned when she receives word that her husband, Evan, was killed in a hunting accident. Jess and Evan were separated at the time of his death. While she had suspicions about Evan’s behavior, she didn’t realize he was keeping so many secrets from her, especially secrets related to the adopted six-year-old son, Gabe. Determined to find out what led to her husband’s death, Jess doesn’t realize that she’s about to face her worst nightmare.

While the pacing is slow, it works well with building a suspenseful level of tension. If you are looking for an action-packed thriller, this is not the book for you. Jess is the primary voice and I really liked her character as her struggles to cope with Evan’s death while having to be the primary caregiver for her two boys felt realistic. I wanted to know more about Evan-we get to see bits and pieces of his character through letters and notes, but I was left with some questions about his character. I enjoyed the plot line about adoption, and give Baart kudos for originality. Overall, this was a riveting and compelling read about a mother’s love for her children.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Holly  B (busy month catching up).
799 reviews1,806 followers
October 6, 2018
Another amazing read from a favorite author!
A gripping story that I couldn't put down!

This was an incredible story from one of my favorite authors.  I was absolutely  hooked  from the very beginning.  It turned out to be a suspense filled drama that was quite compelling.

Jessica is a mother of two boys, the youngest, Gabriel is adopted.  She is estranged from her husband Evan and her life is complicated. She gets some devastating news and her life takes another abrupt turn.

I love this author's writing style and I was pulled into the story and carried away to Jessica'a world. At times, I wanted to hold her hand and sob with her (I may have been holding my breath at times).

I was so curious about where the plot was going and I was totally invested in the characters. Many of the chapters were filled with tension that kept me reading because no way could I stop until I found out what happened! Jessica becomes an amateur sleuth and starts to put some clues together. All the dots are connected in the stunning end.

There is a mystery, an emotional adoption story, and a multi-layered plot. The many detours had me racing to get to the last page!

Thanks to Atria for my copy for review. Releases on October 16,2018 / Review will post to my blog on 10/16/18
Profile Image for BernLuvsBooks .
724 reviews4,627 followers
January 11, 2019
You Were Always Mine = 3.5 stars! This was an intriguing, slow building family drama centered around a unique and engaging mystery that will appeal to many readers

Jessica and Evan Chamberlain separated after 15 years of marriage. Still, when she receives an unexpected phone call about an accident involving her husband her world begins to spin off its axis. Evan was a workaholic, more committed to his practice than his family. Recently he had become even more distracted, secretive and obsessed with his work. The book chronicles Jessica's quest to uncover the truth regarding her husband's death and the secrets it unearthed.

I have to admit that I am not generally a fan of slow building plots. I am admittedly a very impatient reader much of the time. While You Were Always Mine definitely captured and kept my attention, the opening scene and last 15% of the book was by far the most action packed and therefore the best parts of the book for me. The rest of the book dragged a bit for me but as I said, I like a faster pace. I also had most of the book figured out in regards to who the "villain" was, early on.

I did appreciate the backstory about adoption and how it highlighted both the darker aspects of it and the complex and varied emotions involved by all parties. I would have liked some more time spent on these darker elements but I guess that would have made it more of a mystery-thriller versus a family drama which was not the author's intent.

All in all, You Were Always Mine was an emotionally charged, character driven novel sure to appeal to readers who enjoy family dramas.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,198 reviews34.9k followers
October 20, 2018
Fans of women's fiction, mysteries and domestic dramas should enjoy this book which delves into the darker side of adoption. Jessica Chamberlain and her husband, Evan are separated parents of two sons. When Evan fails to pick up the boys after school one day, Jessica is both annoyed and concerned as Evan has changed his work schedule, so he can pick them up. Then she receives devastating news which is only the beginning. Soon, Jessica learns that her husband had secrets which involved their youngest son, secrets concerning his adoption, and that her husband has been secretly in contact with their son's birth mother for years.

The book becomes Jessica's quest for the truth as she stumbles upon her husband's secrets, the reader is also shown some interesting statistics which caused me to question and guess what they were and their relevance to the story. Obviously, there is mystery here, but I also appreciated how the author showed that some may not want contact with/from the birth parents, while another person would welcome it. I thought this was done in a non-judgement style and fit nicely into the story-line.

I also appreciated how the Author showed grief and how it affects various family members and how children hear more than we think and are good at doing their own detective work. This book has just enough mystery to keep the pages turning. There is a little bit of a reveal at the end which I did not find to be too shocking. I began to become suspicious of one character but did not guess why this character was setting off my red flags.

This book is not what I would call fast paced but grief and learning with and coping with unsettling news is not fast paced. I found the reactions of the characters to be realistic and spot on. This was a well thought out book that comes to its conclusion nicely - nothing feels rushed nor dragged on in this book. Thought provoking and compelling book about adoption, secrets, relationships, and the search for the truth.

Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Read more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com
Profile Image for Berit Talks Books.
2,011 reviews15.7k followers
October 21, 2018
This was an evocative and addictive read that will reel you in and won’t let go!

This is a story about compassion, trust, deception, secrets, mystery, motherhood, but most of all it is about the darker side of adoption...Nicole Baart brings so much heart and authenticity to the story... her experience as an adoptive mother really shines through on these pages... my brothers are adopted, so I really had a strong connection to the adoption part of the story.... I found the psychological impact on both adoptive mother and adoptive child fascinating....

Miss Baart has woven together a complex story with many layers... A slow burning tale that will keep you turning the pages... you will need to know the truth just as strongly as Jess!

Jess and Evan are separated after 15 years of marriage... they have a biological son Max 13 and an adoptive son Gabe 5... both want what’s best for the kids in this hard situation.... I really felt as though Jess an Evan would have ultimately got back together, that’s what made Evan’s death even more tragic... so what was jess’s non-outdoorsy husband doing on a hunting trip? Determined to find out the truth Jess starts to play amateur Detective... The more she digs, the more secrets revealed, the more complex it gets.... shocked to find out that Evan had been in contact with Gabe‘s bio mom Jess is convince this has something to do with his murder but what? And why? How fragile are the bonds of motherhood? and is unconditional love ever not enough?

My heart broke for Jess, I felt her grief, her determination, her frustration, and her need to know the truth.... Jess is a likable character that will definitely win you over... there was just something about her that made it tremendously easy to put yourself in her shoes....’ maybe it was the stresses of motherhood? Your heart will also go out to her boys, A teenager struggling to come to terms with his father passing away and a five-year-old who already has emotional issues dealing with grief when he can’t even put a name to it... you will really want Jess to find the truth and give this family some closure needed to MoveOn....

A beautifully told perfectly paced story... seriously how can anyone not relate to needing to know the truth after finding out a loved one has been lying to them? Add in the impact this has on your children... HOOK. LINE. SINKER.

Absolutely recommend to anyone who enjoys a good story filled with well drawn characters, a well constructive mystery, and some heart!

PS: I forgot to mention how fantastic I thought the descriptors at the beginning of each chapter were, added an entire additional layer to the story! Well played!

*** A huge thank you to Atria for my copy of this book ***
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :) .
977 reviews2,659 followers
November 17, 2018
I had originally rated this a t a 4 but upon careful thought and writing the review I have changed my rating to a 5*

This was quite simply a wonderful intelligent thriller of a book! The writing is fantastic, the characters very well drawn. Not only is the mystery very difficult to solve but the book also touched upon some darker sides of adoption.

Jess and Evan Chamberlain are recently separated and still trying to figure out the best arrangement that will benefit their sons. Married for 15 years, they have a biological son, Max, age 13 and an adopted son, Gabe, just starting elementary school. Evan was considered a workaholic, a physician totally absorbed in his practice which left little time for Jess and the kids. They were basically living as simply cohabitors in the same house until Jess finally had had enough and suggested the separation.

They are about six months into the separation when Jess receives an unusual call from a police detective asking about the whereabouts of Evan. There has been a body discovered around Minneapolis, a long way from their small town in Iowa. When the detective describes the body Jess is certain that it isn’t Evan, even though they haven’t seen each other face to face in many weeks they have been texting every day. At first she is certain that Evan is safe but as strange things begin to happen, she thinks someone has been in her house, and she isn’t able to contact Evan she begins to worry.

The author uses a very unique writing device that kept me very interested. At the beginning of a chapter there is a descriptive paragraph, example:

“Elena M. 22, Latina, HS diploma.
Long dreads, brown eyes, tall, broad shouldered.
Non verbal, recovering addict. Family uninvolved.
UPF, 43m, 21w”

The reader has no idea what this information is about or how it fits into the story, it’s a great element that kept me hastily turning pages.

This is a multi-layered story with many interesting characters and a great mystery that begs to be solved. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and recommend it to everyone who enjoys a well written, character driven novel.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,087 reviews30.1k followers
October 16, 2018
So this is what Nicole Baart’s books are like? I am a fan! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Whether you call it a domestic drama, domestic suspense, or even a domestic psychological thriller (because it most definitely had me analyzing what was happening as it happened!), You Were Always Mine is a tense and emotional story of adoption; one that will surprise you!

Jessica Chamberlain, a high school teacher and mother of two boys, has recently separated from her doctor husband when he suddenly disappears and is later found dead.

One of Jessica’s sons is her birth son, while the younger son, Gabe, is adopted. Baart describes both boys and Jessica’s relationship with them in fleshed-out three dimension. I could easily imagine them all and could feel the palpable love between them.

The synopsis actually tells you more about the story than I want to say. Go in blind if you can because the way it all develops will keep you guessing and also feels so entirely human, so viscerally real, I would not want to take away from that experience.

Baart is skilled at writing about the complexity of relationships- wife and husband, mother and son, father and son, and father and daughter (in the scenes with Jessica’s father). At its heart, You Were Always Mine is a poignant tale of adoption, and the drama and suspense added a wealth of intrigue and propelled the dynamic plot forward.

Thanks to Atria for the complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
Profile Image for Kaceey.
1,034 reviews3,552 followers
November 8, 2018
Jessica always dreamed of having the perfect family. But sometimes, (more times than not!) life takes an unexpected turn, finding yourself knee-deep in a situation you never dreamed of.

Jessica is recently estranged from her husband, raising two sons on her own. Tough position to be in, for sure. Hopefully, this is as bad as it gets.
Sorry, all you wishful thinkers! Unfortunately for Jessica, her world is about to get rocked one more time.

An innocuous knock on her door starts in motion a series of events that will leave her questioning everything she thought she knew about her husband and adopted son Gabe. The suspense steadily ramps-up in intensity as Jessica unravels the hidden truths.

Nicole Baart writes an engaging domestic thriller that will hook you, then toy with your emotions. You’ll witness a deeper side to the topic of adoption, as both parents view the birth mothers’ involvement quite differently.
There is also a much darker side to adoption....

Though I had most of the plot figured early on, it was still an enjoyable, suspenseful read. My first novel by Nicole Baart and will definitely be reaching for her next release.

A buddy read with Susanne!

Thank you to Mirtha Pena at Atria Books via NetGalley for an ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,694 reviews14.1k followers
October 24, 2018
A powerful opening that draws the reader right into the story segues into a well done domestic thriller. Jess and her husband, separated for six months, both love their two children, the youngest Gabe adopted. A school teacher, trying to maintain a secure and comfortable home life for her boys, she is devastated when something terrible happens. Now the question is, How well did she know her husband? What was he searching for?

Baarts last book I found too dramatic, but in this one though the situation is dramatic, the writing style is not. As far as domestic thrillers go, this is one of the better ones. Would make a great book discussion, because adoption and the rights of mothers are the main themes here. Also, the black side of adoption and the different motives involved. For the longest time I couldn't figure out what was going on, where this was going. Little descriptive entries of women, preceded each chapter. Had no clue what they meant, but they were effective in keeping me engaged.

A mother's love and what they will do for their child. Universal theme that will appeal to many. A sisters read that we all liked.

ARC from Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Theresa Alan.
Author 10 books999 followers
October 12, 2018
I was immediately drawn into this novel, which is part family drama, part mystery. Right away I liked the main character, mother and teacher Jessica Chamberlain, who is separated from her husband. She was the one who asked him to move out, but she’s still hoping things can be repaired between them. So, when she gets a call that her estranged husband is dead in an apparent hunting accident hundreds of miles away, she doesn’t believe it. Dr. Evan Chamberlain isn’t an outdoorsy hunter, he’s a little on the nerdy side and willing to take a smaller salary so his clinic can help uninsured people who can’t pay the big bucks.

When there is no mistaking the identity of the man who died, there are still many questions to answer.

In mourning and dealing with a thirteen-year-old son who has been acting out publicly and definitely privately—he blamed Jessica for the problems before his father’s death and then he blames Evan’s death on her, too—she also has a six-year-old son who is a little developmentally slow and still given to tantrums when he’s confronted with too much noise and lights in public places. In their small Iowa town, the actions of her sons reflect heavily on the mother—their issues are blamed squarely on her.

For me, the minutia of the day-to-day life of a mother got a little slow, although Jessica becomes an amateur sleuth along the way, trying to figure out what her husband had been up to before the "accident" and whether it played any part in his death, and that mystery compelled me on. And it was so worth it—I did not see that ending coming, and I love when I can’t figure things out before the end. It was a very strong conclusion to the mystery. Recommend.

Thanks so much to NetGalley and Atria Books for the opportunity to review this novel, which RELEASES OCTOBER 16, 2018.

For more reviews, please visit: http://www.theresaalan.net/blog
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,157 reviews36.5k followers
November 9, 2018
4 Stars!

A Domestic Drama with Lots of Heart!

Jess is a newly single mother of two boys: Max, 13 and Gabe, 6. Every day is a struggle now that she is estranged from her husband Evan. Max is angry and sullen and he blames her for the breakup of their family. Gabe is a kind and loving child whose cuddles Jess adores. The only person Jess can count on for support is her best friend Meredith, who was their adoption specialist when she and Evan brought Gabe home. If Jess thought being separated from Evan was hard, she has no idea. Getting a call from a Deputy in Minnesota shatters her world - Evan’s body is found in the woods, in what looks like a hunting accident.

Before his death, Evan was keeping lots of secrets from Jess, secrets about their adopted son Gabe, and his birth mom. Things Jess was never privy to. It turns out that things were not always as they seemed. Jess’s world begins spinning and neither she or her kids can keep still.

“You Were Always Mine” was so hyped up that I just knew I had to get my hands on a copy and I’m glad I did. The writing flows very easily and the characters drew me in immediately. It is a domestic drama that is heartfelt in nature: a family heartbroken, hopeless and at wit’s end. It tugs at every emotion you have and it doesn't let go. The storyline was however, a tad bit too predictable for me in that I knew where it was going from the start. This was the second book I’ve read by Nicole Baart and I enjoyed this one much more than her first and look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

This was another great buddy read with Kaceey!

Thank you to Mirtha at Atria, NetGalley and to Nicole Baart for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Published on Goodreads, NetGalley, Amazon, Twitter and Instagram on 11.8.18.
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12k followers
November 5, 2018
Compelling, haunting & thought-provoking!

YOU WERE ALWAYS MINE by NICOLE BAART is an excellent, riveting, moving, and passionate story centered around adoption that I was immediately drawn into and had me interested right to the very end.

Even though the intensity level of this tale slowly builds as the story progresses there is this brilliant obscure element to the storyline that immediately grabbed my attention and had me totally intrigued in what I was reading and what it all meant. This definitely brought in an extra layer of suspense to the story for me. It was quite puzzling and fit perfectly into the dynamics of this story.

NICOLE BAART delivers an intriguing, engaging, complex and well-written multi-layered story here with absolutely wonderful character development, a suspenseful mystery, and a thoughtful and emotional storyline.

I absolutely loved our main character here, Jessica and thought that she was an extremely well-written, realistic, believable and compassionate character. I was seeking the truth and wanting answers right along beside her.

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: Eye-catching, beautiful, appealing, meaningful and a significant representation to storyline that I absolutely love.
Title: The title is definitely intriguing and is a fitting, clever and excellent representation to storyline.
Writing/Prose: Well-written, eloquent, expressive, beautiful and engaging.
Plot: Engrossing, perplexing, thought-provoking, insightful, fascinating, heartfelt, perfectly-paced, and entertaining.
Ending: Surprising, satisfying, and extremely pleasing.
Overall: This was such a touching suspenseful family drama story about adoption, a mother’s love, family secrets, betrayal, and grief. And with the mystery to solve and Jessica’s perseverance to search for the truth turns this Women’s Fiction novel into quite the thrilling domestic thriller. All these themes made this extremely hard to put down! Would highly recommend!

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Atria Books, Nicole Baart for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a review!
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,318 reviews4,841 followers
July 29, 2021

Jessica and Evan Chamberlain, who live in a small Iowa town, are parents to 13-year-old Max and 6-year-old Gabe.

The couple adopted Gabe as an infant - right after losing their own newborn - and Jess compulsively clings to the little boy.

In fact, Jess is so obsessed with being Gabe's mother that she almost refuses to acknowledge the existence of a birth mother, forbidding anyone to even mention her.

Evan, a compassionate family physician, feels differently. He's been exchanging the occasional letter - and photo - with the birth mother by way of the adoption agency, and has learned something about her in return.

Evan kept this a secret from Jess, which put a strain on the marriage. Moreover, Evan recently embarked on a clandestine project concerning adoptions, and his distraction caused so much strife that he and Jess separated. So after 15 years of matrimony the Chamberlains are living apart.

Jess, a high school teacher, is having a hard time with this.

She misses Evan; teenage Max has become surly and withdrawn; and Gabe keeps saying he wants his daddy to come home. Jess nurtures hope for a reconciliation until she gets a phone call that changes her life. Evan's body has been found on a Minnesota road, the apparent victim of a hunting accident. Jess can't take this in: Evan doesn't hunt and had no business being in Minnesota!

Jess feels compelled to learn more about her husband's death, and becomes something of an amateur sleuth.

She meets with Deputy Mike Mullen, the Minnesota cop who informed her of Evan's death, and retrieves some of Evan's belongings.

Jess also learns that Evan was in contact with Gabe's birth mother, which devastates her. To find out more about this, Jess visits the adoption agency; consults with her friend Meredith - who was her original adoption counselor; looks through Evan's apartment; etc. As a result, Jess unearths a lot of information, much of which is very mysterious. Furthermore, Jess believes someone searched her house, though nothing seems to be missing.

As all this is going on, Max - who got into serious trouble at school - has to make public restitution, and Jess's frantic and time-consuming detective work leads to suggestions of child neglect. How much more can she take?

Luckily, Jess's dad and step-mom help with the boys and her friend Meredith provides the occasional meal and emotional support.

The book is a slow burn rather than an action thriller, but the step-by-step reveals will please mystery lovers who like to puzzle out the plot points. I was surprised at the motivations of some of the characters, but the book's climax is exciting and makes sense.

The novel is cogent and well-written. I have to say, though, that I found Jess less than completely likable. Jess's smothering behavior toward Gabe, and her determination to keep him from learning anything about his birth mother....EVER....struck me as neurotic and unhealthy. Furthermore, it can't have done Max much good.

Overall, I enjoyed this mystery and would recommend it to fans of domestic suspense stories.

Thanks to Netgalley, the author (Nicole Baart), and the publisher (Atria Books) for a copy of the book.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for Nazanin.
1,054 reviews599 followers
April 15, 2019
DNF @ 56%

The writing didn't impress me and the pacing was really slow. I read the first half and still nothing really happened... But I'm in the minority here, you can see almost everyone enjoyed this book so hope you enjoy it more than me!
Profile Image for Mackenzie - PhDiva Books.
416 reviews14.4k followers
October 31, 2018
You Were Always Mine by Nicole Baart came highly recommended to me by my friend Holly and I’m so glad I was able to read this book! What an emotional roller coaster this book of domestic suspense took me on! That’s the genre I landed on, after seeing other reviewers comment on how this one is hard to place. It is not a psychological thriller in the modern sense of the word, though I think it would classify as one if it were written two decades ago. It doesn’t have that wild twisty ride of a thriller. It really is more of a novel of suspense filled with a deep, emotional character study about this woman who is put in an impossible situation, and does what she thinks is best for her children.

This is a beautiful story with a dark psychological suspense undertone that will have you hooked until the very last reveal. I can see why Holly loves this author so much—she has a way with writing characters and moral dilemmas that were thought-provoking, insightful, and added to the authenticity of the story.

About the Book

Jessica Chamberlain lives with her two sons in a small Iowa town. Recently, Jessica and her husband Evan separated under one of those impossible circumstances where they realized they’d just stopped trying in their marriage. Evan was wrapped up in his career as a family practitioner and Jessica was wrapped up in motherhood and their two sons.

And then one day not long after Evan moved out, Jessica receives a phone call. They’ve found a body in Minnesota with no personal belongings to identify, save for a slip of paper in his pocket that led them to her. In a single instant Jessica’s world will change. How can this seemingly unrelated crime possibly derail her life? As the pieces fall into place, Jessica realizes that the mystery may lead back to her and Evan’s adopted son Gabriel.

Gabriel became the Chamberlain’s through a closed adoption. It is what everyone wanted at the time. But now it seems there may be more to the story of Gabriel’s birth, and Jessica can’t protect them from the truth much longer. With a ferocity that only a mother can show, Jessica tries desperately to hold her family together in the most trying of times. Will the love of a mother be enough to weather this storm?


What a beautifully written novel this is! Baart writes with authenticity that had this story creeping into my heart and taking hold of my thoughts. This felt like a story that could be happening in my town, even. And that made the subtle horror of the situation have a monumental impact.

One element that seems all too familiar and was written so well was the relationship between Jessica and Evan. I have a good friend that did pre-marital counseling with her husband, and one of the issues that she said they spoke to their counselor about was always prioritizing their marriage, even before their children. It seemed so counter-intuitive. But actually one of the main reasons marriages fall apart is that partners forget to prioritize themselves. And when that happens, their children aren’t getting the best of a unified family anymore. In this story, we see the aftermath of this realization. Jessica wonders who it was that stopped trying first, and if it is too late to reconcile. This situation happens more than we realize. Even with love there from both sides, there needs to be a continued effort to choose to stay together.

And then we have the dynamic of Gabriel’s adoption. One thing that resonated in this story is how difficult of a position an adoption is all around. Both parties are having to make a decision on behalf of a child who isn’t old enough to decide for themselves whether the biological mother should be involved. Jessica feels so strongly that a closed adoption is the way to go. And Jessica is a truly outstanding mother—that is without a doubt. But what an impossible decision that is! I loved the way Baart discusses both sides of this issue. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer. Every situation is unique. And what should be done if one party changes their mind later? What then?

I am so thrilled to have this book out in the world. I think the story will have meaning and provoke thought on these complex issues in so many readers. I know that I won’t think about adoption the same way again, because I now see so much of the nuance. What a credit to Baart’s writing!

Thank you to the team at Atria Books for my copy to review.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,918 reviews35.4k followers
November 29, 2018
Library overdrive ebook...

I didn’t see this story as ‘electrifying’ in any way... not that it has to be.....but I wouldn’t gift this to those considering adoption, either.

Mixing a tale about adoption with a murder mystery equates adoption with ‘dangerous’. It leaves a shadow of negativity over our adoption process in the eyes of readers.

This book kept me interested enough to see it to the end -
but not only are we given information as to who is found dead early in the novel, but a suspicious character involved raises the guilty red flag early too.

Personally, I didn’t need a murder mystery anyway to explore motherhood and adoption. I understand the ‘page-turning’ thought behind it.. but the crime wasn’t a driving force as much as the deeper issues at hand for me.

I felt the murder mystery was written well on its own merit involving a crime investigation .....
but if it’s really motherhood and adoption Nicole wanted to explore... I would have liked to have seen how she might have explored this subject from every angle- without needing the crime story at all.

I did however enjoy Nicole’s savvy writing style which allowed me to feel I knew the characters well. This is the first book I’ve read by her.

Little Gabe as a 7 year old sensitive boy - was absolutely precious.

Max as an aloof somewhat angry teenager was easy to emphasize with.

Each of the adult characters were also developed well. We felt their emotions - saw their points of view.
I cared for these book-people...enjoyed hanging out with them.

The plot...( the heart of what was most important), I could have done without the drama of the crime - the craziness- and secrets. A straight story about motherhood and adoption would have been enough for me as ‘one’ story.

3.5 rating

Profile Image for Kendall.
635 reviews633 followers
October 13, 2018
Wow... what a breathe of fresh air! This was an incredible story from beginning to end that I was instantly hooked on!

I'm not sure what I would categorize this as? Definitely a domestic suspense/women's fiction. Nicole Baart had me at HELLO with this one... my goodness where do I even start with giving this book justice?!

I was definitely intrigued by this book because one I'm a social worker... and work in adoptions. Wow... talk about diving DEEP into the darker side of the adoption. What a unique and special experience that Baart delivers to her readers with this story.

Nicole is such a beautiful writer and she truly has quite the gift of capturing emotions and the journey that a mother would go to for her child.

Are you looking for strong characterization? Story that leaves you turning those pages until midnight? An emotional but thrilling ride? Then my friends.. this book is for you!

I highly recommend this book. Put on your TBR! :) This was such an experience for me and I'm truly sad that it's over.

5 strong stars for You Were Always Mine!

I won this in a giveaway on Instagram through Atria. Was so lucky to be given this copy! Thank you so much to Atria :).

Publication date: 10/16/18
Published to GR: 10/13/18
Profile Image for Kristy.
1,005 reviews141 followers
October 12, 2018
Jessica Chamberlain and her husband, Evan, have been separated for months, so she's quite surprised when she gets a call from the police regarding him. Even more shocking is that the police believe Evan to be dead--his body found on a hunting ground in another state. As Jessica attempts to figure out what happened, she must also try to mother her two boys, thirteen-year-old Max and six-year-old Gabe, who is adopted. Jess can't believe Evan is dead, however, and the more she digs, the more she starts to wonder if it was truly a hunting accident. She's sure her house was broken into, for instance, and she feels like Evan was investigating something in the months before his death. Soon, she wonders if that had something to do with Gabe's adoptive mother--someone with whom Jess vowed never to be involved. What really happened to Evan? And are the rest of the Chamberlains safe?

It's always exciting to request an ARC on a whim and have it be enjoyable. I've never read anything by Nicole Baart before, but I will certainly be picking up some of her past books. This novel was a little outlandish and unbelievable at times, but it was just so compelling and readable. It was exactly what I needed at the moment.

Jess was a very relatable character: as a mother too, I felt quite connected to her. Baart put in a lot of little details that made her feel real, not a cardboard cutout parent that you so often see. She did a great job at capturing parenthood in all its ups and downs. I found myself very attached to Jessica's two boys, as well. They went through a lot in the book, and you found yourself rooting for the entire family unit.

The plot itself--while a bit of a soap opera sometimes--was really quite fascinating. I couldn't put this one down, even during a crazy time at work. The writing was crisp and the novel just flowed so easily. I was actually really surprised by the twists and turns (it's always so fun when that happens) and certainly along for the ride with Jess and her clan.

Overall, this was just a really enjoyable book with an interesting, twisty plot and realistic, relatable characters. It was a pleasant surprise, and I'll definitely be reading more from this author. 4 stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 10/16/2018.

Blog ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Google+ ~ Instagram
March 22, 2019
A father’s tragic accident, A Mother’s world shattered and her quest to find answers and put her world back together.

I have to start off by saying that I love this title. It’s such a powerful title for a story like this one and says so much about. Every time I look at the title it sends such heartfelt shivers up my spine. You Were Always Mine is an emotional, compelling heartwarming story that explores adoption and the bonds of motherhood glued together by love.

This one is a little slow paced as it has a lot of emotional depth it. Nicole Baart does such a great job capturing the strength, determination and love of a mother here with Jess Chamberlain. We see how secrets, grief and loss affect the family here including the children. It was refreshing to see the children being included in the storyline as well. There is a mystery here as well that ties into the story and we see Jess’s determination to find answers. The story is well-layered along with the clues and the reveal comes together well.

This one is a good choice for group reads as there is a lot to discuss here with this story. We shared some insight from personal experience in the discussion that really added to the story. There is also a good set of thought-provoking discussion question that really had me thinking more about the story. I highly recommend.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Atria Books, Nicole Baart for my copy to read and review.
Profile Image for DJ Sakata.
3,023 reviews1,741 followers
November 2, 2018
Favorite Quotes:

The night was black, the sky cast iron. It was hard and cold and jealous, swallowing up the glow of their headlights so that they had to squint at the dark road. At some point, they had passed from prairie to forest, and the starless sky above them had filled with the shadows of twisted branches. They were bare and peculiar, gnarled fingertips that seemed to reach for them. But when Jess turned her attention to the gloom, they were nothing more than wood and wind, hollow with the echo of silence.

The Deputy led them inside the building, past the reception desk and down a long hallway into a waiting room that seemed poised for bad news.

Apparently grief and anger were secret lovers because Jess tipped into blind rage so quickly it left her teetering.

For a split second, Max’s tough boy facade cracked. It was a hairline fracture, but Jess could just glimpse the child beneath. Her Max was in there somewhere, the tow-headed little boy who used to sit on her lap with his head against her chest and tap out her heartbeats with his fingertips. “I can feel your heart, mama,” he used to say. “It’s singing to me.”

Jess had been dreaming. No, not a dream, a nightmare, and she remembered it in ribbons that seemed to float just outside her vision. When she thought she caught a glimpse, it was gone. But the feeling remained, the sense that something, someone was just behind her, reaching.

My Review:

This may well be the most superbly written book I have picked up all year. I was torn while reading. While I was fully invested in the heart squeezing mystery and eager and desirous of absorbing every clue and solving the murder; I was totally in awe of the depth, power, and beauty of the writing and noticed my pace had significantly slowed in order to savor all the lovely words and descriptive observations. Ms. Baart is a skilled and clever wordsmith; her brilliantly crafted story was thoughtfully written, highly evocative and profoundly poignant. I was enthralled and will be raving about this one for months. Pinky swear!

Profile Image for Stephanie .
468 reviews95 followers
October 21, 2018
You Were Always Mine is another brilliant book by Nicole Baart. She's definitely an auto-buy author and has quickly become one of my favorite authors!! This is such an edge of your seat, page-turning domestic thriller, but it's also a story that tackles the complexities and powerful themes of secrets, death, grief, loss, hope, love, adoption (and it's dark, perverse side) but most of all the power of families of every kind and the unconditional love of a mother. It's such a multilayered and complex story that I become completely emotionally invested in the story and the characters! 

Baart brings her own experiences and first-hand knowledge as an adoptive mother and adoption advocate and uses it to bring this story of Jessica and Evan Chamberlain, who are separated after 15 years of marriage, have one teenage biological son Max age 13, and one young adopted son, Gabe age 5 to life.  I think that I really connected to this book in a personal way since I have three adopted cousins, one who has been my best friend since almost birth since we are the same age and grew up together, and I've have witnessed first-hand their searches, with and without success, for their birth mom or families. I also saw my aunt's palpable fear that she would be replaced in their heart as their mom if they did find and connect with their biological mom, so I understood quite a bit where Jess' thoughts were coming from during the book about wanting only a closed adoption. I appreciate the authenticity that Baart gives her book about adoption and love these themes in her psychologically thrilling books!

I'm not going to give away too much of more of the plot here because you really need to read this one for yourself and then you'll understand just how important this book is, especially with its deep themes and messages. It's well-written, which it would be because Baart is a smart, prolific writer, perfectly plotted, and the characters are just fantastic--each of them adds something unique and special to the story. I just loved Jess and empathized with her as a mother and the feelings she had that she'd move heaven and earth to defend her children and fight to keep her family together, especially after a shocking death happens that devastates the entire family.

This is a story that will make you cry at times because it is heartwrenching but also keeps you on the edge of your seat as you become a detective with Jess! The ending was a bit shocking, but I did suspect a certain character of being guilty of everything bad happening in the book, and I was right! I hated that I was right because it just shows how good people get messed up with pure evilness for what they think is good reasons. Oh, and the chapters have these seemingly random statistics at the top with a woman's name and other info that had me so, so confused in the beginning, but by the end, it all fell into place perfectly. So clever and shrewd! Well-played, Nicole Baart!! 

The story is just compelling, emotional, and addictive.  I highly recommend You Were Always Mine, which published on October 16, 2018!! Make sure you grab a copy because you will love this story as much as I did!

**Thank you NetGalley and Atria Books for an ARC to read in exchange for my fair and honest review.**
Profile Image for Amy.
1,831 reviews1,862 followers
October 5, 2018

Baart is quickly becoming one of those authors that are an automatic read for me without even reading the blurb of her books. She somehow manages to infuse her books with a quiet and steady type of suspense that makes me take a deep breath and slow down and she also takes the reader on a highly emotional journey all the while exploring new topics and teaching me a thing or two. It’s a powerful experience, truly special and unique.

Baart delves into the darker side of adoption and her knowledge is apparent as she is an adoptive mother herself. She is such a gifted writer and she captures all the emotions and feelings surrounding motherhood so perfectly it almost breaks your heart. I found myself thinking, yaasss girl! SO many times while reading, she just gets it, she makes you feel both seen and heard. She also crafts incredibly well drawn and relatable characters and Jessica had me behind her one hundred percent the whole way through.

Her books do remind me a little of Liane Moriarty so if you’re a fan give Baart a try. There’s a raw vulnerability to her books that just speaks to me and while this is definitely a slow burning suspense there’s enough intrigue to satisfy mystery fans.

You Were Always Mine in three words: Compelling, Vulnerable and Multifaceted.
Profile Image for Jamie Rosenblit.
877 reviews497 followers
June 7, 2018
4.5 powerful stars to this story unveiling the darker side of adoption.

In You Were Always Mine, Jessica Chamberlain receives a chilling phone call that her estranged husband has been found dead under mysterious circumstances. Jess is left to uncover the truth about what happened to her husband while protecting her two sons, one of whom is adopted. When the pieces start to come together and Jess realizes her husband had been in contact with her son's birth mother, the confusion only increases.

While this book could be classified as either Women's Fiction or a Domestic Thriller, I have to say, I truly appreciate the amount of research that Nicole Baart put into this story. Knowing that Baart is an adoptive mother herself and could put her own perspective into a story surrounding adoption really makes the story realistic and heartfelt. Highly recommend this one when it publishes in October!

Thank you to Atria Books for an advance copy. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
724 reviews1,764 followers
November 3, 2018
I was adopted and have never thought too deeply about the insecurities/vulnerabilities that adoptive parents face everyday. For me this novel was more about that than the ‘thrill’. I was not surprised to find that Baart is the parent of adoptive children, because her writing had a very personal feel to it. Wish this had been a bit more thrilling. Still enjoyed. 4 stars.
Profile Image for Chandra Claypool (WhereTheReaderGrows).
1,537 reviews317 followers
November 14, 2018
Imagine being separated from the love of your life, trying to make things work in your home as a "single mom" with your two sons, the youngest adopted. One day you receive a call that your estranged husband is dead and now all thoughts of reconciliation are gone and you're a young widow. On top of THAT, you realize that your husband was in contact with your adopted son's birth mother and kept it from you. Could life get any more complicated?!

"Mariah K.
24, Caucasian, GED
Short blond hair, blue eyes, average height and weight, Soft-spoken but articulate. Little to no family support.
MAN/DEL CS, 35m, 16w"

Most chapters started with a heading similar to the above. Random statistics that baffled me at every turn. Interspersed in these chapters are letters, email correspondence, journal entries and message board entries - which sounds like a lot more than they actually appeared. Things move at a slow to moderate pace at first but when it all comes together... uff, I gotta say, readers, I loved it.

The author does an amazing job of presenting Jessica and her state of mind as she goes through all of this. Juggling her kids, trying to figure out what's happening around her, avoiding stares of people as she doesn't want people to feel sorry for her or give her the standard, "We're so sorry, we can't imagine what you're going through" and dealing with the struggle of how to deal with this secret that came to light in the aftermath of her husband's death. What can I say - it's been a while since I've felt this emotional for a character and at the end when we see how things culminate... well, I may have gotten a little misty eyed. Maybe. **shhh**

I love that the author is also an adoptive mother and you can see how her knowledge and experience seeps into this novel. It bursts with the energy she puts into this from her own heart space of knowing what adoptive mothers go through.

Baart has turned a genre that has gotten a bit lackluster lately for me and brought it new life. Part domestic drama/thriller and part mystery, this one really sets a new bar. I'd recommend putting this on your list and while the pacing may deter some, I'd recommend sticking to it because that ending and how it all comes together is nothing short of genius.
Profile Image for Kelli.
844 reviews391 followers
December 11, 2018
This one garnered very high ratings from friends, but there was something about the dialogue that felt overwritten to me. 3 stars
Profile Image for Lisa B..
517 reviews580 followers
March 22, 2019
3.75 stars
Nerd Herd book club pick for March 2019.
Profile Image for Jen.
1,146 reviews99 followers
November 3, 2018
This my friends, is the definition of a page turner! I was hooked from the very beginning and raced through the pages until the very end. This domestic thriller pulls you in with a mystery and keeps you guessing, yet is able to pull on your heartstrings and evoke warm emotions. Jessica is newly separated from her husband and raising her two sons in small town Iowa. One son is biological, one son is adopted. One morning she gets a phone call that changes her life forever. I won’t give away too much but I adored this book and I hope you will too! For me, You Were Always Mine was ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 stars. Thank you @atriabooks for this advance reader in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Denise.
509 reviews359 followers
November 24, 2021
So call me three years late to this party, but I happened to pick up this book in an airport bookstore last week, and now I can't imagine why I never did so before. Baart's "Everything We Didn't Say" was one of my favorite reads in 2021, so I'm not really surprised that I also loved this earlier work of hers.

Jessica Chamberlain has recently separated from her husband, Evan, and is doing her best to cope in a way that is positive for their two sons: Max and Gabe. Gabe came to Jessica and Evan by way of a closed adoption after the heartbreaking loss of their child. Jessica and Evan are attempting to reconcile, when a suspicious death leads back to Gabe's adoption. She discovers that Evan has been in constant contact with Gabe’s birth mother since his birth, and that there is a more sinister link between the two than she ever imagined.

As an adoptive mother herself, Baart delves into the darker side of adoption in a way that feels authentic and relatable. The story is also told in an interesting way. You have Jessica’s POV, but every chapter ends with correspondence between Evan and Gabe’s birth mother, and every chapter begins with short, cryptic details about unspecified women. It took time for me to figure out exactly how those details fit, but in the end, the method worked really well to give it a unique flare.

I will say though, that although I empathized with Jessica's character, I didn't really like her. She made stupid decision after stupid decision - how many times can you leave young kids home alone, especially after something questionable happens once? The answer to that is multiple times apparently ... 🙄 She also played favorites and seemed a bit self-focused overall. That being said, I still couldn't put this one down and had to know how it would all end.

Overall, this one is not really a typical thriller - it is more of a domestic drama with a few thriller elements sprinkled it - but it is still a solid read that leaves Nicole Baart high up on my list of must-read authors. 4 stars!
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