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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Baby Left Behind

ISBN: 9781837907298

Publication Date: 09/20/2023

Publisher: Bookouture

Format: e-book

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

Take him. Please forgive me.

Cate grips the note with trembling hands, looking down at the delicate bundle on her doorstep. As she reaches down to the baby, she knows she has finally got everything she’s ever wished for. But is he hers to take?

Cate tries not to cry as she closes the door on the nursery room once again. All she has ever wanted is to be a mother. Cursed with a medical condition that means she is unable to have children, her only option is to wait for a call from the adoption centre. But that call feels like a lifetime away.

Then she hears a faint cry from outside her house. She’s convinced she’s imagining it, that the grief is starting to overwhelm her. But when she opens her door and looks down, her heart swells. By her feet is the most perfect baby curled up in a soft blanket.

As the newborn’s eyes light up, Cate feels instant love for him. She knows she can’t just accept a stranger’s baby – she has to call the police. But as she picks him up, it all finally feels right. This is where the baby belongs.

But when her darling baby is rushed into hospital, Cate knows that in order to save his life, she needs to expose the lie she has been so desperate to hide. Can Cate discover who the child’s real mother is? And if so, will she be able to make the hardest decision of her life to protect the child?

An emotional story about family, secrets and what makes a good parent. Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Jojo Moyes and Kate Hewitt.

My Review

From the stunning front cover, the first page to the last, you will be hooked and on the edge of your seat in suspense with Jen Craven's latest, THE BABY LEFT BEHIND! I loved this book!

An INTENSE, emotional, thought-provoking, riveting page-turner of two women suffering significant tragedy and trauma—and in desperation, doing unspeakable things. There are no do-overs. When their lives collide, it is EXPLOSIVE!

THE BABY LEFT BEHIND is also a moving exploration into the complex mother-daughter relationships between two families and different walks of life. Both daughters gain insight and wisdom from their misfortunes.

Cate Connelly is 40 and single. She has always wanted to be a mother. She wants nothing more. She has dreamed of this since she was a child. Unfortunately, she has a birth defect, which keeps her from ever carrying a baby.

She has a great job, works remotely as a digital creator for a Chicago company, and owns her own Cape Code home in Ohio. She comes from a great family, well off with a loving but sometimes controlling mom, wonderful dad, and sister married with two sons. Cate has always thought she never measured up. She has had her share of men and does not need a husband to adopt a baby. The baby comes first.

We learn in the opening from one year earlier that Cate's life stopped when the pregnant mom changed her mind about the adoption right after the baby was delivered. Hadley backed out. Cate was devastated. It was a girl, and she was there at the birth. The nursery was all ready. She was so close. She lost her dream. Can she go through this again?

Cate also has a best friend since childhood, Ryan (loved him). He is gay; they are besties and spend a lot of time together. He is always supportive.

A year later, she gets a call from the adoption agency. This time, it is a boy, and the mother just gave birth. The entire family is excited, as well as Ryan. Cate is almost too worried to get excited. They assure her nothing can go wrong.

However, she gets the call the morning she is about to leave to pick up her new baby boy. It is terrible news. Again, the mother changed her mind. No baby. It was so close. She is devastated and let down once again. How can all these women have babies? She wants more than anything to be a mother. She does not tell her family or anyone yet of the terrible news. She cannot see their pity once again.

She needs to be alone with the news and shuts out everyone. She spends all morning crying alone when she hears a baby crying. She thinks she is dreaming or imagining the sounds. After further investigation, it is a baby! A baby in a car seat with a diaper bag in the cold winter of early January! It looks like a newborn with dark skin and dark hair no more than a week old.

She sees no one and brings him in. He is crying. Then she finds the note. Take him. Please forgive me. A sparrow is also illustrated in the corner flying off. Who left the baby at her door? Why her? What does this mean? How did they know she would be home, and what is the connection?

Cate is frantic to get the baby inside, change his diapers, and give him formula in the bag. She still has the nursery for the babies, which did not happen twice. She knows she needs to call 911 immediately, but he will be turned over to foster care. She wants one night with him. To pretend this is her baby. Her gift. But she is already in love with this bundle of joy, and one day turns into another until two months pass. Maybe this was meant to be; she justifies it because the note tells her to do so. It is not like she stole him. Someone gave him to her.

Then, her family drops by, and he is still there. Frantic, she lies and tells her family, Ryan, and the neighbors that this is the baby she adopted. (or allows them to assume). Her lie has gone too far. There is no turning back. But then she knows she will need a birth certificate, health insurance, and a pediatrician. How will she be able to pull this off? She has no records. She names the baby after her dad, Henry. She makes a mistake that will cost her more than she knows. She risks it all.

Then Henry gets sick, running a fever, and takes him to the hospital. How will she explain things? Everything changes when she steps out in the hallway with the baby to take a call.

From here on out, it is non-stop suspense to figure out the mystery, with so many plot twists and turns. You cannot imagine how this will turn out in a court of law.

Told from POVs of Cate and Jade. Jade is the other woman, and —to refrain from spoilers, you will have to read the book to see how these two women's lives collide! Jade's story is just as compelling. It is best to go into it blind because you do not want to miss the element of surprise.

Grab the tissues: Part tear-jerker, as it may make you angry. A celebration of mothers, this story tugs at the heartstrings… a beautiful, thought-provoking, heart-wrenching novel of courage and love in the face of trauma and tragedy.

Some may not like the trial outcome, but I loved the ending. It was perfect. THE BABY LEFT BEHIND is a bittersweet, emotionally intense drama of domestic suspense—recommended for readers who appreciate motherhood stories by Sally Hepworth, Jodi Picoult, and Emma Robinson.

The novel has so much emotional depth, and I enjoyed the symbolism of the sparrow. There are highly charged topics of motherhood, pregnancy, addiction, drugs, abuse, adoption, family dynamics, abandonment, abuse, estrangement, secrets, lies, and deception. It also explores the deepest longing for family and how good people can do bad things when desperate.

A poignant and breathtaking novel, prime for book clubs and further discussions. Discussion questions included. This would make a great movie. Full of heart, humor, family, and friendship.

My first book by the author, and I am highly impressed! Jen Craven is on my top author list to watch, and I enjoy her writing style—I look forward to reading more. Bookouture certainly has cranked out some winning talent this week! I have gotten no sleep as there was no way to stop reading until all was revealed—read in two sitting—yes, is that good!

Thanks to Bookouture and NetGalley for introducing me to this talented author and for a gifted ARC for an honest review.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: Sept 20, 2023

My Rating: 5 Stars +

UPCOMING: More on the above with a forthcoming blog post. Exceptional 5-Star Psychological Suspense/Thriller/Fiction titles & authors by Bookouture!

For now, my reviews & more:

THE PERFECT PATIENT Luana Lewis 28 Sept 2023

THE BABY LEFT BEHIND Jen Craven 20 Sept 2023

THE FAMILY GUEST Nelle Lamarr 21 Sept 2023

About the Author

Book lover, wordsmith, and all-around grammar nerd.

Jen Craven is the author of upmarket women's fiction, where one decision changes everything. The author of two historical fiction novels, "Best Years of your Life" is her debut contemporary work. She writes from northwestern Pennsylvania, where she lives with her family. WEBSITE

From Jen:

Language has the power to transport you to new places, to stir emotion, create desire and so much more. That’s why, when I realized I was pretty good with words at a young age, I knew I would somehow turn this love into more than a just hobby.

As a novelist and professional copywriter, I love bringing stories to readers—whether that’s for a bit of escapism, to sell a product, to instill change, or for pure entertainment. Have a look around, then connect with me on Instagram where I talk about all things writing, publishing, and books.



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