Cover Image: The Lost Orphan

The Lost Orphan

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Nicely done historical fiction about Bess, a woman who gave up her daughter and found her again. There aren't many surprises here but the characters are well drawn and the situation pulls at the heartstrings. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.

Was this review helpful?

A few years late to the reading and review one, but I'm glad I finally binged it. I didn't find it to be too unexpected and was a tad predictable at times. This was an easy to read novel with the exception of a few discomforting scenes for drama, and overall, it was well paced and did a good job highlighting the lengths two mothers in different situations will go to in the name of motherhood.

Was this review helpful?

Bess has had to relinquish her daughter to the foundling home. She is too poor to raise her. She saves as much money as she can. She is determined to bring her daughter home. When she arrives at the home 6years later, her daughter is gone. Someone claiming to be the child’s mother picked her up. Bess is devastated but determined. She finds out who has her daughter and she becomes her nurse maid.
This is a tale you will not soon forget. Two mothers from different stations of life determined to have this little girl for completely different reasons.
This is heart breaking in many places but I really enjoyed this book. The drama and intensity over this little girl is agonizing. And you do not want to miss it.

Was this review helpful?

Nothing too crazy. A boring, predictable plot. I felt for both main characters but there was nothing compelling.

Was this review helpful?

Bess Bright gives birth to her daughter and knows she can't support her yet. The baby's father is not named or available, and a baby not only doesn't contribute, it would keep Bess from being able to do her job as a hawker to help feed her father and herself. She takes the small baby to the foundling hospital just hours after its birth, and is lucky enough for the baby to be deemed healthy, and get one of the infant spots available. The baby will be raised in the country, and then brought back to the foundling when she's a bit older to be trained for a job. Bess also makes sure to confirm that she can pick her child back up once she's able to reimburse the foundling hospital for her care while Bess is away.

But when Bess shows up a little more than six years later, they tell her that she picked the baby up only the day after she left her. What's a poor, uneducated, single mother to do to try and get her child back? A lucky coincidence reveals to Bess where her daughter is, but not how she got there. Bess creates a fake name and persona to work as a nursemaid, caring for her own daughter. What will a mother do to be able to love and care for her child?

The story itself was so sad. Lots of women had to leave their babies with the foundling hospital. Hopefully not too many found their child claimed by a fake mother, though. Learning about Bess, and the only mother her daughter knew before Bess returned was interesting. The sincerity and compassion with which Bess addressed and treated those around her was heartwarming.

Overall, I'd give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. It was an enjoyable read for someone who enjoys historical fiction.

Was this review helpful?

this was a really good read, the characters were great and I really felt bad when reading it. I enjoyed going on this journey.

Was this review helpful?

The Lost Orphan by Stacey Halls is the story of motherhood for the orphan in this book is truly neither an orphan nor lost at all. The biggest issue I have with the book is that the story of the two women somehow does not ring true. What should be an emotional tale of motherhood leaves too many open questions and too many convenient coincidences for it to have the intended impact.

Read my complete review at

Reviewed for NetGalley.

Was this review helpful?

What would you do with your newborn baby if you were a poor, uneducated, unwed mother in 1747 London? In “The Lost Orphan” by Stacey Halls, main character Bess is a seller of shrimp. She lives with her father and brother in a tiny two-room apartment, and they struggle to pay the rent and stay warm in the cold London winters. They rise before dawn and, no matter the weather, venture out to sell shrimp in the streets. It’s no life for an infant, and Bess doesn’t have the ability to stay home to raise a child. But she does have the opportunity to leave her baby at a foundling home where they will care for her infant, and when she is ready to reclaim her baby, she will be able to.

The story is based on the real history of the Foundling Hospital in Bloomsbury. Women did go to the home and draw balls in a kind of cruel lottery that determined whether the home would take their infants or not. And the process also served as a kind of fundraiser, wherein wealthy members of society would watch the lottery. Perhaps experiencing the desperation on the faces of the women would compel the rich attendees to donate more for the welfare of the children.

Halls also provides a surprisingly satisfying ending as she develops our understanding of each character and as both characters come to a better understanding of themselves. The history alone would make this a book worth reading, but there’s so much more. It’s a beautiful book that you won’t want to put down, and you will remember and think about it long after you’ve finished the last page.

Read the complete reviews at the links below.

Was this review helpful?

Georgian London is a city where the poor and the rich live sharply divided lives. After Bess is forced to leave hew newborn daughter in London's Foundling Hospital, she returns 6 years later to be disappointed in not being able to trace her whereabouts. The actions of a quick thinking doctor may lead Bess to her long lost daughter...

Was this review helpful?

This was quite an emotional story. Set in London, 1754. Bess is an unwed mother with no option but to leave her child in the Foundling Hospital, with the desperate hope that she will return to claim her. when she is financially able . She returns 6 years later to find that someone has already claimed the child - I enjoyed the writing in this book although it was quite sad, it was a powerful story of courage and the relationship between a mother and her child..

Was this review helpful?

4.5 stars

I love how books find me. I have been eye balling the book The Foundling on Amazon for months now as well as The Familiars but I just haven’t decided to pull the trigger yet.

The covers are gorgeous and the premise for each book sounds excellent, but I have been trying to be good and not buy so many new books so I decided to hold off on purchasing The Foundling.

Flash forward to March when I was asked to review The Lost Orphan by Stacey Halls. I thought it sounded interesting and said yes, all the while I kept my eye on The Founding oh so longingly. When it came time for me to pick up this book to start reading, the only book that kept coming up was The Foundling. Come to find out the books are one in the same! The Foundling in the UK and The Lost Orphan in the US. I was even more excited to read this book after discovering that I had been longingly eye balling it for months!

A mother’s love knows no bounds…

London, 1754. Six years after leaving her newborn, Clara, at London’s Foundling Hospital, young Bess Bright returns to reclaim the illegitimate daughter she has never really known. Dreading the worst—that Clara has died in care—the last thing she expects to hear is that her daughter has already been reclaimed. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl—and why.

Less than a mile from Bess’s lodgings in a quiet town house, a wealthy widow barely ventures outside. When her close friend—an ambitious doctor at the Foundling Hospital—persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her young daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her—and will soon tear her carefully constructed world apart.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of Georgian London, The Lost Orphan explores families and secrets, class and power, and how the pull of motherhood cuts across them all. (summary from Goodreads)

What a marvelous read but I must say that I love the UK cover much better than the US one. The US one just doesn’t stand out in the same way as the UK one but obviously that has no bearing on the actual book itself. I was so intrigued by this author’s writing style, concept, and historical period that I was not at all dissuaded by the difference in covers.

The writing style reminded me a little of Diane Setterfield, Halls’ prose felt full of mystique and had a haunting quality about it that I often associate with Setterfield which is probably why I made the connection between the two. Plus the UK cover reminded me of something Setterfield might have for one of her books as well so maybe that was what I went into this one expecting. As this is my first experience with Halls, I can’t speak to her other book The Familiarsm but I’ve heard that it has more magic and witchcraft in it where as this book is more of a conventional historical fiction novel. Either way I was totally entranced by this story and loved it just as much as I was anticipating!

I loved how Hall wrote about a less popular time in history. So many books stick to what they know or what’s considered popular or even easy—-Regency or Victorian. But with this book Halls dives into the Georgian period and features two different women from two different classes. The historical detail is amazing and well researched. It was never boring or dry but rather mysterious, new and alluring with Halls talent.

As a mother myself, this book got me in the feels. The main characters were strong and unique in their own ways as well as flawed and real. I could sympathize with the characters and as a mother can sympathize with the agonizing decisions they made. It was a great read with lots of substance and history!

Book Info and Rating
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 7th 2020 by Mira Books
ISBN 0778309320 (ISBN13: 9780778309321)
Free review copy provided by the publisher, MIRA Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genre: historical fiction

Was this review helpful?

The Lost Orphan gives us: beautiful writing, emotional connection with the characters, complex plot, and immersive setting.

I was transported straight to England in the mid 1700s. I felt the class difference, from the desperation of a poor, unwed mother to the superiority and pampered existence of a widow. The streets come alive with their danger and their bustling markets.

The plot examines women's roles, including aspects of motherhood, emotional and psychological issues, and how strength can take many forms.

Pacing is slow, though intentionally so, as the story is meant to be settled into and experienced.

I love when historical fiction allows me to feel what it was like to live in another time, and Stacey Halls provides this gift with The Lost Orphan.

Was this review helpful?

Six years after leaving her daughter at a Foundling Orphanage, Bess has scrimped and saved and is ready to reclaim her. When she returns to the orphanage, she is astonished to learn that someone has already reclaimed her daughter. Alexandra, a young widow, is practically a shut-in. The only time she leaves her house is once a week, for her and her daughter to attend church. When she is persuaded by a close friend to hire a nursemaid to care for her daughter her secrets slowly begin to unravel.

I thought this premise was pretty interesting, but the characters themselves felt very stereotypical. The story itself unraveled in a pretty predictable way. Overall, not a book I would reread or recommend.

Was this review helpful?

The Lost Orphan by Stacey Halls is a great historical fiction novel. Well-researched, this book shows what it was like for mothers who had to leave their kids and take them back into their lives. It was quite interesting to follow the journey of two women. Each one taking on the role of mother. One is the real mother and the other is a substitute mother. Each woman takes different actions in raising a child. I enjoyed following the characters as their story unfolded. The book contained an emotional tale. A story of love, money, and motherhood.

Was this review helpful?

This book was originally published as The Foundling in the UK, in North America, the title and cover were changed. I have to say, I prefer the original cover and title, but the story is the same.

You can read the blurb, so I will not reiterate it here, but tell you how this book made me feel. First, I love historical fiction, especially when I learn about a time or event that I did not know about. This period in history is know for its huge disparity between classes. The idea that so many poor women gave up their babies to The Foundling Hospital was heartbreaking. Learning that rich people would buy tickets to watch these women participate in the lottery to see if their child would be accepted was terrible, yet I can picture it happening. The hospital was not described in a lot of detail, but it was not what I had expected from movies, it seemed like a decent place, funded by these tickets as well as wealthy governors. The beginning of the story gripped me and broke my heart. I can not fathom what Bess felt giving up her daughter, Clara, and then going back six years later to find out someone else had claimed her. The rest of the story was an interesting and enjoyable story, although some parts were a bit hard to believe.

I liked Bess/Eliza and understand why she did what she did. She was a strong woman, who just wanted to reclaim her child. Her love for her daughter was very strong. Clara/Charlotte was a darling girl who craved love. Her mother suffered from such emotional loss in her past that she was afraid to become attached to her child, but that was unhealthy for Charlotte. She was also a smart young thing, being able to read, write and speak fluent french by the age of 6. Alexandra was a sad woman. She had such baggage from her tragic past that I felt for her, but was not able to relate to her, as she was so aloof. The secondary characters added much to the story. They helped to show what living in London was like if you were not rich or noble. I will say that the ending surprised me, although it was a happy one. Overall, I enjoyed this story, I learned from it, it caused me to do some research on my own, and I added Stacey Halls first book to my TBR. I recommend this to those who enjoy historical fiction and especially how it affected children.

Was this review helpful?

A few weeks ago I received an email from Harlequin Books with a few books to review inside. I read the book descriptions and then hmmed and hawed a bit about whether I should do any or not. I decided against it ( My to-be-read stacks are astronomical) and deleted the email. I regretted my decision. Imagine my delight when my editor said she got an email from Harper Collins and that book was on the list for review. I couldn’t believe my delight. I promptly requested the book and couldn’t wait to read it.

Bess is an unwed mother who had a child out of wedlock. She gets pregnant in a one and done thing in an alleyway. After she finds out she is pregnant she searches for the father and finds out he died. After she gives birth she takes the child to the Foundling hospital that takes care of children until they are either reclaimed by their family or until they are of working age. That is Bess’s plan…..until that doesn’t happen for a very bizarre reason. This book was so good. I think I read it in roughly 3.5 days. It was a family mystery that kept me gasping each time something new happens. I couldn’t believe the lengths Bess went to try and find out what happened with her daughter.

The thing that struck me the most in this book was the fact that she saved for 6 YEARS and saved roughly two pounds. In the 1700s that was considered a lot of money. In this day and age that is hardly enough for a Venti Starbucks. The thing is she still didn’t have enough money to get her daughter back but the hospital was going to allow it because only a few family members come back ( I think the book says 1 in 100) for their children once their situations have improved. My heart was broken the whole time. As she tried to save to make a better life for her and get her daughter back (spoiler alert) just to find out that her daughter had been adopted. The efforts that she goes to, to find her daughter shows that she is a mother in every sense of the word. I really would love to read a follow-up story to this. I feel like their story is only just beginning. I would definitely read another book by the author.

Was this review helpful?

This is a book I probably should have DNF’d based on my feelings towards it, but I kept holding out hope and waiting for some kind of twist or something to change in the progression of the story to make it worthwhile. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case here. From the very linear characters and plot, to a predictable story that started out somewhat strong but lost steam after only a handful of chapters, this was not a well-written book and fell very short in my expectations for it. I thought for sure being a mother myself I’d find that thread in this story to pierce my heart and be relatable, yet I found next to no connection to the characters and even found some of their intentions questionable. Overall this one just didn’t grip me and felt like a story I’ve read before in historical fiction, just centered around a different time period, type of characters, etc.

About the only redeeming aspect here for me was the originality of the story having to do with the Foundling hospital which I found truly interesting and learned something from. I also found the London setting to be atmospheric and appreciated that.

Due to all of the above, and so as not to blast this author, this is not a book I can confidently recommend to my audience, and therefore will not be posting to my social media and blog.

Thank you NetGalley and Mira for the complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

This is a haunting historical fiction that will make you want to keep reading until the end.

I kept thinking that I knew what would happen in The Lost Orphan, but I usually ended up being wrong. The cold mother, who wasn't really cold. The poor mother, who wasn't completely poor. The handsome, available man that wasn't really available. All of these things provided beautiful knots in the tapestry of this story.

The only person who ended up being exactly who they seemed to be was the brother, which thankfully the end provided excellent satisfaction for.

Perfectly paced and written in two different POVs, The Lost Orphan shows the difference even a small sum of money can make in one person's life, exemplifying how privilege at birth has always been an indicator of a successful life in ways other metrics can't.

Each woman's pain and joy in one child is understood and the resolution is as satisfying as it is heartbreaking.

Was this review helpful?

EXCERPT: All the babies were wrapped like presents ready to be given. Some of them were dressed finely - though their mothers were not - in tiny embroidered sleeves and thick shawls, for winter had arrived, and the night was biting. I'd bound Clara in an old blanket that had waited years to be darned, and now never would be. We stood clustered around the pillared entrance, thirty or so of us, like moths beneath the torches burning in their brackets, our hearts beating like papery wings. I hadn't known that a hospital for abandoned babies would be a palace, with a hundred glowing windows and a turning place for carriages. Two long and splendid buildings were pinned on either side of a courtyard that was connected in the middle by a chapel. At the north end of the west wing the door stood open, throwing light onto the stone. The gate felt a long way behind. Some of us would leave with our arms empty; some would carry our children home again.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: London, 1754. Six years after leaving her newborn, Clara, at London’s Foundling Hospital, young Bess Bright returns to reclaim the illegitimate daughter she has never really known. Dreading the worst—that Clara has died in care—the last thing she expects to hear is that her daughter has already been reclaimed. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl—and why.

Less than a mile from Bess’s lodgings in a quiet town house, a wealthy widow barely ventures outside. When her close friend—an ambitious doctor at the Foundling Hospital—persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her young daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her—and will soon tear her carefully constructed world apart.

MY THOUGHTS: Don't expect this to be a deep and gritty read, because it's not. It is a light read, but it is also touching.

The Foundling Hospital, established in the 1740s in London, was the first to take babies at risk of being abandoned. They admitted only a certain number and the places were drawn by lottery. I don't know if it is true that tickets were sold for the privilege of watching the lottery take place, but it does seem to have the ring of truth to it. I can quite imagine the wealthy standing about drinking and eating while watching desperate and distraught young women hoping, yet dreading, that their child would be one of the lucky ones who won a place. It is reminiscent of those who used to picnic in front of the guillotine.

I had always imagined such institutions to be quite grim, little more than workhouses that starved and ill treated the children, but there is none of that here. That's not to say that poverty is not addressed. It is, in detail. Whole families living in two rooms, and sometimes more than one family. The hunger, the cold, the dirt, the smells, the stark contrasts between the easy lifestyle of the rich and the harsh lives of the poor are all chronicled.

This story of a child pulled between two women, is narrated by the two women involved. Bess, who falls pregnant to a man who then dies, and Alexandra, widow of Bess's baby's father. Bess is a fighter, determined to get her child back. I felt sorry for Bess, but was not totally convinced that she was doing the right thing. Alexandra is an odd woman, she strokes and talks to the portraits of her dead parents, yet finds it impossible to touch her daughter. She is reclusive and forces her daughter to live the same restrictive life. She has no contact with anyone other than her mother, the servants and the family doctor. Clara/Charlotte is an intelligent child. At the age of six she can read and write, and speaks French.

While there is nothing predictable about this beautifully written story, I found the rapid change in Alexandra's character towards the end of the book a little unbelievable. However, I enjoyed this enough to have earmarked Stacey Hall's previous book, The Familiars, to read.


#TheLostOrphan #NetGalley

The Lost Orphan has also been published as The Foundling.

THE AUTHOR: Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. She has always been fascinated by the Pendle witches. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and moved to London aged 21. She was media editor at The Bookseller and books editor at, and has also written for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine, where she now works as Deputy Chief Sub Editor.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Mira via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Lost Orphan by Stacey Halls for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage

Was this review helpful?

› In November 1747, Bess Bright is a mother for not even a day. After giving birth to a baby girl in the morning, she finds herself leaving her baby at the Foundling Hospital. The baby is to be sent to a wet nurse in the countryside, then return to the city around 5 years-old to live at the Foundling until they are ready to work in service and labour. Bess has a plan to work hard and earn enough money to get her baby back in a few years.

› Bess lives with her father, Abe, and brother, Ned. Abe is quiet, Ned is unreliable. Bess sells fish with her father from 4:30 am to sundown. January 1754, when Bess returns to the Foundling to collect her daughter, they tell her she was claimed by her mother a few days after being dropped off. Bess is shocked and determined to find her child. The rest of the story is a compelling story that you won't be able to put down.

› The setting and world-building are top-notch and Halls writes some of the most interesting characters. This isn't an action-packed plot, yet it still feels quick, with twists and turns that will leave you wanting more.

Rating: ★★★★★

› Final Thoughts
• The Lost Orphan is a fascinating historical fiction novel with decisive, strong, independent women that portray mental illness and the lengths a mother will go for her child. It reminded me of The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos and The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker. I can't wait to read more from Stacey Halls.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?