DON'T LET ME GO – Susan Lewis
New Zealand and Great Britain – Present Day
After rescuing three-year-old Chloe from the horrors of a sexually abusive father and a mentally ill mother who was later killed by him, Charlotte Nicholls escaped with Chloe to New Zealand and has slowly built a new life close to Charlotte's birth mother, Anna. Charlotte had secretly taken Chloe rather than turn her over to the authorities where she'd likely faced foster care. Using assumed names, their secret is known only to a few. When Charlotte first met Chloe, she was terribly shy and withdrawn—one could understand why after the sexual abuse—but now the child is slowly coming out of her shell, secure in the knowledge that “mummy” loves her and will never go away.
But the unspeakable happens when a spiteful woman goes online and discovers that Charlotte Nicholls is Alexandra Lake, the same woman who was the social worker involved in a sexual abuse case that rocked Great Britain. The young child was never found and presumed killed by her father. The woman places a call to the police department, and Chloe is ripped away from Charlotte, who is arrested and sent back to face her crimes. Can Charlotte fight the legal system and win back Chloe? With the help of family and friends, she hopes so. Meanwhile, Chloe is shuttled within the foster care system, a child who has now withdrawn back into her shell, with only a little stuffed bear to comfort her while she waits for mummy to return for her.
DON”T LET ME GO is actually a follow up to NO CHILD OF MINE, which I didn't read, but it didn't take long to learn about the atrocities faced by Chloe (who was named Ottilie by her birth parents) and that Charlotte was the social worker (she was then Alexandra Lake, her adoptive name) who got involved. I won't go into all that happened in NO CHILD OF MINE, since this review is about DON'T LET ME GO, but one can read this book (like me) and understand what happened. Charlotte has made a loving home for Chloe, though the child is still wary of men and takes a while to make friends. Charlotte knew in the back of her mind that someday the past could come back to revisit, but she kept hoping it wouldn't happen. But it did, and she had no warning when the authorities ripped her and Chloe apart. Their anguish and sorrow at being separated will tear at a reader's heart. Charlotte loves Chloe as if she'd given birth to her.
Back in Great Britain to face charges, Charlotte is given a topnotch legal team that includes her friend Anthony Goodman. She has felt a glimmer of attraction for him in the past, but hesitated to involve him in her life because of what she did. She didn't want to affect his distinguished career as a QC (Queen's Counsel). But as part of her legal team, they get reacquainted and the attraction rises again. Anthony fully supports her, even though she may face time in prison. Charlotte's own horrific childhood may factor in the jury's decision, but she hopes they see what a wonderful mother she has become for Chloe. Meanwhile, Chloe moves from one foster home to another, and no one can pull her out of the abject misery the poor child is enduring over the loss of her beloved “mummy.” Readers will be rooting for Charlotte to win a not guilty verdict and gain custody of Chloe.
A gripping tale that pulls you in from the first chapter to the end, DON'T LET ME GO is a read that will remind you just how precious children are.