“Someday I’ll Find You” Richard Madeley (Simon and Schuster) – novel review

Some Day I'll Find You Richard Madeley Book Cover
Diana’s parents were married in haste at the outbreak of the First World War as Oliver appreciates that if anything happened he’d leave Gwen more status as a widow than a girlfriend so they don’t see anything wrong with Diana marrying in haste at the outbreak of the Second World War. It helps that her choice is in the same Royal Air Force squadron as her brother John. John provides a useful character reference for James Blackwell based on their friendship. The official version is that James’s parents are Canadian and returned to their native country. John’s version is that James was the son of a maid who’d been abused by the lord she was serving and that James refused to let his mother’s disgrace hold him back and got into the RAF on merit. James’s version is murkier. Raised by a single mother in a time when single mothers were stigmatised, James won a scholarship and then blackmailed the headmaster into giving him a reference so he was accepted into the RAF. Initially Diana’s role is to cement his entry into the middle classes, but he finds himself falling in love with her.

The marriage, however, is short-lived. Diana and James do get to spend the night before together but on the day itself, just as the family return for a champagne reception, both John and James are called up. Diana finds herself not only pregnant but widowed.

Ten years on, Diana’s settling in France with her second husband and her daughter from her first very short marriage. One morning she thinks she hears James’s voice and sees a silhouette of a man just like James getting in a taxi. Her father and a friend warn her against following this up and urge her to leave it. James’s plane was shot down, he wasn’t reported as a prisoner of war, was officially declared dead and has not made any attempt whatsoever to get in touch which he would have done had he somehow, against extraordinary odds, survived and holed up in France until the end of the war. Tellingly, Diana doesn’t discuss this with her second husband, Douglas. She discovers her instincts were right: James is alive and wants to meet the daughter he never knew he had fathered.

To Diana, James’s request is perfectly reasonable. What she doesn’t realise, until too late, is that James isn’t reasonable but has a dark, ulterior motive. She opens the way for her husband to be blackmailed and her daughter to be kidnapped. Douglas argues that James won’t harm his own daughter. Diana wakes up to what sort of man she’d married in haste, but she doesn’t have the leisure of repenting. To save her own daughter’s life, she has to act fast. Can she act fast enough against a ruthless blackmailer who is not above murder when he suits his interests?

“Someday I’ll find you” does rely on a high level of coincidence to kick start the plot. Whilst readers are aware that John and James could get called up any moment, for it to happen on the wedding day after the ceremony but just before the reception; for Diana to fall pregnant when she loses her virginity and for news of both John’s death and James’s apparent death occurring on the same day are too many coincidences. They give the story a slightly unreal feeling and serve to remind that the characters aren’t entirely real. They don’t detract from the story, but they do give the reader a reason to pause for thought. The second part of the story in post-war France is more credible, doesn’t rely on coincidence and is stronger for it.

The pace is well-judged. The characters well-rounded. Diana’s plight is credible and her reactions to James’s re-appearance entirely credible. Douglas is sympathetic as man marrying a war widow with a young daughter. Diana parents and brother are likeable. Even James has his likeable moments and readers feel Diana’s dilemma as she wavers between needing to believe James is capable of being the good man she married and yet knowing the reports of his negative behaviour must be true. “Someday I’ll find you” is a good summer beach read: a romance with the grip of a thriller.

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