Not by Sight by Kate Breslin (Bethany House, August 2015)
With Britain caught up in WWI, Jack Benningham, heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, has declared himself a conscientious objector. Instead, he secretly works for the Crown by tracking down German spies on British soil, his wild reputation and society status serving as a foolproof cover.
Blinded by patriotism and concern for her brother on the front lines, wealthy suffragette Grace Mabry will do whatever it takes to assist her country’s cause. When she sneaks into a posh London masquerade ball to hand out white feathers of cowardice, she never imagines the chain of events she’ll set off when she hands a feather to Jack.
And neither of them could anticipate the extent of the danger and betrayal that follows them–or the faith they’ll need to maintain hope.
Certain books speak to us even before we have ever read a novel by a new author. Kate Breslin’s Not By Sight was such a book for me; from it’s gorgeous cover depicting so many symbols and metaphors to come from the story, to the intriguing back-cover blurb hinting at what’s to come, I eagerly assigned myself this title to review. Not By Sight fulfilled my expectations plus many more—but then again, I knew this would happen because I met Breslin last year at the ACFW conference. From her charming personality to her kind smile—and the numerous awards she’s garnering for her first book—Not By Sight was bound to become a favorite of Christian fiction readers.
I make no secret that within historical fiction my preferred time period is World War Two. This interest could undoubtedly bias any other historical fiction I choose to read; however, with my love for Downton Abbey—and its captivating storyline during World War One—I am becoming more and more interested in stories set during 1914-1918. Breslin’s superior storytelling in Not By Sight has cemented my curiosity for this time period. I absolutely loved learning about the Great War, the suffragette movement in England, and, of course, the continued battle of England’s aristocracy to reign supreme in a time of change.
While I am a full-blown patriotic American, I also have a love for all-things British, which Not By Sight fully engages in throughout the entire story. Breslin shares glorious descriptions and details of the Kent countryside in which the main characters spend much of their time. It is unlikely I’ll visit Great Britain anytime soon, but in Not By Sight I felt as if I walked the vast estate and grounds right along with Grace and Lord Roxwood. I also thoroughly enjoyed learning British World War One history. The author many of the sentiments—both pro and against—the British people dealt with while watching and waiting for their sons to return from France. This time was so tumultuous for Great Britain, and Breslin skillfully weaves her pen to help her readers empathize with the British people.
Not By Sight is a character-driven novel with arcs that demonstrate Breslin’s skills as a writer intuitively aware of people’s emotions and motivations. Out of the two main characters, I preferred Jack Benningham (Lord Roxwood) to Grace Mabry. I found the hero a much deeper character that I could relate to—one who truly has physical and emotional pain to work through; however, by the end of the novel I can definitively say that Grace is the character who develops and matures in a most satisfying way. Jack is a man’s man through the entire novel. He is brave, wounded, strong, handsome and tough emotionally and physically. I easily envisioned him and sympathized with him because Breslin created his character in a way that was believable and realistic. With Grace, however, I had a harder time believing in her actions. A daughter of the aristocracy, Grace is passionate about her country, women’s rights, and in supporting the war effort so her twin brother may return home from France. I enjoyed Grace’s character because her passion for supporting others, including those in classes below her own, was admirable. Grace is a sweet character with a good heart; however, her naiveté in the blind patriotism and suffragette movement that motivates many of her actions did not completely convince me in the development of Not By Sight’s storyline.
This novel is one that is reminiscent of many classic pieces of literature, such as The Phantom of the Opera and The Scarlet Pimpernel, but the story that most often came to my mind while reading the story is Beauty and the Beast. For that reason alone—yes, I am staunch believer in any retelling of the Classics—I could easily recommend this novel. For all of the other reasons mentioned in this review—superb storytelling, captivating historical detail, and an imaginative plot—I not only recommend Not By Sight but wholly believe in re-reading Breslin’s sophomore novel.
Rating: 4.5 stars
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Florida-born author Kate Breslin lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and family and a very spoiled cat named Coco. A former bookseller, Kate has also written for many years, including travel articles and award-winning poetry. Her debut novel, FOR SUCH A TIME, earned a starred review in The Library Journal and is both a Christy finalist and an RWA RITA award finalist. Her second book, NOT BY SIGHT, will release August 4, 2015. When she’s not writing, Kate loves to read or take long walks in Washington’s many beautiful forests. She also enjoys a bit of traveling—not only within the U. S. but to Rome, Greece, Turkey, and many parts of Western Europe. She’s always seeking new ideas for the next story! Please visit her website. She’d love to hear from you!
Find Kate at the following sites: