A little bit Scarlet Pimpernel, a little bit Beauty and the Beast, and a little bit Phantom of the Opera, Kate Breslin’s sophomore novel Not By Sight is more than a little bit perfect. Romance, espionage and friendship collide in this stunning tale set in England during the First World War.
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.
You might guess this from the title Not By Sight, but the themes of blindness and faith play off each other so poignantly throughout the book. As in life, every character seems to suffer from some sort of blindness – be it physical, spiritual, or metaphorical. Watching them journey through the darkness – while some do find their light -is part of what makes this book such an emotionally tender masterpiece. The idea that we see by faith, not by sight, is illuminated most through the character interactions and the acknowledgment that there is more to everyone than what we can see. Steps of faith taken, no matter how small or how giant, provide those glimmers of light for the reader too, the reminder that walking by faith is not without potholes but is also brimming with those vistas that leave you breathless in wonder.
Along with blindness, nearly every character in Not By Sight harbors a secret or ten. From espionage to true identities to guilt to family secrets, the men and women gathered at Lord Roxwood’s estate are a regular Pandora’s box of subterfuge. As for what happens when that box is cracked open, little by little? Well, you’re just going to have to read the book to find out but trust me you will not be disappointed! A word of caution, though: Don’t schedule anything (including sleep) once you start reading Not By Sight because you will find it most difficult to put down until you’ve finished it!
The romance between Jack and Grace is electric, the breathless tension apparent from their first meeting and in every encounter thereafter. Theirs is the best sort of love, in my opinion – linked like lightning at first sight but then forged by friendship over the course of time. They lose nothing of the sizzle to this friendship; it only deepens into something tender and beautiful and strong … as all the great ones do 🙂
Speaking of friendship, the girls of the Women’s Forage Corps added a whole new layer to this story and in my opinion gave Grace her best chances to bloom. Anyone who has ever lived in a college dorm (or watched reality TV) knows that when you put more than 1 female at a time in close quarters, conflict will erupt. It’s only a matter of time. In Not By Sight, that conflict leaps forward pretty much the second Grace sets foot on Lord Roxwood’s estate and meets the other WFC girls. While I would have been tempted to open my mouth and give back sass for sass, Grace’s pure heart shines through in her replies and actions. The effect she has on this particular WFC gang leaves behind a lesson we would all do well to learn in this society of social media and volatile opinions. The WFC also provided Grace her best opportunity to grow as a person, as a woman, and as a friend. She struggled at first to adapt to these new-to-her tasks, absorbing the criticism and mockery, but was determined to do her part to help the troops. To me, these things put Grace on my favorite heroine’s list… even if her self-control can be a little annoying 😉
And Jack… there’s something about flawed heroes. There’s something about scarred heroes, too. But deep within, Jack has a soft heart (though I wouldn’t necessarily say that to his face lol). It shows up whenever he’s in Grace’s presence, which will probably make you all melty inside. Out of everybody in Not By Sight, Jack perhaps has the most to lose… but also the most to gain. Watching him juggle those two outcomes – along with his feelings for Grace – set him on my favorite heroes list. Which is nice for him, since Grace is there to keep him company lol.
Real quick side thing that made me happy but no one else will care about: I grinned every time Jack’s valet made it into a scene. Why? Because his name was Townsend. (I can still see you blinking at me in blank confusion. Let me hasten to enlighten you.) My husband’s middle name is Townsend, and it’s such a rare name that I hardly ever see it used anywhere. In fact, when we got married, a lot of people misunderstood our invitations and thought that was our last name lol. Anywho… now you know more than you ever wanted to know about me.
Bottom Line: Penned in the exquisite writing style that made an award winner of Breslin’s debut novel For Such A Time, her second novel Not By Sight is not to be missed. With intriguing history and vivid characters, you will be swept away to the English countryside and the world of espionage and spunky women. Highly recommended for anyone and everyone but especially for those readers who love historical fiction, spy novels, and/or the themes of Beauty and the Beast & Phantom of the Opera.
Not By Sight decodes 5 out of 5 stars and a spot on my faves shelf!
(I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishing as well as Netgalley in exchange for only my honest review.)
Kate has some very neat Pinterest boards based on Not By Sight. Click on the pictures below to check them out!
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 at www.katebreslin.com. She’d love to hear from you!