This month, Bethany House Publishers sent me Not By Sight, the second novel by Kate Breslin. Romance novels are far down my list of go-to books, but make it historical romance or fantasy romance and you’ve stoked my interest. This book kept it fed!
Fiery and beautiful, suffragette Grace Mabry is determined that everyone should do their part in aiding the war effort and bringing England’s boys home again. Handing out white feathers of cowardice at a ball (to which she was not invited) to “conscientious objectors”, the young able-bodied men who refuse to fight in World War I, is her way of trying to shame these men into enlisting. One of these men is dashing Jack Benningham, heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, whose reputation as a womanizer and scoundrel is well known. Grace glides up to him, a lovely smile lighting her face, and deposits a white feather in his hand. Rather than being angry or offended, Jack is amused – for what Grace doesn’t know is that Jack has been hunting spies in Britain this entire time, using his reputation as the perfect cover.
Grace and her maid, Agnes, join the Women’s Forage Corps, mainly to help the war effort but also to keep Grace from being forced to marry a man she doesn’t care for. They are assigned to Roxwood Estate, where Lord Roxwood is a mysterious man who wears an iron mask (and the villagers say he has fangs and a hunched back and you can just imagine!). Lord Roxwood, however, turns out to be Jack Benninghan, whose face is scarred by an explosion which blinded him as well. Grace and Jack are thrown together thanks to some pigs (no, really), and begin to learn about each other and themselves.
I have to say I loved this book. It was a fun read, one that kept me interested and entertained the whole way through. All of the characters are realistic, from the main ones to ones who are only there for a page or two. I love when I can learn something new about history, which I did with this story – I had never heard of the Women’s Forage Corps, which employed women in England as hay balers, sack makers, thatchers, drivers, and clerks, gathering hay for the army’s horses in France. It gave me a new insight into World War I, and of the people living through those times. Women were still very much under the rule of their fathers and husbands, but the Suffragette movement was gaining more steam, and that along with the need for more women to work outside of the home to help with the war effort, women were beginning to have a sense of what else they could achieve. This is the view of Grace Mabry, who is firmly a Suffragette. This isn’t all that drives her, though – her twin brother, Colin, is in the army over in France, and as more time passes without Grace hearing from him, the more worried she becomes, and the more determined she is to help put an end to this war.
Jack Benningham is one of those male characters you simply like, even when he’s being a pain in the patoot. He hurts, but it doesn’t define who he is. Even his self-imposed exile after being disfigured doesn’t completely take him over, though he’s tempted to allow it. He is strong, intelligent, serious but with a sense of humor. He can be gruff, but then encourages Grace with her writing by demanding more descriptive word-paintings from her. Jack is someone who makes you sad to see the end of the book – a trait I absolutely adore.
This book has romance, intrigue, mystery, and even a bit of comedy. A very good book that earned its five starts from me.
Thank you to Bethany House for sending me an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.