Friday, August 14, 2015

Not By Sight, by Kate Breslin

I'm working on researching the modern historical fiction market before this fall's writer's conference, so when Kate Breslin's Not by Sight appeared on my list of review options, I eagerly picked it up. Modern day WW1 books are hard to find, and when you're looking for comparable titles, fellow WW1 writers are a gold mine.

The Book 
[From the back cover:] In the spring of 1917, all of Britain's attention is on the WW1 war front and the thousands of young men serving their country on the front lines. Jack Benningham, dashing heir to the Earl of Stonebrook, is young and able-bodied but refuses to enlist despite the contempt of his peers. 

A wealthy young suffragette, Grace Mabry will do anything to assist her country's cause. Men like Jack infuriate her when she thinks of her own brother fighting in the trenches of France, so she has no reservations about handing him a white feather of cowardice at a posh masquerade ball. 

But Grace could not anticipate the danger and betrayal set into motion by her actions, and soon she and Jack are forced to learn the true meaning of courage when the war raging overseas suddenly strikes much closer to home and their fervent beliefs become a matter of life and death. 

My Thoughts 
First of all, I enjoyed the fellowship of reading a book from another WW1 author. Community for this time period can be lonely, and I appreciated her afterward detailing the challenges of writing an era that has few research resources (though thankfully more than it did a few years ago).

Second, I appreciated that on several plotting elements, we think similarly. This is a huge confidence booster when you're a newbie in the writing world. Newbies always appreciate encouragement from looking at published authors who have gone before.

Thirdly, though I had heard of the Women's Land Army, I hadn't heard of the Women's Forage Corps. These women baled hay for the horses fighting overseas, and did their best to help the soldiers in every way they could. This was an aspect of the times I hadn't delved into, and enjoyed learning more about.

In some places it was not what I had hoped. I found Jack's plot easy to predict ahead of time, and the combined elements of blindness, a suffrage sweetheart, Bay Rum cologne and agnosticism towards Christianity were elements I had seen before in contemporary fiction. Grace's suffrage attitude towards women's rights also made me uncomfortable at times. I believe women are created by God to do a wide variety of dominion-minded works--in the marketplace and at home. But Grace wanted to seize freedom for herself from the grasp of narrow-minded men, and I wish the men could have been given a more positive role in this story.

Knowles, the butler, was a dear. I loved Marcus Weatherford, high-up man in MI5 intelligence for his dapper authority. And I can say from research experience that the bomb drops she refers to are absolutely historically accurate. Also, the setting of Swan's tea rooms in London for Grace's home made for an interesting and unique setting.

It made for a relaxing book to take with me on a trip out of town. Kate says she's delving into WW1 spy fiction, and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next. :)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.


  1. I shelved this on Goodreads several months ago so I'd remember to check the reviews when it released. Sadly, good WW1 books are few and far between. I need to try this one out.

    1. They are indeed hard to find! This one gives a light flavor on the spy side, but deeper flavor on the viewpoints and work of women during the war, which I found very interesting. :)


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