what I said on Goodreads: An unbelievably well-written and heart-wrenching exposition on the power of faith to see through treason and uncertainty. Ripe with deft metaphor, Breslin puts her skilled pen to the test weaving a tale with all the enigma and romance that reminds you why you LOVE reading. A throwback to the classics such as Phantom of the Opera, the Scarlet Pimpernel and others, Breslin's talent is optimized in her passion-meets-poetry take on the Great War and the British experience. Literary crossover fiction with perfect faith themes, expert characterization and a heart-wrenching climax. The perfect read
You guys I am gonna gush. So be ye warned. I am just letting you know that there will be all-out gushing. Because Kate Breslin is a genius and this book is a world.
I loved this book. I loved the experience of reading this book: the physical reaction that had my hands shaking and my palm over my heart to hear its thudding beat.
I loved this book. This book is smart. This book is brilliant. This book is poetry. This book is parable.
And, best of all, this book is a perfect literary read: a book lover’s dream---pulling on Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, with hints of Thornfield Hall, with a great, lovely nod to the Scarlet Pimpernel. This book reminds us why we read.
We read for love. We read to find ourselves in the pages and we are happily surprised when the characters speak for us--- regardless of time or travail or circumstance.
A well-flourished exposition on betrayal, trust and hope, Breslin thematically weaves faith tenets within the tenuous world of the Great War. The prose that she so well honed in For Such a Time is expert poetry-in-motion in her sophomore novel.
And can I talk about the feminist suffragette slant? I have mentioned before that a favourite literary trope is exploring women who so want to take a stand but really have to stumble into it : realizing that their individual gifts might be as resonant in their quiet ways of changing the world than in grand gestures. Here, the book opens with a ball throwing back to Lord Grenville’s ball: that pivotal moment in the Scarlet Pimpernel and as Percy falls immediately for the dashing French actress Marguerite, so Jack Benningham disguised as a playboy while working for the Admiralty is immediately smitten with Grace Mabry---to him a nameless goddess ensconced in tempting green, swathed as Pandora ….
The metaphorical box she opens is enough to distract and lure him away from his mission at the event, culminating in her leaving him with a white feather, an insignia of the cowardice she feels at his being a playboy in London-town and away from the action of the European theatre.
They meet again, although now Jack ----safely ensconced on a grand estate as Lord Roxwood---is blind and scarred, the result of an accident at sea immediately after the ball but, to Grace and others, just another story in the tabloid rags of a playboy drunk who set his townhouse on fire.
She becomes his driver, when she is not working on his estate with the Woman's Forage Corps he becomes smitten with her via their preternatural kinship and a menagerie of colourful personalities are bottled in a cozy countryside: the servants and friends of Lord Roxwell ( including Violet, Jack’s rich fiancée and Lord Marcus, a regular Andrew Ffoulkes for those who subscribe to all things Pimpernel)
I did find, at times, that Grace was almost too good – and too perfect a mouthpiece to express Breslin’s religious and moral intent. But, I found myself not caring because I was so much in love with the story.
In love with the sexual tension that was an undercurrent of every zippy, nerve-tingling scene Grace and Jack shared together. In love with the soft introduction of betrayal and helplessness, of hope and believably flawed characters. In love with the resplendent juxtaposition of conversation with pure descriptive poetry as Grace, like her creator, imbues the English landscape with a painting of words. In love with my favourite romantic trope: a man scarred who looks to the promise of love for redemption. This is Rochester, this is Sir Percy, this is Col Brandon --- this is the reason my literary heart beats so strongly. In love with the tantalizing research eked out in every scene regarding the Woman’s Forage corps --- a precursor to the Women’s Land Army of WWII ( this has shades of Land Girls, for those BBC fans)
Espionage! Treason! And an e-galley that is pretty much entirely highlighted as I tripped carelessly in love with almost every.single.quote A teacher once referred to poetry as the perfect words in the perfect order. Not one of Breslin’s descriptors is out of place:
“Most women,” says Jack, “are by far more intelligent---which is probably why men don’t want them voting at the polls.’ His tone sobered as he added, ‘Fear tends to breed hatred and dissention, Miss Mabry.”
“Just like an artist captures an image on canvas, a good writer must paint a picture with words”
“Men don’t like suffragettes because they want to keep us under their thumbs”
“Those smiles of his were so rare, each one she received from him like a gift”
“His gentle voice caressed like the rustling grasses of the field. “
“Grace pressed close and touched her lips to his. Let this be their parting then, she thought, surrendering not to reason but to her heart”
“Passion unfurled between them like the petals of his most prized rose.”
“She sensed in him a longing, tasting the loneliness he would face in the days to come. Surrounded by him, she breathed in the spice of his Bay Rum cologne mingled with a touch of aged leather and the scent that was uniquely Jack Bennigham.”
“Her emerald eyes gleamed, and Jack drank in her presence –from the riot of red curls bound in green ribbon to the beautiful eyes, her perfect nose and her rosebud mouth that now quivered with mischief.”
I just want to talk about this book forever. And I will. So I need you guys to promise me that you will go read it and then see if you can get through it without dying to throw in the Anthony Andrews version of the Pimpernel (but resist it and keep reading) and then come talk to me. FOREVER!
As for me, I have preordered three print copies: one for me, two spares – or to giveaway to friends who will fall as hard for this fictional world as I did.