Warning: there will be ALL THE CAPS!
But first, plotty stuff:
Evelyn Marche is a nurse currently working for the resistance while playing nice with the Germans in war-occupied Brussels. Her life is a barrage of secrets propelled by a haunted past. While she works at her aunt and uncle’s café and saves lives from both sides of the war, you know that she is just going through the motions. She’ll stay alive for her mother, for the Resistance that needs her, and to retrieve her siblings, lost in France.
But underneath Eve’s complicated and complex world of intrigue and her highly skilled spy work, she goes through the motions, rendered an automaton by the death of her pilot husband years before.
A tragic sequence of circumstances thereafter pricks at her constantly and she is but a shell of a person with really nothing to lose after life and love were ripped from her.
When detoured from a night time assignment by a plane crash in Brussels Park, Eve never expects she will find herself face-to-face with her supposedly dead husband, Simon Forrester. Now, caught playing a dangerous game of roulette, she’ll have to risk his trust to save his life ---even as she keeps the darkest secrets from the person who should know and love her best.
GUYSSSSSSS what we have here is one of Rachel’s FAVOURITE ROMANTIC TROPES: something I like to call The Pimpernel. For those of you familiar with Orczy’s classic ( and if you aren’t what have you been doing with your life?), it features a married couple who due to secrets and mistrust are torn apart even as they STILL LOVE EACH OTHER DEEPLY FOREVER AND EVER and WANT TO SHARE KISSES AND TOUCHES AND EACH OTHER FOREVER AND I CANNOT EVEN DEAL.
Here, like Sir Percy, Simon is rattled by the fact that his beloved and rediscovered wife may indeed be a traitor while Eve is confronted with the treacherous fact that the return of her husband means finally spilling a secret that has ruined her at core.
AND I JUST WANT THEM TO TAKE EACH OTHER IN ARMS AND TALK IT OUT
WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE and oh is it ever achingly, seethingly , bone-tinglingly delicious as time is meted out in slow, languorous romantic breaths and you are all: OH PLEASE END THIS INSANITY AND KISS FOREVER
It’s really lovely and done so well: especially when embroidered with sweet tantalizing scenes from the past. We see Simon and Eve fall in love and must reconcile the sepia-tinted light of these remembrances with the hardened, challenged and war-torn people they are at present.
OF COURSE THEY STILL LOVE EACH OTHER and would die for each other a thousand times over but THEY CANNOT TELL EACH OTHER without risking their respective causes and Eve is near rendered mute by a secret that clogs her throat and catches her breath and she wonders if Simon could ever truly love the woman who, out of desperation, was forced to make a lethal choice.
And what is AWESOME about this, reader friends, is that the longer the game goes on, the more confusingly intricate the web becomes. You think that everything is smoothed out like a crease in your favourite pencil skirt, but NO, she throws another wrench into things because she takes DELIGHT IN TORTURING US. To add to the torture, she has a lovely and poetic way of painting a physical connection between our two leads that is whisper light and passionate and alluring—while reminding us that their true connection is strung together with a deeper knot. The more we see Simon and Eve in their respective roles for the cause, the more we are met with the commonalities that surge between them and can truly buy into their connection and story on an inherently intelligent level.
Breslin also does well at painting both sides of the conflict in sympathetic light. Eve’s ability to understand the plight of the German enemies she waits on ( and whose lives she saves as a skilled nurse) even as she aids the allied effort are human and as rooted in an impossible situation as she is. Breslin also (of course, its Breslin) impresses an impressive understanding of culture and verisimilitude as is trademark in her historical fiction.
But, mostly, and above all, she makes you love. She makes you love the ginger-haired Scotch pilot with the calloused hands and roguish burr and his Eve--- a stroke of genius in the name--- the woman who could be his saviour or the downfall of his life and his heart…. Again.
A series of games, clues, breathless escapes, creaks and snippets of war on the European front, you will have to navigate a world of double-agents and betrayals. But rest safe in the hands of Breslin’s competent pen, her fully realized characters and … of course… an “OMG YOU DIDN’T THIS IS THE BEST EVER PIMPERNEL ROMANCE AND I CANNOT EVEN”
I can’t even, guys. And for the last time she did this to me and ruined my life with the most agonizing kind of word bliss, read NOT BY SIGHT
Thanks to Bethany House and Netgalley and Kate Breslin for ruining me for the real world