Review: High as the Heavens – Kate Breslin

Kate Breslin. High as the Heavens. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

The last couple of months have been a little out of the ordinary, as some of you probably noticed the Blog’s brief hiatus in May.  With the addition of our newest (and littlest) member of the Blog team, time is definitely at a premium.  In the midst of the insanity, reviewing this novel ended up being slightly delayed, so I am very happy to finally post this review!

In High as the Heavens, Evelyn Marche grew up in Britain to a Belgian family.  After losing her husband during the early days of World War I, Evelyn returns to her family’s hometown, landing herself directly in the path of the German army.  She soon finds herself leading the nurses of a German hospital in Brussels, while serving as part of the Belgian resistance.  When British Captain Simon Forrester’s plane crashes in the middle of the city, Evelyn risks everything to preserve his identity and top-secret papers.  With the Germans intent on proving Simon to be a spy, he is forced to trust Evelyn with his survival and finding a way out of Brussels.  Together, they look forward to the day that they might dare to return to the dreams they once had before the war.

Ms. Breslin shares this intriguing story of World War I spycraft, delving into the fascinating perspective of the Belgian resistance and their work with the British Secret Service.  Fans of World War I-era stories will definitely want to check out this fascinating novel!

Overall, I found High as the Heavens to be a very unique novel.  Previous to reading this book, I had not encountered one focused on the Belgian perspective during World War I.  Personally, I would have greatly appreciated some additional context, as I was quite unfamiliar with the locations, people, and events described in the novel.  Even some additional description in an author’s note would have been very helpful to provide this kind of information.  While the characters were interesting and relatively well developed, I thought that the writing style and pacing of the story dragged at points, especially toward the beginning.  However, I’m sure that someone more familiar with this period and geography would have been much more comfortable moving more quickly through the story.

Fans of Kate Breslin’s other novels would definitely enjoy reading High as the Heavens.  Likewise, those with a particular interest in World War I would also find this to be well worth reading.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House for the promotional copy of High as the Heavens!

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Review: Not By Sight – Kate Breslin

Kate Breslin. Not By Sight. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2015.

It’s been an extra busy and particularly zany week at the Books and Biscuits Blog headquarters this week. Fortunately, I’ve had some great books coming in from publishers this month! This week’s book comes from a relatively new author to the genre, which makes it particularly exciting for me to feature the novel on the blog.

Kate Breslin’s sophomore novel, Not By Sight, brings together the best elements of historical fiction focusing on the early 20th century. With Britain firmly in the grip of World War I, Grace Mabry decides to put her patriotic views into action at a London society ball. Handing out white feathers representing cowardice to conscientious objectors, she encounters the Viscount of Walenford, Jack Bennington, whose lack of military involvement is widely known. However, Jack’s reputation is merely a cover for his role with the British Intelligence Agency, which involves catching a spy at the very party attended by Grace. Their encounter triggers a series of events that challenge their faith and abilities, as well as the state of the war both home and abroad.

Ms. Breslin does a masterful job of creating an accessible, yet fascinating, story about the homefront war efforts during World War I. While most summaries of the book concentrate on the initial meeting between Grace and Jack, those events only last through the first few chapters. The vast majority of the novel takes place in Kent, particularly related to Grace’s involvement in the Women’s Forage Corps (a precursor to the Women’s Land Army).

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Not By Sight! Although I’m not as familiar with Ms. Breslin’s earlier book, I thought that her writing style, character development, and storyline were exceptionally well done. Likewise, her grasp of historical details and concepts were excellent and have the potential to push the Christian historical fiction genre into exciting new realms. Based on Ms. Breslin’s first two books (including Not By Sight), she has not developed multi-book series, although I would be very interested to see her build upon this novel to further explore the homefront during World War I. While the book has been marketed based on readers’ potential interest in Downton Abbey, the storyline and characters are more similar to the BBC’s World War II series, Land Girls, although set during World War I. As a result, I felt that the summary doesn’t necessarily reach the most accurate audience, even in its attempts to avoid spoiling the central section of the novel.

Fans of Ms. Breslin will definitely want to read Not By Sight. Having not read her earlier book, For Such a Time, I am certainly planning to read that novel based on the excellent caliber of Not By Sight. This novel’s themes and historical period set it apart from quite a few other historical novels currently available, but Ms. Breslin’s writing style will feel familiar and accessible to fans of other works by authors with Bethany House Publisher, particularly Kristi Ann Hunter.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for an advanced copy of Not By Sight!

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