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Not by Sight

Not by Sight

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Not by Sight

Bewertungen:
4/5 (41 Bewertungen)
Länge:
421 Seiten
6 Stunden
Freigegeben:
Jul 28, 2015
ISBN:
9781441265241
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Gripping Sophomore Novel from a Rising Historical Romance Talent

With Britain caught up in WWI, Jack Benningham, heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, has declared himself a conscientious objector. Instead, he secretly works for the Crown by tracking down German spies on British soil, his wild reputation and society status serving as a foolproof cover.

Blinded by patriotism and concern for her brother on the front lines, wealthy suffragette Grace Mabry will do whatever it takes to assist her country's cause. When she sneaks into a posh London masquerade ball to hand out white feathers of cowardice, she never imagines the chain of events she'll set off when she hands a feather to Jack.

And neither of them could anticipate the extent of the danger and betrayal that follows them--or the faith they'll need to maintain hope.
Freigegeben:
Jul 28, 2015
ISBN:
9781441265241
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

A Florida girl who migrated to the Pacific Northwest, Kate Breslin was a bookseller for many years. She is a Carol Award winner and a RITA and Christy Award finalist and lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington. Find her online at www.katebreslin.com.


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Not by Sight - Kate Breslin

5:7

CHETFIELD HOUSE, MAYFAIR

LONDON—APRIL 1917

Her father would never forgive her.

Grace Elizabeth Mabry stood in her flowing green costume on the steps outside the grand London home of Lady Eleanor Bassett, Dowager Countess of Avonshire, and clutched a tiny gold box to her chest. She knew the gifts she was about to bestow on the unsuspecting cowards inside would ruin Patrick Mabry’s hope that his daughter would ever gain acceptance into polite society.

All those months at finishing school, destroyed in a single act.

Are you ready with your feathers, miss? No second thoughts?

Grace tightened her grip on the gold box and glanced at the costumed sprite beside her. I am committed to this cause, Agnes. ‘For King, For Country, For Freedom.’ Didn’t Mrs. Pankhurst say those very words at our suffrage rally yesterday?

Agnes nodded. And for Colin?

Grace smiled. Agnes Pierpont was more a friend to her than lady’s maid. For my brother most of all, she said. And the sooner we get inside and complete our task, the quicker we’ll help to win this war. Then Colin can come home.

And Mother would have been so proud, had she lived. Grace blinked back unexpected tears. The year since Lillian Mabry’s death from tuberculosis had been difficult. Colin’s enlistment had only aggravated their gentle mother’s condition. Yet Grace was proud of her brother. He did his duty for Britain. Just as she must do hers, in any way possible—including today’s scandalous act.

Three Rolls-Royce automobiles drew up the street in front of the mansion. Pressing a gloved fist to the bodice of her gown, Grace watched a boisterous crowd of costumed men and women spill out of the cars.

Ready? Agnes looked equally anxious. A burst of hyena-like laughter escaped before she could cover her mouth. I am sorry, miss, she said, blushing. When I’m nervous . . .

It’s all right. Grace took a deep breath. I’m ready.

For Colin, she reminded herself. Thoughts of her twin fighting in the trenches of France lent her strength. Surely God was on her side. Grace imagined herself a modern-day Joan of Arc about to rally her countrymen to battle. She hoped to write and submit an article about the night’s experience, especially after having received her latest rejection from Women’s Weekly.

The partygoers ascended the steps, moving toward the front door. Grace and Agnes clasped hands and rushed to join them, slipping into the house amid the crush. They pressed on through the foyer and then down a lushly carpeted hall to finally arrive at the ballroom.

The rest of the company dispersed while Grace paused with Agnes to ogle the sumptuous décor. Her father, a tea distributor and owner of London’s prestigious Swan’s Tea Room, ranked among the city’s wealthiest tradesmen, yet she had never before seen such opulence.

Four table-sized chandeliers hung from the high-coved ceiling, their crystal drops as large as tea balls and glittering like jewels beneath the lamplight. Along one rich mahogany paneled wall, swags of red velvet draperies showcased enormous windows, each pane the size of the entire glass frontage of Swan’s.

Grace barely heard the sprightly notes of Mozart floating over the throng as she gaped at the endless supply of champagne bubbling in delicate glass flutes, carried on silver trays by black-and-white-liveried footmen. Men who certainly looked able-bodied enough . . .

Recalling her purpose, she scanned the room. Lady Bassett was sponsoring the ball, a costume affair, for the British Red Cross Society. Agnes had dressed as a winged wood sprite, the earthy tones of her outfit accentuating her fawn-colored hair. Grace, for her part, chose the fabled guise of Pandora.

Such waste, she thought. Hadn’t the dowager seen the posters warning against extravagant dress? It was positively unpatriotic.

Grace glanced down at her own beautiful costume and felt a stab of guilt. Still, the disguise had been necessary in order to gain admittance to the party. She and Agnes had a higher purpose, after all.

The newspaper had reported the benefit would aid wounded soldiers. Several conchies—conscientious objectors against the war—would be here tonight, performing their community service by supporting the festivities.

It was the reason Grace and Agnes had chosen this particular event.

Edging open the small gold box that completed her ensemble as the mythical troublemaker, Grace withdrew her contraband and hid it against her gloved palm. For King, For Country, For Freedom, she murmured to herself.

Miss?

She turned to Agnes. I’ll meet you back here when we finish, agreed?

Agnes pursed her lips and nodded. Grace watched her mill through the crowd toward the opposite side of the room before she scanned the guests on her own side, seeking her first target.

Jack Benningham, Viscount of Walenford and future Earl of Stonebrooke, stood directly ahead. Grace ignored the racing of her pulse, telling herself it was simply nerves as she stared at the tall, broad-shouldered man she recognized only from the photographs she’d seen in the society pages of the Times, and from his scandalous exploits recorded in the Tatler.

His objections to the war were well publicized, though he certainly seemed fit enough for duty. At twenty-eight, the handsome Viscount Walenford was but eight years older than Colin and herself. He held a long-stemmed red rose and wore black velvet from head to toe. With his clipped blond hair tied off in a faux queue at his nape, he looked every inch the eighteenth-century Venetian rogue, Casanova.

Her mouth twisted in scorn at seeing two women in daring costumes clinging to either side of him—Cleopatra and Lady Godiva. Grace watched as he settled an arm possessively over Cleopatra’s shoulder while bending his head to smile and whisper in Lady Godiva’s ear.

Jack Benningham is a playboy, a gambler, and stays out until dawn. She’d heard the gossip, spoken in tones of mixed censure and titillation by several of the young ladies who regularly took tea at her father’s establishment. And it seemed true, if Lady Godiva’s blush and tittering laughter were any indication.

At the moment Grace didn’t care if he was the biggest profligate in London. The only moral flaw concerning her was the fact he was here while her dear brother was in France, fighting the Boche.

Moving toward him, she glanced at the others in his party. A portly man in laurel wreath and a white toga made the quintessential tyrant, Julius Caesar. The tall elderly woman beside Caesar was Lady Bassett herself, wearing the unmistakable sixteenth-century headdress, ruff collar, and damask gown of Queen Elizabeth.

Hearing a burst of hyena-like laughter rise over the buzz of conversation, Grace paused to glance toward the other side of the ballroom. Agnes must be at work distributing her feathers.

Grace turned back to her quarry and met with Casanova’s deliberate gaze. His sudden, teasing smile caused her heart to race a staccato beat to the lively music.

Jack Benningham was a coward, she reminded herself. Yet he was also a viscount, his father an earl of the realm. Grace took a moment to consider the full impact of her actions. Once the deed was done, there was no going back. And Lady Bassett, who happened to be her father’s chief patroness at Swan’s, would surely recognize her and toss her out.

She thought of her father’s reaction. Da might go through with his promise to marry her off or send her to live with Aunt Florence. She wet her lips. Escape was still an option. She could turn around and leave . . .

———

Jack Benningham stifled a yawn, resisting an urge to check his pocket watch. He smiled, pretending interest as his father’s friend, Lord Chumley—Julius Caesar—regaled him with another pointless anecdote.

Patience, he told himself. It was imperative that he keep up pretenses. Although tonight, for some reason, Jack chafed at having to be here. Plucking another flute of champagne from a passing footman, he took a sip, then looked over the rim of his glass at his target. The man standing across the room disguised as the American film star Charlie Chaplin hadn’t yet moved.

Surveillance was tiresome. It made one’s mind wander, like musing for the umpteenth time over the latest lecture from his father just hours prior to the ball. It was always the same: Why did Jack continue to embarrass him with his pacifist views? Why couldn’t he have been more like Jack’s brother, Hugh, God rest his soul, who took up the battle cry when war was declared?

Ironic how, after Hugh’s death, it was Jack’s power-wielding father who obtained for him a written exemption from the fighting. No doubt a gesture meant to salvage the Benningham line. Duty was paramount to the hard-nosed earl, who had carped on all afternoon about Jack’s consummate philandering and irresponsibility, and how he must start thinking about his duty to family instead of himself all of the time.

All the while, Jack could hear his mother’s quiet sobs in the background.

I say, Walenford, you seem a bit distracted tonight. I suppose it’s an intolerable bore listening to an old man prattle on when you have two pretty birds beside you, eh?

Not at all, Lord Chumley, just feeling a bit stifled in this cape. Jack smiled at the man in the toga before turning to his hostess. You’ve managed quite the crowd tonight, Lady Bassett.

Indeed. The old woman adjusted her ruff, then narrowed her gaze on Caesar. And I’ll have you know, Lord Chumley, those ‘pretty birds’ you speak of are my granddaughters.

She turned an indulgent smile on Cleopatra and Lady Godiva. I’ve employed them at the behest of Miss Violet Arnold, Lord Walenford’s bride-to-be. They are here tonight to keep an eye on him while she visits Edinburgh with her father.

Ah, yes, someone must keep me in check, Jack drawled. Violet’s command no doubt stemmed from a wish to avoid scandal rather than any jealousy on her part.

I do feel for the young woman, Lady Bassett went on. Miss Arnold has been through so much. She made a tsking sound. But a year is more than enough time for her grief. She nodded at Jack. And you have met the challenge admirably, Walenford. I’m certain your good father the earl is pleased. Stonebrooke will have its young countess, after all. An August wedding will be just the thing.

Just, Jack echoed with a forced smile. Again he sipped at his glass of champagne. Contrary to his father’s opinion of him, Jack was doing his duty—in fact, going so far as to take up his brother’s place at the altar. When the American heiress, Violet Arnold, first became betrothed to Hugh, money exchanged hands—from her father to his. Hugh would provide a coronet in payment for shoring up Stonebrooke’s flagging coffers.

Then his brother had died, leaving Violet unmarried. Without the promised title, the Benninghams owed the Arnolds quite a sum.

It was still difficult to grasp that after months of fighting at the Front, Hugh had returned home unscathed . . . only to drown in a freak boating accident weeks later. A shock not only to his family but also to Violet’s. Yet it didn’t change the financial arrangement. Jack had no wish to marry; however, he knew what was expected. Stonebrooke must be saved at all costs.

Of course, he would have to change his ways, but only for a time. The earl did promise that once Jack married and produced an heir, he could go to the devil if he pleased.

The notion enticed him, as he had little use for a wife. Yet . . . in the back of his mind, disquieting thoughts of settling down had already begun to take root. Jack caught himself thinking less about living in the moment and more about his future.

He discarded the consideration and instead gazed at the beautiful young women on either side of him—off-limits, of course, as he hardly wished to tangle with their lioness of a grandmother.

Still, the scenery was pleasant enough. Raising an arm to rest against Cleopatra’s shoulder, he winked at his hostess’s look of reproach. Lady Bassett’s charming granddaughters served to enhance his romantic guise at the party tonight, without any emotional entanglement.

Movement from across the room caught his eye. Chaplin had left his place by the window. Jack straightened, reminding himself he had a job to do. It wouldn’t sit well with his superiors if he failed. Because although he professed to be a conscientious objector, he simply preferred fighting the enemy on his own terms. Unbeknownst to his father, the earl—in fact to anyone but Sir Marcus Weatherford, his friend and a lieutenant at the Admiralty—he was doing his bit for his country without having to set foot on foreign soil.

Jack had become a spy catcher for the Crown.

Espionage, ever present before the war, seemed to have grown to rampant proportions in the past three years. Hundreds of suspected enemy agents were apprehended and tried, with many convicted traitors executed at the Tower. Jack’s social reputation allowed him to infiltrate any arena, from dockside brothels to the finest salons, enabling him to make such arrests.

Marcus once said half jokingly that Jack’s notoriety as a playboy aided the War Office more efficiently in the boudoirs of London than it ever could in the trenches of France.

He watched as Chaplin moved to another empty spot along the opposite wall. No one had yet approached him.

Jack took the assignment because his section of the British Intelligence Agency, MI5, had received a tip. An unknown German agent was to arrive at the ball tonight and meet with a man already under the Admiralty’s watchful eye—the man disguised as Charlie Chaplin. Once an exchange was made, Jack would follow the German from the ball to his lair, where New Scotland Yard could make the arrest.

He lifted his glass to take another sip of champagne. So where was he—?

A shimmer of bright green near the door caught his eye. Jack turned . . . and then forgot everything else.

She was a vision. Jack swallowed as he stared at the exotic beauty only a few yards away. Her cloud of fiery auburn curls looked ready to burst from the green ribbons holding them in place, and her gown, a wispy emerald-green affair, clung to her alluring figure, swaying gently as she turned with a regal air and surveyed the room.

I say, is that Pandora?

It took a moment for Lord Chumley’s question to penetrate Jack’s senses. But yes, he’d already glimpsed the small gold box she held against her lovely bosom.

Cleopatra spoke up. According to myth, the gods made her the most beautiful woman on earth—

To ensnare Epimetheus, the brother of Zeus’s enemy, into marriage, Lady Godiva finished. She would cause him mischief by opening her box and releasing trouble into the world.

I could do with a spot of trouble, Chumley muttered under his breath.

Jack heard him, and the unexpected rush of anger he felt took him aback. He said nothing, unable to tear his gaze from the auburn-haired beauty near the door.

Who is she? Lady Bassett demanded. I cannot see her clearly from this distance.

Jack’s pulse quickened as she started in their direction. Excuse me, he said, breaking from the women at his side. He ignored Lady Bassett’s frown as he moved apart, waiting to catch Pandora’s attention.

Halfway across the stretch dividing them, she paused. Only half aware, Jack did so too, holding his breath as she lifted her head to scan the room. When she turned back to him, their gazes locked, and he offered his most dazzling smile.

Immediately she straightened and blushed. Then she frowned at him, and Jack wanted to laugh. Air eased from his lungs when after a moment she flashed a determined look and resumed her trek.

All conversation stopped when she came to stand directly before him. Jack caught the heady, exotic scent of flowers—jasmine?—as they continued staring at each other. He took in her exquisite features, the porcelain skin and dainty nose set beneath wide emerald eyes. Her full lower lip crying out to be kissed . . .

Ever so slowly, the green-eyed beauty held out a gloved hand. Delighted, he smiled and gently grasped her fingers, bringing them to his lips.

Only when she pulled away did he notice the gift she’d given him.

———

Grace watched, breathless, as he looked down at the white feather of cowardice. Uncertainty over his reaction warred with the effect his nearness was having on her senses. She discovered he was even more impressive up close. One could drown in those midnight-blue eyes, and his smile . . . sweet heaven, it made her almost giddy.

She had to remind herself again of his cowardice, and as he looked at her, Grace was satisfied to note his smug expression had turned to a look of pure astonishment . . .

Before he grinned and tucked the feather behind his ear.

She glared at him, her moment of righteousness quashed. When he silently offered her his red rose, she set her jaw. Did he think she played some game? Grace had risked her reputation in order to aid her brother and her country. Did this man now think to turn her serious act into a joke? His arrogance was unbelievable! Jack Benningham wasn’t just a coward; he was a conceited, overbearing, womanizing . . . turncoat.

Abruptly, he shifted his attention past her and let out a snarl. Grace drew in a breath at his look of fury. Had the meaning of her white feather finally registered with him? She’d never stopped to consider that her actions might cause violence upon her person.

A scream welled in her throat as he grabbed her by the waist and, with a muttered curse, lifted her easily. Did he intend to toss her across the room?

He set her gently to one side, then strode to the nearest exit.

Dazed, Grace turned to watch him leave. You! sputtered the outraged Queen Elizabeth, and then she met with the dowager’s look of shocked recognition. I shall speak to your father, young woman, she promised, before raising a hand to signal a servant.

Grace went clammy with fear, and for an instant she thought to escape. Yet she knew there was no turning back—Lady Bassett could hardly forget the incident.

Colin’s image rose in her mind, renewing her determination. Her brother was counting on her! Quickly she sidestepped her hostess and managed to thrust two more white feathers of cowardice into unsuspecting hands before the butler grasped her arm.

Five minutes later, she and Agnes were ejected from the house.

That was close, Agnes said in a breathless tone. I handed out my last feather before the butler got me. A burst of hyena laughter escaped her.

Grace grinned, her pulse racing. I handed out just a few, but one which I hope will reap many returns. She nodded toward Jack Benningham, who was climbing into a cab without a backward glance. He’s an earl’s son, a public figure. If he enlists in the Army, I feel certain his conchie friends will follow.

Never would Grace forget the look on his face before he stormed from the ballroom. She’d made her point, and if ruffling the conscience of the arrogant coward might help her brother win the war, she was satisfied.

What she didn’t want to think about was Lady Bassett’s threat. Grace knew Da would have the whole story before the kettle was on at Swan’s the following morning.

———

Jack drove off in the cab, barking instructions to the driver as he mentally cursed his own lapse. He’d not only let the German agent slip from his grasp, but now he risked losing Chaplin. His only recourse was to follow him back to his den and interrogate him, perhaps salvage the situation.

Leaning back in the seat, he frowned at the white feather she’d given him—the mysterious auburn-haired minx who had caused his distraction.

If his current circumstances weren’t so dire, he’d have been more amused and thankful for her action. Jack was aware of his enemy’s recent surveillance of him. His cover as a conscientious objector seemed dangerously close to being compromised, a condition that also concerned Marcus.

Pandora’s feather had done much to aid his deception, yet he doubted the knowledge would please her. Who was she? Jack had been sorry to leave, for she was not only beautiful but seemed to have a mind of her own—a novelty among the women he normally associated with.

He smiled, recalling the passion in those angry green eyes. And her lips, so tempting to kiss, particularly when she frowned at him.

Jack looked out at the fading twilight toward the docks ahead. His humor waned. He’d made a mess of things tonight. Only by staying focused could he possibly minimize his losses.

Still, he allowed himself another smile as he raised the white feather to his lips. Whoever she was, he would find her, his Pandora—and get that kiss.

THREE MONTHS LATER

COUNTY OF KENT—JULY 1917

Surely being banished never felt so good . . .

With the smallest twinge of guilt, Grace jotted the words into her journal, then raised her face to the brisk summer breeze blowing in through the open window of the cab. She marveled at the pastoral beauty of the Kent countryside. It seemed unsullied and tranquil compared to town. Thatched-roof cottages and rustic barns lay interspersed among groves of alder and plane trees, the fading white flowers of the rowan in sharp contrast with the bright red berries of the buckthorn.

Relieved at being away from her father’s watchful eye and Lady Bassett’s censure, she couldn’t have asked for a more pleasing exile. It was the perfect setting for her next story.

We’re almost to Roxwood, miss!

Grace turned from the window and smiled at her maid’s excitement. Have you grown tired of all the traveling, then?

Not at all, Agnes said. Since I came to this country, I’ve never stepped outside of London. In the past two weeks we’ve been to Norfolk and all the places in between. Her brown eyes widened. I didn’t know Britain was so grand.

Yes, it has been a whirlwind, Grace said. I can hardly believe we left London just this morning. Now they were traveling the last leg of their journey to Roxwood. The Kent estate apparently encompassed an enormous amount of acreage between Canterbury and the town of Margate and would be their home for the next few weeks as she and Agnes began their service in the Women’s Forage Corps—WFC—harvesting and baling hay for the cavalry horses overseas.

It was good of your father to hire us a cab.

There wasn’t much choice, since the trains don’t run on Sunday. It wouldn’t do for us to be late reporting for our first day of work. Grace added in a low voice, Anyway, likely Da paid the driver to report back on my behavior.

Agnes shot her a sympathetic look. Yes, he’s been very . . . attentive toward you since the costume party.

I suppose ‘attentive’ is a nice way of putting it, Grace said with wry humor. Lady Bassett followed through on her threat, and Da had been furious over Grace’s white-feather stunt. He’d railed for days, alternating between threats to bring Aunt Florence from Oxford or marry Grace off to his American protégé, Clarence Fowler. Then he forbade her to attend any more suffragette meetings with those brazen Pankhurst women. Finally, heeding the advice of his chief patroness who warned him to keep an eye on that one, he’d restricted Grace to the upper offices at Swan’s, preparing tea care packages for the soldiers while he decided what to do.

I knew the risks of attending the ball that night, she went on. And I have no regrets, despite my being confined. She cast her maid a meaningful glance. Not while my brother fights in France and others are allowed to shirk their duty.

Like Jack Benningham. Grace shifted her gaze toward the window while again her mind replayed her thrilling encounter with the tall, handsome, blue-eyed Casanova. As always, the memory of his seductive smile, and the way his midnight gaze held hers in those moments they stood facing each other, had the power to make her pulse leap. They hadn’t spoken a word that night, yet she’d sensed a connection between them. It was a feeling she didn’t particularly care for, not only because of his scandalous reputation, but because he was a coward. Grace hadn’t seen him again after the ball, but she’d read in the Times days later about a fire at his London townhouse. Rumors buzzed through Swan’s of how after a night of substantial gambling losses, a drunken Jack Benningham had accidentally set the place ablaze. Apparently the damage was minimal, with him sustaining minor injuries, but she still hoped the ordeal had changed him enough to quit his squandering and do something useful for his country.

Anyway, I’m free now, she said, turning back to her maid. And we’ll be doing more for the war than simply packaging up tea bags. She leaned to nudge her maid affectionately. All thanks to you, dear Agnes.

Agnes’s face turned pink. It was luck I found the Women’s Forage Corps leaflet.

More like a miracle. Grace had chafed at being hemmed in at Swan’s, and as more letters arrived from her brother, the desire to hurry up the war and bring him home gnawed at her. Especially since Da wasn’t keen on me working at a munitions factory or driving an ambulance back and forth from the field hospital.

And you do look sharp sitting behind the wheel of a motorcar, Agnes said. But I think he worried about the danger. Remember the Silvertown accident?

Grace nodded. The Times had reported the munitions factory explosion killed scores of women workers. All the more reason I’m grateful you suggested he let me join the WFC, she said, then laughed. Honestly, I’d actually given up hope Da would let me out of his sight, let alone agree to my traveling to Kent, yet here we are.

I think it might have to do with the recent bombings, Agnes said.

Grace shot her a glance, all humor gone. Countless enemy air raids over London during the past three years had resulted in hundreds of innocent deaths. In June, a single bombing by the Germans had killed over 150, and she and Agnes had left on the heels of another, just days before, that struck down dozens. Da may not be pleased with the idea of my working in the fields and getting dirty, but you’re right, he believes I’ll be safer in the country.

But would her father be safe? So far there had been no attacks in the area around Swan’s or their home in Knightsbridge, yet the threat was ever present. Another reason the war must end, she thought. Taking a deep breath, she tried to shake off her unease. God had preserved them so far, and she would pray He continued to do so. You know, Agnes, despite our troubles in the city, Da never would have allowed me this venture if you hadn’t agreed to come along, she said. I want you to know I’m grateful.

Oh, miss, I am eager to be away from London, as well. A shadow flitted across her features before she smiled. And anyway, with my pay from the WFC, I hope to save enough to open the small dress shop I’ve always dreamed of.

She laid a gloved hand over Grace’s. Since I’ve met you and learned of the suffrage movement, so much seems possible again. Her brown eyes misted. When I think back to the day you found me and came to my aid . . .

Forget the past. Grace squeezed her maid’s hand, hoping Agnes wouldn’t brood again over that cowardly husband of hers, Edgar Pierpont. Think instead of your dress shop, or more important, the marvelous experience we shall have safeguarding a vital asset to the war. Cavalry horses are in precious demand, Agnes, like my Nessa.

Filled with emotion, Grace paused. She’d cried when Da sold her mare and Colin’s bay gelding, Niall, to the Army. But the need for horses was still great. Keeping them fed is critical, she continued. We can be proud in knowing our value to the war effort. ‘For God, King, and Country.’

Oh, miss, when you talk that way about your country and patriotism, you sound like Mrs. Pankhurst, Agnes said.

Don’t forget Britain is now your country, too.

Agnes nodded. I do want to be a loyal citizen.

Grace eyed her with compassion. Soon you’ll have the chance—oh, we’re here!

The cab gave a lurch as it rounded a corner, where a large wych elm spread its leafy green branches over a weathered wooden post that spelled out ROXWOOD in white lettering. Passing through an opening in the gray stone, they followed a narrow cobbled road into the heart of the small village.

What a quaint little place. Grace noted the various shops shouldering upper apartments along either side of the street. The myriad colors and textures only added to its charm. Tall burnt-brick storefronts squeezed in beside painted gray, blue, or green stuccos. Several had neat, white-framed windows above, displaying bright gingham curtains. As the cab drove along the main thoroughfare, she observed four unpaved side streets, and at the end of the village a church’s spire rose into the sky. The driver pulled alongside what looked like a community hall at the center of town. A few shopkeepers clad in work aprons emerged to gawk at the newcomers.

There’s someone from the WFC. Agnes pointed to a matronly woman standing beside a long cart drawn by a pair of draft horses. She was dressed in the same khaki trench coat, green breeches, and hat that Grace and Agnes would be wearing during their stay.

With the cab’s fare already paid by her father, Grace and Agnes collected their luggage and disembarked. Miss, you don’t think they’ll have a problem with my . . . being your maid, do you?

Don’t fret. Grace offered a reassuring smile. We agreed you don’t work for me at all while we’re here, remember? I plan to pull my fair share. And you must call me Grace. Look, here she comes.

Welcome, ladies, and right on time, the round-faced matron called out as she met them halfway. I’m Mrs. Ida Vance, the gang supervisor at Roxwood. Mrs. Vance seemed quite a bit older than her and Agnes and offered a pleasant smile as she extended a hand to each of them.

Nice to meet you. I’m Grace Mabry, and this is my— Grace paused, glancing at Agnes—my friend, Agnes Pierpont.

We’re pleased to have the extra help. Mrs. Vance led the way back to the cart. How was your trip?

It’s been a remarkable journey, Grace said. Two weeks’ training at a farm in Norfolk, a stop back in London, and now we’re here.

Well, since we don’t work on Sundays, you can rest up. Tomorrow, be prepared for hard work. More local boys left for France last week, and there’s much to be done. The estate covers many acres of land.

How far is it from here? Grace asked.

A couple of miles. Mrs. Vance climbed nimbly up onto the cart’s bench seat and took the reins. Set your bags in back and hop on in.

Once they were under way, she said, "There are six of us altogether, and we billet at the estate’s gatehouse. We’ll stop there

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  • (3/5)
    I normally love reading fiction set in this era, but something felt off about the characters, as though they weren't quite of their time and place. Grace's passion for suffrage felt stilted and for a character so well regarded, I thought there were a number of times she was downright cruel (such as when she stops a young women from stealing food to feed her family). She does learn from some of these experiences in the book, but I felt the character had a lot more room to grow. In general, the romance between Jack and Grace felt very contrived, although that may be due my own annoyance with male characters who fall in love upon sight of a beautiful woman. It took me longer than normal to finish a book of this length, but I'm happy to have finished it and be on to my next book.
  • (5/5)
    *applauds* Well done, Ms. Breslin, well done! I just don't even know where to start with describing this gem.

    I guess we can start off with the cover first. Oh. My. Goodness. It is just beyond gorgeous! Talk about design goals! The fonts, the colors, the arrangement, just everything is so perfect and so beautiful. I can't wait till I have a gorgeous paperback to grace my bookshelves.

    The characters. Grace is an incredibly multifaceted character. I was a little wary at first, as she is a very outspoken suffragette, but thankfully it wasn't as much in the story as I anticipated. I particularly related to her close relationship with her brother and her desire to help him, even if some of her actions weren't the best, the heart was right. And Jack. <3 He was amazing. I've found a lot of romance novels to surround the female being insecure about herself, and the guy helping her overcome that, but it was really intriguing that in this one, the guy was insecure. Their story and character arcs were so well done.

    The romance was without a doubt, the best part of this book for me. I love, love loved how it was almost entirely focused on a personalheart attraction as opposed to a physical attraction that is often portrayed in so many romance novels. Due to certain circumstances that I can say (#spoilers), the characters had to dig deeper, instead of focusing on physical characteristics and attraction. It was just so good, okay?

    The plot was incredibly well done, and especially towards the end, I couldn't put the book down! The ending was beautiful and had me sobbing. The WWI setting was absolutely amazing, as I expected.

    All in all, this was a phenomenal novel, and I cannot wait to read more by this incredibly author! Definitely go grab yourself a copy of this beautiful piece of literature!

    Recommended for ages 14-15 for romance
  • (5/5)
    World War I seems so distant. The stories that we read about that time are often romantic in nature, when it was as hard as war is now. Kate Breslin gives us a look into how the war was fought in London. Feisty Grace does her best to aid the war from her perspective. Not By Sight is the perfect title for this novel, as not everything is as it seems. My Dad's saying "Believe only half of what you see and nothing of what you hear" is brought out very vividly as people are swept up in the war effort. I became a participant in the story as I lived it beside Grace and her counterparts. Times were hard, and suspicions ran wild. I loved learning about the Women's Forage Crops, and watched as Grace worked hard to do her part. There were twists and turns to the story that kept me involved in the story and turning pages, and there were a few surprises, too, that I did not suspect until the end. I enjoyed this novel.Thank you to Graf-Martin Publicity Group through their program Nuts About Books and Bethany House, a division of Revell Publishing Group for the opportunity to read this novel. I was given a free book in exchange for an honest review. A positive critique was not required. The opinions are my own.
  • (5/5)
    I received a copy of this book from book fun.org for an honest review. I love historical fiction. They sweep you away to another era as you learn about how the culture was during that time. This book is set in 1917 when WWl was being fought. We are introduced to Jack Bennington , who happens to be heir to Earl of Stonebrooke. It seems he has quite a reputation as being a bit wild but since he is an heir, his status in society is upstanding. Now the plot thickens. If you want to be a spy, what better cover then a high society man with a flare for being wild? Who would suspect someone like Jack as a spy? Jack is secretly working for the Crown tracking German spies who are operating on British soil. Grace is a wealthy suffragette who is willing to do anything to help her country. She gets all dressed up in a fancy gown and enters a well to do London Masquerade ball. What is her mission there? Will her presence set off a wave of danger for Jack? Why does she assume he is a coward? I love a book with great character development and this books does not disappoint. The story has intrigue, deception, overcoming obstacles and did I mention a patriotic theme? There is evil in the world, and this book touches on that with characters that have a strong belief in faith.Jack will experience a life changing event that will have him angry at times, and despondent at other times. Will Grace become the person to reach him? I love reading about strong women and Grace is definitely a strong fiercely driven young woman. I was captivated by the story as it weaved through history and drew readers to a powerful ending.
  • (3/5)
    ** spoiler alert ** A re-telling of beauty and the beast, sort of, during WWI Britain. I didn't realize it was inspirational historical fiction--I usually don't read inspirational fiction, and this wasn't too bad but does verge on preachy at times, especially near the end. If you like inspirational fiction, it will definitely be your cup of tea. It was pretty enjoyable and a quick read. I did fact check a couple of things because I am pretty interested in WWI. I learned that there were air raids, which I hadn't known. One major thing near the end which is incorrect, however, is the use of the term "concentration camp." It wasn't a concentration camp, it was an internment camp--I make that distinction because it is a major difference between the two wars. They are really not interchangeable terms. It's used as a factor in the betrayal of one of the characters, because she is forced to spy as her family is in grave danger in the "concentration camp." Wiki calls Holzminden a "Internierungslager," and while not described as a pleasant place was a far cry from an actual concentration camp.
  • (5/5)
    An interesting tale set during World War 2. The characters in the book are caught up in working for what they believe in as well as keeping up appearances. Grace is doing all she can for the cause out of love for her brother as well as a belief in the cause. Jack is not as he seems, acting one way and in truth believing another. I liked seeing how the main characters come to understand each other and come to realize just who they really are and what they believe in. I like books set in a historical setting as they let me see how things were during this time as well as giving insight into the people of the time as well. I received a copy of this book from the publisher to review.
  • (5/5)
    First off, fantastic! This was so hard to put down. I learned new things about what went on in the English countryside. Grace loves her country and wants all men to fight so that the war will end sooner and her brother can come home. She does something that she almost regrets and than ends up joining the Woman's Forage Corps. Here she and other women take over jobs that normally male farmhands do. While here she meets Jack Benningham, who is an aristocrat who has lost his sight. Grace begins driving him in his car and teaches him to join the world again and to face his scarring. I loved the storyline and all the characters, even the ones you want to hate. I received this book from the author fir a fair and honest opinion. FANTASTIC
  • (5/5)
    Espionage is at its height during WWI. The slightest piece of evidence, whether legitimate or not, can mean the difference between life and death.Grace Mabry is full of patriotic ideals. She believes there is no excuse for fit and able young men to stay home and drink champagne and attend fancy parties. Grace sneaks into a masquerade ball to hand out white feathers of cowardice in her efforts to aide the war. She slips a feather into the hands of Jack Benningham, heir to the Earl of Stonebrook. Unbeknownst to her the events that are set into motion by that one act. Both Jack and Grace are soon forced to learn the true meaning of walking by faith, not by sight. "She taught me to never back down and to always stand up for what I believed in."Not by Sight has to be one of the most spellbinding books that I have read. On multiple occasions I had to remind myself to breathe. I couldn't even put the book down to walk from point A to point B. And my eyes kept sliding to the end of each page, and therefore causing me to reread the whole page again. The depth of feeling and emotion between the characters is very real. I found the personalities very developed and would love it if Grace were to ring me up and we could discuss her whole adventure. The story line changes perspectives between more characters than I had expected, but it gave valuable insight into the circumstances that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. I was constantly reminded of the BBC show Land Girls (Netflix) which is set during WWII. There is another show called Bomb Girls (Netflix), also WWII, that is similar but set in a munitions factory rather than on a farm. Both are excellent, and I highly recommend them. Pick up a copy of Not by Sight and be transported to the middle of WWI. Say goodbye to housework and sleep, because this intriguing story will completely pull you in. I am on my way to re-watch both shows now! I received a free copy of Not by Sight from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.
  • (4/5)
    Kate Breslin’s second novel, Not by Sight, is based on one of my favorite Bible quotes from 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” Faith, on many level, plays a big role in this wonderful story.Breslin uses this quote to return to WWI and the horrors that England is facing. The main protagonist, Grace Mabry, has every reason to feel more than patriotic. Her twin brother Colin is fighting in the trenches of France. Grace believes that every able-bodied man should be in uniform. Grace herself is in uniform; she’s joined the Women’s Forage Corps (WFC). But her reasons for joining are not strictly patriotism.Before she leaves for the English country to bale hay for the calvary, she sneaks into one of aristocracy’s ball and boldly hands one a rakish society member, Jack Benningham, a white feather. The white feather is a sign of cowardice. Jack is furious.The story jumps ahead three months. Grace has arrived at her assignment with her maid and fellow enlistee, Agnes. As Grace learns what it means to do physical labor, she is intrigued by the estate’s owner, whom the other girls in the WFC refer to as “The Tin Man.” When she stumbles upon him relaxing near the manor house, the novel’s main plot is set in motion. An excellent read. I really enjoyed learning about a little-known role women played during The Great War. Either I missed it, or there is a big hole in the story. The lord of the manor has hardly been out the house since he arrived to convalesce from wounds he received while conducting his military service. He’s only been there three months, yet the villagers, the farmhands, and even the WFC girls have given him a Phantom-of-the-Opera-esque mystique, which didn’t read true to me. Supposedly no one knows he’s there, yet he has this reputation. And that’s the reason I give Not by Sight 4 out of 5 stars.
  • (4/5)
    Why I chose this title…Last summer I read Kate Breslin’s debut novel For Such a Time with the ladies of my Christian book club. It generated so much conversation and the story was so rich that I have anticipated the release of Not by Sight since last June. Well, it’s here–and it was worth the wait!My ThoughtsFor her sophomore novel, Breslin has chosen to immerse her readers into a story of romance and espionage. The year is 1917, London is in the midst of the Great War with many young men valiantly serving in the war effort. At home, women patriots are doing their part by serving in the Women’s Forage Corps and the Women’s Land Army. It’s grueling work, but they hope their service to king and country will hasten the end of the war. A few conscientious objector “conchies” remain, who refuse to heed the call to arms. For example, Jack Benningham becomes the target of Ms. Gracy Mabry, whose move to publicly shame Benningham by giving him a white feather of cowardice sets off a sequence of irreversible and life altering events.I found the character Grace to have a luminescent inner beauty which radiated into the lives of others. As I learned more about Grace, a multitude of bible verses about women living out our Christian faith came to mind such as 1 Peter 3:3-4, John 13:35, and 1 John 3:18 to list a few. Like all believers, her faith does not preclude her from making mistakes. In fact, her naiveté was both her greatest strength and an unfortunate weakness.Unlike For Such a Time, which gave readers a front row seat to wartime atrocities, this book follows the war from a much safer distance. I find that it rests more heavily on the interpersonal relationships of the characters and less on the historical intrigue that won me to the author initially. Regardless, the book possessed exquisite imagery as well as a precious cast of characters, making it delightfully entertaining selection.Not by Sight proved to be another book club worthy title by Breslin. It’s sure to stir up plenty of group conversation about friendships, forgiveness, misperceptions and betrayal.4.5/5 stars** I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.**
  • (5/5)
    Title: Not By SightAuthor: Kate BreslinPages: 384Year: 2015Publisher: BethanyMy rating is 5+ stars out of 5.Not by Sight is an exceptional piece of historical writing set during WWI in England with characters that are mesmerizing. We are introduced to a young woman whose brother is in France fighting. She despises those who are still at home enjoying life and wealth; her name is Grace Mabry. Grace’s father owns a tea shop in London, but her mother has died. Grace believes the only way to get others in the fight is to shame them by giving them a white feather. Now, if you’re not aware of what the white feather stands for, it stands for cowardice. This I learned by watching a 1939 movie called, The Four Feathers, which was remade in 2002.Grace attends a masquerade ball with her maid. She is uninvited, but she will do what she believes will get the war over sooner and her brother home faster. The man she sees and slips the feather to is a man named Jack and what occurs after that moment will keep people turning pages until the very end of the novel! I couldn’t put the book aside for long as the storyline captivated my attention and heart as well as an intense desire to see how the character interactions would play out.Kate Breslin also wrote For Such a Time, which is another work of historical fiction that reaches out from the pages and captures the heart of anyone who reads the tale. Inside Not By Sight is a tale of mystery, intrigue, courage, love, and more during a time when life was dangerous and sometimes short. There is a group known as WFC (Women’s Forage Corps) where women come together to perform various tasks to send aid to those overseas or those living at home. Grace is a part of a group sent by her father after her actions at the masquerade ball. It was really intriguing to read how these various women worked together and how their group is singled out and investigated because a spy is believed to be in their midst.Not By Sight is a rich and rewarding masterpiece that I can highly recommend! Don’t forget to read her first novel, For Such a Time, which is also captivating. I highly anticipate whatever may come next from the pen of Kate Breslin!Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255. “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
  • (3/5)
    I'm stepping rather outside my comfort zone with my Netgalley requests for this year. Not by sight is a Romance set during the First World War- no doubt inspired by the massively popular Downton Abbey series, and the first book of this Genre I have ventured to read set in this period.

    With the plot based around espionage, I almost imagined something that might be after the order of the classic spy thriller, 'The Thirty Nine-Steps'. There were perhaps shades of the more recent BBC Adaptation with the elements of Romance, and some unexpected characters being pulled in- but the Drama was more of a Domestic, cosy kind, based on the relationships and interactions between the leading characters.
    It would also be possible to see some shades of series such as 'The Land Girls', given the Emphasis on the lives, loves, and struggles of Grace, and her fellows in the Women's Forage Corps that 'flesh out' the book.

    It must be said, it’s not the best spy novel in the world. The culprit was a bit predictable, and neither side seemed especially sharp in their methods of detection. Yet, I got the impression that this was not supposed to be the main thrust of the story.
    Some have complained about the lack of action in the main section of the novel, and its focus (perhaps over-emphasis) on the girls and their farming activities. This did not bother me per se, as that was what they were there to do, and it allowed for the development of some interesting backstories for the minor characters, even if some of these were a little on the melodramatic side.
    Admittedly, the story it did drag a little in places, though I enjoyed some of the descriptive passages that others may have had little time for. Then again, it might not have been entirely necessary for the characters to explain the way that being confronted with reality had changed them, when this was made obvious elsewhere.

    As to the protagonists, I took to Jack reasonably well, and his reactions and attitudes seemed reasonably realistic (except perhaps falling head over heels for a women who may have been working for the enemy). Grace, whilst, likable and caring at times, could be a bit of a goody- two-shoes, and rather self-righteous in places, convinced that her political ideology was the only solution to almost all of the problems in her society.
    Maybe it’s just that I don't get on with people who like to get on their soapbox, and preach about the evils of anything that does not fit into their preconceived belief system to the point that their outlook becomes rather unrealistic. For instance, Grace complains about women 'bearing the brunt' of arranged marriages, but does not seem to consider than men were subject to them just as often- and of apparently will not even entertain the idea that such arrangements could even possibly be happy.

    The romance itself was something of a mixed bag. Sometimes the characters behaved sensibly and courteously like mature adults, and the idea of getting past appearances to find out what a person was really like was done well. As things got further on, there seemed to be more emphasis on kissing, touching, and 'longing' for one another, with sudden changes in emotion or outlook.

    The historical details were interesting, and the faith elements worked well-even if they were a little clichéd. My main complaint was the whole story being absolutely riddled with Americanisms in the character's speech, and even some of their manners.
    I'm sure there were a couple of scenes in which the characters were eating with only a fork, as Americans are accustomed to, rather than a knife and fork, as is more usual in Britain, and would have been amongst the upper classes at this time. I suppose it’s to be expected, but this still irks me. I almost think, if an author chooses to set a novel is a culture and country other than their own, they should research the speech patterns, and customs of that culture, and try to accurately represent them to some degree.
    The geographical descriptions of the region in which the story was set were correct as far as I could tell, and real effort seems to have been put in to making sure this was the case, so why not for other aspects as well?

    I would consider reading more by this author, and perhaps this one again, but I feel there was some scope for improvement.

    I received an E-book version from the Publisher via Netgalley for review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

  • (5/5)
    Be Thou My Vision“For King, For Country, For Freedom.” As a suffragette and staunch supporter of the war effort, Grace Mabry defies social convention in 1917 England, much to her wealthy father’s chagrin. With her fiery spirit and outspoken nature, trouble seems to follow in her wake. Now that World War I is raging, women are leaving their traditional roles inside the home to take jobs vacated by servicemen and to contribute to the war effort. Eager to do her part, Grace signs on with the Women’s Forage Corps, despite her lack of experience with farm work. In so doing, she begins to realize her naiveté about the lower social classes. She also unwittingly comes into contact with Jack Benningham, whose reputation as a rake and conscientious objector to the war is well known among London’s upper crust. What follows is a journey of faith and intrigue as alliances are tested and treachery revealed.Demonstrating the same phenomenal level of literary artistry and historical detail that characterized her debut novel, “For Such a Time,” Kate Breslin takes readers on a voyage that is both heartfelt and suspenseful. The characters spring to life with relatable flaws and a depth that makes them authentic and memorable, while the lush descriptions of the English countryside paint an almost tangible portrait of rural existence. Allusions to such classics as “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and “The Phantom of the Opera” enhance the storyline without detracting from its originality, and the theme of Christianity woven throughout the narrative expresses gentle faith in action. There is also an author’s note as well as discussion questions appended to the story itself. “Not By Sight” is definitely a novel to be savored!
  • (5/5)
    I love historical fiction and this story sure didn’t disappoint, we are in WWI and living in England. Grace Mabry’s father owns a successful teashop, and she has grown up not wanting for much, except loosing her mother at a young age. Now with the war on she wants to do her part, and her twin brother is fighting the Germans. As a prank, or to make them think, she crashes an elite society party and passes out white feathers, a sign of cowardness.When her father and Aunt get word of this fiasco she is sent to the Woman’s Forage Corps, they work crops for the horses fighting for their country. You can guess at whose estate she ends up at, yes! Jack Benningham, or aka Earl of Stonebrooke, whose property is helping the cause, and whom she gifted with her feather.What a twisted and intriguing story this is, and the pages turned so fast, I never wanted it to end. I felt I was living in this time period, and learned so much about what was going on during this era.The author’s note at the end really shook me when she told of the famous spy Mata Hari and some relatively unknow facts. A must read, you won’t be disappointed in this one!I received this book through Bethany House Book Blogger Program, and was not required to give a positive review.