Entertainment

Bookmonger: Romance and intrigue in World War I England

“Not by Sight” by Kate Breslin

The sixth and final season of “Downton Abbey” has wound up filming in England, but as those episodes won’t begin airing here in the United States until next January, fans of the show may be able to satisfy their appetite for period drama in the meantime with a new World War I era romance by Kitsap author Kate Breslin.

“Not by Sight” features an English heroine who is impulsive and idealistic. And as an aspiring writer, Grace Mabry also has an active imagination.

However, there’s no denying that Grace’s beloved twin brother is engaged in trench warfare in France, and in a theatrical effort to express solidarity for the young men serving on the front lines, Grace undertakes to heap public shame on the able-bodied fellows still at home. She attends a society ball and hands a white feather of cowardice to Jack Benningham, who is heir to a title and has a reputation as a Casanova.

But her small act of contempt is a mere drop in the bucket of much more compelling events swirling through London at the moment. There is subterfuge and real danger, and Grace’s protective father, a successful tea merchant, packs Grace and her maid Agnes off to the country to be safe. They have been assigned to the Women’s Forage Corps, where they will help bring in crops that otherwise would rot in the fields due to the shortage of manpower.

The aristocratic owner of the estate lives in seclusion, and local gossips call him the Tin Man. He wears a full mask and gossips say he was scarred and blinded in some kind of accident in London.

Grace does not make a good first impression on her fellow workers. She is inexperienced and hapless in the chores assigned to her. Also, as a woman of faith and a suffragette, she is outspoken about her beliefs. Although she initially rubs some of her fellow workers the wrong way as an unskilled rich girl and a busybody, eventually they come to understand that she is well-intentioned and has a genuinely good heart and the will to succeed.

But there are others in high places who are much more skeptical of her actions – they believe Grace may actually be a spy for the enemy and they have set about to prove it.

Breslin does a fine job of describing the lives and the work of these women in 1917 England, and the settings are picturesque. (However, when Grace tries to exercise her literary ambitions by describing them aloud, her florid depictions are over the top.)

There are several subplots woven into this tale, many of which involve modest romances for supporting characters. These prove to be charming distractions from the problems with the main plot – which requires suspense of disbelief on a number of points. Some readers, of course, might embrace these as miracles.

“Not by Sight” is a pleasant enough tale with engaging characters and a story that resolves just as you expect it might.

The Bookmonger review appears each week in Take Five. For more entertainment, go to BellinghamHerald.com/entertainment.

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