When she spies a handsome Casanova among the costumed party guests, she recognizes him as Jack Benningham, the Viscount of Walenford and the future Earl of Stonebrooke, and her heart rate quickens. Her knowledge of him as a playboy and a gambler is based on newspaper photos and town gossip, and here he is, living up to his reputation rather than serving on the frontline, as her brother Colin is. Stepping toward him, Grace, dressed as Pandora, takes a white feather from her box and hands it to Jack. In so doing, she unleashes on both their lives all manner of trouble far beyond their control. The extent of the problems and how their lives intertwine are revealed through the masterful unfolding of this absorbing story.
After her father learns of Grace's disgraceful actions he sends her to the countryside of Kent, where she and Agnes become volunteers for the Women's Forage Corps, working in the fields to provide food for the horses in the war. It is here that she meets other young women, each with a secret of her own, and discovers that Jack Benningham is lord of the manor on which she works.
Kate Breslin's writing is tight. Whether she is describing a scene, sharing a conversation, or providing narrative, the author chooses just the right words to move the story along. "I like to paint the scene but not put the reader to sleep," she told me in a recent interview.
Neither does she waste details. More than once I caught the slightest whiff of something brewing by reading a carefully placed detail, a subtle foreshadowing of future events. Kate never disappointed me by leaving me hanging. By the end of the story each of the details had found its place in the larger narrative.
Is the book a mystery? No, but it is filled with intrigue. She likes to read gritty novels about real life, and that is how she likes to write. She told me, "It is very much a Beauty and the Beast story, [portraying] a beautiful, smart woman who is sensitive to the needs of others and a man who is a wounded hero."
But the story is much more than fine use of language, intrigue, and romance. Sprinkled throughout are issues of suffering, consequences, and truth. And always, Grace and her comrades struggle with what it means to live by faith, not by sight.
**********You can read my review of Kate Breslin's first book, For Such a Time, here.