Not by Sight by Kate Breslin is the story of WWI suffragette Grace Mabry and agent for the crown Jack Benningham. Desperate to do something for her brother who is fighting in the trenches Grace dresses as Pandora and takes her maid with her to a high society masquerade ball. Within Pandora’s box are the white feathers she plans to give the young men who party as others perish. The first feather she gives is to Jack, a known rogue and reprobate whose exploits often land him in the gossip rags.
Jack’s is only playing the reprobate to cover the clandestine activities he does as an agent for the crown. He is at this party for the sole purpose of stopping a rendezvous between a known agent and his slippery accomplice. Thanks to Pandora’s white feather and the bewitching woman in the costume he missed their meeting. Determining to follow the man and get the information out of him one way or another he finds himself led into a trap. He is blinded and scarred in a bomb blast by the men determined to keep their secrets.
Fate, or since this is an Inspirational, the hand of God lands Grace and Jack together again several months down the road. Grace has joined the Women’s Forage Corp, a group similar to the Land Girls but whose main harvest is hay for the horses in the army. Two of her beloved horses had been confiscated by the government for the war and she is doing this for them as well as her brother. Her first assignment just happens to be at Jack’s estate, Roxwood, where he is recuperating. Normally the lord of the manor and the girls of the Forage Corp would never meet but Grace proves abysmal at farm work and Jack needs a driver, using her in this way frees up another man for the fields. Thrown together by circumstance, the two develop a tentative friendship. But Grace is afraid to tell him that they have met before, the night she gave him the feather. Will their budding romance survive the truth of that awful first encounter?
What the author did right: The history is excellent. I’d never known of the Forage Corp and it was fun to learn about them. I liked that Grace was middle class and that her father owned a tea shop. I appreciated how the spy ring was set up and liked some of the historical details regarding the war.
What didn’t work for me: I struggled a bit with Grace, who is a know it all, self-righteous sort of heroine. She has a bit of a comeuppance toward the end but I wasn’t quite satisfied with it. Jack is a bit of a too perfect hero. The romance progressed very quickly given their relative stations. I felt the depiction of Jack’s blindness in no way conveyed the reality of this disability – it was made into almost a super power of its own. Having worked with the blind I can assure you that for most that is not the case. Since this is an Inspirational, the Christian faith features prominently in the tale. I felt it was done moderately well but the faith woven in came across as a bit more works than grace based.
I'm changing my grading scale a bit. 5 cups will be an excellent read, four a good one, three an average read, two means the book is a little below average, one means I didn't like it much at all. Not worth a cuppa will mean skip this stinker altogether.
This is a three and a half cup read.