"High as the Heavens"

"A British nurse in WWI German-occupied Brussels, Evelyn Marche spends her days at the hospital and her nights working at a café . . . or so it seems. Eve's most carefully guarded secret is that she also spends her nights carrying out dangerous missions as a spy for a Belgian resistance group.

"When a plane crashes as she's en route to a rendezvous, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to recognize the badly injured pilot as British RFC Captain Simon Forrester. She risks her life to conceal him from the Germans, but as the secrets between them grow and the danger mounts, can they still hope to make it out of Belgium alive?" (back cover)

"High as the Heavens" is the newest novel by Kate Breslin, former bookseller and now up-and-coming historical romance author. I was glad for the opportunity to review an historical fiction novel, because I generally find them more interesting than the stereotypical inspirational or contemporary fiction, and, in all honesty, this is a better book than I've read in quite awhile. [Read a free excerpt here.]

"High as the Heavens" follows the story of Evelyn Marche, an ordinary woman whose life has been tragically altered and affected by the war, and who now takes great risks to aid the Allies. Eve works as a Red Cross nurse in a hospital in German-occupied Brussels and also is secretly involved with La Dame Blanche, a resistance group partnered with the British Secret Service. From a historical perspective, it was humbling to read of the "hidden" courage of all the various individuals mentioned who were part of the resistance, and I found Eve's character specifically both realistic for the most part and complex enough to keep my attention. (On a side note, I did appreciate that there was not a "feminist" agenda to Breslin's portrayal of Eve or the other female characters; while they don't shirk from danger, they also don't try to "play men" and instead comfortably carry out their distinct roles.) Likewise, the supporting characters, primarily Simon Forrester, the pilot who Eve rescues when his plane is shot down and who becomes an integral part of the story in more ways than one, are fairly well developed as well, and I enjoyed the various relationships and how they played out throughout the story. The general plot is exciting, and there are several intriguing plot twists that add interest to an otherwise slower-moving story; however, the biggest disappointment for me is the lack of true danger (the war, the hostility of German soldiers occupying Belgium, the threat of being uncovered as spies for a resistance group, even the danger the various characters face all feels very vague and superficial), and this takes away from the potential suspense and impact of the book.

Overall, I enjoyed reading "High as the Heavens". Breslin is a solid writer and developed a thoughtful story and realistic characters, all of which make this book fascinating and endearing. There is adequate historical context and plotline seriousness and excitement to hold a reader's interest, while maintaining an underlying message of hopefulness in the face of war. (As a disclosure on content: while nothing explicit, there are references to drinking, war-related violence and assault, and marital intimacy, and as such I wouldn't recommend this book to younger readers.)


Disclaimer: This book was received for free from Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.

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