In High as the Heavens Evelyn March has endured her fair share of tragedy. She’s lost much of her family, including her husband during WWI. Eve is also a survivor with terrible secrets that cripple her with guilt as she goes about her job as a British nurse working with the Red Cross in the enemy occupied territory of Brussels. But Eve is not all that she seems. At night she carries out high risk missions for the Belgian underground resistance to assist the Allies in defeating the German occupiers.
British pilot Simon Forrester is on his way to meet with a contact of the resistance when his plane crashes and he is injured. Eve is stunned to recognize a familiar face from home and makes it her mission to care for and protect this link to her past at great risk to herself. But Eve is also determined to protect her own secrets as Simon begins to dig into memories which have left her shattered. At the same time Eve and Simon must work together to expose a deadly double agent within their ranks while both of them also continue in their own private side missions.
Author Kate Breslin wrote one of my all time favorite books, For Such a Time, so I always eagerly anticipate each one of her new releases. High as the Heavens is her third title and perhaps her most complex story yet.
Breslin seamlessly weaves together the detailed history of Belgium and its’ resistance group the White Lady within an intricate plot with numerous threads. And she kept me guessing as to the identity of the traitor for most of the book.
I loved how the author slowly revealed Eve and Simon’s personal history through the use of flashbacks. It also provided some lighter relief in a story which is filled with war drama and tension.
Even with all the action, subterfuge and history, the core of the story is Eve’s struggle to forgive herself and accept mercy for her mistakes. This is summed up early in the book as Father Francois, one of her compatriots tells her…
“Guilt can become a stumbling block to keep us from God’s mercy.”
Many of Eve’s choices and actions are motivated by the trauma she endured and the deep guilt she feels. Simon’s character serves as the personification of that mercy which is reaching out to accept and rescue her if she will only receive the gift.
One of the reasons historical fiction is my favorite genre is that it teaches me so much about different points in time. History books can be dry, filled with facts, dates and names. But when historical events are placed into a story with characters you care about, the past comes alive in a way that sticks with you. Although WWI is only a hundred years in the past, it is not an era I’ve read a lot about. I learned so much about the part the Belgians played and what they suffered because of the German occupation while reading High as the Heavens.
War is a complex subject and Breslin does a great job showing this. Sometimes an enemy can become a protector and an ally can not be trusted. It’s not always a black and white, us versus them prospect as each individual involved is a human being with their own motives and beliefs.
Once again, Kate Breslin does not disappoint. True to her usual style she has written a story with flawed but inspiring characters. Her detailed accuracy makes history come alive while also teaching the reader about WWI. Finally, the ultimate and deeper message of the book with its’ focus on mercy gives light and hope not only to a dark time, but also to any reader with a heart to receive it.
For the images which inspired the characters of Kate and Simon as well as those which inspired the rest of the book, check out the author’s Pinterest page.