To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin
This is nice little historical romance set in the waning days of 19th century France, as bohemians and the bourgeoisie struggle to find a path into the modernizing world. The story blends historical events and people with a fictional plot. We follow Caitriona Wallace, a young Scottish widow tasked with chaperoning two wealthy siblings during their grand European tour. While taking a hot air balloon ride to see Paris from above, Caitriona encounters engineer Emile Nouguier (a real person), who is partnered with Gustav Eiffel to help build the now-famous tower for the Paris World’s Fair of 1889.
What happens next follows fairly standard romantic faire: Caitriona, well-bred widow brought low by the death of her husband, and Emile,treading the line between bourgeois and bohemian, develop a fondness for one another, but must decide whether flouting propriety and convention, and the repercussions sure to follow, is worth a love affair.
I enjoyed this book, more for the rich historical detail than the plot (but then again, I am much more interested in history than in romance). Paris during the late 1800s was a fascinating time, and I loved that this story was set against the construction of the Eiffel Tower, which was hugely controversial in its day. For the most part, the characters are well drawn and interesting, though Caitriona’s two wards, Jamie and Alice Arrol, are self absorbed and clueless enough to thoroughly annoy.
In all, most readers of historical fiction and/or historical romance will like this book. The heroine is smart and relatable, and the romance sweet rather than sordid (while avoiding becoming saccharine).
An advance copy of this book was provided by the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. To Capture What We Cannot Keep will be available for purchase on November 29th, 2016.