Thursday, November 24, 2016

To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin

Summary from GoodReads:

Set against the construction of the Eiffel Tower, this novel charts the relationship between a young Scottish widow and a French engineer who, despite constraints of class and wealth, fall in love.

In February 1887, Caitriona Wallace and Émile Nouguier meet in a hot air balloon, floating high above Paris, France--a moment of pure possibility. But back on firm ground, their vastly different social strata become clear. Cait is a widow who because of her precarious financial situation is forced to chaperone two wealthy Scottish charges. Émile is expected to take on the bourgeois stability of his family's business and choose a suitable wife. As the Eiffel Tower rises, a marvel of steel and air and light, the subject of extreme controversy and a symbol of the future, Cait and Émile must decide what their love is worth.

My Thoughts:


     “Were beautiful things more beautiful when you couldn’t keep them?”
     Caitriona Wallace is a widow in the 1800s which means that she has very little she can do to support herself short of marrying again.  After a rather unpleasant first marriage, she is not eager to try the institution again so she takes on the job of chaperone to Jamie Arrol and his sister, Alice.  Their uncle, an engineer and bridge builder sends them all to Paris to help Jamie settle into a career and hopefully, get Alice a rich husband.  This should be a simple and well-paying job for Cait…

     Émile Nouguier has distanced himself from the family glassblowing business in order to achieve his dream of engineering and creating.  He is early forties and unmarried much to his mother’s chagrin.  He also is having an affair with a beautiful, mysterious and married woman.  Émile’s work is truly his passion, helping to build Eiffel’s grand tower in time for the World’s Fair. Can he achieve his dreams and still find time to straighten out his personal life?

     Ms. Colin has painted a wonderful picture of Paris in the late 1800’s amidst changes and growth.  Like the beautiful but simple cover photo she pulls you right into the story; so well that you can smell, taste, and feel it right along with the characters. 

     The characters are believable as are their stories of love, pain, loss and betrayals.  Cait is a smart, strong woman who is sick of the conventions of the times but yet doesn’t know how to live without them. Her charges, Jamie & Alice, are both rather immature but throughout the story you are still rooting for them to grow up and find happiness. Émile is also a wonderful character that you at times love and other times want to shake some sense into. 

     The city of Paris, the history and the building of the tower are all very much a part of the story as well.  They did not detract or bore me but were actually rather interesting. Ms. Colin did a very fine job of giving you just enough detail to walk the line between learning something interesting and going overboard. 

     My only real complaint might be that the “name dropping” of artistic historical figures was sometimes a bit much and unnecessary…but it didn’t really bother me that much! 

   This was for me a very wonderful romantic story full of interesting historical details and a wonderful, heartfelt story.

4.5/5 stars

Release Date: November 29, 2016    

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!

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