ARC Review: To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin

tocapturewhatwecannotkeepcoverOfficial Synopsis 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.

Seamlessly weaving historical detail and vivid invention, Beatrice Colin evokes the revolutionary time in which Cait and Émile live–one of corsets and secret trysts, duels and Bohemian independence, strict tradition and Impressionist experimentation. To Capture What We Cannot Keep, stylish, provocative, and shimmering, raises probing questions about a woman’s place in that world, the overarching reach of class distinctions, and the sacrifices love requires of us all.

 Genre: Historical Fiction

Setting: Paris 1886-1890

*** I received an eARC of this book from Flatiron Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ***

 Review:  Starts out slow, but has an excellent ending that rewards the patient reader.

To Capture What We Cannot Keep is a historical fiction novel that tells about the building of the Eiffel Tower. Romantic, and full of historic detail, To Capture What We Cannot Keep starts out slowly, and gradually builds toward a beautiful ending, with it really starting to pick up around the 60% mark.


Our main characters are Émile Nouguier, one of the men who designed the Eiffel Tower, and Caitriona Wallace, a widower who works as a chaperone for wealthy siblings, Jaime and Alice Arrol. It took me awhile to warm up to Émile, I wasn’t sure if he was trustworthy and kind, as he begins the book in an affair with an obnoxious lady named Gabrielle, but I really ended up liking him the more I read. I especially loved his scenes with his mother.

Caitriona was much the same, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of her at the start, but I appreciated her strength and her quiet ways the more I read. There is an air of mystery around Caitriona, and I never felt that I truly knew her and all her past. This intrigued me more than it bothered me.

Alice Arrol, wealthy, young, and single, was annoying but sad to read. She always tries so hard to be appreciated and admired, and there was a resignation to her and her choices that made me care more for her than I probably should have.

And her brother, Jaime Arrol, is a suave playboy with his head in the clouds. Jaime becomes an apprentice for Émile and Gustave Eiffel, working on the Eiffel Tower, and his lack of responsibility was irritating to read, but also seemed realistic.


The plot of To Capture What We Cannot Keep started out slowly, with more attention being paid to the beautiful scene of Paris and the building of the Eiffel Tower, but it gradually gained momentum towards the end, and I truly loved the ending of the book, as all of the plot points converge together, and it was a satisfying read.

Émile and Caitriona fall in love, and their love felt genuine and real. There was chemistry there, and I appreciated reading about two adults falling in love.

I did have trouble following the timeline in a few places, as the characters would think “oh this reminds me of something three weeks ago”, and then the story would shift to that spot in the past, and then back to the present, and some of these transitions were not very clear.

It was very interesting to read about the construction of the Eiffel Tower. Yes, Gustave Eiffel is a character in the novel, and there are many tidbits of knowledge about Gustave Eiffel and the building of the Eiffel Tower. I even learned about the Panama Canal, and the beginning stages of construction there, and the trouble that happened.

The ending was beautiful, and had me invested in the characters and their stories. Once you get about 60% into the book, the plot tightens, and from that point on I couldn’t put the book down. It was truly a beautiful piece of historical fiction.

Bottom Line: Romantic, beautiful, and atmospheric. To Capture What We Cannot Keep is slow to start, but gains momentum and has a satisfying ending.

*** I received an eARC of this book from Flatiron Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ***

Links to To Capture What We Cannot Keep on Amazon   and   Goodreads

Does this sound like a book you want to read? Have you ever been to the Eiffel Tower? (I have not – one day!!!). Do you enjoy historical fiction?



3 thoughts on “ARC Review: To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin

    1. Yeah the historical details were really fascinating! Lots of information about how they built the Eiffel Tower and about what people thought about it as it was being built. The Eiffel Tower is truly a marvel of engineering! I hope to see it one day! 🙂


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