Page & Sommers: Hither Page – Cat Sebastian
A jaded spy and a shell shocked country doctor team up to solve a murder in postwar England.
James Sommers returned from the war with his nerves in tatters. All he wants is to retreat to the quiet village of his childhood and enjoy the boring, predictable life of a country doctor. The last thing in the world he needs is a handsome stranger who seems to be mixed up with the first violent death the village has seen in years. It certainly doesn’t help that this stranger is the first person James has wanted to touch since before the war.
The war may be over for the rest of the world, but Leo Page is still busy doing the dirty work for one of the more disreputable branches of the intelligence service. When his boss orders him to cover up a murder, Leo isn’t expecting to be sent to a sleepy village. After a week of helping old ladies wind balls of yarn and flirting with a handsome doctor, Leo is in danger of forgetting what he really is and why he’s there. He’s in danger of feeling things he has no business feeling. A person who burns his identity after every job can’t set down roots.
As he starts to untangle the mess of secrets and lies that lurk behind the lace curtains of even the most peaceful-seeming of villages, Leo realizes that the truths he’s about to uncover will affect his future and those of the man he’s growing to care about.
When it comes to MM historicals, Cat Sebastian is one of my go-to authors. I am used to her writing Regency romances so it was a delightful surprise that she decided to shake things up and write about another time period.
Hither, Page is set during post-WWII Britain. It is an era that demands discretion. The book was able to fit the romance to the setting while delivering a well-thought out mystery.
Both MCs served during the war, Leo in what ever role he was required to do, James as the army doctor.
Leo Page, nameless and rootless, goes wherever work takes him. He was assigned to what was purported by his boss as an easy job. He is to take care of a high-ranking military man residing in the countryside who is suspected of passing on information about the British steel industry to enemies and a dead charwoman who had a reputation as a snoop. There, he meets James Sommers, the country doctor who recognized him as one of his patients during the war.
Leo is the first to admit, he lies. It comes natural to him as a spy. Having James recognize him strips him of his disguise and it sets the tone of their interactions. They were able to work together and flirt with each other openly when there’s only two of them. They were under no illusions what so ever. I really liked that the author made it this way because that they were able to establish a baseline of honesty in their relationship. To the rest of the world however, Leo was some clerk on vacation.
James had to cope with his PTSD. Leo, long used to various identities, struggles with the truth. I love the subtle way they took care of each other especially with the mental toll of the war. It was a tender and beautifully nuanced relationship
The story takes place in a span of a week or so. It was written in such a way that a lot of things happened within that short time span that it felt longer but also fast-paced. It made the romance feel slow burn so it evolved quite nicely. It also made it believable that a hardened spy would make a decision to stay with a gentle country doctor.
The author always makes the rest of her cast stand out. There’s a couple of interesting old ladies, Edith and Cora, who had a pretty colorful past and who had surprises of their own. There’s a very enterprising and resourceful teenager, Wendy, who is their ward. She’s always out and about. We have Norris, a too handsome secretary trying to look plain, and the vicar’s wife, Mary, who can’t catch a break. Even the dead Mildred Hoggett was a palpable presence. The fact I remember their names is a testament to how memorable the characters are. Usually, secondary characters are ‘just there’ for me.
The mystery was a clever whodunnit involving a dinner party. It kept me guessing. The twist at the end was really good. I really liked the way things slowly fell into place especially coming from Leo’s POV.
Although I said his decision to stay with James was believable, I felt his decision regarding his job was too hasty. Given the kind of things he did, it’s something you can’t just walk away from. I felt there might be repercussions that were glossed over for the sake of a happy ending.
However, I enjoyed the sharpness of the prose and the way the words flow. There was a great sense of time and place. It had atmosphere you can FEEL. And as always there’s an extra touch of kawaii by having some kind of adorable animal antics here and there.
Overall, Hither, Page is a good opener to a lovely historical series. It takes you to charming English villages full of busybodies, endless cups of tea, too many biscuits and ugly mufflers held on to with affection. It’s a book where secrets were traded, killed for, and hidden in plain sight until someone really looked. It’s also about finding self-worth and deserving a bit of kindness no matter who you are.
This is Cat Sebastian‘s take on Agatha Christie and she did it with deft touch and a coziness that speaks of hearth and home. Highly recommended!
Posts about Cat Sebastian’s works here.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
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