Seven Summer Nights – Harper Fox
It’s 1946, and the dust of World War Two has just begun to settle. When famous archaeologist Rufus Denby returns to London, his life and reputation are as devastated as the city around him.
He’s used to the most glamorous of excavations, but can’t turn down the offer of a job in rural Sussex. It’s a refuge, and the only means left to him of scraping a living. With nothing but his satchel and a mongrel dog he’s rescued from a bomb site, he sets out to investigate an ancient church in the sleepy village of Droyton Parva.
It’s an ordinary task, but Droyton is in the hands of a most extraordinary vicar. The Reverend Archie Thorne has tasted action too, as a motorcycle-riding army chaplain, and is struggling to readjust to the little world around him. He’s a lonely man, and Rufus’s arrival soon sparks off in him a lifetime of repressed desires.
Rufus is a combat case, amnesiac and shellshocked. As he and Archie begin to unfold the archaeological mystery of Droyton, their growing friendship makes Rufus believe he might one day recapture his lost memories of the war, and find his way back from the edge of insanity to love.
It’s summer on the South Downs, the air full of sunshine and enchantment. And Rufus and Archie’s seven summer nights have just begun…
Seven Summer Nights is a standalone novel featuring a disgraced archaeologist and an atheist vicar. The story could be split into two. One thread follows Rufus’ struggle with PTSD, his endearing friendship with Archie, Archie’s rescue and Rufus and Archie’s awakening.
That rescue scene in particular had me crossing my fingers and praying really hard for Rufus and Archie. Theirs was one of the most wholesome relationship I have seen so far and a delightful combination of insta-love and slow-burn. They were so kind to each other from the beginning, there was never any moment of unnecessary drama between them. The second thread was archaeology and witch craft. From the island of Sabros to the rural village of Droyton, mysterious labyrinth and mysterious women kept their secrets for centuries. Rufus and Archie uncovered these mysteries to reveal tragedy and bloodshed. But even with the cruelties, the book was overflowing with kindness and humanity. I felt sad that Archie had to give up his post. He was one of the kindest, most humane persons I have ever come across with.
Women were one of the most significant aspects of the book. I love the rest of the cast. Mrs. Nettles, the level headed, very practical housekeeper, Drusilla, the mystical priestess, Elspeth, the precocious changeling, even the difficult Mrs. Trigg. Together, they form a sort of network or sisterhood that went back to millennia before Christianity and patriarchy took over. The antagonists were effective as well. I felt a significant amount of schadenfreude when that ass of a brigadier had his Wizard of Oz-like comeuppance.
Clocking at around 16 hours, the book was, admittedly, a tad too long but god was it beautiful! At the hands of another, less talented writer, the pace might have been called glacial but Harper Fox imbued the story with so much charm and appeal that I was swept along its languid pace. That summertime ambiance, the easy camaraderie, the small town quaintness, I was effortlessly transported to post-war rural Sussex. Living in a small rural town myself, I could easily relate to both the simple, hospitable, kind-heartedness and the religious narrow mindedness of small town folks.
I also have a special shout out to the narrator. Chris Clogg’s calm, measured delivery and the voices he created for the characters were perfect, especially Rufus’ mild-mannered, very polite and proper Englishman tone.
I think Seven Summer Nights is one of Harper Fox’s best books. Soft, surreal and pure with tight, suspenseful episodes that left me on the edge of my seat. I am not familiar with any archaeological expeditions of the 1940s so I am not sure how close to the facts the details are, but the mystery combined with the romance, post-war struggles and archaeological adventures make a potent brew.
4.5 – perfection is only half a step away
Artist: Beach House
Album: Depression Cherry
Seducing the Sedgewicks: It Takes Two to Tumble – Cat Sebastian
Some of Ben Sedgwick’s favorite things:
Helping his poor parishioners
Shamelessly flirting with the handsome Captain Phillip Dacre
After an unconventional upbringing, Ben is perfectly content with the quiet, predictable life of a country vicar, free of strife or turmoil. When he’s asked to look after an absent naval captain’s three wild children, he reluctantly agrees, but instantly falls for the hellions. And when their stern but gloriously handsome father arrives, Ben is tempted in ways that make him doubt everything.
Some of Phillip Dacre’s favorite things:
People doing precisely as they’re told
Touching the irresistible vicar at every opportunity
Phillip can’t wait to leave England’s shores and be back on his ship, away from the grief that haunts him. But his children have driven off a succession of governesses and tutors and he must set things right. The unexpected presence of the cheerful, adorable vicar sets his world on its head and now he can’t seem to live without Ben’s winning smiles or devastating kisses.
In the midst of runaway children, a plot to blackmail Ben’s family, and torturous nights of pleasure, Ben and Phillip must decide if a safe life is worth losing the one thing that makes them come alive.
By now, people had already written many glowing reviews about the story of walking ray of sunshine Ben Sedgwick, also known as vicar of St. Aelred’s and the grumpy Captain Phillip Dacre, father of three incorrigible children. Borrowing some ideas from the Sound of Music, this book is as warm as the musical and as bright and happy as summer.
Everybody in this book, from the children, Ned, Jamie and Peggy, to the cook, Mrs. Morris, to the supposed villain Easterbrook were all well-rounded, likable characters.
Ben being a man of the cloth, the author could have gone the angsty religion vs sexuality route. Fortunately it was not the focus but it was still touched upon in a very sensible way. The writing was in that smooth, upbeat Cat Sebastian style with liberal touches of cute and fluff all over it. However, I think the ending was a bit abrupt and needs an epilogue. They have only been together for the duration of summer and it would have been great if we could see their life together in the coming seasons (maybe in the coming books? Book two is Hartley, Ben’s younger brother.). Overall, one of the best historical romance this year and a great start to a new series.
4.5 – perfection is only half a step away