REVIEW: Hither, Page (Page & Sommers, #1) by 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.
Dear Cat Sebastian,
Let me be frank… as much as I loved several of your Regency m/m romances, I started to get bored with them. Since your last few books had been m/f, which I rarely read, I resigned myself to taking a break from your stories. Then someone mentioned you released the first book in a new series, historical m/m mysteries, and I could not one-click fast enough. I was so glad I did!
The blurb provides a decent setup without revealing too much, but I need to give just a little bit more detail before I discuss the book. The person whose murder Leo comes to investigate was a nosey cleaning woman. I understand why the blurb states that his boss orders him to cover it up, but really it is more complicated than that. He was sent to investigate and to cover up only under certain circumstances… to reveal those would be talking spoilers. And when I say nosey, I mean it in the most unflattering sense. The woman really loved to poke her nose in other people’s private business and a lot of people in the village could not stand her.
“James supposed he ought to want to see justice served, that if indeed Mrs. Hoggett had been deliberately harmed, he ought to want her killer found and punished. But his moral compass seemed to be poorly calibrated—he could add that to his list of invisible war wounds—and he couldn’t see any use in looking too closely into the matter.”
The cover of the book calls it a romance but, really, I cannot decide whether to call it mystery first and romance a supporting storyline, or that both mystery and romance share the page space equally. I definitely would not call it a “romance only”. Let’s call it a really good mixture of mystery and romance, and leave it at that. I think the mystery aspect could actually be characterized as a cozy mystery.
I thought James and Leo were well drawn, very interesting characters. Their relationship is just starting to take shape in this book, considering the whole story on page took place in a week (if I am not mistaken), but I did believe they had a shot on building upon what they shared in the course of the story and their understated chemistry was lovely.
James is a doctor who is still struggling with the after effects of the war. He most likely has PTSD but it was not labelled as such in that time period. He functions well enough to take care of himself and others, but there are things that set him off and cause some issues.
“Damn near everything unsettled him these days, which was the problem with having a brain that stubbornly refused to grasp that the war was over. Leo Page seemed like the living embodiment of a war that still roiled on in the dark recesses of James’s mind.”
Leo, whom his Boss pretty much saved from jail, is a spy who has worked for one of the British spy agencies since he was a teenager. Leo doesn’t really think of himself as a very ethical guy because it would not help him in the course of his work, but I will leave it up to readers to make their own judgment as to his ethics or lack thereof.
““That’s what you’re thinking of right now?” James sputtered. “Not that I’m accusing you of being some kind of intelligence agent?” “You don’t seem terribly worried about whatever it is I might be,” Page said, his eyes wide with feigned innocence, “so I suppose I’m not either. Now, onto the part where—” “No, I’m not worried. When Scotland Yard’s sudden lack of interest in a suspicious death coincides with the arrival of a man on false pretenses, a man who has some connection with, I’m guessing, Special Branch, then no, I’m not worried.””
“IT WAS ADORABLE THAT Sommers thought he was involved with anything as straightforward as Special Branch. Leo was almost touched by the man’s innocence. He didn’t run across much of that these days. Really, the man was just precious, the way his broad shoulders squared up and his affable face got all serious and fierce when he wanted to protect his friends, the way he didn’t hesitate to lay hands on Leo but kept his touch far too light to do any harm.”
I thought the mystery was very well done and I really liked that the guys actually did a decent investigation and I especially liked that James’ occasional, or more than occasional, involvement with it made sense to me .
The secondary characters were also very well drawn and a joy to read about it, especially a pair of lovely old ladies.
As always I must remind you that I am an ESL reviewer and often miss the finer points of editing, especially copy editing, mistakes. I did catch one instance in which characters’ names were switched. Whether there were more editorial faux pas remains a mystery to me.