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.
Dear Harper Fox,
When you queried DA about the possibility of the review, I was immediately intrigued because I love reading the books about soldiers readjusting to peaceful life (and if they manage to find happiness in their personal lives, even better). I preordered the book right away.
If I were to summarize my review, I would have probably said the following – gorgeous settings, appealing characters, everything so beautifully described and at the same time by the time the book ended I lost count just how many times I said *huh* and *I just do not buy it*.
Just read this for example, I feel like one can see so clearly what is described on page and I am not a very visual reader.
"The dog sat at his feet in the railway carriage. Beyond the window, bombed-out suburbs were giving way to green. Sunlight flashed between houses, a dazzling broken rhythm to match the thud and the thump of the wheels. Cow-parsley streaked by on the embankments. Rufus had taken a third-class ticket, close enough to the engine that scraps of steam were flickering past, white against the flowers’ ivory."
Now anybody who read at least some of my reviews may know that I love SFF romances (and SFF without romance too!) and paranormal romances. So the fact that weird paranormal things started happening in this story would not have been a problem on its own, quite the contrary.
The fact that there is no indication in the blurb that book has a *very* important paranormal storyline would not have been a problem either; if you managed to convince me to buy into plot twists. I did not.
But let’s start from the beginning, Rufus after coming back from war actually took part in the important archeological expedition at the certain island, till he attacked one of his colleagues due to his I guess PTSD ( this word is not used in the story of course) flared up. So he is forced to go back to London and his Boss kind of fires him, but tells him that he could go to help her cousin who is a vicar and who requested archaeologist if she had one to spare to investigate the church in the village of Droyton Parva. I thought it was pretty clear that she (Rufus’ boss) just hoped he would feel better when he could breathe more fresh air and did not really expect any archeological discoveries from him.
Of course you know what happens when one does not expect something. In the village Rufus finds way more than he bargained for where archaeological and not just archaeological discoveries are concerned and he also finds his love.
I loved Rufus and Archie – both were such interesting sympathetic characters, both had war traumas to deal with which affected them in a different ways, but they also tried to move on and help people around them to the best of their abilities. And romance was such lovely slow burn. And writing was just so beautiful if you ask me.
“Oh, Archie. You and I both know—everyone who went to war knows—the one thing none of us can be sure of is time. But however much I have, long or short—it’s yours.” Archie caught his breath. He laid one hand to Rufus’s cheek. “That may be... the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.” “Pretty romantic, eh?” “Extremely.” “Good.” Rufus grinned, looked ten sudden years younger, and made a grab for his shirt. “Because it’s back to business, right now. We’ve got to go.”"
So why the grade is C and not A. Because I *really* did not buy the paranormal storyline. I guess if I am trying to explain it, if the story starts as a regular contemporary or historical, I need more detailed set up in order to believe that this is not our world and miracles in this world actually do happen. (SPOILER: otherwise, people who died during the war coming back alive just because your girlfriend wished for it. I need better justification than the one was given. I get the idea but I also felt it was ridiculous and I will say it – a little disrespectful. Would be nice if all the widows could wish for their dead husbands to come back, right? Sorry)
As it stands right now – C.