“You know,” Page said conversationally, “this is the second time you’ve grabbed my arm like that.” He glanced down at James’s hand. “I’m beginning to think you like touching me.”
It’s a rare day that you find me reading romance, but I was heartily overdue for something cutesy, feel-good, and upbeat. Admittedly, given that it takes place in a post-war English murder village and focuses on two (very attractive) men who have been shell-shocked or otherwise hurt by the war, I don’t know that this can be wholly classified as feel-good… but I’ll be damned if watching the two of them flirt under the eye of proper English society wasn’t cute as hell.
Page is a spy who’s been sent to James’ small, sleepy village to investigate a murder which may be linked to international espionage activities. Naturally, he did not expect to find the dashing young doctor who once stitched him up on the battlefield when he arrives on site – nor did he expect to find that the man underneath the spy would poke his head up through the layers of persona he’s developed during his career to start to fall in love with the dear country doctor.
James is a former surgeon during the war who has come back to his old hometown, hoping only to find some semblance of normalcy. When a young maid is murdered and Page shows up, his entire way of life and all of his coping mechanisms are threatened.
I appreciated how well this novel handled PTSD. As someone who has a touch of it from past experiences, the way the flashbacks cropped up and rattled James felt similar to my experience. Beyond that, I further appreciated how well Page responded to James’ episodes. Page did not belittle him, he did support him, but most importantly: Page did not enable him. Page reminded James that he’s not alone, that his feelings are valid, and that he needs to understand he needs to work through these problems.
“No. Page laid a hand on his shoulder. “What you’re not going to do is talk about shell shock or combat fatigue or brain fuckery as if it’s a special treat that you haven’t earned.”
The line above absolutely resonated with me as someone who has had severe depression in the past. My particular brain weasels always tried to convince me that I didn’t “deserve” to be depressed or that, somewhat convolutedly, I didn’t deserve to be happy due to not deserving to be depressed but being depressed anyway.
In addition to the interpersonal romance aspects, I had a surprisingly fun time with the mystery elements of the novel. It was a great backdrop to the romance, and allowed for the two of them to build up trust as they worked toward a common goal. James was reluctant, at first, as he takes comfort in the mundane aspects of his small world, but grows closer and closer to James as they share information and help to uncover the true murderer on the loose.
Hither, Page is a book that knows exactly what it’s going for and utterly nails it in the execution. Is it fluffy? You betcha. Has it got a good balance between the mystery and the flirtatious men? Absolutely. Does it have just a few genuine and heartwarming scenes where each shows compassion, empathy, and, dare I say it, love? Yessir it does. I absolutely ate this up, and I think I may well have found a new go-to feel-good author in the process. Huge kudos to Cat Sebastian.