Hey-ho Janeites! Did you know that in historical fiction the fabulous fifties are the new forties? Yes, after years of WWII stories, novels set during the post-war years are now being published more frequently. I adore the Granchester mysteries series by James Runcie, and later this month The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner releases on May 26th. To add to the list, I am happy to introduce you to another forthcoming historical set in this time-frame releasing this summer. The London Restoration, by Rachel McMillan, is one of those atmospheric books that will take you away to another time and place, immerse you in history and wrap you in romance.
Set in post-World War II London, it features architectural historian Diana Somerville who is rebuilding her life and her marriage after five years of a devastating war. Blitzed London, Russian spies, and an ancient Roman artifact stir the plot.
If you are up for adventure, espionage, and romance, check out the book description and the exclusive excerpt that has been generously supplied by author Rachel McMillian. The London Restoration releases on August 18th, 2020, so be sure to add it to your TBR list.
Determined to save their marriage and the city they love, two people divided by World War II’s secrets rebuild their lives, their love, and their world.
London, Fall 1945. Architectural historian Diana Somerville’s experience as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park and her knowledge of London’s churches intersect in MI6’s pursuit of a Russian agent named Eternity. Diana wants nothing more than to begin again with her husband Brent after their separation during the war, but her signing of the Official Secrets Act keeps him at a distance.
Brent Somerville, professor of theology at King’s College, hopes aiding his wife with her church consultations will help him better understand why she disappeared when he needed her most. But he must find a way to reconcile his traumatic experiences as a stretcher bearer on the European front with her obvious lies about her wartime activities and whereabouts.
Featuring a timeless love story bolstered by flashbacks and the excavation of a priceless Roman artifact, The London Restoration is a richly atmospheric look at post-war London as two people changed by war rebuild amidst the city’s reconstruction.
The double-decker swerved around the remains of these churches and the jigsaw puzzle of wrecked Cripplegate. Wounded, scarred, and gutted, with moats of brick and uneven mortar. Signs spoke to the rebuilding efforts, and local politicians bandied about flyers fashioned with a hope as hard to come by as sugar, butter, bread, and tea leaves, which would be strained three times in a morning.
The newspaper headlines dominated by Churchill’s certainty of stoic victory when Brent left now announced the triumphs and travails of the Labour Party elected by a landslide while Brent was still in a foreign hospital. He didn’t know why the state of their wrecked city shook him as if he were solely responsible for the chaotic peace that stretched before him. Solely responsible for the London Diana would meet after so many years away.
He smiled, remembering how he had dusted and cleaned his flat the night before they were married. But he couldn’t scrub away the men with scuffed shoes and wilted homburgs limping from the neighborhood daily in search of jobs that would never be found. He couldn’t polish or finesse the women waiting expectantly outside the bakery and butcher shops for hours only to leave defeated, their meager findings slung over their sunken shoulders.
Brent shifted in the bus seat and turned from his reflection in the window. He knew he shouldn’t be self-conscious. That she would take London’s scars as she took his own—a branding of war. He knew she would love him no matter what. After all, she had vowed as much until death parted them. But the longer he stayed alone in their flat, the more he formulated doubts.
Part of him wanted time to peel back and everything to be the same. Before a miscalculated step and an unexpected blast ignited his hand and marred his forehead. It did more than that, of course. It cost a life. But Brent wouldn’t think of that now.
He trained his thoughts on Diana. She had been as certain to him as breathing. If she returned as changed as he was, would he love her in the same way? He felt like a traitor for even allowing those bleak thoughts to fill the space of his overcrowded mind.
Truth was, he wasn’t used to being so close to another human, physically or otherwise. Four years of the ravages of war had built up barriers. He could retreat into himself far more deeply than he had before, even when crouched with men in a trench, or while freezing in a tent, or after a long stretch of convalescence. London had seemed a stranger to him the moment he stepped off the train weeks ago before tiredly adjusted the canvas bag on his good shoulder. If he had to readjust to his beloved city, how did that bode for Diana?
He reminded himself, as he had the night before, of how smitten Diana was when he taught her about all seven of the Greek forms of love. He might have to find a way to define each word again, having spent so long alone, but he had seven forms at his disposal. Yes, he returned without having her here to welcome him. But she was here now. He would make sure that was enough.
The long, winding Strand pierced the heart of Westminster’s artery. Exiting the bus, Brent took the road to Charing Cross at a quick diagonal. He tried to meet the gaps in the well-known neighborhood’s unfamiliar new façade as she might. At least until he saw her.
Diana stood facing away from him, framed by the large statue of an Eleanor Cross. Diana’s long fingers tugged the brim of her broad-rimmed red hat. He placed his uninjured hand on her shoulder.
She spun on her heel and his heart twisted at her eyes glistening in a beautiful face. “Brent.”
Turned out he loved her more than his pride, because for all he had practiced being calm and collected and imagined holding her at arm’s length in punishment for her radio silence the last five weeks, the joy on her face obliterated every last instinct for reservation. “Hello.” He smiled and adjusted the tie tucked into his vest, thinking of how to kiss her senseless without startling her.
He hadn’t kissed her in so long. Memories had taunted him across the Front, particularly on morphine-addled nights in the hospital wing. He could feel her breath on his collarbone and the tips of her fingers at the back of his neck.
Brent leaned in quickly and she leaned back, studying him. He took a step forward and landed on her shoe. She gave a forced laugh, then rose a little on her toes to kiss him just as he turned his head so her nose collided with his cheekbone. When she tried again and met his lips, he barely kept himself in check before melting. But this was not the time. He wouldn’t start a physical conversation when he hadn’t heard but a word from her lips.
“There’s no word, Greek or otherwise, for this awkwardness,” he muttered, pulling away.
Brent straightened and took her hand. “Diana, how have you been?” Her blonde hair was half hidden by her red hat and though she was pale, her blue eyes sparkled.
She let out a nervous laugh. “How have I been?”
“I’m sorry . . . I just . . .”
“I left my cases in a locker inside the station. I was dying for a cup of tea. And I’m famished. I was determined we could find something to eat before setting off for home. I hope you don’t mind.”
Brent hated small talk. “Not in the least. The larder is in a rather dismal state.”
He wanted to say a thousand things. Ask a thousand questions. Instead, he said, “Tea?”
Chapter 2, pages 19-23
- “What a love story! The London Restoration is a beauty and compelling tribute to a city, a people unconquered by the horrors of WWII, and a couple still fighting the good fight for King and Country, and for each other . . . Rich in detail and history—and with a love story that gives all the feels—this story enchants.”—Katherine Reay, bestselling author of The Printed Letter Bookshop and Of Literature and Lattes
- “The London Restoration is an elegant and beautifully researched novel, as rich in history as it is in romance. Set in post-World War II London, Rachel McMillan’s passion for historic cities and churches shine through every page. She brings the architecture to life, ravaged by war, but strong at its foundation—just like the marriage of Brent and Diana Somerville. Brilliantly done to the last word.”—Mimi Matthews, author of the USA TODAY bestselling Parish Orphans of Devon series
- “A captivating story of a singular love forged in the peeling of church bells, The London Restoration drifts through the post-war streets of London to wrap around readers’ hearts. McMillan’s evocative yet delicate prose is a testament not only to the power of love but to the unfaltering resilience of the city itself which she captures so beautifully.”—J’nell Ciesielski, author of The Socialite
Rachel McMillan is the author of The Herringford and Watts mysteries, The Van Buren and DeLuca mysteries, and The Three Quarter Time series of contemporary Viennese romances. She is also the author of Dream, Plan, Go: A Travel Guide to Inspire Independent Adventure. Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada.
The London Restoration: A Novel, by Rachel McMillan
Thomas Nelson (August 18, 2020)
Trade Paperback, eBook, & audiobook (336) pages
Cover image, book description, & excerpt courtesy of Thomas Nelson © 2020; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2020, Austenprose.com