The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan (review)

Cover image: The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan

Five weeks. A favor for a friend.

There is a rare convergence of characters, storyline, history, research, and talent that results in a pitch-perfect work of fiction. This is one. The London Restoration is a love story, the story of a new marriage put on hold by four years of war and a reunion disrupted by secrets and a five week delay. It is also a veritable love letter to London and it’s churches, Thomas Wren’s churches in particular.

Impeccable research, charmingly rambled by Diana Foyle in times of stress, helps to bring this story and the decimated churches of post-World War II London to life. With their meeting, courtship, one day marriage and wartime experiences, hers at Bletchley Park and his at the Front, are interspersed with Diana’s post-war reunion with her husband Brent Somerville, this is a multi-layered story that unfolds around the pursuit of artifacts and Russian agents in the early days of the Cold War. Along with Brent and Diana’s breathtaking romance, this is a tale of secrets, spies, academia, and the difficulties of restarting a marriage after four years when both have been irrevocably changed by their experiences.

In addition to the churches Diana loves and among all of the romance, misunderstandings, danger, and intrigue, it is first meetings that stand out as some of the pivotal moments. When Brent first sees Diana, when Diana meets Sophia Villiers, when Brent meets Simon Barre.

To say that this was a much anticipated book would be an understatement. I had very high expectations, which were exceeded. This is a story to reread, savor, and anticipate reading again. This first reading, however, also leaves me anxiously anticipating Villiers and Simon’s story as well as thinking I might need Rachel McMillan’s travel book Dream, Plan, and Go to plan a someday tour of Wren churches.

I read a complimentary digital copy of this book through NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

About the Book

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 London Restoration by Rachel McMillan | Thomas Nelson, August 18, 2020 | 336 pages, ebook or paperback

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