Welcome to my first stop on the HFVBT Blog Tour for Rachel McMillan’s new historical romance novel, The London Restoration! Today I’m featuring a review with the gracious Rachel McMillan and all the bookish info. Check back tomorrow for my review!!!
The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan
Publication Date: August 18, 2020 by Thomas Nelson
Paperback, eBook, & Audiobook
Genre: Historical Fiction
From author Rachel McMillan comes a richly researched historical romance that takes place in post-World War II London and features a strong female lead.
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.
Thank you, Rachel, for taking the time to hang out and talk about your new book — and for sharing some lovely pictures from your travels!
How does the theme of “restoration” play out in this novel?
I was really fascinated by the fact that the Blitz ruined a comparative number of churches as those desecrated by the Great Fire of London in 1666. More still, because Londoners deemed a barrage of night attacks in the late December 1940 as the Second Great Fire of London. And much as architect Christopher Wren set almost immediately to restoring the churches, so committees were working while the bombs were still falling to determine how they would restore architectural treasures after the war and preserve them for future generations. Because I knew that the churches were going to play a major role in the story, it was so easy to start Brent and Diana’s reunion from a place that had a strong foundation, much like many of the surviving churches but still bore a lot of cracks. So I would say the love story between Diana and the churches and her needing to foster her love for them even though their scarred parallels what she is trying to restore with Brent. And it’s more complicated because due to the fact that they were only married one night before he shipped out, she has to learn how to love him all over again. And that decision is so restorative and sets, for me, the theme of the book.
The churches and cathedrals of London play a major role in The London Restoration, specifically the churches designed by Christopher Wren. Please share about your love and the appeal of these churches. Which of these would you recommend as “must-visit” on a trip to London?
This is really hard for me because there are so many churches in London that are special to me and many, many were cut before the last draft of the book (I just couldn’t fit all of the beautiful churches in). This is not a Wren church, but my personal favourite church in London is St. Bartholomew the Great which is almost 1000 years old and survived King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, the zeppelins of the Great War and even the bombs of the Second World War. I am really fascinated by all of the history it has seen. (For one, William Wallace, of Braveheart fame, was drawn and quartered in the yard just behind the church). Because it isn’t that far a walk from St. Paul’s, I always recommend people try and see it.
There are so many Wren churches that move me: St. Bride’s on Fleet Street is the journalist’s church and is patronized by storytellers which I just love. But a must- see has to be St. Paul’s: it is Wren’s masterpiece and was quite innovative for the time. Not only was he rebuilding the cathedral from the site where it was wrecked during the Great Fire, he utilized it to make a Protestant statement: the open pews and passage ways, the font that leads people to go out into the world just as Christ commanded his disciples, including Paul, made for a much more open worship function that was not cloistered or closed off by confessions: rather to favour a more modern type of evangelism—that of a cleric who could speak loudly and commission congregants on the great commission. I just love this. Churches were often where the most beautiful pieces of art, sculptures and paintings were kept and St. Paul’s is very much a work of art: in its architecture, yes, but also in the many goodies you can find inside
So many churches! I love Magnus the Martyr (another Wren church) and the funnily named St. James Garlickhythe and I love St. Stephen Walbrook which has a dome not unlike that you would find in St. Paul’s.
I have several places on my must-visit list now, thanks to you!
During your extensive research, did you come across any interesting facts that you could not fit in the story?
LOL yes! See above! I wanted to basically write a 500 page book on fascinating Christopher Wren facts. The church rebuilding was just fascinating to me. Especially the Paul’s watch: Churchill was adamant that St. Paul’s (Which was into the 1960s the tallest building in the London skyline) survive for morale so volunteers pledged their lives to keeping it whole and camped out (Even during a water shortage) with hoses and pails to protect the cathedral. That’s a whole book in itself.
I also cut a lot about the process of Diana getting to Bletchley Park and all that she would have undertaken to qualify for that amazing position. So a lot of Bletchley research and scenes were cut. Finally, my editor and I decided that while Diana has many flashbacks to Bletchley, we would save Brent’s flashback from his time at the front to be the most important and integral one in his life: what had happened to his friend Ross. And so a lot of the research I did to craft his scenes at the front and in training were cut.
Did Brent and Diana surprise you in any way?
I was lucky in that they both popped into my head pretty fully formed and so I just took to dictation. I was coming off writing two very sweet heroes –Oliver Thorne in Rose in Three Quarter Time and Hamish DeLuca —and I was excited to have a hero with a sarcastic edge (that I had to reel in just a bit so that it never looked like he was demeaning Diana) so I was often surprised by some of Brent’s acerbic wit.
I was also surprised at how Diana showed me that she wanted their relationship to be so equal that they save each other. In so many romances, the hero saves the heroine: and Brent gets plenty of protective opportunities here, but when it came to Diana’s turn to show her own protective side, I was really proud of her.
In the past, you have written contemporary romances and historical mysteries. This is your first title specifically in the historical romance genre. What does this mean to you as an author?
It means I am finally writing the genre of my heart for publication. I used historical mysteries and don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love those characters and stories and the romances therein) to get through the publishing door but I always set out to write historical romance and have several stories that readers have not/will not see in this genre. So I am really happy to feel in my safe and happy zone here. I intend to keep on writing some contemporary romances (I really write the Three Quarter Time books for me and just let people peer over my shoulder, LOL, that’s how fun they are), I just keep getting sidetracked by contracted books (which is a very good problem to have).
It sounds like the best kind of problem for we readers! 🙂
Secondary characters Sophie and Simon seem to fill every scene they are in with undercurrents and hints at more to their connection. What is next for them?
When I first was working on The London Restoration, I had no plans at all to ever write another WWII era book. Indeed, I hadn’t set out to write WWII at all but a momentous trip to St. Bart’s in London and my meeting Brent and Diana changed that. So I created Simon Barre as a plot point: as Diana’s Bletchley colleague and MI-6 handler. Yet there’s one scene where the two are having tea at The Savoy and I typed something absently about the glamour of the place fitting Simon like a bespoke suit. And I remember then just being flooded with Simon’s history. He wasn’t Simon Barre, he was a lord with a devastating past who fought his own wars again and again through Britain. I knew then I had to come up with a fascinating woman for him. So I left a lot of doors open. I intentionally made their chemistry surge the few times we see them on the page together (am happy that came across) while leaving enough mystery not only for the reader but for myself so I had the freedom to play around with them. I hadn’t intended to pitch a second story in this world, but luckily I did and The Mozart Code is their turn on the page. It releases next summer and is a marriage of convenience (sigh) which is kinda like Downton Abbey meets The Alice Network. They might be my personal favourite couple I’ve created.
Just for fun: do you love tea as much as Brent? What is your favorite kind?
I do love tea. I have this manatee shaped tea strainer that I used quite often while plotting the proposal for this book and so this book is so tea-infused I referred to it as Project Manatea for a long time! LOL! I love Twining’s Earl Grey (classic) and I love any and all kinds of green tea. I am a huge fan of a company called David’s Tea here in Canada that sells all manner of loose leaf tea. Read My Lips is a black tea flavoured with chocolate hearts and chili peppers and I love it! I also love a tea they sell called Lavender Buttercream!
Those tea-treats sound heavenly! Thanks again, Rachel, for taking the time to talk about your books!
If you’d like to know more about Rachel McMillan, follow her on social media, links below. On a related note, she has a FABULOUS travel memoir that will inspire you to plan your own adventures. See my review of this fun nonfiction book here: Dream, Plan, and Go.
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. Her next work of historical fiction, The London Restoration, releases in Summer 2020 and takes readers deep into the heart of London’s most beautiful churches. Dream, Plan, Go (May, 2020) is her first work of non-fiction. Rachel lives in Toronto, Canada and is always planning her next adventure.
Saturday, August 22
Review at Donna’s Book Blog
Tuesday, August 25
Review at The Green Mockingbird
Thursday, August 27
Review at The Lit Bitch
Friday, August 28
Review at Read Review Rejoice
Monday, August 31
Review at Passages to the Past
During the Blog Tour, we are giving away 5 copies of The London Restoration! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on August 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.