James Sommers and Leo Page have settled into a life together in Wychcomb St. Mary. James is the local doctor and Leo lives with him as his “lodger” when he is in between assignments. James would love to have Leo with him all the time, but he doesn’t want to pressure Leo into leaving his espionage work. Honestly, James just considers himself lucky every time Leo walks through the door, still wanting to be with him. And Leo loves the sense of home he has with James, but still doesn’t quite feel worthy of the growing affection between them.
Now, James has been called to the home of his late uncle in Cornwall, as the family has all been gathered together for the reading of the will. It all seems kind of absurdly dramatic, but James hasn’t seen his family in 20 years, ever since the fateful summer of 1927 when his cousin, Rose, disappeared, presumed dead by drowning. Prior to that, James spent many summers at Blackthorn, but after Rose’s death, he was sent back to Wychcomb St. Mary for good.
When Leo returns from his latest assignment, all he wants is to curl up and fall into bed with James, but he finds he has just missed the man. As Leo learns where James is and why, he can’t help but worry. Gathering all the beneficiaries together seems like it is the perfect setting for some trouble when money comes into play. So Leo decides to show up in Cornwall and find a way to be there to keep on eye on things and make sure James stays safe.
As it turns out, things are even crazier than either man anticipated. Not only is the family gathered for the reading of the will, but there is a mystery too. It turns out that the will offers the bulk of Uncle Rupert’s estate to whomever can figure out what happened to Rose when she disappeared twenty years ago. James is surprised, as the family line has always been that Rose drowned, but clearly at least one person thinks otherwise. While Leo would be thrilled to just grab James and get out of there, particularly since the family dropped James from their lives years ago, James can’t help but want to help solve the mystery. He doesn’t care about the inheritance, but he wants to find out what happened to Rose, who was always kind to him. With Leo’s help, James begins to uncover secrets, lies, and a whole lot of family history he could never have imagined.
The Missing Page is the follow up to Cat Sebastian’s Hither, Page in her Page & Sommers series and I absolutely adored this book. I’m talking a couldn’t put it down, swooning over these characters kind of book. We pick up with Leo and James a few months after they met and they are still sort of feeling their way along together. The men have admitted that they want to be together and now Leo lives with James when he is not on assignment. I loved this set up right from the start as Leo returns home to learn the circumstances of James’ trip and his senses immediately start tingling about this absurd drama of the will reading. It all sounds like the makings of some house party craziness with relatives killing off one another to get their hands on the money. So Leo sets off to work his way into the house so he can keep an eye on James. Not to mention that Leo misses James desperately and definitely doesn’t want to have to wait for him to return. It is just such a perfect picture of Leo, the suspicious career spy who is not going to let anything happen to James on his watch.
The mystery here is nicely twisty as there are secrets and lies abounding. What James had always been told was Rose’s death while swimming (albeit one he assumed was a cover for suicide by drowning) turns out to be far more complicated. The beneficiaries include James’ cousin (and Rose’s sister) Camille, Camille’s husband and daughter, another cousin who has been living at Blackthorn, some household staff who live on property, and another woman who know one knows. What is peculiar to James and Leo is that no one seems particularly keen on getting to the bottom of what actually happened to Rose. And while James has no desire to inherit the home or the money, he can’t just sit back and let the disappearance remain unsolved. I found this mystery so interesting and well developed. There are things I saw coming, and twists I didn’t anticipate, and the ending was quite the surprise in a way that is delightful, and also makes perfect sense in hindsight. This book has a very cozy mystery tone, so it isn’t a high suspense story, but I found the mystery to be engaging and well developed.
The star for me here is that I absolutely adore James and Leo as a couple and found them sort of wonderfully sweet and awkward together. Both of these men have this sense of almost wonder that the other person actually wants to be with him. James has been abandoned and left behind his whole life (including by the very family he is currently visiting) and the idea that someone actually wants him, actually wants to keep him and come home to him, is almost impossible to imagine. And for Leo, to him James is all that is good in the world and someone he very much believes he does not deserve. Most of the story focuses on the external conflict surrounding the mystery, but we also get this running soft internal conflict as Leo and James have these growing feelings, but also uncertainty about whether they can dare hope for a life together. It is so sweet and swoony and these guys are so clearly in love and full of these feelings and I could not get enough of them together. There is such a nice sense here of two men taking care of each other and becoming each other’s home, something they both need so badly. We get a wonderful warm ending and I could read more books about these men all day long.
I really enjoyed the first book in the series, but this one was a true standout for me among Sebastian’s incredible body of work. I truly hope there is more to come because Sebastian excels at this cozy mystery style and Leo and James are really engaging characters.