The soldier next door…
Dominic Ransleigh lost more than his arm in battle -- he lost his reason for living. Returning to his family seat, he shuns all society. If only his beautiful, plainspoken tenant, Theodora Branwell, wasn't so hard to ignore…
Since her fiancé's death on the battlefield, Theo's devoted herself to caring for soldiers' orphans. She's powerfully attracted to Dom, but knows all too well the consequences of temptation. Is Theo, who's survived so much, brave enough to reveal her secret to her handsome, wounded neighbor?
Loved this book about two people who have survived the war, but with challenges to their futures. Dom has come home to Suffolk, minus and arm and an eye. Before the war he had bred and trained hunters and now finds himself unable to do what he considered his life's work. While regaining his health he also has to figure out what to do with his life. He has done his best to avoid contact with all his neighbors, until he encounters Theodora on the road, after he was dumped by his horse. She recognizes him as a returning soldier, encourages him to take care of himself, and fusses at him when he is less than polite to her.
Theo is the daughter of a soldier and grew up following her father to all his postings. She had also been engaged to another soldier. While following them she had also begun caring for various soldiers' orphaned children, and when her father and fiance both died, she came to England. Having been left enough money to do as she wishes, Theo has decided to begin a school to train these orphans for a better life. She wants to lease a building on Dom's land to do so.
I loved both Theo and Dom. Theo, having grown up in the army, has little use for the niceties of polite society. She is honest and blunt, saying what she thinks and pursuing her own dream. After losing her fiance, she has no interest in risking her heart on another man. She will devote her energies to her school. In their first encounter, Dom has been unseated from his horse and left dazed in the middle of the road. Theo has also been tossed by her horse, which was startled by Dom's horse running by. She asks for help remounting from Dom, who replies rather rudely, and she turns around and fusses at him. They part on less than friendly terms. Later, each feels they owe the other an apology, and when Theo shows up at Dom's home to inquire about leasing a building, they make their apologies and come to an agreement. What neither expects is the instant and strong attraction they feel for each other.
Dom is slowly coming to terms with his injuries. He realizes that he can't continue with what he did before the war. He isn't really bitter, but he feels rather lost. When he returned from the war so grievously injured, he broke off his engagement feeling that he was no longer the man he used to be. He's pretty much hiding out at his home, avoiding contact with everyone. His encounter with Theo starts bringing him back to life. He's attracted to her, but he's not ready to think about marriage, and Theo is not a woman to have an affair with.
I loved the way that they admitted their attraction, but also agreed that it could go nowhere. They began to develop a strong friendship. Dom found Theo's straightforward attitude very appealing and being around her made him feel better about himself. She has a matter of fact way of encouraging him to look at his current life as a new challenge rather than dwelling on what he can no longer do. He was also amused by the way that she would gain his assistance in everything from leasing his building to finding people to help with her orphans. At the same time, Theo was having a hard time staying away from Dom. She finds him incredibly attractive in spite of his injuries. She is also more comfortable with him than anyone else because of their common experiences. Their hearts start to open to each other, but their experiences have them resisting the pull.
A twist from Theo's past brings Theo and Dom together in an unexpected way. Theo has to overcome her fears of loss and that she would be ruining his life. Dom has to find a way to convince Theo that, far from ruining his life, she has saved it. I really enjoyed Dom's methods and seeing how his full support and understanding of who she is finally helps her believe.
The secondary characters in the book were really great too. I liked Theo's aunt and how she is there for Theo through everything. I loved her attitude toward Dom also. My favorite secondary character was Jemmy, one of the orphans. I loved his confidence in his own abilities and his determination to go after what he wants. I also loved his protectiveness toward Theo, especially at the beginning. It was fun to see his attitude toward Dom change. I really liked his part at the end, when he tracked down Dom to get his help. I didn't like the complete absence of the other Rogues. I would have liked to have seen them share in Dom's happiness.
I also had a bit of a problem with the cover. It's really beautiful, but the depiction of the hero was not accurate. Though you can't see the right arm (or lack thereof) the man on the cover does not have an eye patch, nor does he appear scarred in any way.