The Rake to Reveal Her (Harlequin Historical Series #1232)

The Rake to Reveal Her (Harlequin Historical Series #1232)

by Julia Justiss

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781460381168
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 05/01/2015
Series: Ransleigh Rogues Series
Sold by: HARLEQUIN
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 479,656
File size: 529 KB

About the Author

Long before embarking on romantic adventures of her own, Julia Justiss read about them, transporting herself to such favourite venues as ancient Egypt, World War II submarine patrols, the Old South and, of course, Regency England. Soon she was keeping notebooks for jotting down story ideas. When not writing or traveling, she enjoys watching movies, reading and puttering about in the garden trying to kill off more weeds than flowers.

Read an Excerpt

Suffolk—Spring 1816

His ears still ringing from the impact of the fall, Dominic Fitzallen Ransleigh levered himself to a sitting position in the muddy Suffolk lane. Air hissed in and out of his gritted teeth as he waited for the red wave of pain obscuring his vision to subside. Which it did, just in time for him to see that black devil, Diablo, trot around the corner and out of sight.

Headed back to the barn, probably, Dom thought. If horses could laugh, surely the bad-tempered varlet was laughing at him.

It was his own fault, always choosing the most difficult and high-spirited colts to train as hunters. Horses with the speed and heart to gallop across country, jumping with ease any obstacle in their paths, but needing two strong hands on the reins to control their headstrong, temperamental natures.

He looked down at his one remaining hand, still trembling from the strain of that wild ride. Flexing the wrist, he judged it sore but not broken. After years of tending himself from various injuries suffered during his service with the Sixteenth Dragoons, a gingerly bending of the arm informed him no bones were broken there, either.

His left shoulder still throbbed, but at least he hadn't fallen on the stump of his right arm. Had he done that, he'd probably still be unconscious from the agony.

Resigning himself to sit in the mud until his muzzy head cleared, Dom gazed down the lane after the fleeing horse. Though the doctors had warned him, he'd resisted accepting what he'd just proved: he'd not be able to control Diablo, or any of the other horses in his stable full of hunters, with a single good hand.

Sighing, Dom struggled to his feet. He might as well face the inevitable. As he'd never be able to ride Diablo or the others again, there was no sense hanging on to them. The bitter taste of defeat in his mouth, he told himself he would look into selling them off at Tattersall's while the horses were still in prime form and able to fetch a good price. Sell the four-horse carriages, too, since with one hand, he couldn't handle more than a pair.

Thereby severing one more link between the man he'd been before Waterloo, and now.

Jilting a fiancée, leaving the army, and now this. Nothing like changing his world completely in the space of a week.

Could he give it all up? he wondered as he set off down the lane. Following in his hunting-mad father's footsteps had been his goal since he'd joined his first chase, schooling hunters a talent he worked to perfect. Before the army and between Oxford terms, he'd spent all his time studying horses, looking for that perfect combination of bone, stamina and spirit that made a good hunter. Buying them, training them, then hunting and steeplechasing with the like-minded friends who called themselves 'Dom's Daredevils'.

Stripped of that occupation, the future stretched before him as a frightening void.

Though he'd never previously had a taste for solitude, within days of his return, he'd felt compelled to leave London. The prospect of visiting his clubs, attending a ball, mixing with the old crowd at Tatt's, inspecting the horses before a sale—all the activities in which he'd once delighted—now repelled him. Sending away even his cousin Will, who'd rescued him from the battlefield and tended him for months, he'd retreated to Bildenstone—the family estate he'd not seen in years, and hadn't even been sure was still habitable.

He'd sent Elizabeth away, too. A wave of grief and remorse swept through him as her lovely face surfaced in his mind. How could he have asked her to wait for him to recover, when the man he was now no longer fit into the world of hunts and balls they'd meant to share?

Ruthlessly he extinguished her image, everything about her and the hopes they once cherished too painful to contemplate. Best to concentrate on taking the next small step down the road ahead, small steps being all he could manage towards a future cloaked in a shifting mist of uncertainty.

Fighting the despair threatening to suck him down, he reminded himself again why he'd left friends, fiancée, and all that was familiar.

To find himself…whatever was left to find.

Wearily he picked up his pace, his rattled brain still righting itself. He traversed the sharp corner around which his horse had disappeared to find himself almost face to face with a young woman leading a mare.

They both started, the horsing rearing a little.

'Down, Starfire,' a feminine voice commanded. Looking up at him expectantly, the girl smiled and said, 'Sir, will you give me a hand? I was almost run down by a black beast of a stallion, which startled my mare. I'm afraid I wasn't paying enough attention, and lost my seat. I'll require help to remount.'

His mind still befuddled, Dom stared at her. Though tall enough that he didn't have to look down very far, his first impression was of a little brown wren—lovely pale complexion, big brown eyes, hair of indeterminate hue tucked under a tired-looking bonnet, and a worn brown habit years out of date.

The unknown miss didn't flinch at his eye patch, he had to give her that. Nor did her eyes stray to the pinned-up sleeve of his missing arm—the sleeve now liberally spattered with mud and decorated with leaf-bits, as was the rest of his clothing. Heavens, he must look like a vagrant who'd slept in the woods. It was a wonder she didn't run screaming in the opposite direction.

His lips curved into a whimsical smile at the thought as her pleasant expression faded. 'Sir, could you give me a hand, help me remount?' she all but shouted.

Dom flinched at the loud tones. She must think me simple as well as dishevelled. As his mind finally cleared and her request registered, his amusement vanished.

The images flashed into his head—all the girls he'd lifted in a dance, tossed into saddles…carried into bed. With two strong arms.

Anger coursed through him. 'That would be a bit of problem.' He gestured to his empty sleeve. 'Afraid I can't help you. Good day, miss.'

Her eyes widened as he began to walk past her. 'Can't help me?' she echoed. 'Can't—or won't?'

Fury mounting, he wheeled back to face her. 'Don't you see, idiot girl?' he spat out. 'I'm…impaired.'

Crippled would be a better description, but he couldn't get his mouth around the word. He turned to walk away again.

She hurried forward, the horse trailing on the reins behind her, and blocked his path. 'What I see,' she said, her dark eyes flashing, 'is that you have one good arm, whether or not you choose to use it. Which is more than many of the soldiers who didn't survive Waterloo, including my father. He wouldn't have hesitated to give me a leg up, even with only one hand!'

Before he could respond, she shortened the lead on the horse's reins and snapped, 'Very well. I shall search for a more obliging log or tree stump. Good day, sir.'

Bemused, he watched the sway of her neat little bottom as she marched angrily away. With well-tended forest on either side of the lane—deadfall quickly removed to provide firewood for someone's hearth—he didn't think she was likely to find what she sought.

Turning back towards Bildenstone, he set off walking, wondering who the devil she was. Not that, having spent the last ten years either with the army, at his hunting box in Leicestershire or in London, he expected to recognise any of the locals. That girl would have been only a child the last time he'd been here, seven years ago.

He'd probably just insulted the daughter of some local worthy—though, given the shabby condition of her riding habit, not a man of great means. He meant to limit as much as possible any interaction with his neighbours, but in the restricted society of the country, he'd likely encounter her again. Perhaps by then, he'd be able to tender a sincere apology.

Stomping down the lane without encountering any objects suitable for use as a mounting block, Theodora Branwell felt her anger grow. After a fruitless ten-minute search, she conceded that she might have to walk all the way back to Thornfield Place before she could find a way to remount her horse.

Which meant she might as well abandon her purpose and try again tomorrow.

Not the least of her ire and frustration she directed at herself. If she'd not been so lost in rehearsing her arguments, she would have heard the approaching hoofbeats and had her mount well in hand before the stallion burst around the corner and flew past them. After all the obstacles they'd ridden over in India and on the Peninsula, how Papa would laugh to know she'd been unseated by so simple a device!

No sense bemoaning; she might as well accept that her lapse had ruined the timing for making a call on her prospective landlord today.

She had Charles to check on, she thought, her heart warming as she pictured the little boy she'd brought up. Then there were the rest of the children to settle, especially the two new little ones the Colonel had just sent her from Brussels. Though the manor's small nursery and adjoining bedchamber were becoming rather crowded, making settling the matter of the school and dormitory ever more urgent, Constancia and Jemmie would find them places. But she knew the thin boy and the pale, silent girl would feel better after a few sweetmeats, a reassuring hug, and a story to make them welcome.

How frightening and strange the English countryside must seem to a child, torn from the familiar if unstable life of travelling with an army across the dusty fields and valleys of Portugal and Spain. Especially after losing one's last parent.

It was a daunting enough prospect for her, and she was an adult.

The extra day would allow her to go over her arguments one more time. She liked Thornfield Place very much; she only had to convince Mr Ransleigh, her mostly absentee landlord who had now unaccountably taken up residence, that turning the neglected outbuilding on his property into a home and school for soldiers' orphans would cause no problem and was a noble thing to do.

A guilty pang struck her. She'd really been too hard on the one-armed, one-eyed man in the lane. Though he might have been injured in an accident, he had the unmistakable bearing of a soldier. Had he suffered his wounds at Waterloo? Recovering from such severe losses would be slow; frustration over his limitations might at times make him wonder if it would not have been better, had he never made it off the battlefield.

She knew it was. She'd have given anything, had Papa been found alive, whatever his condition. Or Marshall, dead these five years now.

The bitter anguish of her fiance's loss scoured her again. How much different would her life be now, had he not fallen on that Spanish plain? They'd be long married, doubtless with children, her love returned and her place in society secure as his wife.

But it hadn't been fair to take out her desolation on that poor soldier. Wholly preoccupied with her own purpose, she only now recalled how thin his frame was, how dishevelled his rough clothing. When had he last eaten a good meal? Finding employment must be difficult for an ex-soldier with only one arm.

He'd not carried a pack, she remembered, so he must be a local resident. Country society comprised a small circle, she'd been told, much like the army. Which meant she'd probably encounter the man again. If she did, she would have to apologise. Perhaps in the interim, she might also think of some job she could hire him to perform at Thorn-field Place.

Satisfied that she'd be able to atone for her rudeness, she dismissed him from her mind and trudged down the lane back towards Thornfield.

* * *

Nearly an hour later, Theo finally reached the stables and turned over her well-walked horse. Dismissing her irritation over an afternoon wasted, she entered through a back door, to have Franklin, her newly hired butler, inform her that a visitor awaited her.

Since she had no acquaintance in the county beyond the village solicitor she'd written to help her find staff, she couldn't imagine who might be calling. Curiosity speeding her step, she'd reached the parlour threshold before it struck her that, according to the dimly remembered rules of proper behaviour her long-dead mama had tried to instil in her, she ought to have gone upstairs to change into a presentable gown before receiving visitors.

But the identity of the lady awaiting her drove all such thoughts from her head. 'Aunt Amelia!' she cried in surprise and delight.

'My darling Theo! I'm so glad to have you home at last!' the lady declared, encircling her in a pair of plump, scented arms.

Theo's throat tightened as she returned the hug of her last remaining close relation. 'I'm so glad, too, Aunt Amelia. But what are you doing here? And how did you know I was at Thornfield Place?'

'I'd hoped you'd come to see me in London after you left Brussels. When you wrote you'd already consulted Richard's lawyer, found a suitable country manor, and wished to get settled there before you visited, I just couldn't wait.'

'I'm so glad you've come, although I fear you'll not find the establishment nearly up to your standards. I'm still hiring staff, and everything is at sixes and sevens.'

Pushing away, she surveyed the lady she'd not seen in over five years. 'How handsome you look in that cherry gown! In the first crack of fashion, I'd wager—not that I would know.'

'You're looking very well, too, my dear—though I can't in good conscience return the compliment about the habit.' After a grimace at the offending garment, she continued. 'Now that you're finally back in England, we must attend to that! One can understand the unfashionable dress, living in all the God-forsaken places my brother dragged you, but how have you managed to keep your complexion so fresh? I thought to find you thin and brown as a nut.'

'I've always been disgusting healthy, or so the English memsahibs used to tell Papa.'

'Unlike your poor mama, God rest her soul.' Sadness flitting across her face, she said, 'I still can't believe we've lost Richard, too.'

Steeling herself against the ever-present ache of loss, Theo said, 'I'm glad you've given up your blacks; the colour doesn't suit you.'

'You don't think it too soon? It's only nine months since.' Her voice trailed off.

'Since Papa fell at Waterloo,' Theo replied, making herself say the words matter of factly.

'It just doesn't seem fair,' Lady Amelia said, frowning. 'My brother surviving all those horrid battles, first in India, then on the Peninsula, only to be killed in the very last action of the war! But enough of that,' she said after a glance at Theo—who perhaps wasn't concealing her distress as well as she thought. 'Shall we have tea?'

'Of course. I'm devilish thirsty myself,' she said drily. 'I'll ring for Franklin.'

After instructing the butler to bring tea and refreshments, Theo joined her aunt on the sofa.

'How long can you stay? I'll have Reeves prepare you a room. It's a bit hectic with the children not settled yet, but I think we can make you comfortable.'

'Children?' her aunt repeated. 'So you still have them— Jemmie, the boy your father took in when his sergeant father died? And the little girl you wrote me about. Besides Charles, of course. How is the poor little orphan?'

'Doing well,' Theo said, her heart warming as she thought of him. 'A sturdy four-year-old now.'

'Goodness, that old already! His father's family never…'

'No. Lord Everly's commander, Colonel Vaughn, wrote to his father again when I returned with Charles after the birth, to inform him of the poor mother's death in childbed, but the marquess did not deign to reply.' She neglected mentioning how she'd rejoiced at learning she'd be able to keep the child. 'So, he's still with me. Indeed, I can't imagine being parted from him.'

'You're quite young enough to marry and have sons who truly are your own,' her aunt replied tartly. 'I suppose you had to do your Christian duty and accompany that unfortunate girl, enceinte and grieving, back to England after Everly was killed. I do wish you'd made it to London for the birth, though. How unfortunate to have his mama fall ill, stranding you at some isolated convent in the wilds of Portugal! Naturally, after her death, you felt obliged to take charge of the infant until he could be returned to his family. But with that family unwilling to accept the boy and Richard gone—are you sure you should continue caring for him? As for the others, would it not be better to put them into the custody of the parish? Under a colonel's guardianship, such an odd household might have been tolerated in the army overseas, but even with your papa present, such a ménage here in England would be considered very strange.' She sighed. 'You were ever wont to pick up the stray and injured, even as a child.'

'I'm sure you would have done the same, had you been there to see them, poor little creatures left on their own to beg or starve.'

'None the less, without Richard… It's just not fitting for a gently reared girl to have charge of…children like that.'

Theo laughed. 'After growing up in India and all those years following the drum, I don't believe I qualify as "gently reared".'

Her aunt gave her a fulminating look. 'You're still gently born, regardless of the unconventionality of your upbringing, and are as well, I understand, a considerable heiress. Despite your…unusual circumstances, I wouldn't despair of having you make a good match. Won't you come to me in London for the Season, let me find you a good man to take your father's place in your life?'

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The Rake to Reveal Her 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
JoRead More than 1 year ago
In love with flawed heroes ...  This is the 4th installment in the series but can definitely be read as a standalone with ease. Let me start off by saying that although the title says “Rake” it really is not about one. It's really more about a person trying to find a new purpose in life.  Dominic is a scarred soldier, both inside and out. He might have had his life all planned out at one point, with money to spare, a beautiful fiancée and a vigor to rival, he really had nothing more to ask for, but when he’s injured in war and looses one of his eyes, one of his hands, and most importantly, his self-confidence, he ends up feeling lost and confused.    While taking up refuge in the country in one of his family properties, charming and plain-spoken, army-brat of sorts Theo Branwell approaches him and weaves her way into his life and heart with her candor and sincerity. I loved how these two interacted from the get-go. It was funny that because both had just returned from foreign lands after being away for so long, they both felt out of place and being too formal felt almost unnecessary for them. And the fact she told him he found him attractive, and not to gain his admiration but to make him see himself as he was, made me like her a lot. Despite Theo’s candor and the story twists, everything still maintained an authentic level of historical accuracy and felt in accordance to the times. Although this story is a lot less steamier than the previous in the series, the chemistry still worked for the main characters. I only wish I could see more of the rakes actually being rakes and more of them interacting in the same story.  ** I received a copy of this story from the author in exchange for an honest review ** 
green____ More than 1 year ago
A Heartwarming Historical ... Here we have Dom's story... a man that focuses on what he has lost and what he can no longer do, until Theodora comes into his life! She brings light into his life... waking him up and helping him see the man inside. When she needs help, he lets her know that he is the man to do so. What wonderful characters... I loved seeing how the story unfolds... the growth of the characters... seeing them each figure things out. Julia Justiss has created a story that pulled me in... a truly wonderful read that warmed my heart! A HEA that brought a smile to my face!
celticmaggie More than 1 year ago
OMG! This is the best book Julia has written yet! She has given us a good twisty-turney story line. We travel all over with Theo who has marched to the drum following her father, a Colonel, and her fiancee, a lieutenant while trying to save orphans along the way. She was most careful of the baby, Charles. Then she loses both men to the war and has to return to England. Dom has lost an arm and an eye and still hasn't got his health back . They meet not knowing who the other is. Spoiler. He agrees to lease her a building for a school. They have a spark but both are skittish for another love. Spoiler. She has a huge spoiler following her and the only way out is marriage. She is afraid for her "children" and he is afraid of losing her. There are a lot of twists in this story and they all go in the right direction. I love this cover. I love this plot. These are the best people to follow. I so hope you will follow them too. They will drag you into the book too. Enjoy your read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm in love the Ransleigh Rogues! Julia Justiss knows how to write the perfect wounded hero that finds strength loving his lady. The Rake to Reveal Her is Dominic and Theodora's story. I found the Ransleigh Rogues late. I started reading the series with the third book, but even though the books are connected they can be read as stand alone books. Julia Justiss reminded me why historicals are my first love in romance with this series.  I loved Theo and Dom's first meeting. It showed Dom's physical weakness, but with added humor. Dom's a returning wounded soldier from the war trying to grapple with not being able to do the things that he had always done his whole life.  Theo is also settling in the area after following her father and future husband around the battlefield before they were both killed. Theo and Dom's attraction to one another starts almost from the beginning, but his plan is to keep all women at arms length and Theo plans on never falling in love again. The more they find themselves together their attraction grows and their relationship changes as well. They find that they truly enjoy spending time together and have some of the same interest. Now if they can only take that last step to their HEA. I was given ARC for an honest review. All conclusions are mine and mine alone.   Lori P
AneMailname More than 1 year ago
Theodora Branwell is one of those indomitable heroines that you just wish you knew! She is smart, capable and a bit stubborn, but also with the biggest heart!  She has followed the drum with her father into the depths of a terrible war. She has loved and lost, and she has come through it with an understanding of how to get things done. Maybe not with societies restraints in mind, but that is ok with Miss Theo. Dominic Ransleigh is a war hero. He doesn't feel very heroic, but he has come home, minus one arm and the use of one eye. He is scarred in more than just the physical sense. He has come home to heal and try to figure out what to do with his life, now that he can no longer pursue the  things he thought would carry him through his life.  Can these two people, who have been so affected by war, come back to England and make something of themselves before grief takes them over? Dom has properties and money, so there is no worry there. Theo does as well. She knows what she will be doing. She has in her party some children. Orphans of the war that she has decided to take care of. She loves these children and will see what she can do to make their lives a little better. Dom now needs to figure out how to go on. They meet when Theo wants to rent a small building on Dom's property and the fun starts from there! Realizing they both feel the same comfort of shared experiences, things get a bit warmer from there. There is something between them. Some spark of attraction. Neither wants to admit it, but neither one can forget it. The characters in this book are very real people! Julia Justiss has a way of writing that makes you feel like you are one of the servants watching things play out. You are able to get so into the story that you forget it's a book. It is a wonderful way to write and I truly appreciate the talent it takes to write this way. I would recommend this book to any Regency Romance lover! It is a bit hot in places! I also love the cover of this book. The "regency feel" is wonderful! *I received a copy of this book for my honest review*