Rating: 3.5 stars
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Too Short!!! That is the hardest part of reading a novella—particularly one by such a gifted author as R.J. Scott. They are just sometimes too short! The second installment in her Ellery Mountain series, The Teacher And The Soldier, began so well with both interesting and movingly wounded characters and quickly took off, holding me captivated the entire way.
In the previous installment, The Fireman and the Cop, we met Daniel, the ex-marine who had returned home to take care of the cabins his mother co-owned. While we are aware that he had returned injured, it is in this second novella that we realize he also came home needing counseling and help adjusting to his old life. As this story unfolds, we find that Daniel is attempting to open a ten-bed rehab facility for soldiers just like himself who need that additional support when reentering civilian life and that he is having a difficult time finding both a place as well as community acceptance for his ideas.
To further complicate his dilemma, with the death of Mike Fitzgerald, his son Luke has returned to Ellery to sell off his part of the cabins and Daniel is concerned that investors will move in and make his mother’s life miserable with the purchase. Little does Daniel or any one else realize the extent to which Mike damaged and abused his son, leaving him both fragile and angry with baggage that has prevented him from finding stability in a relationship or giving his heart fully to another man. So, we have two men—both seeking, both lonely, both ready for something to break wide open and change their lives.
These two characters came alive in this novella. Daniel, who had been little more than a brooding presence in the first book, now reveals emotions and desires that make him fully real and so very likeable. Juxtaposed with this kind and caring man, is Luke who storms onto the page, full of guilt, anxiety, and so much anger. He has lost himself somewhere in his horrid past and returning to Ellery has allowed old wounds to open and fester and threaten to overwhelm him completely. As we watch these two men move from “friends with benefits” to actual lovers the story grows in intensity and keeps you transfixed. And then…it ends…abruptly, leaving in its wake an incomplete story with a rushed ending that feels as though it needed several more chapters to do it justice.
I really struggled with the ending—the almost instant recapitulation of Luke who suddenly could resolve all the doubts and questions with just a phone call from his ex. And Daniel, who is no push over by any means, blithely accepting Luke’s return without questioning why it took an ex-boyfriend who has been guiding Luke throughout the novel to show Luke how much he really did love Daniel. Just too many questions and that niggling sense that the author ran out of patience for her own story derailed this book for me.
I really like this author so for me to tell you that this story, The Teacher and the Soldier, was lacking is a hard thing to do. However, I cannot shy away from the fact that this novella suffered from its under developed ending and hasty resolution. I have read several others by R.J. Scott and found them delightful, so I hope that her next installment in this series takes the time it needs to really do the third novella justice.