Trial By Desire by Courtney Milan
September 28, 2010
Paperback, 368 Pages
Reviewed by Mandi
Favorite Quote: “I don’t like to lose control.”
Kate inched her fingers across the coverlet to his free hand. His knuckles were heated, even though he’d been sitting in the cold. “Ned,” she whispered, “let me inside your control.”
We first meet our hero Ned in Proof By Seduction, where we learn he battles many demons, and depression is a big part of his life. At the start of Trial by Desire, Ned is not done battling his demons yet. After only three short months of marriage to Kathleen Carhart, he feels his control on his life slipping. Desperate to prove to everyone he can take on any job and any situation, he takes himself off to China to look into his family’s investments. Quite a drastic measure, but Ned’s problems just don’t skim the surface of his being. They run very deep, and he needs to remove himself from the new, intense feelings he has for his wife. It is in this three year journey that he wants and needs to prove to people that he is in control of his life.
Kate is devastated to be alone, but she also has a secret. She has started to help women who are being abused by their husbands get away. In 1840 England, women have limited rights, and Kate provides money, food, and shelter to get them to safety. She puts on airs of frivolity and pretends to be obsessed with shopping so people would never suspect she is the brains behind getting these women away from their husbands. All goes well, until she helps her dear friend Louisa and her newborn escape from the very abusive Earl of Harcroft. He is very suspicious of Kate, and what do you know – he shows up at her house to demand where Louisa is the day Ned unexpectedly returns home from China. Kate’s life gets turned upside down – she not only has a husband that has returned whom she does not trust, but a very cruel man keeping a very close eye on her.
I had no idea what to expect from Ned, after meeting him in Proof By Seduction. In that book, he came across as weak, and honestly when I found out he was to be the hero in the next book I wasn’t really excited. However, I adored Proof By Seduction and Courtney Milan’s writing style, so I couldn’t let Trial By Desire pass me by. Good thing for that too! Trial By Desire is an absolutely beautiful book and although we do get a Ned who has been hardened after three years abroad, he still struggles, and we get a very intimate look into his psyche. He is so scared – so frightened that he will lose just a bit of control and slip back into the darkness. He feels this intense need to prove to everyone he is capable of handling everything. When he returns home and truly gets to know his wife, and learns her secrets – he realizes she is so capable and smart. It makes him jealous in a sense and he instantly recognizes that fear again. He also has the desire to take his wife in an unseemly fashion and it scares him. A man in control should have no such thoughts. All of this makes him want to prove even more to her that he is a capable being. When all she wants is to feel safe and secure and just be with him. He is a unique hero – not really alpha, but definitely not a beta. He is tough, and stands up for his wife, but an air of fragility runs through him. In the end, he wants to be a better man for his wife, and that endears him to me in the best possible way.
Kate is a very solid mate for him, and she learns early on of his weaknesses, but makes the decision to be quietly strong for him. I think she gets overshadowed by his character – Ned has so much going on inside and leaves Kate a little in the dust. But I still liked her mature attitude and I loved the way she handles herself with Ned and Harcroft.
The romance in this one is so sensual. It takes about half the book to get there, but oh my does Courtney Milan give us some very nice scenes. I actually enjoyed the bedroom scenes in this one more than her first book. I think part of it is that she gives us some really sexy situations, but more than that, we see Ned lose a bit of that control in each scene, and it just makes them very intimate.
I thought the plot and evil doings of Harcroft present themselves very well too. The mystery becomes much more complicated than what I originally thought would happen.
I recommend you read Proof By Seduction first so you can meet Ned and get his full journey, however, this can be read as a stand alone. Luckily, we only have to wait until January to get another book from Courtney Milan, who is fast becoming one of my favorite authors.