Review: Trial by Desire by Courtney Milan

Publisher: HQN

Where did you get this book from: e-ARC from author

Release Date: Out now

This review contains some spoilers. It’s hard not to review without spoilers as it pertains to Ned’s behaviour.

Blurb taken from author’s official website:

She cannot forget the fire he ignited…
In the three years since her husband left her, Lady Kathleen Carhart has managed to forge a fulfilling life for herself. But when Ned Carhart unexpectedly returns, she finds her tranquility uprooted—and her deepest secrets threatened. Though she has no intention of falling for Ned’s charms, Kate can no longer deny the desire that still burns in her heart.
Or the promise of his love…
Ned is determined to regain his wife’s trust by using unbridled seduction. But just as Kate surrenders to Ned’s passion, her carefully guarded past threatens to destroy her. Now Kate must place her faith in the only man she’s ever loved, and the only one who has ever betrayed her…

I absolutely adored Courtney’s début book, Proof by Seduction, and I was eagerly awaiting the story of Ned who is the very troubled nephew of Gareth, the hero of Proof by Seduction. In Trial By Desire, Ned’s story has arrived, and what a whopping story it is. Perhaps even more so that Proof. I would definitely recommend that readers read Proof first, and not just to read the fantastic romance between Gareth and Jenny, but to see how young and fragile Ned was. And to be blunt, to see how damaged Ned was. Proof also shows Ned’s first introduction with Kate.

Ned struggled so very hard with his dark and depressive thoughts when he was a young adult, and to prove something to himself and to others that he wasn’t hopeless, he left for China, leaving behind his newly wedded wife, Kate. After being on his own in China for three years, Ned has decided to come home. Ned has arrived back a stronger person, and he’s arrived back as a man with a firm iron hold on his emotions and what he calls his ‘dark beast’.

Kate on the other hand thought she had a promising marriage to Ned, and was blind sighted and heartbroken when Ned told her he was leaving for China. Kate has had to live without her husband, and she’s had to survive the cruel taunts of the ton for three years. To protect herself from more hurt, she created a frivolous character to shield her inner self. And for three years it has worked. Whilst in public she comes off as nothing but a ditsy character who loves to shop, in private she secretly helps hideaway women who are being abused. When her best friend is in desperate need for help, Kate secretly helps her, hoping that nobody will catch on. But Kate has the surprise of her life when her estranged husband happens upon her. After the initial shock has worn off, Kate realises that the Ned that left for China three years ago has arrived back a different person, one that can hurt her more deeply than before.

The two of them are forced to work together when the situation with Kate’s best friend worsens. Ned knows he has to earn the trust back he lost with Kate, and Kate has to let her guard down with Ned, and she has to fight past Ned’s iron wall of control before they can have they happy ever after.

There is something about Courtney’s writing that leaves you with no choice but to gobble up each word on the page. For realz!

Kate and Ned’s romance is darkly delicious, and Ned has to be one of the most fascinating heroes to date I’ve read about. Ned is not a broody hero who is broody just for the sake of it. I’ve seen this portrayed in other novels and it comes off as incredibly superficial. Ned suffers from depression (or bi-polar, I wasn’t sure which) and I applaud Courtney for creating a character who is realistic with his illness. It doesn’t magically go away, and Ned has to weather the storm for the rest of his life without any medication that is now prescribed today for an illness that can be all consuming and which can lead to suicide. There’s an obvious change in Ned from Proof; Ned is a lot older maturity wise, and he has a greater understanding of his very dark moods. But he’s afraid of showing and letting go of his emotions. And this is something that he fights with throughout the book.

Kate is a fantastic heroine and complements Ned so well. I have to admire her for pushing
Ned for an emotional and sexual relationship despite the deep hurt he caused her when he left. There is no easy route for them, especially when Kate has no clue about Ned’s depression. Kate doesn’t give her trust to Ned easily, but she pushes him for more and I was cheering her on to no end. Despite the heartache she went through, she knows what a wonderful marriage they can have and she does all that she can to make sure that happens. They don’t jump into bed straight away despite their smoking hot attraction to one another. Ned knows that he has to earn the trust back from Kate and he knows that he doesn’t have her full trust yet. There’s also that element of loosing his control and not letting anyone in incase they perceived him as weak. The storyline with Kate’s best friend added the right amount of tension that forced Kate and Ned to be in closer proximity, and it does enable the trust between them.

In other novels, I would have probably hated Ned for the way he left Kate heartbroken, but I know as a reader that Ned was in no way shape or form ready to have a marriage. He was too immature, he didn’t have a sense of purpose and he had no self esteem. There’s a pivotal scene where Kate is threatened and the emotions Ned feels for her come rippling through, and afterwards there is such a tender scene between them that made my heart melt. I loved that Kate didn’t give up on Ned, no matter how many times he wouldn’t let her in, how many times he inadvertently hurt her, she never gave up hope on him.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. Kate and Ned were simply made for one another. Their romance is compelling and both have so much emotional depth. Trial is definitely a keeper for me, and a book that I will re-read for many moons to come

I give Trial by Desire a whopping and a well deserved A.

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