Trial by Desire by Courtney Milan (Carhart #2)


In the three years since her husband left her, Lady Kate 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.


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 …


Quite disappointing.

I’d been saving this book, so I could savour it whenever I felt like I needed to read a really good romance novel. After the last couple of months, it felt like it was time.

Trial by Desire is a sequel to Proof by Seduction and although the couple set up is much more believable than in its prequel, the romance itself isn’t.

A scandal forced Ned and Kate to marry, but it was clear that both of them—Ned—at least needed to grow up in leaps and bounds for them to earn their (believable) happy ever after mandated by the genre. Milan’s solution is to send Ned away soon after the nuptials for three years and let him grow up into a capable man abroad.

Ned does grow up. When he comes back he’s a changed man and his reunion with his estranged wife is promising. Of course there are the familiar tropes keeping them apart: Miscommunication and a caricature villain. I’m wretchedly disappointed in the villain’s characterisation as the early promise of a multilayered characterisation for the domestic abuser is never realised. He has his internal logic that justifies the abuse but the reader is never shown why he thinks that way. Other than it’s assumed the period explains men’s attitudes towards women.

Even so, one man wanting his runaway wife back isn’t what stands between Ned and Kate and their happiness. It’s Ned himself. Milan tackles an important issue by making Ned bipolar—I assume that’s the correct diagnosis—and showing people have battled with mental illness before they had names for them. As admirable as it is to see Ned find his own solution for his mood swings, it doesn’t change the fact that his dogged insistence to cope on his own is what destroys the romance. The constant repetition of his desire to be the hero and secrets kept until the very end, don’t make him good husband material. He may have learned to stand on his own feet, but Ned doesn’t believably learn to lean on his wife, which leaves their marriage a sham.

Worse than Ned’s inability to transform from an independent man into a half a married couple, is how Kate’s plot is handled. She’s supposed to be saving battered wives from their husbands and an early feminist who learns to win her own battles, but time and time again Ned rushes to her rescue. He saves her both from a physical and a juridical attack. He’s the one who comes up with the final solution. Having read Kate’s story makes me appreciate Margaret and Jessica and all the other Milan heroines that much more.

The writing itself is uneven—which still occasionally true for Milan’s novels—and the story is boring. There are hideous amounts of telling and horrible smut euphemisms I wish never to see in a romance book again. Milan kept me engaged with the story at times but only at times.

I feel like I’ve read the worst Milan has to offer and I can go back to waiting for her next book. At least I know most of these novice mistakes won’t be repeated quite as blatantly ever again.

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4 Responses to Trial by Desire by Courtney Milan (Carhart #2)

  1. Blodeuedd says:

    I will read more Milan one day

  2. rameau says:

    And I hope you'll pick up one of her better books.

  3. Oh, I also read this book! I forgot about that. I didn't like it, either. It was totes boring.

  4. rameau says:

    I'm just glad I didn't read this one first and give up on the author right there and then.

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