Title: Trial By Desire

Author: Courtney Milan

Redonk Synopsis: Husband that abandoned his wife returns to redeem their relationship

Official Synopsis: She cannot forget the fire he ignited…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. 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…

First off, I want to note that my husband purchased this paperback for me for Valentine’s Day – I LURVE him.  I had previously read this book as one of my library finds and I was really giddy when he gave it to me because I had really enjoyed this book.

This was my first Courtney Milan book, though this is Milan’s 2nd publication.  I knew nothing of these characters going into this story.  I’ll say right of the bat that that did not hamper my understanding of the story, though I imagine there was a bit of emotional back story I may have picked up on with the supporting characters.

The story starts out with newlyweds Kate and Ned having breakfast – Kate is excited about the racy negligee she acquired and is looking forward to putting to use, and her mind is racing about the possibilities.  Nate interrupts her daydreaming to inform her he is planning on traveling to China on business.  Without her.  To say she’s stunned is an understatement.  She was happy with their nuptials – Ned the perfect gentleman, if not a little subdued, had claimed her heart.  There had always been an attraction between them, and Kate had thought their relationship could truly blossom.

Fast forward three years.  Kate his become a pillar of womanly strength, having hardened herself to the whispers and nudges of society about her husband’s hasty departure.  She paints the perfect picture – stylish, beautiful, compassionate, and the perfect lady.  But underneath she is cynical, hiding emotional baggage she dare not expose to anyone.  She pours herself into her private charity work – helping victims of domestic violence escape their batterers.  Her most recent recipient of asylum is the wife of a distant friend, a powerful lord with a vicious temper.  When Kate’s husband suddenly returns looking to reinsert himself into her life  Kate is skeptical.  She’s angry, shocked, resigned and downright pessimistic.  She’s also terrified he’s going to find out about her work helping women.

What is so touching about this book is the full range of emotions each character goes through.  Kate feels utterly betrayed by a man she felt she loved, and she stews for three years in the emotional fallout of his actions.  When Nate returns, Kate is forced to confront these feelings.

Nate is a WHOLE issue onto himself.  We come to learn why he left Kate, and that he ultimately suffers from severe depression.  He comes back to her a “new” man, and he comes to realize how his abandonment at the beginning of their marriage effected his wife and their relationship.  In the process he uncovers Kate’s secrets and realizes there is a depth to his wife he never previously saw.

I really enjoyed this book.  Milan covers many aspects of relationships that tend to get overly romanticized in this genre.  It takes Kate and Ned a LONG time to reconcile their feelings toward each other, and it ain’t always pretty.  Harsh words are exchanged.  Feelings are exposed and hurt.  There’s a good deal of introspection.  And of course, throughout it all there is the driving attraction the two feel toward each other, the one part of the relationship that had never been an issue.  Ned struggles with his depression, and Kate has to learn how to best help him.  I had a personal connection with this aspect of the story, having dealt with depression in my family for years.

What I loved about this book: Watching two characters go through the gamut of emotions in a relationship

What I didn’t like: Lawd, I dunno.  I genuinely didn’t encounter anything that threw off the story for me

Rating: B+

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