Wednesday, 4 January 2012

1. "Trial by Desire" by Courtney Milan

Page count: 368 pages
Date begun: January 2nd, 2012
Date finished: January 3rd, 2012

This is book is a sequel of sorts to Milan's debut novel Proof by Seduction, but can be read without any prior knowledge to events in the last book.

Lady Kathleen "Kate" Carhart had barely been married to her husband for three months when he left her to go to China to prove to the world he can be responsible. In his absence, she managed as best she could, fending off unwanted attention from louts wanting to seduce her, and secretly spiriting away abused wives from their cruel husbands. She's just managed to save another, when her husband returns unexpectedly. Can she trust him with her secrets? Surely she can't count on his support, when the last wife she "stole" is married to one of his oldest friends?

Ned Carhart suffers from bouts of depression, and went to China in part to figure out a way to control himself. When he returns, he believes that he can finally avoid the worst lows, but he is determined that no one learn of his terrible weakness, least of all his extremely capable wife. He's also faced with the arrival of his old friend, who wants his help in locating his wife and newborn heir. Ned needs to figure out why his wife is acting so strangely, and how he can win her trust, and possibly even her heart, all the while hiding his depression from her.

Things I liked: Kate is a great heroine. She's brave, independent, intelligent and caring. Unsatisfied with her pampered existence as a duke's daughter, she wanted to help others, and has been aiding abused women since she was sixteen. She hasn't been able to tell anyone about it, as in the male dominated society she lives in, she's be unlikely to get any support. She marries a man she barely knows, and he abandons her before she has a chance to really get to know him. Yet she's determined to make her marriage work, even when her husband does things that make little to no sense to her. She's calmly stands up to threats from her friend's abusive husband, and even takes a beating rather than reveal the location of the woman she spirited away.

Courtney Milan clearly likes her heroes to be a bit damaged. A romance hero with depression is an unusual thing. I like her trying to do something different.

What I didn't like:
Ned is pretty much a prize idiot. I get why he was so determined to gain control over himself and try to tackle his depression all by his lonesome. But it's a moronic thing to do. Kate keeps reaching out to him, making romantic and seductive gestures, and he mostly pushes her away. He keeps telling her that he wants her to trust him and lean on him, but refuses to actually tell her how he really feels or what he fears, and for much of the book I just really wanted to slap him silly. I myself have suffered depression, and I'm married to a man who struggles with depression much worse than what Ned is described as having, and this made much of the book difficult to really enjoy for me. A romance pretty much fails when you feel the heroine could do better and should pick someone else.

Despite that, Milan is a very capable writer, and the overall plot of the book and the heroine is enough that I don't regret reading it. It's no Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever, so it's got that going for it.

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