book cover for trial by desire
trial by desire

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Lady Kathleen Carhart knows all about imperfect marriages. For years, she has secretly helped women escape their violent husbands. She feels she owes it to womankind. After all, her husband is perfect: handsome, gentle, amusing…and best of all, he left the country three years ago. She isn’t even bitter about that anymore. Mostly.

When Ned Carhart returns in the middle of her most delicate operation to date, her life is thrown into turmoil. She’ll do anything to preserve her secrets…even if it means risking her heart to the man who abandoned her once.

The Carhart Series Reading Order

½. This Wicked Gift | 1. Proof by Seduction | 2. Trial by Desire

Or get the entire series as The Carhart Series Boxed Set.

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news & awards

  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010.
  • Readers’ Crown Finalist, Best Long Historical

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Praise for Trial by Desire

“Milan deftly incorporates realistic historical grit in her coverage of the Opium Wars, social candor in her treatment of domestic violence, and stunning emotional depth in the mesmerizing plot, and the result is an exquisitely sensual and unforgettable romance by one of the genre’s incandescent new stars.”

—Booklist, starred review (login needed)

“This complex and emotionally wrought romance…demonstrates how with trust as well as love our protagonists will come home to each other.”

Library Journal

“Deeply emotional love stories, which are romantic yet brimming over with sexual tension and marvelous characters… filled with enough wit and wisdom to make it a ‘keeper.’”

—RT Book Reviews, 4½ star review, TOP Pick!

“This tender, thoughtful romance is a deep examination of what responsibility and trust really mean in a partnership when desire is a complication rather than the raison d’être.”

—Publishers Weekly

“This book is a thoughtful, character driven romance with rich language. Like I said, this book is about what it means to be a hero and the answer is not brawn but brains.”

—Dear Author, ‘A’ grade review

“Courtney Milan’s writing is beautiful. The characters have depth&hellip And the ending left me smiling from ear to ear. I can’t recommend enough this book. It’s a superb love story.”

—Book Lovers, Inc., 5 books review

“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.”

—The Book Pushers, A review

“Milan’s writing is almost flawless and masterful as she heightens the tension between Ned and Kate by the secrets they hold from one another—Kate with her hidden friend and Ned with why he left.”

Sacramento Book Review

“Trial By Desire is an absolutely beautiful book… Courtney Milan…is fast becoming one of my favorite authors.”

—Mandi at Smexy Books

“Well-written, fast-paced and full of lovely word-pictures of the lush life of the Haute Ton, Trial by Desire is a keeper.”

—Donna at The Season for Romance

“Courtney has written a beautiful story with Trial by Desire… A breathtaking romance with a very special couple who both deserve a life full of happiness and joy.”

—Katiebabs at Babbling About Books and More

“I thoroughly enjoyed the fascinating plot devised by Courtney Milan. Kate and Ned are loving and vivacious characters… The pages flew past and ended far too quickly.”

Fresh Fiction

Trial by Desire will capture your heart from the very first pages and will stay with you long after the last page is read.”

Reader to Reader

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Code Name

All of my books get code names while I am writing them. Trial by Desire was code-named Dragon Slayer from the very beginning. Originally, it was because the book was about slaying a particular dragon. But, as it turns out, the name became rather tongue-in-cheek, as the book went on:

“In the stories,” he said, his voice a dark rasp against her skin, “in the stories, the heroine always slays the dragon and lops off his head. The villagers rejoice and build a bonfire, and darkness never again falls on the land.”

She could feel his hands at her side, warm and powerful against the heat of her skin.

“But those,” Ned continued, “are only fairy stories. In reality...”

He smiled at her in the mirror, a lopsided smile. There was something faintly wicked about that expression, as if he were about to impart to her a great secret, one that had been closely-guarded by a centuries-old society. She swayed unwittingly against him.

“In reality,” he whispered, “the dragons never die, and the big sword-wielding buffoons in unwieldy armor cannot slay them. Real heroes tame their dragons.”

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Frequently Asked Questions

quest Ned leaves on the ship Peerless. Which ship Peerless do you mean? And, by the way, what is chicken?

ans That’s a silly question. Ned was’t going to Bombay.

quest Why do some reviews mention characters called Laura and Viscount Beeton, when no such characters appear in the book?

ans Some advanced reader copies were made with an early version of the book, but I felt that aspects of that draft didn't work as well as I would have liked, and so I changed that in revisions.

quest This book is called Trial by Desire. Which definition of Trial do you mean?

ans Using the Merriam-Webster definition here: 1a, 1b, 2, 3, 4a, 5—pretty much all of them except 4b.

quest What is Ned’s deal?

ans Ned has a mild case of manic-depression.

quest Wait! Isn’t that a huge spoiler?

ans Not really. It’s never disclosed in the book, for one; it can’t be, as back then nobody would even have been able to diagnose it. The symptoms are divulged fairly early on in both Proof by Seduction and Trial by Desire.

quest Why on earth did you want to write a book featuring depression?

ans Because when I first had the idea I had no notion of how hard it was going to be. By the time I knew how hard it was going to be, it was too late to turn back.

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