My favorite romance novelists do more than tell a story, they show characters caught in an inner struggle while reaching for the most elusive of prizes: a deeply intimate, passionate, requited love.

For great novels, the challenge to find love is hindered not because the protagonist cannot find someone suitable, but because before they take the prize, they must dig deep the courage to face the obstacles (read: their cherished but false beliefs about the way the world works) between them and happiness. There is no way around it: True love requires courage.

I just finished Courtney Milan’s Trial by Desire. In this book, the hero’s depth was sketched beautifully with an almost invisible hand. Not to give anything away, but he suffers from what we would call bi-polar disorder.

Early on in the novel, she eases us into the isolation of his mind in a perfectly written scene. A friend asks him to describe China and his thoughts follow:

Images flashed through his head–high green hills rising steeply out of the clear blue glass of the ocean, vegetation choking every inch of land; humid heat and the overpowering stench of human waste; the glint of water off polished steel, the sun hot over head; and then, once he’d left Hong Kong, the delta of the Pearl River, obscured by the acrid smoke of cannon fire.
This evening, Ned had no desire to delve into those feelings. Not at any length at all.
Hot was finally the word Ned settled upon.

I loved this passage. Without spelling out any of the hero’s feelings, Ms. Milan showed how detailed his experience and yet how limited his ability to express what he knew. Right then, I knew this was going to be one of those books where the courage to love took center stage.

Trial by Desire is a deeply satisfying novel!

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