Naive, destitute and alone, Ellie Baker’s world crumbles when she’s kidnapped and forced into a brothel to repay her father’s mistakes. Betrayed to the core, Ellie vows to never trust another man — even Gabriel Peterson, her favorite childhood friend.
Gabriel can’t get past his mother’s brutal murder. Drinking, gambling and whoring help him forget, yet his guilt-ridden habits have made him a social outcast. When the girl from his youth confronts him, he is shocked out of despair and vows to help Ellie escape… But can he break free of his own demons?
Neither expects the reunion to last — until their lives overlap in unimaginable ways. When Ellie helps Gabriel in his quest for vengeance, she can’t deny their forbidden attraction. Being together feels dangerous, yet how can Ellie resist, when his slightest touch makes her body ache for more?
With reputations in the balance, these two must learn to trust in themselves — or risk losing the only love they’ve ever known.
Diane Anderson’s Review: 4.0-Stars
Trusting Desire by Alice Langdon
Ellie Baker is alone and penniless in wild western Colorado, circa 1880, when she is naively duped into taking a job as a prostitute to pay off her father’s debts. She soon discovers one of the brothel’s regular clients is her long-lost childhood friend, Gabriel Peterson, now a guilt-ridden, drunken doctor drifting aimlessly in the same western town.
From there the story takes a leap forward from its riveting “Western” style opening with barroom brawls, a villainous saloon keeper, Jasper Cogs and hard drinking, fast shooting ranchers to a much slower mild-mannered middle when a deus ex machina plot device spirits Ellie back east to the safe haven of a distant family relation who grooms her for high society living. Ironically, Ellie just so happens to again run into Gabriel who is also distantly related to the same high society family, and engaged to one of the neighbor girls.
From there the story makes a skidding halt from gritty wild west adventure to Ellie trying to both prove she is — and then again, isn’t — a fine well-bred lady. Her days in the brothel both haunt her — and then again — seem unconcerning in an era when a virginity was highly prized and being a “soiled dove” was a nothing to sneeze at. Not to mention, there was no therapy for rape victims. But this is a spicy historical romance, so Ellie’s biggest concern is that she’ll never ever enjoy sex again, and that is her prime goal, along with trying to escape the boring respectable life her uncle has planned after rescuing her from horrific abuse out west.
Gabriel comes across as a barely likable, flawed hero, while also apparently supposed to be endearing for being equally damaged as the victim of a crime. I wasn’t impressed. Both harbor secrets that seemed less important than the dirty secrets they already knew about each other — she was a whore and he was a derelict doctor who bailed on his family and friends. So, after realizing each other’s despicable faults, why hide the understandable reasons behind it all, other than to drag out the plot device? And yet they do, for some 200 more pages, no less!
Unlike most romances I’ve read, there was no love-hate relationship going on to add tension to the mix and keep us guessing (even though we all know it’s going to end well) Instead, there was just a constant revisiting of innocent childhood memories and a vigilant sweetness they held for each other that turns to passion and a contrived sex scene on the turn of a page, just to prove Ellie still has the ability to feel physical passion. This story started off with good intentions and makes a valiant effort to veer from some tropes common in historical romance and delve into historical realism.
There is an uncomfortable reality in an early rape scene that could be disturbing for some readers and is wisely given a heads-up warning in the opening pages. But the honest, frank way it’s delivered, without titillation or exploitation, almost feels more historical than romance and warrants extra points for its candid delivery without resorting to gratuitous effect. Still, the story could have packed more punch with fewer words overall, less angst and tired trope of plucky rambunctious girl dropped into high society, like a fish out of water. This girl was damaged on so many levels! The last thing she would worry about would be how to hold her teacup or ride side saddle! Wouldn’t she be in constant fear of being discovered, not to mention PTSD and nightmarish fears of her rapist finding her again?
Still, I had to admit the characters found their way into my heart and there were a few plot twists toward the end I hadn’t planned on that kept me turning pages. So, for that, it earns more points to top out at 4.0. For readers of historical romance who also enjoy Westerns, this is well worth the trail ride across the dusty plains to an elegant and satisfying romantic ending.
Sherry Terry’s Review: 3.8-Stars
Alice Langdon has done a good job with Trusting Desire. I like the cover, and I feel it represents the historical era and that this is a “sweet” romance with no real sex scenes. They are all fade to black.
I liked the western historical era Alice chose for Trusting Desire. The research is effortlessly incorporated into the world building. The writing is strong and well-done. The characters come to life on the page.
Our heroine, Ellie is a young girl left with a father’s debt and no employment opportunities, thus she becomes a prostitute. A very common trope of historical romance, but this story has a twist. There is a rape at gunpoint scene, but it’s a “close the door, turn off the lights, it’s the next day” scene and does not show everything, but it is brutal. I thought it was well done and fits the story without being gratuitous for the sake of being gratuitous. The scene may be difficult for some to read.
Gabriel, our hero was fleshed out well as the town drunk who used to be a doctor. The two knew each other as kids and find each other again — more than once. I think Alice did a wonderful job of making the characters feel like real people, and they pulled out all of my emotions.
I personally feel the book needs a good, deep edit. There were long chunks of writing that really didn’t move the story forward, in my opinion. The story lags a little in the middle, and there are a few typos.
The opening is really good and grabbed me, keeping me reading even when the middle of the story lagged. I was invested enough in the characters that I wanted to know what happened. The end of the story hits it out of the park.
If you want to read a well-researched historical, western romance, if you’re looking to be immersed into the 1880’s, this book is for you.
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