A Secret Affair (Huxtable Series)

( 261 )

Overview

Born a commoner, Hannah Reid has been Duchess of Dunbarton since she was nineteen years old. Now her husband is dead and, more beautiful than ever at thirty, Hannah has her freedom at last. To the shock of a conventional friend, she announces her intention to take a lover—and not just any lover, but the most dangerous and delicious man in all of upper-class England: Constantine Huxtable. Constantine’s illegitimacy has denied him the title of earl, so now he denies himself nothing. Rumored to be living the easy ...
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A Secret Affair (Huxtable Series)

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Overview

Born a commoner, Hannah Reid has been Duchess of Dunbarton since she was nineteen years old. Now her husband is dead and, more beautiful than ever at thirty, Hannah has her freedom at last. To the shock of a conventional friend, she announces her intention to take a lover—and not just any lover, but the most dangerous and delicious man in all of upper-class England: Constantine Huxtable. Constantine’s illegitimacy has denied him the title of earl, so now he denies himself nothing. Rumored to be living the easy life of a sensualist on his country estate, he always chooses recent widows for his short-lived affairs. Hannah will fit the bill nicely. But once these two passionate and scandalous figures find each other, they discover that it isn’t so easy to extricate oneself from the fires of desire—without getting singed.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Wealthy, beautiful, and newly widowed, Hannah Reid, Duchess of Dunbarton, does exactly what the ton expects her to do—she decides to take a lover. Her choice? The sinfully handsome and perennially single yet untitled Constantine Huxtable, a man as dangerously appealing as he is unmarriageable—and perfect for her needs. Naturally, nothing goes as either had planned in this neatly choreographed romance that will fascinate readers as Balogh (Seducing an Angel) gradually peels away the layers of this complex, secrets-laden story with tantalizing skill and sympathetic care. VERDICT Poignant, thought-provoking, deliciously sensual, and completely enthralling, this polished gem is the last in the Huxtable quintet and one that Balogh's fans have been anxiously awaiting. Balogh lives in Canada. [See also our Q&A with the author, LJ 2/15/09, p. 90.]
Publishers Weekly
Balogh's final entry in the Huxtable family saga focuses on enigmatic cousin Constantine, long the most maligned of the Huxtables. Hannah, widowed duchess of Dunbarton, has set her sights on Constantine as the ideal lover—a handsome man of experience that she can seduce and set aside once she is done with him. Constantine, meanwhile, is thrilled by Hannah's beauty, but scornful of her reputation, and though the intention is just to have a little fun, they fall in love. Balogh has saved the best for last; Constantine—dark, wicked, and cryptic—has a perfect foil in Hannah, and their encounters are steamy, their romance believable. Though series fans will be disappointed to see it come to a close, they couldn't ask for a better way to go out. (June)
From the Publisher
“Poignant, thought-provoking, deliciously sensual, and completely enthralling.”—Library Journal
 
“Mary Balogh has masterfully woven a romantic tale of the importance of family, of compassion, and of love and forgiveness.”—Fresh Fiction
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385343305
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/18/2010
  • Series: Huxtable Series
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Balogh is the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Slightly series and Simply quartet of novels set at Miss Martin’s School for Girls, as well as many other beloved novels. She is also the author of First Comes Marriage, Then Comes Seduction, At Last Comes Love, and Seducing an Angel, all featuring the Huxtable family. A former teacher, she grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Hannah Reid, Duchess of Dunbarton, was free at last. Free of the burden of a ten-year marriage, and free of the endlessly tedious year of deep mourning that had succeeded the death of the duke, her husband.  

It was a freedom that had been a long time coming. It was a freedom well worth celebrating.  

She had married the duke after a five-day acquaintance--his grace, all impatience to be wed, had procured a special license rather than wait for the banns to be read--when she was nineteen and he was somewhere in his seventies. No one seemed certain ofexactly where in his seventies that had been, though some said it was perilously close to eighty. At the time of her marriage, the duchess was a breathtakingly lovely girl, with a slender, lithe figure, eyes that rivaled a summer sky for blueness, a bright,eager face made for smiling, and long, wavy tresses that were almost white in their blondness--a shimmering white. The duke, on the other hand, had a body and face and head that showed all the ravages of age that time and years of hard living could possiblyhave piled upon them. And he suffered from gout. And from a heart that could no longer be relied upon to continue beating with steady regularity.  

She married him for his money, of course, expecting to be a very rich widow indeed within a matter of a few short years at most. She was a rich widow now, quite fabulously wealthy, in fact, though she had had to wait longer than expected for the freedomto enjoy her riches to the full.  

The old duke had worshiped the ground she walked upon, to use the old cliche. He had heaped so many costly clothes upon her person that she would have suffocated beneath their weight if she had ever tried to wear them all at once. A guest room next toher dressing room at Dunbarton House on Hanover Square in London had been converted into a second dressing room merely to accommodate all the silks and satins and furs--among other garments and accessories--that had been worn once, perhaps twice, before beingdiscarded for something newer. And the duke had had not one, not two, not even three, but four safes built into the walls of his own bedchamber to safeguard all the jewels with which he gifted his beloved over the years, though she was perfectly free to comeand fetch whichever of them she chose to wear at any time.  

He had been a doting, indulgent husband.  

The duchess was always gorgeously dressed. And she was always bedecked with jewels, ostentatiously large ones, usually diamonds. She wore them in her hair, in the lobes of her ears, at her bosom, on her wrists, on more than one of the fingers of each hand. 

  The duke showed off his prize wherever he went, beaming with pride and adoration as he looked up at her. In his prime he would have been taller than she, but age had bent him and a cane supported him, and for much of his time he sat. His duchess did notstray far from his side when they were together, even when they were at a ball and prospective partners abounded. She tended him with her characteristic half-smile playing always about her lovely lips. She was always the picture of wifely devotion on such occasions.Nobody could deny that.  

When the duke could not go out himself--and it became increasingly difficult for him to do so as the years went on--then other men escorted his duchess to the social events with which the ton amused itself whenever it was in town in large numbers. Therewere three in particular--Lord Hardingraye, Sir Bradley Bentley, and Viscount Zimmer--all handsome, elegant, charming gentlemen. It was common knowledge that they enjoyed her company and that she enjoyed theirs. And no one was ever in any doubt of what wasincluded in that enjoyment. The only detail people wondered about--and wonder they did, of course, without ever reaching a satisfactory conclusion--was whether all that pleasure was enjoyed with the duke's knowledge or without.  

There were some who even dared wonder if it was all done with the duke's blessing. But deliciously scandalous as it might have been to believe so, most people actually liked the duke--especially as he was now elderly and therefore deserving of pity--andpreferred to see him as a poor wronged old man. The same people liked to refer to the duchess as that diamond-laden gold digger, often with the addition of who is no better than she ought to be. Those people tended to be female.  

And then the duchess's dazzling social life and scandalous loves and dreary incarceration in a union with an aged, ailing husband had all ended abruptly with the duke's ultimately sudden demise from a heart seizure early one morning. Though it was notnearly as early in the marriage as the duchess had hoped and expected, of course. She had her fortune at last, but she had paid dearly for it. She had paid with her youth. She was twenty-nine when he died, thirty when she left off her mourning soon after Christmasat Copeland, her country home in Kent that the duke had bought for her so that she would not have to leave when he died and his nephew took over his title and all his entailed properties. Copeland Manor was its full name, though the house was more mansion thanthe name implied and was surrounded by a correspondingly large park. 

  And so, at the age of thirty, the best years of her youth behind her, the Duchess of Dunbarton was free at last. And wealthy beyond belief. And very ready to celebrate her freedom. As soon as Easter had come and gone, she moved to London and settled infor the Season. It was at Dunbarton House she settled, the new duke being a genial man of middle years who preferred tramping about the country counting his sheep to being in town sitting in the Upper House of Parliament listening to his peers prosing on foreverabout matters that might be of crucial importance to the country and even the world but were of no interest whatsoever to him. Politicians were all prize bores, he would tell anyone who cared to listen. And being a man without a wife, he had no one to pointout to him that sitting in the Upper House was only the most minor of reasons for the spring gathering of the ton in London. The duchess might occupy Dunbarton House and have a ball there every night with his blessing. And so he informed her. Provided, thatwas, she did not send him the bills.  

That last was a comment typical of his rather parsimonious nature. The duchess had no need to send her bills to anyone. She was enormously wealthy in her own right. She could pay them herself.  

She might be past her youth, and really thirty was a quite nasty age for a woman, but she was still incredibly beautiful. No one could deny that, even though there were a few who would have done so if they could. Indeed, she was probably more beautifulnow than she had been at the age of nineteen. She had gained just a little weight during the intervening years, and she had gained it in all the right places and none in any of the wrong places. She was still slender, but she was now deliciously curvaceous.Her face, less bright and eager than it had been when she was a girl, had settled pleasingly into its perfect bone structure and complexion. She smiled frequently, though her characteristic smile was half arrogant, half alluring, and altogether mysterious,as though she smiled at something inside herself rather than at the outside world. Her eyes had acquired a certain droop of the eyelids that suggested bedchambers and dreams and more secrets. And her hair, at the hands of experts, was always immaculately styled--butin such a way that it looked as if it might tumble into luxuriant disarray at any moment. The fact that it never did made it only the more intriguing.  

Her hair was her best feature, many people said. Except for her eyes, perhaps. Or her figure. Or her teeth, which were very white and perfectly formed and perfectly aligned with one another. 

  All this was how the ton saw the Duchess of Dunbarton and her marriage to the elderly duke and her return to London as a wealthy widow who was free at last.   No one knew, of course. No one had been inside that marriage to know how it had worked, or not worked. No one but the duke and duchess themselves, that was. The duke had become more and more reclusive in his final years, and the duchess had had hordesof acquaintances but no close friend that anyone knew of. She had been content to hide in plain sight within the air of luxury and mystery she exuded.  

The ton, which had never tired of wondering about her during the ten years of her marriage, wondered again now after a one-year interval. She was a favorite topic in drawing rooms and at dinner tables, in fact. The ton wondered what she would do with herlife now that she was free. She had been Miss Nobody from Nowhere when she reeled in the great prize of the Duke of Dunbarton and persuaded him to marry for the first time in his life.  

What would she do next?   

  Someone else wondered what the duchess would do with her future, but she actually did it in the hearing of the one person who could satisfy her curiosity.  

Barbara Leavensworth had been the duchess's friend since they were both children living in the same neighborhood in Lincolnshire, Barbara as the vicar's daughter, Hannah as the daughter of a landowner of respectable birth and moderate means. Barbara stilllived in the same village with her parents, though they had moved out of the vicarage a year ago when her father retired. Barbara had recently become betrothed to the new vicar. They were to marry in August.  

The two childhood friends had remained close, even if not geographically. The duchess had never gone back to her former home after her marriage, and though Barbara had been frequently invited to stay with her, she had not often accepted, and even whenshe had, she had not stayed as long as Hannah would have liked. She had been too intimidated by the duke. And so they had kept up their friendship by letter. They had written to each other, usually at great length, at least once a week for eleven years. 

  Now Barbara had accepted an invitation to spend some time in London with the duchess. They would shop for her bride clothes in the only place in England worth shopping in, the duchess had written as an inducement. Which was all very well, Barbara had thoughtwhen she read the letter, shaking her head in slight exasperation, when one had pots of money, as Hannah did and she most certainly did not. But Hannah needed the company now that she was alone, and she rather fancied a few weeks of exploring churches and museumsto her heart's content before finally settling down. The Reverend Newcombe, her betrothed, encouraged her to go and enjoy herself and lend her support to the poor widow, her friend. And then, when she decided that she would go, he insisted that she take anastonishingly large sum of money with which to buy herself some pretty dresses and perhaps a bonnet or two. And her parents, who thought a month or so with Hannah, of whom they had always been inordinately fond, would be a wonderful thing for their daughterbefore she settled to a sober life as the vicar's wife, pressed a largish sum of spending money on her too.  

Barbara felt quite decadently rich when she arrived at Dunbarton House after a journey during which it had felt as though every bone in her body had been jolted into a new, less comfortable position. 

  Hannah was waiting for her inside the hall, and they hugged and squealed and exclaimed over each other for several minutes, both talking, neither listening, and laughing over nothing at all except the sheer happiness of being together again. The ton, ifthey could have seen Hannah, might have been forgiven if they had not recognized her. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes wide and bright, her smile broad, her voice almost shrill with excitement and delight. There was not the merest suggestion of mystery abouther.  

And then she became aware of the silent figure of the housekeeper in the background, and she relinquished Barbara to her competent care. She paced aimlessly in the drawing room while her friend was taken up to her room to wash her hands and face and changeher dress and comb her hair and otherwise use up half an hour before being brought down for tea. 

  She was looking her neat, tranquil self again. Dear, dependable Barbara, whom she loved more than anyone else still living, Hannah thought as she beamed at her and crossed the room to hug her again.  

"I am so, so happy that you came, Babs," she said. She laughed. "Just in case you did not understand that when you arrived."  

"Well, I did think you might have shown just a little enthusiasm," Barbara said, and they both laughed again.  

Hannah suddenly tried to remember when she had last laughed, and could not recall an occasion. No matter. One was not meant to laugh while one was in mourning. Someone might call one heartless. 

  They talked without ceasing for all of an hour, this time both listening and talking, before Barbara asked the question that had been uppermost in her mind since the Duke of Dunbarton's death, though she had not broached it in any of her letters.  

"What are you going to do now, Hannah?" she asked, leaning forward in her chair. "You must be dreadfully lonely without the duke. You adored each other."  

Barbara was probably one of the few people in London, or in all of England for that matter, who truly believed such a startling notion. Perhaps the only one, in fact. 

  "We did," Hannah said with a sigh. She spread one hand on her lap and regarded the rings she wore on three of her well-manicured fingers. She smoothed her hand over the fine white muslin of her dress. "I do miss him. I keep thinking of all sorts of absurditiesI simply must rush home to share with him, only to remember that he is not here any longer waiting to hear them." 

  "But I know," Barbara said, her voice earnest in its sympathy, "that he suffered dreadfully with his gout and that his heart was giving him much pain and trouble in his last years. I daresay it was a blessing that he went quickly in the end."  

Hannah felt inappropriately amused. Barbara would make an excellent vicar's wife if her head was full of platitudes like that one.  

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 261 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 262 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 22, 2010

    Great Ending to the Huxtable Saga

    This book is excellent; a very quick read. It has seduction, romance, heart ache and resolution to unanswered questions from the previous books about Constantine's history. There is not as much of the ton and social rituals of that era as previous books. This is much more of a family story. Part of the ending is hinted at approximately half way through the book, but actual ending has an unexpected twist. This was a great ending to the Huxtable family saga.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    At Least It Is Over

    I have not finished this book, so perhaps this review is premature, however I am so bored I do not know if I will ever read the end. I had read many positive reviews regarding Mary Balogh so I was excited to start this series, but I have been greatly disappointed with the Huxtable books and will not be reading anything else by this author. For a story about a women choosing to take a lover, it is rather mild and tedious. The dialogue is terrible, all the ruminations on love and life are cliched and previously explored in the earlier novels. Even the premise is recycled from the previous book. Maybe the last 100 pages will turn it all around, but I doubt it. I am also reading Lisa Kleypas's Hathaway series and while on the surface the two series are alike, I much prefer Ms. Kleypas's writing, she is much funnier and the stories move at a faster pace.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Readers will enjoy the final Huxtable historical romace

    The Ton has a low opinion of Duchess Hannah Reid. The widow married a man much older than her when she was a teen so everyone assumed she wed him for his money. Surprisingly during their decade together she adored her septuagenarian spouse, but no one would believe that. In fact the other assumption made about the duchess is that all her escorts are her paramours. She has no friends except Miss Barbara "Babs" Leavensworth as everyone else gives her the cold shoulder ever since her spouse died. One year has passed since the Duke's death and Hannah went into mourning. Now she will heed the advice of her mentor, her late husband, to do what she wants as an affluent widow she can do anything she desires.

    Hannah decides to have a lover; contrary to belief her first. She selects Mister Constantine "Con" Huxtable, who every season picks a new mistress. He would never have considered Hannah, but she gives him no choice. As they become lovers, they also become friends and perhaps much more.

    The last Huxtable family Regency romance (see At Last Comes Love and Then Comes Seduction) is an intriguing affair due to the initially unlikable lead female protagonist who comes across as a frozen tundra until her anointed lover melts the ice surrounding her heart. The story line uses flashes into Hannah's past that reveal how she became the icy duchess. Readers will empathize with her, but wonder what happened to Con who never really comes alive as the lead. Still fans will enjoy the final Huxtable historical with the rest of the extended family making appearances.

    Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A quick read

    To use the Duchess' own word, it gets a bit "tedious" in some parts. An easy read and a happy ending, so if that is what you're looking for, this would be a good book to pick up on sale.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2012

    I was surprised by this book. It really was a sweet story. My fi

    I was surprised by this book. It really was a sweet story. My first read from this author and good enough to entice me to try another title. I actually teared a bit reading this......first for me. :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2012

    Another great read from Mary Balogh

    Mary Balogh writes interesting romance with interesting characters. I always enjoy her books, good light reading.

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  • Posted September 2, 2012

    I did not read the other books in the series, yet. But i thought

    I did not read the other books in the series, yet. But i thought it was a very good book. The story line was different.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2011

    Worth the read

    I generally do not like this author. But this book was just different enough to be interesting. Would definately recommend this one.

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  • Posted October 4, 2011

    A must read

    Enjoyed

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2012

    OMG

    The best!!!

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  • Posted March 26, 2011

    This one is a 'keeper'

    I recycle most of my books but his one is staying in my bookcase. I have read it easily 4 times. I received a Nook for my birthday and now I have it on my Nook, too! The charachters are wonderful and likeable. Do yourself a favor --- read this book!

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  • Posted March 7, 2011

    Highly recommended

    I have thoroughly enjoyed each book in this series but Balogh saved the best for last! Both of the main characters had so much depth and the story was full of surprises. Well done!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2011

    Read in one day.

    I have read other Mary Balogh books, but don't remember one that touched me as much. Strong but inperfect characters kept me wondering what would happen next. Highly recommend.

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  • Posted July 9, 2010

    Better than your average romance novel.

    This book was possibly one of the best romances I've ever read. I have read other Mary Balogh books and thought them often too... well tame. "A Secret Affair" wasn't tame in the least but neither was it wild. Rather it was an achingly beautiful love story. The sex, while definitely there, was not the redundant stuff that is so often put into romance novels just to fill space. Also, there wasn't the typical back and forth of the main characters not wanting to tell him/her that they love them until he/she is sure the other is also in love. Which was refreshing. All in all, a thoroughly satisfying read!

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  • Posted June 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Unique Book

    I really like this book. It took right off from the start. I was a little concerned that this would be my least favorite book that I have read on the Nook, but it wasn't. I was a little dissapointed in the end. I thought there would be more, but I would reccomend it for a nice easy read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2010

    Loved it!

    I didn't want to put it down. I read a lot of historical novels and they tend to be very similar. Like the others in this series, it was a lot about not believing everything you hear. It was really nice to see these two doing something unexpected and totally different than their public persona's would dictate. I think Jonathon would have been very pleased.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Not Worth The Wait

    I am a huge Balogh fan.....but her latest is a complete letdown. Con and his "Duchess" were completely one dimensional and even when we finally got down to some semblance of a plot( after almost 100 pages mind you) I really couldn't have cared less. It's not worth the hardback price.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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