The Secret Mistress (with bonus short story Now a Bride)

The Secret Mistress (with bonus short story Now a Bride)

3.6 92
by Mary Balogh

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While Lady Angeline Dudley’s pedigree dictates that she must land a titled gentleman, the irrepressible beauty longs for a simple, ordinary suitor. So when Edward Ailsbury, the new Earl of Heyward, defends her honor with unmatched civility, Angeline thinks that she has found true love. Persuading the…  See more details below


While Lady Angeline Dudley’s pedigree dictates that she must land a titled gentleman, the irrepressible beauty longs for a simple, ordinary suitor. So when Edward Ailsbury, the new Earl of Heyward, defends her honor with unmatched civility, Angeline thinks that she has found true love. Persuading the earl is another matter entirely. From her unconventional fashion sense to her hoydenish antics, Angeline is the last woman on earth for Edward. And yet a stolen kiss awakens something primal within him. Naturally, being a gentleman, he does the right thing after compromising a lady: He offers marriage. The proposal is born of duty, but will Angeline cause Edward to forget about decorum behind closed doors, where sensuality and seduction play wicked games? For a proper wife by day can become a husband’s secret mistress by night, when delicious desire rules.

Includes Mary Balogh’s “Now a Bride,” featuring extra scenes from her Mistress series and an excerpt from Mary Balogh's The Proposal.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Here's a prequel to Balogh's popular "Mistress" series about the Dudley family. When Edward Ailsbury, the new Earl of Heyward, saves Lady Angeline Dudley from an embarrassing situation, she's not just grateful—she falls in love. Of course, he takes a little persuading. Balogh is on a tear; she starts the summer out nicely with a two-in-one combo of More Than a Mistress and No Man's Mistress, and in the last year she has debuted higher and higher on the New York Times best sellers list. An Editors' Spring Pick, LJ 2/15/11.
Publishers Weekly
Regency romance doyenne Balogh (A Secret Affair) pairs a staid young nobleman with a vivacious debutante in this top-notch tale. When the headstrong Lady Angeline Dudley, sister of the wealthy duke of Tresham, is accosted by the rakish Lord Windrow, she immediately falls for the ordinary-looking gentleman who intervenes. Her rescuer, Edward Ailsbury, is the earl of Heyward, whose family—unaware of his affection for his bluestocking confidante, Eunice Goddard—plans to match him with the very eligible Angeline. An unusually accurate portrayal of Regency society, laden with colorful period detail, makes a sparkling backdrop, and the supporting characters are delightful. Youthful Angeline's endearing mixture of breathless enthusiasm and hidden insecurity is given the perfect foil in the responsible and rather nerdy Edward, who is perpetually baffled as his rational approach fails to impress the women in his life. The charming mixture of sensual passion and hilarious confusion makes Balogh's delightful tale a must-read for Regency fans. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

“With exceptional insight and uncommon flair, [Mary] Balogh holds readers in thrall. . . . Exquisite character development, sparkling wit.”—Library Journal (starred review and Editor’s Pick)
“Balogh gifts readers with several memorable scenes, inserting wit and passion throughout.”—The Star-Ledger
“Utterly delightful, charming and intelligent—a winner!”—RT Book Reviews

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Mistress Trilogy , #3
Sold by:
Random House
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File size:
3 MB

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Chapter 1


Lady Angeline Dudley was standing at the window of the taproom in the Rose and Crown Inn east of Reading. Quite scandalously, she was alone there, but what was she to do? The window of her own room looked out only upon a rural landscape. It was picturesque enough, but it was not the view she wanted. Only the taproom window offered that, looking out as it did upon the inn yard into which any new arrival was bound to ride.

Angeline was waiting, with barely curbed impatience, for the arrival of her brother and guardian, Jocelyn Dudley, Duke of Tresham. He was to have been here before her, but she had arrived an hour and a half ago and there had been no sign of him. It was very provoking. A string of governesses over the years, culminating in Miss Pratt, had instilled in her the idea that a lady never showed an excess of emotion, but how was one not to do so when one was on one's way to London for the Season-one's first-and one was eager to be there so that one's adult life could begin in earnest at last, yet one's brother had apparently forgotten all about one's very existence and was about to leave one languishing forever at a public inn a day's journey away from the rest of one's life?

Of course, she had arrived here ridiculously early. Tresham had arranged for her to travel this far under the care of the Reverend Isaiah Coombes and his wife and two children before they went off in a different direction to celebrate some special anniversary with Mrs. Coombes's relatives, and Angeline was transferred to the care of her brother, who was to come from London. The Coombeses arose each morning at the crack of dawn or even earlier, despite yawning protests from the junior Coombeses, with the result that their day's journey was completed almost before those of more normal persons even began.

The Reverend and Mrs. Coombes had been quite prepared to settle in and wait like long-suffering martyrs at the inn until their precious charge could be handed over to the care of His Grace, but Angeline had persuaded them to be on their way. What could possibly happen to her at the Rose and Crown Inn, after all? It was a perfectly respectable establishment-Tresham had chosen it himself, had he not? And it was not as if she was quite alone. There was Betty, her maid; two burly grooms from the stables at Acton Park, Tresham's estate in Hampshire; and two stout footmen from the house. And Tresham himself was sure to arrive any minute.

The Reverend Coombes had been swayed, against his better judgment, by the soundness of her reasoning-and by the anxiety of his wife lest their journey not be completed before nightfall, and by the whining complaints of Miss Chastity Coombes and Master Esau Coombes, aged eleven and nine respectively, that they would never get to play with their cousins if they had to wait here forever.

Angeline's patience had been severely tried by those two while she had been forced to share a carriage with them.

She had retired to her room to change out of her travel clothes and to have Betty brush and restyle her hair. She had then instructed her drooping maid to rest awhile, which the girl had done to immediate effect on the truckle bed at the foot of Angeline's own. Meanwhile Angeline had noticed that her window would give no advance notice whatsoever of the arrival of her brother, so she had left the room to find a more satisfactory window-only to discover the four hefty male servants from Acton arrayed in all their menacing largeness outside her door as though to protect her from foreign invasion. She had banished them to the servants' quarters for rest and refreshments, explaining by way of persuasion that she had not noticed any highwaymen or footpads or brigands or other assorted villains hovering about the inn. Had they?

And then, alone at last, she had discovered the window she was searching for-in the public taproom. It was not quite proper for her to be there unescorted, but the room was deserted, so where was the harm? Who was to know of her slight indiscretion? If any persons came before Tresham rode into the inn yard, she would simply withdraw to her room until they left. When Tresham arrived, she would dash up to her room so that when he entered the inn, she could be descending the stairs, all modest respectability, Betty behind her, as though she were just coming down to ask about him.

Oh, it was very hard not to bounce around with impatience and excitement. She was nineteen years old, and this was almost the first time she had been more than ten miles from Acton Park. She had lived a very sheltered existence, thanks to a stern, overprotective father and an absentee overprotective brother after him, and thanks to a mother who had never taken her to London or Bath or Brighton or any of the other places she herself had frequented.

Angeline had entertained hopes of making her come-out at the age of seventeen, but before she could muster all her arguments and begin persuading and wheedling the persons who held her fate in their hands, her mother had died unexpectedly in London and there had been a whole year of mourning to be lived through at Acton. And then last year, when all had been set for her come-out at the indisputably correct age of eighteen, she had broken her leg, and Tresham, provoking man, had flatly refused to allow her to clump into the queen's presence on crutches in order to make her curtsy and her debut into the adult world of the ton and the marriage mart.

By now she was ancient, a veritable fossil, but nevertheless a hopeful, excited, impatient one.


Angeline leaned her forearms along the windowsill and rested her bosom on them as she cocked her ear closer to the window.

And carriage wheels!

Oh, she could not possibly be mistaken.

She was not. A team of horses, followed by a carriage, turned in at the gate and clopped and rumbled over the cobbles to the far side of the yard.

It was immediately apparent to Angeline, however, that this was not Tresham. The carriage was far too battered and ancient. And the gentleman who jumped down from inside it even before the coachman could set down the steps bore no resemblance to her brother. Before she could see him clearly enough to decide if he was worth looking at anyway, though, her attention was distracted by the deafening sound of a horn blast, and almost simultaneously another team and another coach hove into sight and drew to a halt close to the taproom door.

Again, it was not Tresham's carriage. That had been apparent from the first moment. It was a stagecoach.

Angeline did not feel as great a disappointment as might have been expected, though. This bustle of human activity was all new and exciting to her. She watched as the coachman opened the door and set down the steps and passengers spilled out onto the cobbles from inside and clambered down a rickety ladder from the roof. Too late she realized that, of course, all these people were about to swarm inside for refreshments and that she ought not to be here when they did. The inn door was opening even as she thought it, and the buzz of at least a dozen voices all talking at once preceded their owners inside, but only by a second or two.

If she withdrew now, Angeline thought, she would be far more conspicuous than if she stayed where she was. Besides, she was enjoying the scene. And besides again, if she went upstairs and waited for the coach to be on its way, she might miss the arrival of her brother, and it seemed somehow important to her to see him the moment he appeared. She had not seen him in the two years since their mother's funeral at Acton Park.

She stayed and assuaged her conscience by continuing to look out the window, her back to the room, while people called with varying degrees of politeness and patience for ale and pasties and one or two instructed someone to look sharp about it, and the someone addressed replied tartly that she had only one pair of hands and was it her fault the coach was running an hour late and the passengers had been given only a ten-minute stop instead of half an hour?

Indeed, ten minutes after the coach's arrival, the passengers were called to board again if they did not want to get left behind, and they hurried or straggled out, some complaining vociferously that they had to abandon at least half their ale.

The taproom was soon as empty and silent as it had been before. No one had had time to notice Angeline, a fact for which she was profoundly grateful. Miss Pratt even now, a full year after moving on to other employment, would have had a fit of the vapors if she could have seen the full taproom with her former pupil standing alone at the window. Tresham would have had a fit of something far more volcanic.

No matter. No one would ever know.

Would he never come?

Angeline heaved a deep sigh as the coachman blew his yard of tin again to warn any persons or dogs or chickens out on the street that they were in imminent danger of being mown down if they did not immediately scurry for safety. The coach rattled out through the gates, turning as it went, and disappeared from sight.

The gentleman's carriage was still at the far side of the yard, but now it had fresh horses attached. He was still here, then. He must be taking refreshments in a private parlor.

Angeline adjusted her bosom on her arms, wiggled herself into a more comfortable position, and proceeded to dream about all the splendors of the Season awaiting her in London.

Oh, she could not wait.

It did seem, however, that she had no choice but to do just that.

Had Tresham even left London yet?

The gentleman whose carriage awaited him at the far side of the inn yard was not taking refreshments in a private parlor. He was doing so in the public taproom, his elbow resting on the high counter. The reason Angeline did not realize he was there was that he did not slurp his ale and did not talk aloud to himself.

Edward Ailsbury, Earl of Heyward, was feeling more than slightly uncomfortable. And he was feeling annoyed that he had been made to feel so. Was it his fault that a young woman who was clearly a lady was in the taproom with him, quite alone? Where were her parents or her husband or whoever it was that was supposed to be chaperoning her? There was no one in sight except the two of them.

At first he had assumed she was a stagecoach passenger. But when she had made no move to scurry outside when the call to board again came, he noticed that of course she was not dressed for the outdoors. She must be a guest at the inn, then. But she really ought not to have been allowed to wander where she had no business being, embarrassing perfectly innocent and respectable travelers who were trying to enjoy a glass of ale in peace and respectability before continuing the journey to London.

To make matters worse-considerably worse-she was leaning forward and slightly down in order to rest her bosom on her forearms along the windowsill, with the result that her back was arched inward like an inverted bow, and her derriere was thrust outward at a provocative angle. Indeed, Edward found himself drinking his ale less to slake the thirst of the journey than to cool an elevated body temperature.

It was a very shapely derriere.

And to make matters even worse, if that were possible, the dress she wore was of fine muslin and clung to her person in places where it would be kinder to innocent males for it not to cling. It did not help that the dress was of a bright, luminous pink the likes of which shade Edward had never before encountered in a fabric or anywhere else for that matter. The woman could have been seen with the naked eye from a distance of five miles. He was considerably closer to her than that.

He was further annoyed over the undeniable fact that he was ogling her-or one part of her anatomy, anyway. And, while he was ogling her with his eyes, his head was fairly humming with lascivious thoughts. He resented both facts-and her. He prided himself upon always treating ladies with the utmost respect. And not just ladies. He treated women with respect. Eunice Goddard had once pointed out to him during one of their many lengthy conversations-not that he could not have worked it out for himself-that women of all walks of life were persons, despite what the church and the law might have to say to the contrary, and not mere objects to cater to man's baser instincts.

He respected Eunice's opinions. She had a fine mind, which she had cultivated with extensive reading and thoughtful observations of life. He hoped to marry her, though he realized that his family might find his choice disappointing now that he was Earl of Heyward instead of plain Mr. Edward Ailsbury.

His carriage-his ancient embarrassment of a carriage, which his mother had begged him to bring to London because she could never seem to get comfortable in any newer one she had ever ridden in-was ready to leave, Edward could see through the window over the pink lady's head. He had intended to eat something as well as drink before resuming his journey, but she had ruined that plan. It was not right for him to be here with her-though it was not his fault that he was placing her in such a potentially compromising position. And it was not his fault that the ale was not cooling his blood one iota.

Though Eunice might argue with that, about its not being his fault, that is. The woman had done nothing to provoke his reaction, after all, beyond being here with her bright-pink-clad derriere elevated in his direction. And he could have gone to the dining room to eat, though he would then have felt obliged to order a full-blown meal.

He set his not-quite-empty glass down on the counter as silently as he could and straightened up. He would leave and take his grudge against her with him. He had not even seen her face. She might be as ugly as sin.

An unworthy, spiteful thought.

He shook his head in exasperation.

But then, before he could take a step toward the outer door and freedom from temptation and other ills, the door opened from the outside and a man stepped inside.

From the Hardcover edition.

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The Secret Mistress 3.6 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 92 reviews.
salvogurrl More than 1 year ago
I was super excited to read this book, as I read the previous installment (which featured Angeline's brother, the Duke's story, and takes place after TSM) and enjoyed it. This one to me however, was boring, dull, and flat. The hero, Edward, is boring! I don't know how Angeline was so enamored of him when I just wanted to give him a big wedgie and muss up his hair. And, like 15 chapters in and being 3/4 done with the book they had only kissed once. Excuse me?? The secret mistress comes in, when?! Also, I didn't feel chemistry. It may be because I've been on a Harlequin Blaze streak, but I felt nothing between these two. Often, you'll read about the heat they constantly feel, the pull, the attraction, his constant state of half arousal, the need to kiss all the time, but with this book there was nothing like that. They interacted, he'd bemoan the fact that his family was pushing him at her and that was it. Maybe she'd question why the room was suddenly warm but that was all we got as to how they affected each other. And Edward is no where near a rake. In the book they say it's because his brother was too much of one, but we don't really know much about Edward's personal life. He says he's been with a few women, but we don't know sordid details, we don't know if he's still sleeping around. We don't know if he stays awake at night dreaming of Angeline's lips or if he's crushing whichever object is nearest when he's around her in an attempt to keep his hands to himself. It's flat.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Sister to the Duke of Tresham Jocelyn, Lady Angeline Dudley wants a prim and proper gentleman as her husband after being surrounded by rakes. As she waits impatiently for Jocelyn to arrive, fiendish rake Lord Windrow assaults her; Earl Edward Ailsbury rescues her. His family thinks Lady Angeline is the perfect match for him; she agrees with their assessment. No one asked Edward for his opinion. If they did he would reveal his secret love for Eunice Goddard. However Hurricane Angeline refuses to back away from her choice although she hides her doubts. He proposes but she demands passion and feels once she jumps his bones he will not be able to resist. As Angeline brings out the love and beast in her man, Edward brings out the need and desire in his woman. The latest marvelous Mistress Regency romance (see A Secret Affair) is an amusing coupling of a rationalist with a romanticist. Edward cannot understand why logic fails to work in his dealings with emotional women while ardent Angeline cannot understand why her beloved remains prim with her. His behavior amplifies her insecurities. Fans will enjoy this comedy of errors as the proper noble and the spirited lady fall in love. Harriet Klausner
BeachdreamsDK More than 1 year ago
I hesitated in buying this after reading one of the reviews--but I love it! It's refreshing, sweet and fun; she is delightful, he is endearing. And still quite strong and interesting--which is nice for those of us very happily married to endearing, 'ordinary', strong and interesting men! The issue of Nook prices is complex, and quite different from the value of the book itself. Authors who are less well-known--and who could certainly use the money--are charged at a lower rate, while already best-selling authors get higher prices. I fully agree that an author is worthy of her hire, and deserves to be paid. Perhaps instead of charging more, they could be paid more of the e-books retail price, since the total work of the book seller is in providing us with a place to make the purchase. That issue will take years, and will not be resolved here. But--I loved the book!
michellewils More than 1 year ago
I never leave my recommendation BUT this time I had to let everyone out there to purchase this book. I could not put this awesome, wonderful book down. I was so enthralled with all the characters and what happened each time I turned the page. To be loved by such a person as each one in this book did, would be a dream!
sb27 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It is a rare book that has laughing out loud one scene and tearing up during the second. Angie and Edward were a perfect pair and it was delightful getting to know their story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book!!!! Both Lady Angeline Dudley and Edward Aisley, Earl of Heywood, became  very sympathetic, lovable, & enchanting characters, TOTALLY opposite from the vacuous, shallow characters they'd been presented as in "More than a Mistress" & "No Man's Mistress. Plus,. after the epilogue, one is treated to an update concerning all 3 Dudley Siblings and their families!! Again, I found "The Secret Mistress" a thoroughly charming, delightful read!!!
Christi41CO More than 1 year ago
Fun story, Mary Balough at her best.
melly254 More than 1 year ago
This book is not like baloghs ithers. It is really slow... it has taken me two weeks to get through it!
Anonymous 19 days ago
AustenStudent More than 1 year ago
Review is based on a CD version read by Anne Flosnik. I haven’t read much by Mary Balogh—only the Mistress trilogy—though I know she is one of the huge historical romance authors writing today. Her writing style is beautiful and descriptive, with humorous inner dialogue, witty social situations, clever plotlines, and realistic and likeable characters. I just prefer a little something more in my historical romance, and I can’t even quite put my finger on what that is. It’s that quality that makes me want to read every single book an author has written. The first book I read by her, More Than a Mistress, comes closest to my preference but it is still missing a certain something that makes it work for me; I actually felt that book ended too abruptly. Lady Angeline Dudley, the younger sister of the Duke of Tresham, is kind of a ditz, a proper and wealthy lady, to be sure, but she has a sort of Charlotte Palmer* quality about her with her constant good humor, inane chatter, and neglect of decorum in social situations. I suppose you could say she is the ideal socialite of her time. She is a silly young miss excited about her come out and wants to marry a man unlike her father and older brothers, rakes all of them. This is an admirable trait as at least she knows what kind of man she wishes to marry. Still, she seemed all of her immature twenty years. Yet I could feel Angeline’s  loneliness, especially when it’s revealed that she has no female friends. I related to this instantly, and it somehow warmed me toward her. I love her obsession with bonnets, too, and her sunny personality is infectious. Edward, the new Earl of Heyward after his brother’s untimely demise in a curricle race, is a gentleman to the core. He’s a definite beta hero, with his serious demeanor—Tresham calls him a “dry old stick”—his awareness of social decorum and expected behavior, and devotion to his old friend, Edith Goddard, a university don’s daughter. Like Edward Ferrars from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, he wishes to honor his understanding with Edith even as he is drawn to Angeline and Edith is attracted to Lord Windrow, a renowned rake and Edward’s nemesis. Even though Edward isn’t an exciting rake, he’s a genuinely nice man, the sort of man a lady wants to marry. The relationship between Edward and Edith is sweetly portrayed, as they are rather like siblings, and Edith’s covert plans for both Edward and Angeline are clever even as Angeline herself comes to befriend Edith. In a funny twist, Angeline thinks Edward and Edith belong together and tries to bring them together. I just love these little nuances in novels of manners and it’s one of the many reasons I love Jane Austen’s works. Lord Windrow is an unexpected character. He’s an aggressive rake with a smooth style. I especially liked his provocative sparring conversations with Edith and how he becomes enchanted by her calm and lovely personality. Edith’s attraction to him, while very understated, is obvious. The pacing of the story felt a bit slow to me, but I listened to this on CD over a month (read by the wonderful Anne Flosnik) so that might have made the story seem slower than normal. The story takes place in about a month’s time which, given all that happens, seems surprisingly short. But it is a testament to Balogh’s skill as a writer that Angeline and Edward—and even the secondary characters—are so colorful and  interesting and their situation so farcical, that I just couldn’t stop listening. Anne Flosnik, a narrator who has read several books I have enjoyed, does an admirable job with her clear, crisp, and engaging voice. I especially liked her lighter, younger girlish voice for Angeline and her deeper, more cultured and elegant voice for Edith. Secondary characters including Tresham, Angeline’s cousin and chaperone, Rosalie, Ferdinand, and Edward’s family members are all easily differentiated as well as expressing apt emotions at logical points in the story. A sweet and poignant novel of manners, fans of Georgette Heyer, Samantha Grace, Julia Quinn, and Amanda Forester's Marriage Mart series might enjoy. *From Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility
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Avid_Escapist_Reader More than 1 year ago
This was not one of her better books. The conversations were not as witty and I found the main female character to be a bit annoying.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first romance novel I ever read was Mary Balogh (The Huxtable Series) and I loved all of them. This book, however, was very boring. I am about 19 chapters into the book and I am having a hard time finishing it. This book is not a typical Balogh novel.
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I love Mary Balogh’s work. She creates stories that draw you in, making you laugh and cry she leaves you wanting more
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