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Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives
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Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

3.7 18
by Josie Brown

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Suburbia is a jungle, filled with lots of vicious creatures.

Take the Paradise Heights Women’s League board. Lyssa Harper should have warned golden-haired DILF du jour Harry Wilder what he was getting into when she invited him to meet the mommies who run their suburban, gated community. At least he brought cupcakes. Since meeting the former Master


Suburbia is a jungle, filled with lots of vicious creatures.

Take the Paradise Heights Women’s League board. Lyssa Harper should have warned golden-haired DILF du jour Harry Wilder what he was getting into when she invited him to meet the mommies who run their suburban, gated community. At least he brought cupcakes. Since meeting the former Master-of-the-Universe turned stay-at-home single dad, Lyssa has been his domestic Sherpa, teaching him the ins and outs of suburban life. She just didn’t realize her friends would show up at his house unannounced with casseroles, leopard-print bikini briefs, and plans to rearrange his kitchen cabinets.

The truth is, if Harry and his wife, the neighborhood’s "perfect couple," can call it quits, what does that mean for everyone else? Lyssa’s husband, Ted, is a great father, but he pays her Pilates-pumped momtourage more attention than he does his own wife. Her friends gossip about the neighbors while ignoring their own problems: infertility, infidelity, and eating disorders.

When Harry sets boundaries with his new fan club, he is exiled from the neighborhood’s in-clique. But Lyssa refuses to snub him. What she never expects is the explosive impact her ongoing friendship with Harry will have on her close-knit pals—and on her marriage.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Just in time for summer, Brown's novel offers an enjoyable take on suburban California family life, complete with mommy cliques, rebel teenagers, and, of course, lots of adultery. These women inside their fishbowl are fun to peer in on. the momentum of Brown's writing and plot keeps the pages turning. —Booklist

"Fans of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES will love this story..The quick pace and snappy dialogue make this a fun read."—Romantic Times

"I loved it! Josie Brown captures the highs and lows of love, lust, and marriage with heart-wrenching pathos. I'm recommending it to all my friends as the perfect beach read!" —Lisa Rinna, New York Times bestselling author of Rinnavation

"Poignant and funny! Josie Brown’s protagonist is strong, resilient and unflinchingly honest; she has all the skills she needs to navigate the ‘mean streets’ of the gated community of Paradise Heights. A great read!" -- Wendy Wax, author of Magnolia Wednesdays

"I loved this juicy-as-it-is-heartfelt novel about love, marriage, friendship—and sharp, manicured claws. Could not put it down!" —Melissa Senate, author of The Secret of Joy

Product Details

Gallery Books
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

By Josie Brown

Downtown Press

Copyright © 2010 Josie Brown
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781439173176


“Getting divorced just because you don't love a man is almost as silly as getting married just because you do.”

—Zsa Zsa Gabor

Thursday, 7:32 p.m.

You know how I hate to gossip, but . . .”

That is how Brooke Bartholomew always begins before she launches into a piece of hearsay. She knows and I know (for that matter, everyone knows) that she is the most notorious gossipmonger in our gated community of Paradise Heights.

So, yes, this will be juicy.

“Don't be such a tease,” I answer. “Just spill it.”

“It's about DeeDee and Harry Wilder,” she whispers. “They've split up. For good!”

Her tone has me looking around to see if the leads in Brooke's drama are within hearing distance. But it's hard to tell because it is dark, and everyone, even the adults, is in costume. Witches, Harry Potters, Shreks, and vampires zigzag across Bougainvillea Boulevard, lugging king-size 300-count pima cotton pillowcases filled with all kinds of individually wrapped miniature candy bars. For Brooke, it is not just Halloween but Christmas too: her husband, Benjamin, is Paradise Heights's dentist and will reap what Hershey's has sown.

I check to see that my daughter, Olivia, is out of earshot but still within sight. To my chagrin, she and her posse of five-year-olds are racing up the circular staircase of the Hendricksons' New Orleans?style McMansion. All the girls are dressed as fairies, which in Halloweenspeak translates into gossamer wings and long tulle skirts over leotards. It is inevitable that one of them will slip, fall, and cry, so I cannot take my eyes off them, even to gauge the veracity of Brooke's raw data. For the first time tonight I notice that Temple, DeeDee and Harry's younger child, is not one of the winged creatures flittering in the crush in front of me.

The nickname given the Wilders by my very own clique, the board of the Paradise Heights Women's League, comes to mind: the Perfect Couple. Until now, it fit like a glove. Both DeeDee and Harry are tall, golden, patrician, and aloof. They are Barbie and Ken dolls come to life. Rounding out the family is their thirteen-year-old son, Jake, the star of the Paradise Heights Middle School basketball team. Our older boy, Tanner, is part of his entourage, as is Brooke's son, Marcus. Temple is exactly Olivia's age. With those gilt coiling ringlets and that dimpled smile, Temple is not just the kindergarten set's unabashed leader but beautiful as well, which is why all the other little girls aspire to be her.

While the Wilders seem friendly enough during the social gatherings that put them in close proximity to the rest of us mere mortals, they never engage, let alone mingle. In Harry's case, I presume he thinks his real life—that is, his office life—is too foreign for us to grasp: he is a senior partner in the international securities division of a large law firm, where every deal trails a long tail of zeros. But DeeDee has no such excuse. She doesn't work, yet she pointedly ignores our invitations to lunch, preferring to spend the precious hours between school drop-off and pickup gliding through the posh little shops on Paradise Heights's bustling Main Street. Heck, even the Heights's working mommies try harder to fit in. The overflow crowd at the Women's League Christmas party is proof of that, as are the numerous corporate sponsorships they secure for the school district's annual golf tournament fund-raiser.

Proving yet again that mommy guilt is the greatest of all human motivators.

And now that the Wilders' crisis has been exposed to the masses, DeeDee's force field will stay up permanently, for sure.

“No way! The Wilders?” I say to Brooke. “Why, I just saw them together last weekend, at the club. He didn't leave her side even once. And I know for a fact that DeeDee was at the school yesterday, for the Halloween costume contest.” Although I wasn't there, Ted, my husband, mentioned seeing her. I stayed home with our younger son, Mickey, who has a nasty case of head lice, the scourge of the elementary school set. Not fun at any time, but doubly distressing to a nine-year-old boy on a day in which all class work is suspended in honor of a candy orgy.

To get his mind off what he was missing, Mickey and I spent the morning carving two more pumpkins to join the family of five already displayed on our steps and spraying a spiderweb of Silly String on the porch banister. Ted, who is too fastidious to appreciate our haphazard handiwork, has elicited promises from us both that all of this sticky substance will be pulled off first thing tomorrow morning, before it has time to erode the nice new paint job on our faux-Victorian.

Now, as I keep watch over Olivia's raid on the neighbors' candy stashes, Ted is at home with Mickey, parsimoniously doling out mini Mounds bars. Despite having purchased forty bags of the stuff, neither of us will be surprised if we run out long before the last trick-or-treater has come and gone. That is the downside to having a house that is smack-dab in the middle of Bougainvillea Boulevard, where all things pertaining to Paradise Heights begin and end. Because of this, poor Mickey will have to share whatever goodies Tanner and Olivia bring home. I don't look forward to the fight that breaks out over who gets the Godiva candy bar and who is left with the smashed caramel apple.

“Yeah, well, apparently it happened yesterday morning. From what I heard, he came home early from work so that he wouldn't miss the Halloween parade—and found her in bed with another man.” Brooke waves her little hellion, Benjamin Jr., on toward his older brother, Marcus, who has been trying all night to ditch the kid. Having been an only child, Brooke cannot accept the notion that a thirteen-year-old wouldn't want to hang with his only sibling, especially one seven years his junior.

Frankly, I think all of Brooke's energy would be better spent on some therapy over her own traumas. “My God! That's horrible! Do you think it's for real?”

“Who knows? For that matter, who cares?” Brooke arches a cleanly plucked brow. “Anyway that's the rumor, and it's too good not to be true, so I'm sticking with it. Besides, Colleen was behind Harry in line at Starbucks this morning. She overheard him bickering with DeeDee on his cell. Seems she's asked for a divorce, but he's fighting her for everything: the kids, the house—even the dog! In fact, he also told one of his partners that he planned to cut back his hours at work to prove he should be the one to get full custody. Look, I say where there's smoke, there's fire.”

And they say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Bullshit. What guy wouldn't go for the throat, particularly one who's just been made a laughingstock in the neighborhood?

Frankly, I can't really blame him, since I'd do exactly the same thing. Still, I wonder what he'll do if he does get it all. I'm of the theory that househusbands are born, not made. And they are certainly not made from high-powered corporate attorneys like Harry Wilder, who live for the thrill of the deal.

But I don't say this to Brooke, who wears her sistah solidarity on her silk Cavalli sleeve. If what she says is true, then there is no reason to feel sorry for DeeDee in the first place. Harry is the one we should pity, since he has no idea what he's in for. I'm willing to bet he'll reconsider his stance the first time Jake needs to be carpooled to basketball at the same time Temple has to be at ballet and it's not until they are halfway there that she tells him she's forgotten her tights.

“So, who is DeeDee's boyfriend?”

Frustrated because her reconnaissance is incomplete in this one very important area, Brooke's perfect moue of a mouth turns down at the sides. This is what passes for a frown when your social calendar revolves around standing appointments for Botox and collagen injections. “Since neither of them is talking, your guess is as good as mine. But don't worry, I've got my spies working on it.” She winks broadly.

That trail might be cold right now, but she is a good enough gossip hound that I've no doubt we'll know the answer by the end of the week.

As we pass DeeDee and Harry's authentic-looking Tuscan villa, I notice that all the lights are off and the bougainvillea-wrapped wrought-iron gates are locked. The Wilders did not even leave out the requisite consolation: a plastic pumpkin filled with candy and sporting a sign that begs visitors to TAKE JUST ONE AND LEAVE THE REST FOR OTHERS.

Once again, Brooke is right: there is trouble in Paradise Heights.

© 2010 Josie Brown


Excerpted from Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives by Josie Brown Copyright © 2010 by Josie Brown. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.


Meet the Author

Josie Brown’s celebrity interviews and relationship articles have been featured in Redbook and Complete Woman magazines, as well as AOL, Yahoo, AskMen.com, Divorce360.com, and SingleMindedWomen.com. She lives in Marin County, California with her husband and two children.

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Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
bridget3420 More than 1 year ago
Harry and his wife have separated and living next door to the DILF (Dad I'd Like to F---) is Lyssa Harper. Harry is struggling with the new lifestyle change and there just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day. He's juggling his job, raising his kids and dealing with the fact that his marriage is over. Lyssa decides that the proper thing to do is introduce Harry to the Paradise Heights Women's League Board so that it's members can help Harry with this difficult transition. Soon, he is inundated with help. Help that keeps women flocking to his door. Harry appreciates help but this is all way too much for him which leads him to do the logical thing. He is on the Women's League crap list. The only friend that understand is the Lyssa and pretty soon she starts looking at Harry in a whole new light. She begins to question her own union and wonders which path she wants to take at this new fork in the road called life. WOW! I don't even really know what to say. This was an amazing book that kept me entertained from page one until the end. If you like "Desperate Housewives" you will absolutely adore this book. I would even venture to say that it's better than the TV show. Gasp! I know, I didn't expect that either!
mrsgodiva More than 1 year ago
This is the kind of book that you read and then start looking at your neighbors in a whole new light. This was Wisteria Lane, Peyton Place, and swinging key parties, all tied up in a twisted knot as only Josie Brown can write. This was a thrilling, but scary look at suburbia. It isn't as friendly as you think it is.
Jennmarie68 More than 1 year ago
The title really holds true with this one! There were quite a few secrets that I never expected. The one at the end was a real treat :-) The main characters in this one were pretty well written. There were a few scenes that seemed to be a bit out of character, but as the title suggests there were quite a few secrets, so maybe these were just more of them. I tend to think the best of people, and while I knew from the word go that DeeDee was trouble I never expected some of the other people to take the actions they did. I liked Lyssa, she reminded me a lot of myself in her personality. Harry was also a great character. He was so sweet, except for the scene with Ted on Thanksgiving... That was a different story! The way this story unfolded it was impossible to tell what was really getting ready to happen. Even the end was a bit surprising to me (and I really like to try and figure out the ending). This definitely makes me think twice about my quiet little neighborhood. This was really a page turner as I wanted to see what secret was going to be exposed next, and who it was going to implicate. Believe me there were soooo many... Well worth the read.
GabbyAO More than 1 year ago
I so loved this book! A totally entertaining read. I felt as if I knew so many of these characters -- particularly the mean mommies, who you'll find in EVERY community. I think the author nailed them perfectly. AndLyssa Harper, the heroine, makes so many of the same mistakes in love and longing that we all make. Talk about someone you can relate to! Believe it or not, this is one of those books that you actually hate to see come to an end. That's saying a lot.
martakay1962 More than 1 year ago
This was an absolutely delicious book! It was witty and snarky and a total delight to dive into! There's a bit of language, so for some it might not be the right fit. But those instances are few and far between and personally, for me, the humor and fun of this read far outweighed those instances. I honestly couldn't put this one down and read it straight through...grown up summer fun!
Crazy-for-Books More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel! It blends elements of both chick lit and women's fiction into a delightful story of suburbia - and it is not always a pretty picture! This book actually reminded me a bit of Desperate Housewives - lots of infidelity, backstabbing, secrets, and sex! Just my kind of book! Lyssa Harper befriends her neighbor, DILF du jour (Dad I'd Like to...well you know!) Harry Wilder after he is separated from his wife. He is floundering through life, trying to be a single dad and hold onto his career at the same time. Lyssa really feels for him and tries to help him through life post-separation. To help him integrate into the mommy scene, she introduces him to her friends at the Paradise Heights Women's League Board. Poor Harry - he never had a chance! These women are C-R-A-Z-Y!! Harry is soon bombarded with food deliveries, new clothing in the form of leopard print bikini briefs (yes, for HIM!), and women rearranging his kitchen cabinets and drawers. Harry is forced to draw a line and soon finds himself exiled from the mommies of Paradise Heights. Lyssa continues to be his friend, to the anger of her mommy friends. What Lyssa doesn't expect is the impact that this friendship will have on her own marriage with her hubby (who likes to watch tv sports while having sex - what a great guy!), and her so-called "friends". This is a fast read and a great story. I enjoyed reading about Lyssa and Harry's friendship and the shenanigans of the mommy clique were downright hysterical! This would make a great beach read - definitely recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun indulgence! Great snark, and spot on about suburgatory!
mommybooknerd More than 1 year ago
Fans of Desperate Housewives are going to gobble up SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES by Josie Brown. What happens with the gated community of Paradise Heights will leave you wanting more by Brown. Lies, backstabbing, cheating and carpooling wrapped together with some interesting female characters and one DILF makes for a page turning story. I loved this novel for many reasons...who doesn't like getting carried away in the gossip of suburbia, who doesn't love sex, lies sandal. You may know how the story is going to end, but not how they all ended up there! I promise this will be a guilty pleasure and hopefully your new favorite show come Fall!!!
IHeart2Read More than 1 year ago
3.5 Stars Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives introduces the reader to the wealthy stay-at-home mothers. Or as I referred to them as the "mean mommies". Meet Lyssa, our protagonist. Immediately I liked her. Yes, at times she came across as a bit naive, however I didn't find it to be irritating or a distraction from the story. Next are Lyssa's friends: Brooke, Tammy, Margot and Colleen. Each woman appears to have the perfect life at first glance, but when the reader gets to know them, it's easy to see the flaws each works hard to keep hidden. Lyssa and Harry first meet by accident at the neighborhood park. After several minutes of small talk, Harry breaks down and confides in Lyssa about the breakup of his marriage. From that moment on, Harry and Lyssa become friends. Thinking it's in Harry's best interest, Lyssa decides to introduce him to her friends. Little does she know, this introduction is the catalyst that will bring her to where she is supposed to be. Reading Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives was like watching a television drama. Lots of gossip, back-stabbing, extramarital affairs and pettiness. As much as I liked Lyssa, I did not care for her so-called "friends". With friends like these, who needs enemies? At times, I found myself shaking my head and wondering why these women are taking things so seriously and going to the extreme to getting what they thought they deserved. Watching Lyssa's relationship with Harry continue to grow, despite the "mean mommies", made up for their cattiness. Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, was humorous at times and certainly entertaining. It's a good escape from your everyday hassles as you find yourself engrossed in other people's lives. When the book is over, and you say goodbye to your new friends, you'll realize your life isn't as bad as you think.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed it thoroughly!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book filled with gossip and nosey neighbors! Fun beach/summer read!
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Deidre72 More than 1 year ago
This was seriously one of the worst books I have ever read in my life. We are supposed to feel sorry for the main character and her hardships in her mcmansionville community. It made me want to vomit. She was so smug in her belief that while we should feel sorry for her in her struggles we would all REALLY love to be her and live her tacky, pretentious and shallow life. Probably the worst part of it was that she listed the BRANDS of EVERYTHING from shoes to cell phones and even the shower head!!! LOL as if we CARE!!! The story was lame and predicatable but was mostly lost in fluff anyways. Anyone who wants to see this story actually told well and with quite a bit less blabber should read Wifey by Judy Blume.