A Secret Affair (Huxtable Quintet Series #5)

A Secret Affair (Huxtable Quintet Series #5)

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781441880512
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 10/28/2010
Series: Huxtable Quintet Series , #5
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Mary Balogh is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous books, including the acclaimed Slightly and Simply series, the Mistress novels, and the five titles in her Huxtable series: First Comes Marriage, Then Comes Seduction, At Last Comes Love, Seducing an Angel, and A Secret Affair. A former teacher, she grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada.

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.

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A Secret Affair 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 276 reviews.
mjva More than 1 year ago
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.
dieseltaylor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Disappointing in the final analysis.The book starts with what I consider a huge error. We are asked to believe that the hero's parents married two days after his birth and he was therefore cut off from succeeding to the title. My strong belief is that the registration of the birth could be registered in any Parish and who would be there to dispute the date of birth? That it happened on the wedding day or after would not be easily disputed. And certainly any lord would want to make sure of an heir.Another implausibility is that after losing her virginity at age 30 she did not discuss it with her best friend who was due to get married a few months later. Or if they did the author does not refer to it in any way. Likely that there was no discussion? Hardly.The book also is a little bit leaden and one things of the lightness of treatment that Georgette Heyer and Julia Quinn exhibit and appreciated what marks out the good from the pedestrian writer. Adding another 30+ pages after the resolution of all the hindrances to them wedding was just an example of the leaden effect. Having said that, it was still a reasonable read and did pluck at the emotions.
bookworm2bookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I reviewed this book for Romance Reader At Heart website:RAH's THOUGHTS AND PONDERINGS: This is Ms. Balogh¿s fifth book in the Huxtable Series, and it is Constantine Huxtable¿s happily-forever-after.In reviewing A SECRET AFFAIR, I was given the opportunity ("excuse") to take a good chunk off my TBR list. In order for me to understand Con¿s happily-ever-after, I decided to read Vanessa¿s (FIRST COMES MARRIAGE), Margaret¿s (THEN COMES SEDUCTION), Katherine¿s (AT LAST COMES LOVE) and Stephen¿s (SEDUCING AN ANGEL) stories first. You don¿t really have to. They each stand on their own, but for me, I wanted to experience the beginning as much as the end of this series.Right at the beginning of the first book, in the prologue of it, Ms. Balogh casts a hook and slowly reels us in with a very mysterious, dark and brooding character of Mr. Constantine Huxtable.¿They had celebrated Jon¿s sixteenth birthday, the two of them, with all his favorite foods, including custard tarts and fruitcake and with his favorite card games and a vigorous game of hide-and-seek that had continued for two whole hours until Jon had been exhausted and helpless with laughter- a fact that had made him ridiculously easy to find when it was his turn to hide. An hour later he had beamed up happily from beneath the covers of his bed before his brother blew out the candle and withdrew to his own room.`Thank you for the lovely birthday party, Con,¿ he had said in his newly deep voice, whose words and expression sounded incongruously childish. `It was the best ever.¿It was something he said every year.`I love you, Con,¿ he had said as his brother bent over the candle. `I love you more than anyone else in the whole wide world. I love you forever and ever. Amen.¿ He had giggled at the old joke.`Can we play again tomorrow?¿But when his brother had gone into his room the following morning to tease him about sleeping late now that he was sixteen and almost an old man, he had found Jon cold. He had been dead for several hours.¿And so we meet Con, a man who stands on a cold and wet day by the grave of his younger brother and says, ¿'You will be able to do without me, Jon?¿ he asked softly.¿By the end of this prologue, I was in tears and couldn¿t wait for the fifth installment; yet, I was so glad to have read the previous four because I got to watch him grow.If you¿ve ever read any of Ms. Balogh¿s stories, you already know that every one of her books is character-driven; therefore, you will be attached to these people, for better or worse. You will be a part of their families, and you will get protective of your favorites. She¿s very good at pulling you into their world and keeping you there, long after you¿re done reading.Through each book, I saw Con from everyone¿s point of view but his own. For some, he was the black sheep of the family; for others, a friend. I was left to wonder, from one book to the next, and finally I got to meet the real hero. I felt very protective of him. I wanted him to meet his lady love, and I had a perfect heroine in mind for him. He needed someone with joy and light, someone to love him unconditionally as Jon did. And then Ms. Balogh gives him Hannah! The beautiful, smug, selfish and spoiled, arrogant, shallow and utterly vain Duchess of Dunbarton, a widow! That is NOT who I want for him! She¿s too cold and calculating, too self absorbed, and this will not do! I want a virginal heroine!For the next hundred pages or so, I¿m frustrated, angry, and sad. I want to be locked up in a room, alone with Hannah, and give her a piece of my mind! How dare she treat Con this way?And then it hit me. How clever of you, Ms. Balogh! BRAVO! You led me a merry chase and let me see Hannah through everyone¿s point of view, except her own. Once you allowed me in, I got the heroine I wanted for Con.If you¿re looking for a `bodice ripper¿ or a very dark story, this is not for you. If you¿re looking for a character driven, multi-layered story with unique and very complex
readinggeek451 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Duchess of Dunbarton, a lovely young widow, is finally past the year of mourning for her elderly duke and determined to take a lover. She settles on dark and devilish Constantine Huxtable. But neither of them is quite what the world believes them to be, and their affair turns into something much deeper.A lovely conclusion to the Huxtable series. Balogh is, as always, a delight.
lrobe190 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hannah, the Duchess of Dunbarton, has recently completed her year of mourning for the Duke of Dunbarton and has decided to take a lover for the season. Hannah was very young when she married the Duke who was decades older than she. She had loved him deeply and he had taught her well, but now it was her time to live. She had her eyes set on a specific lover, Constantine Huxtable. He was handsome and enigmatic and everyone knew that he took one lover every season...and only for the season. That is exactly what Hannah needs...no emotional involvement; just sex. When Hannah and Constantine start their secret affair, it seems perfect for both of them...they enjoy each other's company and become friends as well as lovers. But it is hard to keep emotions at bay for very long and soon both Hannah and Constantine begin to wonder what will happen at season's end.This 5th entry in Balogh's Huxtable series features Constantine Huxtable, the black sheep of the family and does a good job of tying up loose ends in the series. As a stand-alone entry, it is a delightful regency romance full of humor and romance and intrigue. Balogh is one of my favorite regency authors. I especially enjoy her series which feature multiple members of a specific family. Highly recommended for regency romance readers.
adeptmagic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Overall, as you can see from the four stars, this was a great read. A couple minor points:1) if you haven't read the rest of the series, the profusion of names may confuse you. Although this story *can* stand on its own, you'll be better served reading the others first2) if you're looking for an adventurous or exciting read, this isn't it. It's very sweet and tender, but it's a story of the slow growth of two people and their relationship, so there are no fireworks.Now, that said, slow growth is actually one of my preferred tropes and styles, so I don't find the second point a negative, but I know a lot of people do.The dialog is well-written and the conversations between Hannah and Constantine are by turns funny and touching. The portrayal of "Prinny" is a bit stereotypical, but then, that's the function he serves in historicals.Hannah has, at some level, come to believe her own publicity as "The [Heartless] Duchess of Dunbarton." Constantine believes this of her, too, but the more important source of conflict here is her own belief. As the novel progresses, she comes to realize what's inside herself, and that her inner self was as attracted to Con's inner self as her body was to his. She has a lot to overcome in her feelings of separation from society and her fear of getting involved with anyone.This is a lovely story, and I highly recommend it.
phyllis2779 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pretty good regency but it seemed to move somewhat slowly. Balogh repeated certain facts about her characters in several places, such as how the protagonist, Constantine, seemed like a devil. Interesting characters, particularly the heroine. I may go back and see if I can find the rest of the Huxtable family. This seems like it may be the final book in the Huxtable family series.
twehking on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another excellent edition to the Huxtable series.
Cats57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿Secret Affair¿ is the concluding book in the Huxtable Series and as I found while reading the first few chapters, to be very aptly named. This is the story of the darkly mysterious Constantine Huxtable and Hannah Reid the Duchess of Dunbarton and how they become lovers for the spring season.This book has all that its genre requires of it - a darkly handsome and brooding man with a misunderstood past, a very, very beautiful and rich widow, who is vastly misunderstood by the ton. Throw in several well kept secrets, make them kind and caring people (yet another secret to those around them) throw in some extremely mild sex and you have the perfect historical romance. Add to this the wonderfully executed double entendres and witty repartee . And let us not forget the wonderful and much in demand ¿happily ever after¿ and you can¿t go wrong. Except that in some ways it does go wrong. I found myself unable to really get into the story, or even like Hannah and Constantine very much. It took me more than two thirds of the book to become engaged in the story. If I heard Hannah talk or think to herself about how beautiful and lovely she was just one more time¿I understand her affectations were germane to the story but it was overdone to the point that I actively disliked her and I don`t know that I ever really did started liking her. I do think that this dislike of Hannah was the authors intent though. The characters did, eventually, grow to a point that I started to care about them a bit. I actually enjoyed reading more about the secondary characters than I did about Con and the Duchess. I also had a problems with Ms Balogh¿s overuse of certain words such as ¿tedious¿ another affectation of Hannah¿s, and over-emphasizing (placing in italics) of other words. The continual inner-dialogue that Con and Hannah kept having I felt, was a slight bit over done, since it was mostly vain ramblings on Hannah¿s part.This is the first time I have ever read something by Ms Balogh and I find that may color my review since I have nothing else of hers to compare ¿A Secret Affair¿ to. I don¿t know if this book captures her past writing style accurately. If it does, then I¿m sure you will love this conclusion to her series.The book was somewhat redeemed by last 75 -100 pages or so, but not enough for me to think of this as a permanent part of my library.
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MIJul More than 1 year ago
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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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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