Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Secret Affair - Mary Balogh

'The Devil was about to be tamed.' Her name is Hannah Reid. Born a commoner, she has been Duchess of Dunbarton ever since she was nineteen years old, the wife of an elderly duke to whom she has been rumored to be consistently and flagrantly unfaithful. Now the old duke is dead and, more womanly and beautiful than ever at thirty, Hannah has her freedom at last.

And she knows just what she wants to do with it. 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 . . . or so the ton would have it. Rumored to be living the free and easy life of a sensualist in 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. For the duchess and the dark lord each have startling secrets to reveal, and when all is said and done, neither will be able to say which one fell in love first, who tamed whom, and who has emerged from this game of hearts with the stronger hand.

When authors start writing a series there's always one character that stands out and that is usually left for the last books. In the Huxtable series it is Constantine, the illegitimate son whose parents married 2 days too late thus costing him his inheritance. Con has never been bitter about that and the previous books have proven that not only does he not resent Stephen for being the current Earl but he quite likes the whole family and in turn is considered a friend. However we know from book 1 that he is harbouring a secret, a secret that cost him his cousin's (Vanessa Huxtable husband and hero of the first book) respect and friendship as he believes him to have stolen some family jewel and have sired several illegitimate children. There are enough hints that Con is not the guilty one though and Balogh has kept us in suspense of what really happened.

So we knew Con was going to have his HEA in the last book, what we did not know was who his heroine was going to be and what kind of plot we were going to have. She is Hannah Reid, Duchess of Dunbarton, a widow that, after having spent one year in morning, has decided that it is time to rejoin society and find herself a lover. And she has decided that Con will be the one!

Con, who usually takes a new lover every season, isn't too sure that he wants Hannah to be the next one. She is very beautiful but looks like and ice maiden and, it is believed that when her husband was too old to go out she took several lovers who escorted her around town, so she doesn't seem like a nice person. However her continuous pursuit and schemes to gain his attention intrigue him and they do embark in a clandestine relationship. Con is soon forced to review his opinion of Hannah (I thought the little detail that starts changing his opinion was not needed really, I've read too many of those already) and little by little he finds more about who she is and the past that shaped her to be who she is. If the relationship started as purely sexual they soon start caring for the other.

Predictably, in this story, we finally discover what Con was hiding. I thought the whole idea was nice but... a bit too modern? The story has the whole Huxtable clan showing up as secondary characters and Con and Elliott finally settle their differences with Elliott and especially Hannah helping Con solving a problem with his project. I did like to see them all again and this was a nice story to spend an afternoon with. I can't wait to see what Ms Balogh will write about in her next book as it seems the Huxtables are done.

Grade: 4/5

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