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.
I was recommended this one by several friends and when one of them mentioned that this was vintage Balogh I just couldn’t resist grabbing it.
The Secret Mistress a prequel to the Mistress books - a duo of books about the duke of Tresham and his brother Ferdie. In those books appeared their sister Angeline and while many readers have asked for her story it has taken Balogh almost 10 years to write it.
I did enjoy it very much. I wouldn't say it made me feel the same satisfying bliss as her Signet regencies but it definitely has many similarities with those books. Much more than with her more recent titles I think.
Lady Angeline Dudley has been raised in the country and her come out and presentation to the queen has been postponed by her mother's death and subsequent mourning period. Now she is finally on her way to London and she can't wait to finally attend social functions and meet new people. While waiting for her brother at a country Inn she is saved from the unwanted attention of a gentleman by another gentleman. Angeline feels immediately drawn to this gentleman but she doesn't know who he is. Imagine her surprise when he attends her come out ball and is, in fact, the most probable candidate to become her suitor.
Angeline is smitten but Heyward isn't really interested in a young, reckless girl who acts before she thinks and is too flamboyant for his tastes. His only problem is that he thinks she is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen and his family believes she is the right woman to become the countess of Heyward.
I really enjoyed it that these were such different characters and none of them really changes through the course of the book. Angeline likes that Heyward is so different from the rakehells she knows and has no problem admitting that that is what she likes about him. Heyward, on the other hand, is absolutely sure he doesn't want a woman like Angeline. For Heyward there's a journey about coming to terms with his feelings and realise that she is the perfect woman for him. In the mean time Angeline is busy matchmaking him with a friend she believes he loves and trying to get him out of his head. I had some trouble understanding why she would want to do that but I did have some fun with all the plotting that involved them and their friends.
Like most Balogh books this is more about the characters than the plot and I do have to say that Tresham makes quite an impression. Sadly I don't remember much of his story. I guess a reread in the near future is in order. I really enjoyed this while I was reading it.