The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh
The Secret Mistress
A Novel

This is the prequel to More Than a Mistress and No Man's Mistress. It is Angeline and Heyward's story, for which a number of readers have asked. They are already married in the other two Mistress books, but they seem a mismatched pair though her brothers do admit to each other, in some disgust, that they seem besotted with each other. I decided that it was time to discover for myself exactly how these two came together.

Lady Angeline Dudley is nineteen years old and wildly excited to be making her come-out at last. She is eager to find a husband, but she does not want a rake like her brothers or her father, much as she adores them. She wants someone far more steady. And she thinks she has found him when she is caught alone in an inn taproom on her way to London (very scandalously) and one man accosts her while another defends her and insists that the first apologize. She promptly falls in love with her rescuer, Edward Ailsbury, Earl of Heyward, without even knowing who he is, and decides that she will marry him even without knowing that she will see him ever again. That is the kind of woman she is!

Edward meanwhile is appalled by the indiscreet behavior of the woman he is forced to defend in the taproom, as well as by the shocking pink of her dress. He hopes fervently that he will never set eyes upon her again. He too is on his way to London for the Season. It is time to choose a bride, and he had his mind set upon an old friend, the very staid and sensible Eunice Goddard. Little does he know that his female relatives are lining up a bride for him—Lady Angeline Dudley, in fact, sister of the Duke of Tresham. Even less does he realize that Lady Angeline and the pink lady at the inn are one and the same.

Dell, ISBN 978-0-440-24530 8

In the first two books of this series, Angeline Dudley Ailsbury, the Countess of Heyward, was a background character as the sister of the heroes. But her colorful and upbeat personality (not to mention her unfashionable sense) made it impossible to keep her in the background. So, 10 years after the second of the Dudley brothers' books was released, author Mary Balogh gifts readers with a "prequel" that divulges how Angeline came to be married to the solemn Earl of Heyward. Not only does the story do an impressive job of explaining some of Angeline's eccentricities (her interest in gaudy hats, why she is formal with her husband in public, and why such an outgoing and bubbly woman was so happy with a stodgy and solemn man), but it shows that Angeline's fall into love was just as dramatic and romantic as her brothers'. As she is apt to do, Balogh gifts readers with several memorable scenes, inserting wit and passion throughout.
McClatchy Tribune News Service

Regency romance doyenne Balogh pairs a staid young nobleman with a vivacious debutante in this top-notch tale. 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.)
Publishers Weekly

The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh