Balogh, Mary. A Secret Affair. 2010. New York: Dell, 2011.
Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0440245285 | 386 pages | Regency Romance
When an author introduces a beloved secondary character with the intent of giving them their HiEA later at the end of a series, it can be hit-or-miss, something I’ve even experienced with Mary Balogh before, as well as other authors. So, I was almost afraid to be drawn into the mysteries surrounding Constantine Huxtable, should his book be more of the same, but I had to know what it was that caused strife between him and Elliott, the hero of First Comes Marriage. And in that regard, A Secret Affair satisfies that curiosity…and much more.
I love that Balogh once again plays with assumptions and one’s rumored reputation vs. the truth, as she has done previously in the series, this time with both Con and Hannah. On Con’s part, I loved delving behind the rakish exterior to gain an understanding of his bond with his late brother, Jonathan, the previous Earl of Merton, and as well as the good he has been doing with the less fortunate. I also found it heartbreaking how Con’s ways of going about this cause ended up leading to the estrangement between him and Elliott, as well as seeing the two come to terms with one another.
On Hannah’s part, I liked that we had another bold heroine, even if she isn’t immediately popular with the other Huxtables. In fact, I really enjoyed how it led to something of a moment of accord between her and Cassandra, due to the parallels in the way each of them found their partner, and their respective bad reputations. I also was moved by Hannah’s reflections of her marriage with the Duke of Dunbarton, and how it wasn’t as sordid and mercenary on her part as society made out, but a marriage of mutual benefit and platonic companionship.
The development from the pursuit of passion to the fall into love feels perfect, especially as these two complex people uncover each other’s secrets and become more comfortable in being vulnerable with each other. It also culminates in one of the most beautiful declarations of love and proposals I can remember reading.
This is a wonderful conclusion to a more or less great series that deserves a lot more love and praise. I recommend any historical romance readers who haven’t given it a chance to pick it up, with a note that, while the plot itself is self-contained, this is one where the four books of character and relationship development make Con all the more lovable.