Secret Affairs by Suzan Lauder

category Uncategorized 14

Cecilia is at it again. She is giving Lexie a second chance at her infamous matchmaking skills. (or lack thereof) 🙂 Will she have better luck, or will Lexie find her man without any help from Lady Hoxley? To find out more, let’s read the blurb for Secret Affairs, Book 3, of Cecilia’s Mismatches.


Miss Alexandra Hales is much too clever, and more comfortable with her role as the steward for her sister and brother-by-marriage than as a lady enjoying the London Season. Lexie has no need for a husband. After all, what gentleman would accept her as she is? But when Cecilia, Lady Hoxley, pairs her with long-time friend and neighbour Lord Catlin at her sister Cassandra Charington’s summer house party, she finds herself obligated to consider him as a potential husband. At the same time, the enigmatic and disreputable Lord Remington has insulted her not once, but twice! He is a disagreeable man indeed!

When she and Lord Remington happen upon each other in the garden one evening, an argument ensues, which is to be expected, but all changes when the rake kisses her. What a kiss! Yet what about Cecilia’s plans to match her with the likeable yet brotherly Lord Catlin? She has told all and sundry about the match, but can she love him?

For the first time, a quandary lies before her too complex for her reasoning. What is Lexie to do?

Author’s Notes

When Janet B. Taylor and I were searching for a painting for the cover of Secret Affairs, we first chose a Frédéric Soulacroix artwork where the subject had a face that I thought was truly Lexie. That painting was much too costly to use, so we had to change gears. As a second choice, I selected a different Soulacroix where the lady was in a standing pose, but that one didn’t have suitable space for the cover fonts. Janet offered up a similar standing pose Soulacroix painting at the same time as she adapted the current cover for me to see. Earlier, I had passed by the current cover because it was the same gold colour as on An Accomplished Woman. But the transformation to green made it a whole different image. In addition, the lady in “The Rose” was the same model as for my first-choice Soulacroix, the one I thought looked like Lexie, and the rose in the painting suits the story line. I loved it immediately, and it became our cover for Secret Affairs. I’m so pleased with Janet’s ingenuity!

As for the back cover, I always loved this painting, and Janet modified it slightly to ensure James from Secret Affairs was at the picnic.

Now that we’ve seen the front cover painting, let’s look at the back painting that Suzan has always loved. I have to agree. It is lovely!

I always think picnics look like such fun. What about you?

Would you like to read Chapter One? I’m ready to find out more.

Chapter One and Author Information

The first chapter in the book opens with familiar characters if you’ve been reading the series: Cassie is now married to Reeve, and she’s talking to him and Cecilia, Reeve’s sister, about a summer party Cassie will be holding at their estate, Fanshaugh Manor. Our heroine for this book, Lexie Hales, has a habit of listening in on their conversations. We’re also introduced (in absentia) to some other interesting characters that you’ll hear more about when more chapters are posted here at Meryton Press as we warm up to the release of Book Three of the Cecilia’s Mismatches series, Secret Affairs.


1813 July

Fanshaugh Manor, Kent

The words were a blow that Lexie could not imagine held such power. From her position behind her book in the corner of the room, what happened was obvious without the need for her participation. Her older sister Cassie sat poker-straight with her mouth slightly agape, her needlework forgotten in her grip, and stared at her husband as if she could not decide what direction to take. Cassie’s expression convinced Lexie of what was running through her astonished sister’s head: How could Reeve do such a thing so late in the planning of their summer party? Did he not realize how hard his wife had worked to make this event a success?

Cassie’s sudden stiffening was not the indication that would cause him trepidation, oh, no. Her immediate effort to control her features: that thin line of her lips and the slight tremble at the edges of her eyebrows while she struggled to withhold a disapproving glare was the true sign. Cassie was ever the lady. She would always appear unruffled, and when anything agitated her, she would never come out and say so. She would stew over the issue.

Lexie turned her attention to her brother-by-marriage. In comparison, Reeve swallowed hard as though he asked himself whether he could be the reason for his wife’s veiled disquiet. Had her upset been caused by something he had said? The statement was so simple, but Lexie would have asked herself the same if faced with Cassie’s countenance. His mouth screwed up as he, no doubt, considered his words. What in them had forced her to make such an effort at staying composed?

“Thank you for informing me, Reeve.” Cassie’s voice was deceptively sweet. However, Lexie had known her sister since birth, and the knife edge behind the sweetness could be detected with ease if one listened for the subtle tightness in her tone.

“He will arrive tomorrow with Catlin,” said Reeve. James! Lexie gasped and grinned. Her good friend and neighbour had returned at last! How long had James been back in the country? She looked forward to seeing the young earl and asking of his experiences in the West Indies.

“’Tis kind of James to offer him his carriage.” The words had been spoken with such care they took on a strange quality. Cassie was disconcerted, that was for certain.

“Actually, Catlin is coming in Remy’s carriage,” said Reeve. “His own needs repair.”

“Well, then, Lord Remington is very kind. I am sure James is quite grateful.” Cassie’s voice was bright and sharp like the sound a china cup makes when it strikes the saucer the wrong way. Yes, she was nettled indeed!

“They will enjoy each other’s company for the trip.” Reeve glanced from Cassie to his sister. Cecilia was of no aid; she merely pressed her lips together in a smug smile. In truth, she must enjoy bearing witness to his agony. Reeve’s blank gaze returned to his wife of two and a half years.

Her jaw was set. “I must inform Woodbury. She will have to prepare another room and have an additional place set at dinner.” With slow, controlled movements, Cassie lodged the needle into the heart of an embroidered rose, set her work aside, and stood from the settee, elegant in her poise. “Pray, excuse me.” Her smile was one of pleasantness as she dipped her head before she quit the room. Lexie turned to regard her brother.

Of course, the new guest was the difficulty, yet Reeve’s brow was folded and he wore a frown. His obtuse behaviour had become an annoyance in itself! He had to know an item of importance was amiss but had no notion of what that issue could possibly be. How long would the man take to put two and two together? She should give him a piece of her mind. She opened her mouth to speak—

“Reeve, I cannot fathom why you would have invited him.” His sister’s drawl broke the silence. Now Cecilia was adding to the disaster of his apparent faux-pas. In all likelihood, her brother cared much less about the delicacy of his sister’s feelings in comparison to those of his wife.

“I am certain I do not understand you.” He did not try to hide the agitation in his voice.

“You know nothing of how to organize a summer party. Dear Cassie went through a great deal to determine an interesting balance of guests. Now you have caused all sorts of problems.” The exact dilemma! Why did Reeve take so long to understand?

“But Remy is interesting! I cannot see why my inviting him would cause any impediment. Woodbury would have no difficulty preparing rooms for one more.”

Cecilia’s face squeezed together as she put the tips of her fingers to her chin. “It is just not done!” Clearly, she had not thought it over much since the words were sputtered out.

“Why would it not be done?”

Cecilia scoffed. “There are no longer enough ladies.” Yes! Now the table would be unbalanced.

Reeve puffed out a frustrated sigh. “For your matchmaking,” he said to his sister.

“Is there something so wrong with introducing ladies and gentlemen in the hopes of matrimony?” asked Cecilia. Lexie stifled an unladylike noise.

“Cassie never expressed an interest in your schemes before.”

“That is not the point. She has taken pains to invite ladies and gentlemen that provide for a delightful summer party. Personalities and politics, ages and genders, a balance, you might say, to ensure each guest is entertained and comfortable for these two weeks. Another guest plays havoc with her plans.”

“You may explain it as you like, Cecilia, but you are still trying to pair couples for marriage with this balance between unmarried ladies and gentlemen.”

Matchmaking. As an unmarried lady, that scheme might involve Lexie. Due to her disinterest in the marriage state, her preference would be to escape the situation, but she would not be unkind if she was included with the right gentleman. She liked men, but she had never found one suited to her thus far.

“That is neither here nor there. You have married guests as well.” Of course, the married guests were to keep Cecilia and Lord Hoxley company while Cecilia made matches.

When Cassie re-entered the room, Reeve rose with the grace of a cow in the field. Cassie, meanwhile, avoided his gaze while she regained her seat with prim precision and commenced impaling her embroidery with severe strokes. Lexie chewed on her thumbnail. She could not wait for the hidden fireworks to make their way out into the open.

Reeve held out his palms. “Darling, Cecilia informs me that my invitation of Remy has upset you. I assure you that he will be a perfectly amiable enhancement to the group you have invited. He is an excellent conversationalist and diplomatic in his views.”

“I am sure he is.” Evidenced by her crisp words and iron gaze, Cassie was still vexed with him, and Lexie could just imagine Reeve’s vulgar inner protests. A place in her chest ached as she struggled not to laugh.

“We also have another problem,” Cecilia said. “The man is highly inappropriate as a guest at a summer party such as this.” Well! This was interesting. What was so objectionable about this Lord Remington as opposed to any other guest?

“Remy is my friend. I think I should be a good judge as to who is an appropriate guest in my home.”

Cassie pursed her lips. “I am in agreement with Cecilia on this.”

“More serious reasons exist why that man will be a disruption,” Cecilia said.

“Such as?”

“A lady should not have to explain her reasons.”

He threw his hands in the air. “Then I am at a loss.”

Cassie tossed aside her work and glared at her husband. “The man is a rake. There is no limit to the trouble that he can cause.”

Oh! Lexie’s ears pricked up at Cassie’s harsh tone. She had no idea. Was this the gentleman they had spoken about several years ago when Reeve and Cecilia attended a summer party at his home? At that time, he had been considered reformed until he had broken his betrothal. Was that not what had happened?

Reeve was quick to respond. “I too believed him a lost cause, but he has changed.”

“How can you be so certain?” Cassie’s voice was high-pitched. “He has been out of society since he jilted his cousin, and in those barbaric colonies, no less. I know he was your friend at Cambridge, but you must consider the young ladies who will be in attendance.”

“I am in earnest. Have you heard any rumours of his escapades in the last year?” The response was silence. “No, I thought not. He returned to England a little over a year ago, and not one bit of gossip could be scraped together about him since, and that was not for lack of trying, I am sure. He has been serious about his responsibilities at Castle Haberlock and rejuvenating the estate since he took over for his late father. He is no longer a young man in search of quick entertainment. I assure you, he will be a perfect gentleman. If any problem arises, I shall speak with him, and he will leave.”

“Very well.” Cassie consulted her watch. “We should dress for dinner. ’Tis our last family dinner before the guests arrive tomorrow.” Cassie rose, and the others joined her.

As her sister approached the door, Lexie tried to hide behind her book once again.

“You have been quiet, Lexie,” said Cassie.

“I was attending to my reading.”

“A novel?” asked Cecilia.

“I am afraid I do not read many novels. I prefer histories for entertainment, but at the moment, I am studying some information for the estate.”

One side of Cecilia’s lips curled. “I do not understand why you continue to do so. You are well aware that gentlemen prefer ladies less inclined to academic pursuits. My brother must have assumed the estate duties now that he has married your sister.”

“I merely appreciate the complexity of these topics, Cecilia.”

Reeve grinned. “I value her assistance in the affairs of the property, so I do not mind her reading such books. They are ever so tiresome. They put me to sleep.”

Cecilia released a deep sigh. “I shall never understand a bluestocking mind. But I amend my earlier comment. You are a pretty young lady, and your demeanour is ladylike enough to make you interesting to gentlemen despite your proclivities.”

Cecilia was fortunate she quit the room at that point since Lexie was about to make up for her earlier silence by expounding on the importance of her intellectual pursuits as compared to the pastime of  pairing off two people for courtship. A few moments passed before she relaxed her tight fists and returned to her book. She had been saved an argument, which would have satisfied her need to better Cecilia, but time with her blessed learning was much better for her equanimity for today.

The next morning.

The guests were due to arrive that afternoon, but the hour was still early. Reeve was off on a morning ride while the ladies of the house had breakfasted and, save Lexie, were situated in the pink sitting room at their work.

Due to the location of a servant’s passageway that lay between the sitting room and the library, the small family room where Cassie liked to sew was situated in such a way that if one sat in just the right spot in the back of the library with the panel to the servant’s stairs ajar, one could hear every bit of conversation from Cassie’s favourite sitting room. No one ever questioned Lexie’s love for spending time with a book in this alcove of the library: the lighting was excellent and the secluded nook was off to one side from the desk where Cassie attended her correspondence, allowing the two to be in the room at the same time. All she need do was close that panel, and no one would be the wiser to her scheme.

Lexie’s older sister, Mrs. Cassandra Charington, had a reputation for being a quiet, genteel sort of woman with a tendency not to impose on others. Her sister-by-marriage Cecilia was the opposite: well-known as brash and gregarious with no qualms about interfering in the lives of others. Both ladies were intelligent and well-spoken, and Cassie was comfortable enough in Cecilia’s presence that she would speak her mind—in a kind and sweet way, of course. Cecilia was never afraid to give her opinion.

Overhearing a conversation between them was commonplace, and never concerned Lexie. This time, her body gave a jolt when she caught the words of a discussion about herself.

The former Miss Cecilia Charington loved to make matches. In fact, Lady Hoxley, as Cecilia was now known, had come off a successful pairing of Lexie’s younger sister Audra to a duke, though the pairing had been the result of a mismatch with the duke’s younger brother. Later, Lexie interfered and supported the betrothal of her widowed sister Cassie with Reeve rather than with herself, an invasion of Cecilia’s territory as a matchmaker.

In the end, to preserve her reputation, Cecilia claimed Reeve was a poor choice for Lexie, and that Lexie vexed Reeve too much, while Reeve and Cassie made more sense since her brother was a puppy and Cassie was the nurturing type.

Thus, for almost three years, Lexie had managed to escape Cecilia’s matchmaking net. Until now, it seemed. The conversation filtering through the walls was definitely about Lexie and her prospects.

“What about Lord Crooks? The man has striking looks with his slim build, curly hair, and crystal blue eyes,” said Cecilia.

Hmph. His . The man’s affected air with his quizzing glass was enough to make one want to snatch the bauble from his hand and stomp on said article.

“I do not know, Cecilia.” Cassie’s voice was tentative. “I have heard from more than one source that he has a tendency towards dishonesty.”

Yes, the popinjay also lied. Lexie had caught him at it more than once. Rumour was that he cheated at cards as well. Lexie had been told so by a gentleman whose estate bordered Fanshaugh.

“I believe she might prefer someone more like Mr. Poole. He is honest, and a kind man,” said Cassie.

Mr. Poole? Impossible. The man’s intelligence was as existent as a thimbleful of water to a parched desert traveller, not to mention that his balding head and broad brow never failed to be covered with a sheen of sweat. Come to think of it, he perspired enough to soothe the needs of that parched desert traveller. Lexie stifled a groan. He was so simple; she would need to explain every single detail to the man!

“Heavens, no,” said Cecilia, “Alexandra’s intellectual ways will not work well with a man of his mean understanding. Now, Sir Niles Stanchell is a learned man. He ought to be able to discuss anything with her.”

At the mention of Sir Niles, a mouse came to mind, his nose constantly sniffing, and his body twitching with nerves. When she had been seated next to him at a dinner once, he had appeared shy, even though she had coaxed some conversation out of him. He was tall and broad shouldered, but that did not help the squint that marred any chance of him being considered handsome.

“He is too shy, and she is too forward for a successful marriage. I would say our friend James Whitley, Lord Catlin, but they have been friends since they were young. I do not know if their friendship would work well as the start to a romance.”

“Lady Catlin, your Black neighbour’s son?” asked Cecilia. “I am not acquainted with him at all. According to his mother, he is quite the gentleman: intelligent, handsome, charming, titled, and rich. I recall asking her of him at Audra’s wedding.”

“That is correct.”

Better. James had the talent of an excellent conversationalist, but he might balk at her insistence of continuing with her estate interests once married. When challenged, he responded rather good-naturedly, so he suited her need for intellectual stimulation. Without a doubt, she liked him—a lot. He was a possibility. A strong one.

Oh, stop! She did not want to be matched. The endeavour had not proved useful last time, and such a contrived union could not have an acceptable conclusion, even if they were well-suited. At this rate, she would be suggesting Marcus—Lord Broadmead—and though few were aware of the fact, he preferred men!

Determined to end the conversation before Cecilia was able to put any more notions into Cassie’s head, Lexie strode out of the library and barged into the sitting room in a most unladylike manner. “Cassie, I overheard Mrs. Barnsdale speaking of the menus for tomorrow’s dinner. The weather is so hot. Should we not be having a less heavy meal?”

Cassie stared at her sister. It was no wonder. Lexie had never once concerned herself with the menus and always ate whatever was offered.

Yet now Lexie had to deal with Cassie and have her own sanity questioned. Of course, Cassie would never ask about the problem in front of Cecilia, but would she do so as soon as she had her sister alone? Yes. A pinch in Cassie’s lips showed she wished to defend her dinner choices, though she would be delicate about her query.

“Why are you questioning your sister’s meal selection? You have never shown an interest in being a wife and household manager in the past,” said Cecilia in a huff. Goodness, Cassie’s mouth fell open as Cecilia said exactly what must be on her sister’s mind! She must be shocked!

Cassie blinked but recovered. “Cecilia, perhaps you can assist me in choosing something more suitable to this heat.”

Lexie’s distraction worked. Lady Hoxley loved an opportunity to give her opinion. Lexie did not mind. Whether they had to deal with Cecilia’s indignance over Lexie’s questioning of Cassie’s decisions or Cecilia influencing the meals for the summer party, the conversation was diverted from matchmaking. However, Lexie owed Cassie an explanation and an apology.

Soon after, the conversation continued in the same vein because Cecilia, it seemed, was not done with Lexie yet.

Waistcoats that were a threat to the health of one’s vision, a mouse with its nose constantly twitching, intelligence as existent as a thimbleful of water to a parched desert traveller, and a balding head with a broad forehead covered with the sheen of sweat – oh my! What choices are being considered for dear Lexie? No wonder she doesn’t want to be matched!

More chapters will be coming in the next few days so be sure to keep watch. We will learn more about Lexie and her chances of being matched, like it or not!

It’s Giveaway Time

Meryton Press is giving away an eBook of Secret Affairs to one lucky reader. Tell us your thoughts about the blurb, the excerpt, the cover, or all three in the comments below. We want to hear from you! The giveaway is open worldwide and will end at midnight central time on May 2nd.

Cecilia’s Mismatches Series

Cecilia’s Mismatches Series: An Accomplished Woman, Book 1, and The Reluctant Chaperon, Book 2, are available on Amazon in eBook format, paperback, and Kindle Unlimited. Have you read the first two? If not, why not? Secret Affairs, Book 3 will be released on May 3rd. This is the perfect time to catch up on all three! What fun that will be!

Other Books by Suzan Lauder

These books are available at Amazon in eBook, paperback, audiobook, and Kindle Unlimited: Alias Thomas BennetLetter From RamsgateA Most Handsome GentlemanThe Mist of Her MemorySchemes of Felicity, The Barrister’s Bride.

14 Responses

  1. Kelly Miller
    | Reply

    Congratulations Suzan, I look forward to another sparkling read from this fun series! Janet did a fantastic job on the latest cover; all three are gorgeous and look great together. I loved the excerpt; Lexie is a fascinating MC!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Thanks, Kelly, and thank you for stopping by. I loved the excerpt too. I do hope the choices for Lexie improve! Sounds like one may be promising. 🙂

    • Suzan Lauder
      | Reply

      Thanks so much, Kelly! Lexie was fun in The Reluctant Chaperon, but she gets centre stage in Secret Affairs. And wow, she sure doesn’t waste it!

  2. Glory
    | Reply

    Congratulations on the new book. The cover is beautiful!!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Thank you for stopping by, Glory. We’re happy you like the cover!

    • Suzan Lauder
      | Reply

      The lady’s face on this cover was Lexie to me. In addition, those soft silky gowns that Soulacroix does are so fantastic. Thanks, Glory!

  3. KC Cowan
    | Reply

    Congrats! All three book covers are wonderful!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      KC, thank you for stopping by and supporting Suzan. We appreciate you.

    • Suzan Lauder
      | Reply

      Thank you, KC! I agree. The matched covers make for a nice series.

  4. Jan Hahn
    | Reply

    A striking cover! I love the shade of green. The three books together make a handsome set. I so admire Suzan for branching off into her own original characters and plots. I enjoyed laughing at the proposed selection of suitors. What a choice indeed!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      Thank you, Jan. We are pleased that you like all three covers. Suzan has done a great job branching out into a Regency trilogy. She has created some fun and endearing characters. They may remind you of others in the Jan Austen universe. We hope you get to read the books soon. We appreciate your support.

    • Suzan Lauder
      | Reply

      I had a lot of fun with the suitors, Jan. They come from some fellows in the past that I really knew. Oh, yes! They show up later on in Secret Affairs, each in their own way. I appreciate your comment.

  5. Leigh Stewart
    | Reply

    Congratulations, hon! It’s such a fun story! I’m glad others will get to enjoy it too.

    • Suzan Lauder
      | Reply

      Thanks, Leigh. It wouldn’t be the same without you!

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