Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, by Josie Brown

By SMW Staff

And boy oh boy, your stucco palace has all the bells and whistles to prove it.

Too bad you found another Neanderthal in there, with your wife.

But I keep my mouth shut. Because you don’t hit a man when he’s down.

Instead, I let him rhapsodize about how things will be from now on, now that he is home to nurture, protect, and defend. He has already asked his partners at his firm to cut him some slack, he tells me stoically. He’ll go into the office just two days a week, and only during the hours that the kids are in school. His partners don’t like the idea, but hey, they need him too badly, so they’ll work around it. Besides he can still juggle things out of his home office, after he takes the kids to school, right? At thirteen, Jake is too old for a nanny—not that Harry would ever consider that in the first place, oh no, no way in hell! That’s all DeeDee needs to hear to make her case for full custody. He and the kids will muddle through together, everyone pitching in to help out. He’ll position it to them as a family adventure . . .

As for the grocery shopping, or getting Jake to basketball practice, or Temple to her ballet and gym and acting classes, or nursing them when they have fevers, or covering them when their school is out for staff development days—not to mention showing up for parent-teacher conferences—how bad can it be? All it takes is a little planning, some adept scheduling on his Blackberry. Heck, it’ll be a cakewalk compared to flying all over the country in order to take meetings and meals with CEOs and CFOs at the Palm in DC, or the River Café in New York, or the Grillroom in Chicago—

You poor, pathetic misinformed man.

DeeDee certainly fooled you in more ways than one.

I am so tempted to level with him about his new life, to blurt out the truth:

That suburbia is a jungle, filled with lots of vicious creatures.

Gain a few pounds, and the hyenas start giggling behind your back. Don’t volunteer for that field trip, and the silence of those usually sweet-as-lambs mommies who must pick up your slack will be deafening. Forget that it’s your turn to bring the after-game healthy snacks for the little league team, and you might as well not show up because the other mothers’ tongue-lashing will shred you into human tartar.

And you, Harry Wilder, are nothing but fresh meat. So please, please watch your back.

But what is his alternative? To wallow in fear of the platoon of Pilates-pumped Amazons who commandeer the streets of Paradise Heights in their Lexus LXs or their Benz GLKs, and pray that he doesn’t say or do something so DI (domestically incorrect) that his kids will be ostracized until they leave home for college?

Or, perhaps it would be better to seek out the other househusbands in the neighborhood.

I wince at this thought. There are just two of them: Calvin Bullworth, a software geek who is such a hermit that he’s rumored to be a cyberterrorist under house arrest. His wife, Bev Bullworth, is the Heights’ number one realtor. (Her motto: “No Bull, Just Better Service!”) Unfortunately, this means that she is always in other peoples’ houses with strangers, and rarely home with Cal and their two children: Sabrina, who at twelve and a half is already a study in disaffected Goth; and Duke, her ten-year-old brother, who, unfortunately, has the sallow demeanor and social skills of his father. The poor kid gets crammed into a lot of school lockers.

And then there is Pete Shriver, the Heights’ househusband extraordinaire: a trust fund baby—yes, he’s heir to the Shriver Tectonics fortune—he has immersed himself in all things Paradise Heights. As the coach in the Paradise Heights Middle School basketball team, he has led the Red Devils to three undefeated seasons straight. At the annual Heights July Fourth Blazin’ Barbecue Cook-Off, his melt-in-your-mouth brisket, prepared on a fifty-four-inch professional Lynx grill, brings home the blue ribbon every time. Under his tutelage, the Paradise Heights communal vegetable garden is not only shorn of errant weeds, but any members who don’t work their gardens prodigiously. And as the editor of the Boulevard Bugle, his editorial series on the aesthetic advantages of authentic antique gas lamps versus newer aluminum faux versions inspired the community drive that ante’d up the four thousand dollars needed to cover their additional cost . . .

Oh sure, Pete is a dynamo . . .

Although he’s rumored to be somewhat less energetic in the bedroom, which is perhaps why his wife, Masha—a Russian mail order bride—is the neighborhood slut. And to everyone’s dismay, their thirteen-year-old daughter, Nastassia, is rumored to be following in her footsteps.

I don’t have the heart to break the news to Harry about his new band of brothers. Not that he’d believe me anyway, even if I did set him straight. No, it’s best that I ease him into this new world order.

As we round up the dogs and the kids and say our goodbyes, I suggest that we make a play date for Olivia and Temple for the middle of next week. Harry, grateful, promptly says yeah sure, then flips through the agenda on his Blackberry and thumbs that in, along with my cell phone number.

He is now officially a househusband.

His next task: File for divorce.

“I’ll never understand why this all happened in the first place,” he murmurs with a shake of his head. “I thought I gave her the life she always wanted. I guess I was wrong.”



Josie Brown is also’s Relationships Channel Editor. Her previous novels are IMPOSSIBLY TONGUE-TIED and TRUE HOLLYWOOD LIES. You can read excerpts of all her books on her website:

Here’s what SMW’s Book Bloggers are saying about SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES:

“If you like Desperate Housewives, then you’ll fly through this gossipy novel full of Wisteria Lane-esque characters living in a suburban jungle. Lyssa Harper, a stay-at-home-mom living in California’s posh Paradise Heights community, befriends the neighborhood DILF (Dad I’d like to…) after his wife leaves him. Suddenly their friendship has Lyssa’s catty “momtourage” talking, her place on the women’s league board in jeopardy and her own marriage seriously in question. Brown entertains up to the satisfying ending in this lively novel.Kristin Contino,

“Just in time for summer, Brown’s novel offers an enjoyable take on suburban California family life, complete with mommy cliques, rebel teenagers, and, of course lots of adultery….The momentum of Brown’s writing and plot keeps the pages turning.”-Booklist

“Already touted as the perfect summer beach read, this character driven (sometimes steamy) book can best be described as the offspring of an affair between Desperate Housewives and a Jennifer Weiner novel….A quick look into the sometimes catty world of wealth where priorities get shifted, friendships get broken and marriages, like their mansions, get rearranged. It was light and fluffy (with some excellent dialogue.)…This coven spread gossip like wild fire, fight like verbal wrestlers and plot like army generals to put together the very confused puzzle of Harry’s love life.” —

“If you’re going on vacation, grab a copy of this and veg out on the beach. But be warned you will lose all track of time while reading so be sure you’re reapplying sunscreen! I devoured this book!  I seriously could not put it down for the entire time I was reading it…. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that this is a bestseller this summer – it’s really that excellent. –

“Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives is a look at the dark underbelly of the moneyed suburbs where extramarital affairs run rampant. The pitiful “Desperate Housewives” style attempts at attracting newly single Harry make are both hilariously funny and deeply disturbing. The book is surprisingly deep at times and gloriously scandalous throughout.

Each chapter starts off with a famous quote about marriage. These aren’t romantic, gushy quotes, but rather funny and realistic ones that pair nicely with the tone of the book…

Denial runs rampant in Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, which is on par with reactions to real life relationship problems as a general rule. It’s almost scary how much you can see the traits of people you know in these characters.

Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives is a funny, touching book with a down and dirty tell-all feel. Frivolity and deeper meaning collide in this book, making it a surprising treat.” –

” This was an amazing book that kept me entertained from page one until the end. If you like “Desperate Housewives” you will absolutely adore this book. I would even venture to say that it’s better than the TV show.  Gasp!  I know, I didn’t expect that either! –Readaholic

“This is the perfect summer read.  I completely lost myself in this one and I really think a lot of this story is based on fact.  Take one gated community and mix it with too much money, quite a few unsuspecting spouses, some infidelity and there you have it:  perfect summer read.  Even the community’s name of Paradise Heights has to signal that all is not right here.  Lyssa is a likely heroine in that she always tries to do the right thing and doesn’t even realize her own husband is taking advantage of her good nature.  I look forward to another book by this author and will have to go search out her first two novels.” —

“This is a fast read and a great story.  I enjoyed reading about Lyssa and Harry’s friendship and the shenanigans of the mommy clique were downright hysterical!  This would make a great beach read – definitely recommended!” –Four Star review from

“Reading Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives was like watching a television drama. Lots of gossip, back-stabbing, extramarital affairs and pettiness . . . . Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, was humorous at times and certainly entertaining. It’s a good escape from your everyday hassles as you find yourself engrossed in other people’s lives. When the book is over, and you say goodbye to your new friends, you’ll realize your life isn’t as bad as you think.” –Me, Myself and the Couch

“I found this book to be vastly entertaining. It is a truism that when you have any group formation, whether it be high school or a neighborhood league, cliques will form. Anyone who tries to move out of their “place” in the clique will suffer at the hands of the leader until they firmly stand up to and find they just don’t care any longer…Life does tend to teach us that settling for second best is perhaps not the wisest choice.” –

“I got this Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives and a cold at the same time. The timing couldn’t be better, as it was OK for me to stay in bed all day with this compulsive read. This book is about upper class families, specifically spousal dynamics dealing with issues of adultry. The story also includes powerfully strong friendships, parenting (from preschoolers thru teens), and community activism.

The book is witty, clever, over-the-top but also believable. I highly recommend this book if you want to lose yourself in some funny fiction. It’s a great beach read, if you’re home with a cold, or anytime.” — Princess, Vine (TM) Program (5 stars)

“This timeline in this book was from Halloween until New Year’s – and I found that to be pretty realistic when it comes to the rumor mill and how fast some people can change loyalties.  I am not sure what I found so fascinating about this book, but I could not put it down. I wanted Lyssa to have the life that she really wanted – not the life that she had accepted…This would be a great book to take to the beach – it is easy to follow – fast-moving – and entertaining.  I will be recommending this one this summer.” —Books and Needlepoint

“I was never bored with the characters and never wanted to put this book down. I loved how each character is developed enough that we feel like they are our actual neighbors! I think every neighborhood has that group of catty women that make life a bit more..erm..challenging for the rest. Right?… I rated this one a 4/5!!! —Must Read Faster

“As intriguing as this synopsis is, it doesn’t do the book justice. Even though it’s 352 pages and I have a ten-month-old, I finished it in two days. Granted, I didn’t get any dishes or laundry done- but I couldn’t. Not since Twilight have I been so engrossed in a book (or so in love with the male lead) and I was unable to put it down!… Oh,  and spoiler alert: at the end, there’s a moment where your jaw will literally drop. I actually said OUT LOUD, “Oh hell no.” as I realized what was about to happen.

It’s a great book and I really wish I had a copy to giveaway.. but I liked it too much to giveaway my copy and they didn’t send me an extra one. Sorry y’all! I really hope you’ll hop on over to Amazon and get your copy. Please do- I need someone to talk about this book with! It’s killing me.(Not Quite) Susie Homemaker

“…Brown has drawn a convincing and accurate picture of the malaise that infects certain bits of suburbia from the former exec who runs the neighborhood board with an iron fist to the outrage that erupts when children are hurt (even just in the normal course of growing up). She has balanced the seeming frivolity of the stay at home mom’s day with the frenzied activities and the masterful planning that is involved in running a family. Her main characters are sympathetic and likable. The plot clips along. And the subtle (and not so subtle) look at stagnant marriage offers a bit of food for thought throughout as Lyssa and Harry negotiate the minefield that is modern suburbia. I gulped this down in less than a day in between driving my kids hither, thither and yon and enjoyed the experience greatly. It is escapist and light and as satisfying as a cold drink by the pool. And from the way Harry is described, he can be my pool boy whenever he wants!” — Book’n Around

“SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES is like Desperate Housewives come to book form, but with a bit more humor. In this story, Josie Brown has managed to create a robust mix of drama and humor to keep the reader entertained from page one straight through to the end. Looking for a hint of drama? Move on. Looking for drama oozing from every crack and crinkle of a book? This is the book for you.

Honestly, my favorite part of SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES were the quotes prefacing each chapter. I’m fairly certain that I used up all of my “that’s so true” statements for the rest of my life. Some of the quotes left me pondering while others had me practically rolling on the floor. I think Ms. Brown could easily sell this book just with the collection of quotes alone. The story underneath happens to be icing on the cupcake.

The story in a nutshell involves, like all good romantic dramas, a guy and a girl. Suburban housewife gets to know single and very attractive stay at home dad. At first her friends adore him, but later they turn their backs on him. Lyssa (our housewife) can’t help but find herself attracted to him, however. Harry (Mr. Hot and Single) seems to be filling a little hole inside herself. One might ask – what’s the big problem here? Well, when neighborhood rules are set in stone dictating that each woman does what the other women decide, going against the grain can have dire consequences. Plus, her friendship with Harry might not have positive results on her marriage, either.

There were moments in this book where I sat forward, anxious to figure out what our hero and heroine would discover or where there relationship would head. There were other moments where my face was stuck in a permanent O position – “Oh no he/she just did not do that!” Ms. Brown has a great ability to tug at our emotions and lead us on a wild ride right alongside her characters.

Now, if you’re looking for something lighthearted and quick, this might not be the book for you. Drama aside, SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES, does actually get a bit deeper at times. There is more to every woman (and man) in the story than simply what we see on the surface. A beautiful couple might have a troubled marriage and your gorgeous neighbor might actually be hurting more than anyone knows. Ms. Brown gives us an entertaining story – that’s for sure – but she also gives us a real one.

I recommend this to any fans of Women’s Fiction or Chick Lit. This is a story that will touch your heart and get your anger rolling. With the good comes the bad and both deception and hope touch the lives of the characters in SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES. —

Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives is funny, moving, and more realistic than the Desperate Housewives drama it’s being compared to. Lyssa, the main character, is likable and compassionate – a stark contrast with the mean girls-turned-mommies in their upscale neighborhood. She takes abandoned dad Harry under her wing, and the two become friends. From the start, it seemed to me there would be more to their relationship than meets the eye. There are a few surprises along the way, and things find a way to fall into place at the end. –-Just Another New Blog

The Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives was a great beach book on vacation.  Think “Desperate Housewives,” season 1.  It has all the drama without any of the silliness and preposterous twists that followed that season.

I loved the characters, the plot, the dialogue, but especially the chemistry between all the different players in this tale of manipulation, divorce, and upscale community politics.  And, to be honest, it rings true, which is both a good and a bad thing.  Once you get into it and witness firsthand the backstabbing and the games that people play (to get what they want and to hurt other people), you’ll know exactly what I mean.  It also makes you feel a little naughty and a little guilty, as you are a silent observer into all their lives, privy to their secrets and skeletons.  I love that.

This novel serves as a well-deserved escape from your daily life.  You’ll get lost in the story, as I did, and find yourself zipping through The Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives.  I spent a good many hours poolside, buried in this book….Thank you, Josie Brown!” —

“Josie Brown paints the Women’s League as a mix of Desperate Housewives with the close friendships, rivalries and the undercurrent of sex.  These women are beautiful, youthful and fashionable and they intend to stay that way if it kills them.  Honestly, I enjoyed the banter and bitchiness of these friends. As this circle of friends draw in the former Master of the Universe and soon-to-be-divorced Harry Wilder, sparks fly, rivalries flare up, and hilarious situations abound. Lyssa starts out helping Harry navigate the mysterious world of Paradise Heights and parenting.  As  their children become fast friends, Lyssa and Harry do as well.  This friendship brings both complications and rewards — and it brought me quite a lot of chuckles.

Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives is a fun, light read.  Josie Brown pokes fun with a deft touch and will leave you chuckling.”  –Starting Fresh NYC

“…If you are into Desperate Housewives, you will love this book!”  –Lorrie  Jeanne’s Ramblings

“The title really holds true with this one! There were quite a few secrets that I never expected. The one at the end was a real treat :-) …The way this story unfolded it was impossible to tell what was really getting ready to happen. Even the end was a bit surprising to me (and I really like to try and figure out the ending). This definitely makes me think twice about my quiet little neighborhood. This was really a page turner as I wanted to see what secret was going to be exposed next, and who it was going to implicate. Believe me there were soooo many. Well worth the read.” — Just Jennifer Reading

“This was an absolutely delicious book!  It was witty and snarky and a total delight to dive into!  There’s a bit of language, so for some it might not be the right fit.  But those instances are few and far between and personally, for me, the humor and fun of this read far outweighed those instances.  I honestly couldn’t put this one down and read it straight through…grown up summer fun! — Marta’s Meanderings

“First things first – this is my FAVORITE “fun” read so far this year!  This book is cool and fun and sexy without being TOO, if you know what I mean!…A great, fun read!  I would definitely recommend it.” — Knitting and Sundries

“I found this book to be a fun summer read.  I’m not too ashamed to admit that I love me some Real Housewives tv shows… and this book falls along the same vein.  (This is also the first book I have read with praise from Jackie Collins on the cover… so there you go).  While the story mainly follows Lyssa, you also get to know the other residents of her commuity.  I really like Lyssa as a main character.  She has heart and a good head on her shoulders.  It’s easy to see how she has gotten into a life that she’s not 100% thrilled with (haven’t we all be there one time or another).   If you are looking for something fun and quick for the beach… this would be a good choice. — Quick Thoughts…Because Who’s Got Time for More?


“…Josie Brown, author of “Complete Idiot’s Guide To Finding Mr. Right,” read from her new effort, “Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives.” This is a tale of the disillusionment and disintegration of a marriage. In vivid imagery, the verse she read was touching, biting, and sad. It depicts modern marriages’ “grass is always greener” syndrome, and how everyone desperately attempts to validate themselves, even at the expense of others…” — Epoch Times

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