There are mistresses, and there are homewreckers. We often believe that the only thing distinguishing one from the other is revelation. The mistress is the hidden, secret lover, but the homewrecker is the same woman splashed on every tabloid cover with her baby — his or not — suddenly labeled “love child” in alarmingly large and yellow type.

All About Love: Anatomy of an Unruly Emotion by Lisa Appignanesi. 416 page. W.W. Norton & Company. $28.95. Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman by Elizabeth Abbott. 528 pages. Overlook. $30.

Secrecy is the mistress’s goal — a removal not only from the covers of magazines but also from the way we wear our marriages in our jobs and social circles and community. But the homewrecker wants this exposed chaos and splintering. And the tabloid culture is all too happy… More…