From the BLURB:
As a lover of animals and nature, Beatrix Hathaway has always been more comfortable outdoors than in the ballroom. Even though she participated in the London season in the past, the classic beauty and free-spirited Beatrix has never been swept away or seriously courted.and she has resigned herself to the fate of never finding love. Has the time come for the most unconventional of the Hathaway sisters to settle for an ordinary man - just to avoid spinsterhood?
Captain Christopher Phelan is a handsome, daring soldier who plans to marry Beatrix's friend, the vivacious flirt Prudence Mercer, when he returns from fighting abroad. But, as he explains in his letters to Pru, life on the battlefield has darkened his soul - and it's becoming clear that Christopher won't come back as the same man. When Beatrix learns of Pru's disappointment, she decides to help by concocting Pru's letters to Christopher for her. Soon the correspondence between Beatrix and Christopher develops into something fulfilling and deep.and when Christopher comes home, he's determined to claim the woman he loves. What began as Beatrix's innocent deception has resulted in the agony of unfulfilled love - and a passion that can't be denied.
‘Love in the Afternoon’ is the fifth and last book in Lisa Kleypas’s ‘Hathaways’ series. As a HUGE Kleypas fan-girl I can unequivocally pledge that this is one of her finest novels to date.
I was very sad to begin ‘Love in the Afternoon’. I, and many fans, have fallen hopelessly in love with the Hathaway clan. They came from humble country beginnings, thrust into ton society with the unexpected death of a distant relative which passed a Lordship title to the only male Hathaway, Leo. With the death of both their parents still fresh in their hearts, the rambunctious Hathaway clan traipsed to Stony Cross to accept responsibilities none of them were equipped for. Amelia, the eldest Hathaway, who was forced to become surrogate mother to her sibling brood. Winifred, who was still frail and feeble, recovering from an illness which killed Leo’s beloved fiancé leaving him to drown in grief. Poppy, the beautiful middle sister who only wanted to find contentment and safety in marriage, the same as her parent’s had. And youngest Hathaway, Beatrix, who found more in common with animals than the debutante’s she was forced to socialize with.
I've read all of their trials and tribulations, heartbreaks and triumphs. Amelia who found love with gypsy-man, Cam Rohan. Win and her childhood crush, Merripen. Poppy and her unconventional rogue husband, Harry Rutledge. Leo and his unlikely pairing with tight-lipped governess, Catherine Marks...
I was reluctant but insanely curious to see how it would all end with the littlest Hathaway, Beatrix.
I admit to going into ‘Love in the Afternoon’ with trepidation, mostly concerning the book’s heroine. For four novels now, Beatrix has been an entertaining and charming Hathaway edition... she was always in the background of her sibling’s books; a gentle-hearted tomboy who never met an animal she didn’t love. But I wondered how she’d be as a romantic heroine, rather than just a bit of comic relief. I think Lisa Kleypas had a very hard task in writing Beatrix’s story, in making her character more than just the affable little sister with a sunny disposition... and I am delighted to say that Kleypas not only makes Beatrix into a stunning romantic lead, but ‘Love in the Afternoon’ is an example of Kleypas at her very best.
Beatrix has been writing letters to Captain Christopher Phelan as he fights in the Crimean war. Beatrix writes of the Stony Cross forest, the smell of autumn, the local livestock auction and singing her stockinged feet by the hearth. Her words are a balm to Christopher who is miles and miles away, fighting in a war he doesn’t believe in. When he reads Beatrix’s letters of banal country life, creature comforts and home he is transported and given a moment of reprieve. From Christopher, Beatrix reads about fighting the Russians, disease spreading through the trenches, and Christopher’s faithful canine friend, Albert, who carries messages along the line.
Letter by letter, word by word, Beatrix and Christopher fall in love.
Only, Christophe doesn’t know it is Beatrix he’s writing to. Christopher is under the impression that he is writing to the beautiful and flirtatious Prudence Mercer. He does not know that Pru was bored by his letters and annoyed with his gloom. Christopher doesn’t know that it was Beatrix who happily took up the task of writing to him, offering him relief on the page. He doesn’t know, until he receives this cryptic letter;
Dearest Christopher,Thus begins one of the most charming and heart-rending historical romances I have ever read.
I can’t write you again.
I’m not who you think I am.
I didn’t mean to send you love letters, but that is what they became. On their way to you, my words turned into heartbeats on the page.
Come back, please come home and find me.
I loved Christopher and Beatrix’s unconventional and complicated courtship – the letters between them are beautiful to read and clearly a progression of feelings developing. It is a tangled web Beatrix weaves for herself, especially because Christopher doesn’t actually *like* her. Christopher is an upstanding gentleman, and before leaving for war he met and was unamused by Hathaway antics, especially Beatrix’s, commenting that she belonged more in a stable than a drawing room.
“You do not know Beatrix. You haven’t spent nearly enough time with her.”The first half of the book is all about Christopher’s return home, and his hunt for the ‘Pru’ of the letters. But when he meets the vapid and narcissistic Prudence Mercer, Christopher quickly realizes she is not his beloved letter-writer.
“I know that she’s unruly, opinionated, and far more cheerful than any reasoning person should be. She wears breeches, climbs trees, and roams wherever she pleases without a chaperone. I also know that she has overrun Ramsay House with squirrels, hedgehogs, and goats, and the man unlucky enough to marry her will be driven to financial ruin from the veterinary bills. Would you care to contradict any of those points?”
Audrey folded her arms and gave him a sour look. “Yes. She doesn’t have a squirrel.”
Christopher’s hunt for Beatrix, his lettered love, is not the crux of the book however. The real, juicy storyline has to do with Christopher reconciling his time in the war with his new civilian life.
The Crimean war changed him – he has bouts of anger, night terrors and jumps at loud sounds. He is a man recovering from post-traumatic stress, without current psychological jargon to articulate his problems. Therein lays the heart of ‘Love in the Afternoon’, as Christopher struggles with himself in the wake of war. And who better to comfort, care and love him than Beatrix Hathaway whose tender patience has healed many winged and four-footed creatures.
I love, love, loved this book! I was worried about Beatrix as a womanly heroine, having read her for four books past as an entertaining little sister to the other Hathaway’s. But in ‘Afternoon’ Beatrix sheds all of her girlish attributes and is a dashing heroine. She and Christopher have a beautiful, burning love and plenty of sensual scenes that banish all thoughts of immaturity. I LOVED them!
I was sad to read the end of the ‘Hathaways’, but ‘Afternoon’ is a fitting conclusion to a wonderful series and I only feel a great sense of closure as the series ends with Christopher and Beatrix’s romance. I had a tear in my eye and breathed a happy sigh of relief at the last page.