Love In The Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas
Series: The Hathaways #5
Also in this series: Tempt Me at Twilight, Married By Morning
Publication Date: June 29th 2010
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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...
I have to be honest and say I wasn’t really looking forward to this book until the very end of the last book. Up until that point, Beatrix still seemed very young to me. Even after the last book I still had reservations about her as a heroine.
I should have had more faith in Kleypas. Both Beatrix and Christopher were delightful. I loved the premise behind their romance. The letters they exchanged really set up the romance beautifully. It was easy to see how they’d fallen in love with each other as Christoper was at war, and Beatrix waiting at home for him. Those first few chapters were so emotionally charged they pulled me in completely.
But Christopher doesn’t realize it’s Beatrix he loves. Because Beatrix has been writing her letters in the name of her friend, Prudence Mercer. Pru shared Christopher’s first letter with Bea and it was obvious to her that he needed someone to correspond with. The selfish and shallow Pru didn’t want to hear tales of war, and refused to respond to him. So Bea offered to do it instead, agreeing to signing Pru’s name to the letters.
When Christopher returns home he expects to find Miss Prudence Mercer waiting for him. He knows she loves him, just as he loves her. But Pru isn’t there waiting, and he realizes he needs time to decompress before going to her in London. That’s when he runs into Beatrix Hathaway. He’s always thought Beatrix was unconventional, and not in a good way. He’s surprised to see she’s grown into a beautiful woman, one he desires. Not that it matters, since it’s Prudence he loves. But still, he’s a man and he noticed. He also starts noticing other things about Beatrix – how comfortable she is to be around, how understanding she is, and how much she challenges and frustrates him.
Once he reaches London it isn’t long before he realizes Prudence Mercer did not write the letters he received. She’s nothing like the woman he corresponded with. But who then? Certainly not..Beatrix Hathaway?
Christopher is a young, foolish, vain boy when he leaves for war. He’s what you would expect a spoiled, entitled man to be. But the things he sees in battle change him. He comes home with darkness in him, and a better understanding of himself and the word. It was really interesting seeing the way he matured. He also suffers from PTSD. I think Kleypas did a really excellent job of showing how that effects a soldier.
Beatrix was everything I expected from the earlier novels – loving and caring, helpful and more interested in animals than humans. She was also stronger and much more mature than I expected. I guess I always saw her as the youngest Hathaway, always into mischief and taking care of animals, so I didn’t think of her as a woman. She feels terrible guilt over writing letters to Christopher as Pru, but she just couldn’t not write to him. It was easy to see how something that started innocent got out of hand the longer it went on.
I loved that they admitted their feelings for each other early on. Neither of them play coy, or try to deny what’s between them. Christopher is worried that he’s too damaged for Beatrix. Not in a “I’m a martyr” kind of way, but he has very real concerns that, as a result of his PTSD, he might hurt her at some point. He’s against marrying her because he’s afraid of himself. But he doesn’t deny that he loves her, or try to pretend his feelings aren’t what they are, or try to push her away. I loved that.
I also loved how Beatrix stood beside him and pushed him to get better. She didn’t let him wallow in his misery, or fall into depression. She was just exactly what he needed.
Though this was a darker novel than some of the others in the series, it still had moments of great humor. There’s one scene in particular where I was literally laughing out loud. I won’t spoil it, but it has to do with squirrels. You’ll have to read it yourself to see what I mean.
It was lovely to see the Hathaway’s again, as always. The family is so quirky and strong. I adore them. Kleypas once again managed to include scenes with them without taking away from the main romance, which was great.
One last thing I have to mention: Beatrix’s animals. I loved all her pets. The goat scene was hilarious, and I loved the hedgehog. But it was Albert, Christopher’s terrier, who really stole the show. It was heartbreaking to see how much he was suffering, and delightful watching Beatrix work with him.
4.5 out of 5