LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON - Lisa Kleypas
Hathways Series , Book 5
St. Martin's Press
Hampshire, England - 1854
Beatrix Hathaway was always the odd one in her family, more at home in the woods and outside with the animals than around people. She is known as a saver of all types of injured animals, three legged cats, orphaned hedgehogs, and anything else you can think of. Fortunately, the Hathaway family, and now the men and women who have married into it, look upon Beatrix and her animals with much love. Her friend Prudence, the beauty of the county, has agreed to write to one of her suitors, Captain Christopher Phelan, while he is fighting in the Crimea . But wars are so boring, and besides that, his uniform is so dull, no gold braiding or lace at all. So when Beatrix asks if she can write back to the Captain after his first letter, Pru is more than happy to agree. Over the months, their correspondence continues, as Christian goes from a man-about-town enjoying the perks of military service to a sniper, head of the "Rifles," a brigade that turns into camouflaged snipers. Death is always around him, and Beatrix worries so over the despondency she hears in his letters, but it gradually appears she is developing certain feelings for him that she doesn't know how to handle. A mix-up in her last letter tells Christopher she is not who he thinks she is, and he should look for her when he returns to England .
Christopher Phelan used to be the aristocratic man about town in London ; he knew his place and enjoyed all that life has to offer, including beautiful women and respect for his military service. That is, until the war in the Crimea starts and he is called up to serve. Once he gets overseas, his shooting skills are used in the Rifles, and death and dying are his daily companions. It takes everything he has to see members of his company die every day, and even killing the Russian enemy is impossible; they have parents and children just like everyone else. Gradually, the letters from home from Prudence are like a lifeline; she writes about funny things, and gives him courage in his daily life. But when he returns home, Prudence doesn't seem at all like his letters, and that Beatrix Hathaway always seems to be around. He told everyone she was more comfortable in her stables, and why in the world had she brought her hedgehog to a picnic lunch? She is just weird and not someone any man would want to get close to.
When Christopher returns from the war Beatrix wants to tell him she wrote the letters to him, but she promised Pru she wouldn't; Pru would greatly love to marry a man in a uniform with so many medals on it. But Christopher's dog Albert, brought back from overseas with him, brings them closer together than he wants. Will Christopher ever see Beatrix for the unique personality that she is, and can she calm and accept the ghosts of terror that follow Christopher every day?
Lisa Kleypas is the undoubted Queen of the Historical Romance. She takes every character and makes them her own, giving them feelings and desires as strong as our own. Written from Beatrix's and Christopher's points of view, the despair Christopher feels goes soul deep. Beatrix is a young woman pretty much in her own world of saving animals, until her pen pal takes her out of herself and into a situation she doesn't know what to do about. Ms. Kleypas has outdone herself here with the seriousness of her subject matter and the psychological ramifications of war...definitely a different subject matter. She has taken on more serious subjects lately: discrimination, class-consciousness, and now post traumatic stress syndrome, all wrapped up in a story that entertains.
Secondary characters are all the Hathaway family, especially brother Leo and brother-in-law Cam . In fact, the whole Hathaway family is a delight to meet. Christopher's sister-in-law Audrey and his mother, and his fellow soldier Mark Bennett make him face all the fears he has carried with him since returning to England .
LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON is, once again, Lisa Kleypas at her best. There is humor, sadness, tenderness, jealousy, and hatred all in one. If you have followed the Hathaways series at all, (MARRIED BY MORNING, TEMPT ME AT TWILIGHT, SEDUCE ME AT SUNRISE , and MINE TILL MIDNIGHT ) or even if you haven't, this is a stand alone story that will certainly pique your interest in the other members of this unusual family. Join Beatrix and Christopher as they try to overcome the after effects of war and embrace all that life has in store for them.