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Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas

I believe this may be my first Lisa Kleypas novel, although I'm certain it won't be my last. Love in the Afternoon is (I believe) the final book in a series of five, detailing the marriages of the Hathaway children, and I am now eager to read about her siblings as well.

This novel has some of my favorite tropes in it:

1. A feisty heroine with less-than-ladylike proclivities. Beatrix is keenly interested in nature and in particular the animal kingdom. She tends to rescue and nurture injured animals, which is how she ends up in possession of a three-legged cat and a pet hedgehog.

2. A woman in drag. Beatrix tends to wear trousers when chasing after goats or working with dangerous horses. Anyone who's read my blog for any period of time knows that I do love a woman in drag in my historical novels, and Beatrix fits the bill.

3. Reading other people's letters. Just as you probably knew I like feisty women in drag, you may have known how much I like a good epistolary novel. There's something absolutely wonderful about actual letters, and the voyeur in me enjoys peeking into relationships by reading correspondence, whether it's doing actual historical research (as when I read Austen's letters for the Jane project) or reading fictional letters (as here, or in The Guernsey Literary Society, or elsewhere).

Not that this entire novel is told in letters, but early on there is quite an exchange of letters between Beatrix and Captain Christopher Phelan, younger brother to John Phelan, a neighbor of the Hathaway's who is married to Beatrix's friend Audrey. Only Christopher Phelan doesn't realize it's Beatrix with whom he's corresponding.

Off to fight in the Crimean war, Phelan writes to Prudence Mercer, the belle of Hampshire County – and Prudence shares the contents of the letter with Beatrix, who finds herself feeling compassion for Captain Phelan's situation, a formerly pampered, spoiled man suddenly part of the Rifles, an outfit always at the front. Despite having once overheard Christopher Phelan saying that she belonged in the stables, Beatrix volunteers to respond to his letter after Prudence indicates that she has no intention of writing back to a man who wants to talk about things like the war. Cyrano-like, Beatrix undertakes a correspondence with Christopher, signing Prudence's name to eight months' worth of letters, and falling head over heels in love with man she comes to know along the way. On realizing that she's completely in love with him, Beatrix terminates the correspondence, sending one last letter:

Dearest Christopher,

I can't write to you again.

I'm not who you think I am.

I didn't mean to send 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.

— [unsigned]

Needless to say, when Christopher Phelan returns from the war, things get interesting. His older brother has died while he was away, leaving him the heir apparent to an estate he's unprepared to run. He's desperately in love with the Prudence of the letters, and highly uninterested in the peculiar Beatrix, who comes from a family of oddballs. And he's suffering from what we now call post-traumatic stress syndrome, but which then was something nameless and largely unmentionable.

This book made me all kinds of happy as I stayed up (far too) late reading it last night. And I haven't quite forgiven it for putting this song in my head. But I am looking forward to a more leisurely re-read of it at some point in the future, and to reading about the rest of the Hathaway siblings as well.

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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 13th, 2011 06:51 am (UTC)
tanita says:
I would think that this would be a great crossover teen novel - I wonder if our library has this one for my next spate of entertainment reading. I often don't have patience with Regency romances and old-fashioned storylines, but I LURVE the epistolary novel too, too much.
Apr. 13th, 2011 03:04 pm (UTC)
Re: tanita says:
This one is actually Victorian era - not that it probably makes a massive difference to you, but you know me and my geekish attention to detail. In fact, Queen Victoria makes a cameo in this one.
Apr. 13th, 2011 08:38 am (UTC)
Ooh, I just discovered Lisa Kleypas a couple months ago and have been tearing through her books. I started with the Wallflower series, which I ADORED (which comes right before the Hathaway series, chronologically, with some overlapping characters), and which starts with Secrets of a Summer Evening. Very Edith Wharton-y with all the clashing class issues between Victorian aristocrats, industrialists, and encroaching Americans! And such a lovely friendship among women guiding the whole series arc.

I only just read the first Hathaways book the other day, Mine by Midnight, and while I didn't loveloveLOVE it the way I loved all the Wallflowers books, I still really enjoyed it and instantly ordered the next book in the series.
Apr. 13th, 2011 03:08 pm (UTC)
I will be sure to look for the Wallflower series once I'm done with the Hathaways. Although the mention of overlap makes the geek in me want to start with the earlier books, I'm pretty sure I'll be fine taking the series out of order - I did the same thing with Eloisa James's books, where I read the Duchess Quartet after the Essex Sisters books, even though the Duke of Mayne was first introduced in the earlier series. (Not that I knew that at the time, but still - it didn't hurt my appreciation of the books.)
Apr. 13th, 2011 12:41 pm (UTC)
That sounds lovely.
Apr. 13th, 2011 03:09 pm (UTC)
I quite enjoyed it. I did not, however, adore it the way I did your most recent Merry Fates story. Angela and I were both raving about it yesterday - and M/M kissing doesn't usually do much for her, but she fanned herself and said "That was such a hot first kiss."
Apr. 13th, 2011 03:11 pm (UTC)

Kisses are my favorite things to write. I know it seems like I favor blood, but blood is easy. Kisses are HARD and WONDERFUL.

So thank you, again. <3
Apr. 13th, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
*Kelly's mind drifts off to a land full of hard kisses . . . *
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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