My general reaction at the end of a Lisa Kleypas novel is usually a contented sigh of happiness, and this book was no exception.  The only difference in this case was I also needed a fan to cool myself with!  There is one brooding, sexy hero in this book!

Love in the Afternoon is the final book in the Hathaway series, and for me, the most anticipated.  It is the story of Beatrix, the lovable youngest sister whose fondness for injured creatures easily made her my favorite of all the Hathaway brood.  Young Beatrix is now twenty-three, and a beauty in her own right.  She is admired by the gentlemen, but never, ever courted because of her unconventional ways.  When her friend Prudence catches the eye of Captain Christopher Phelan, local golden boy, she reads the letter Pru has received from the gentleman.  Beatrix is adamant her callous friend answers the letter, especially in regards to the dog Captain Phelan is having behavior problems with.  The letter is also full of stories from Crimea and his battles, and how he is handling them.  It’s very personal and heartfelt,  but Pru is not interested.  Beatrix is appalled and takes on the task herself.  What commences is a letter writing campaign where both Christopher and Beatrix, under the guise of Prudence, share their deepest feelings about life and war, while falling in love with each other thousands of miles apart.  Beatrix knows it is wrong to continue the correspondence, and ends it abruptly in an attempt to save herself from bitter disappointment.

Christopher is a society darling, handsome and witty, always a favorite with the ladies.  Beatrix does not think much of him, especially after his overheard comment about her and how she would be better off in the stables.  Her prejudice wanes however, when she reads his letters.  Christopher is a brave soldier, but is having problems dealing with the death that surrounds him.  He returns to Stoney Cross to find his brother has died, his mother resents him for being alive, his sister-in-law, Audrey, is not being truthful with him, and the woman he has fallen in love with through letters bears almost no resemblance to the woman he knows as Prudence.  The letters and her image helped him through his darkest hours, and he is disappointed to find her lacking in person.  His chance meeting with Beatrix and a few slips about the letters she should know nothing about make him question just who the lady was he fell in love with.  Christopher knows he should not even consider Beatrix because of her eccentric family, but finds himself unable to turn away.  Her boldness with him, and her lack of propriety, not to mention wearing breeches to train a horse, all should send him running in the other direction, but her sweetness and caring manner draw him in.  Despite his feelings, however, he still cannot trust himself around her, as he is tormented by images of the war that he cannot control.

I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful this book is, and how much I enjoyed reading it.  This is by far my favorite of the Hathaway series.  The Hathaway’s never disappoint, and with the addition of some minor characters in their world it makes for a delicious novel.  (Some of which I hope get a series of their own.)  The passion between Christopher and Beatrix is undeniable, and their love for each other is practically perfect.  Once again, Kleypas transports us to a place where dreams become reality and the most unlikely of matches finds love.  This is a must read for any fan of romance.

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