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Love in the Afternoon (#59 on AAR's Top 100 Romances)

Lisa Kleypas

An AAR Top 100 Romance

originally published on June 29, 2010

Through the love stories of all of her siblings in Lisa Kleypas’ Hathaway series, I never stopped thinking of Beatrix as the ‘baby’ of the family, so much so that I hoped that Love in the Afternoon would be set at least five years after Married by Morning, the preceding story about Leo and Catherine. Because I figured by then, Beatrix would have grown up some. When this story opens, Beatrix Hathaway is still the Dr Doolittle of her family, but she’s most definitely no longer childlike in her relationship with Captain Christopher Phelan. From start to end, Kleypas portrays them as partners who contribute equally to the lives of each other.

I think Love in the Afternoon is the most pure and sweet of the Hathaway love stories. I believed fully in their compatibility and their love and I liked both characters individually. However, niggling issues kept me from a complete immersion in their romance.

Before the Crimean War, Christopher was a smooth-talking handsome devil who had life easy as a second son and was well above Beatrix in the social standing. He viewed her as a barely tolerable oddity in as much as he viewed or thought about her at all. At war however, Christopher was drawn into the Rifles due to superior shooting skills and over a year of battle changes him. All that keeps him going are the letters from Prudence, a girl in his village who surprises him with insight and wit which belie her flighty exterior.

Of course, it’s not Prudence who’s been writing those letters, but Prudence’s friend Beatrix. The letters, which take up the first quarter of the novel, are really touching. The events Christopher chose to write about in a few short paragraphs brought alive aspects of war beyond combat which resonated with me. Intertwined with these snapshots of a life at war is the growth of their relationship. I was totally engrossed in their love story and couldn’t wait for it to play out off of paper and into real life.

When Christopher returns home he is desperate for Prudence but it’s the odd Beatrix who occupies his thoughts despite his better judgment. She is beautiful and intelligent and there is an attraction there. Worse yet, when he finally meets Prudence it doesn’t take him long to realise she’s not the author of his love letters. He’s understandably angry, but still, this is where the story went slightly off the rails for me.

Christopher treasures those letters as they helped him through over a year of war. But now that he realises the flighty flirt Prudence is not the author, he feels betrayal rather than relief, and plans to wreak revenge on the letter writer. His plan (never explained to us, undoubtedly because there could be no rational explanation) is to court Prudence and make the real author of the letters (the self-admitted love of his life) pay. This sort of drama queen response is out of character for Christopher. Thankfully it didn’t last long but that it was there at all spoiled my (up to that point) complete enjoyment of the book.

In addition, though Prudence is described as shallow as a puddle, she didn’t deserve to be lead on by him as she did. He gained nothing but good from those letters and though she should not have deceived him, he’d already decided they wouldn’t suit. So in fact, her conspiring had done him a big favor. Also, I never understood why Beatrix and Prudence had ever been friends in the first place. I really pine after antagonists who aren’t meanies. If Prudence had been a good friend, but just not the love of Christopher’s life, to think of how much more emotional intricacies would have been played out under the pen of Lisa Kleypas, well I tingle. The story would have been meatier and better for it. Not that I’m telling Ms. Kleypas how to plot a story. I’m just sayin’…

Another issue I had with Love in the Afternoon was the issue of control and possession. In the early stages, Beatrix says that she “…wanted to be passionately loved… challenged… overtaken.” I wasn’t sure how to take the meaning of ‘overtaken’ but thought I would see it played out as the story progressed. What I did see was Christopher showing some questionable sexual gamesmanship over Beatrix. Since she’s aroused, not appalled, I’m thinking she got her ‘overtaken’ catered to but I didn’t appreciate it. Christopher, on the search for his letter writer kisses Beatrix and then demands:

“Tell me what you know…or I’ll do worse than this. I’ll take you here and now. Is that what you want?”

Beatrix’s response was to think, “As a matter of fact…”; my response was to think ‘Oh hell no”. It’s a line I always straddle with romance when there are dominant heroes. I know they either love or are soon going to love these women they play sexual games with, but did they know at the time? Or am I to accept that their subconscious knew and that’s why they do these things, only as a reason to get to do what they really want to do out of love, not as a power struggle? It was only when I resolved to believe that what Christopher was really saying was: “If you tell me what you know, that it was you who wrote those letters, I’ll take you here and now like you want and I want” that I settled in for a nice scene. But I had to come around to that frame of mind and again it jerked me out of the story.

But for all my complaints, when Christopher gets the truth out of Beatrix it’s a scene that is as pure and sweet as their entire relationship. In fact, there were so many great parts to the story that showed their love, that this book could have been short and sweet. But it kept on going. There were two occasions where I felt ‘The End’ was in order but I got more bang for the buck. The last extension of their story involved a side plot linked to Christopher’s time at war. The subplot aided in him resolving an issue that was affecting his relationship with Beatrix but – again, not telling Ms Kleypas how to do what she does well – it would have been nice if he could have resolved it with his own internal strength, Beatrix’s tender, loving care and the passage of time.

My issues with Love in the Afternoon are minor when set against the entire novel. However, they become more important if I were to reflect on this story’s place amongst my favourites – either from Kleypas or the romance canon as a whole. My verdict is that it wouldn’t make it into my rucksack were I headed for an extended stay on a desert island, but it’s a definite re-read and a high quality romance story.

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Book Details

Reviewer :      Abi Bishop


Grade :     B


Sensuality :      Hot


Book Type :     


Review Tags :      |


Recent Comments

9 Comments

  1. Dabney Grinnan
    Dabney Grinnan November 1, 2017 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    This book bored me to tears. Literally. I kept yawning and that made my eyes water.

    • Chrisreader November 1, 2017 at 2:45 pm - Reply

      Wow! This is one instance where our tastes don’t align at all (I guess it had to happen, lol). I love this book and I am so happy to see it made it this far into the top 100. I think Bea is a charming and original heroine and the epistolary romance is wonderful. I think this is one of Kleypas’s best book and I am often afraid it is overshadowed by the others in this series. It’s definitely a DIK for me.

      • Dabney Grinnan
        Dabney Grinnan November 1, 2017 at 3:44 pm - Reply

        I like Amelia’s, Poppy’s, and Catherine’s stories best… in that order.

        • Chrisreader November 1, 2017 at 7:43 pm - Reply

          I love Amelia’s story and Catherine’s, -Poppy’s I was excited for but the husband never became really three dimensional for me. I was amazed at how much I loved Catherine’s only because I couldn’t stand the brother (Leo?) in the first couple of books. Then his personality changed 100% and I ended up loving him with Catherine. There was a great scene where he confessed he was afraid to love again because he loves too much, almost like an addiction. Normally I have a hard time buying that these lotharios just settle down with one woman but given his backstory and how he wasn’t a womanizer until he had his whole breakdown and he was at heart a one women guy made me think he would be a good husband.

  2. Blackjack
    Blackjack November 1, 2017 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    I did not like this book, though I did enjoy Beatrix’s relationship with animals and thought that Kleypas nicely side-skirted any overt cutsie-ness with this part. Christopher embodies too much about Kleypas’s heroes that I do not like. He’s a sex master, apparently, with a long history of pleasing women, many of whom he fantasizes about throughout the book. Since this book is about his romance with Beatrix, it would have been helpful to leave out so much of his amazing past sex life. Having said that, I hated the sex scenes in this book and I noted at times how sad Beatrix feels about his past affairs and how much of that experience seeps into their relationship and into their bedroom scenes. Of course, since this is a Kleypas novel, only the man gets to have experiences and then teach the young ingenue about her sexual pleasure. I recall also not enjoying Christopher’s anger and hostility as that was the primary impression I still have about him. Actually, this was a pretty forgettable book for me.

    • Chrisreader November 1, 2017 at 7:59 pm - Reply

      I don’t remember his past lovers being a problem for Beatrix, just his PTSD and bitterness over his time at war as that definitely made an impression. Now I want to go reread it to see if I just glossed over that. I confess the heroes having an extensive sexual history doesn’t faze me, because like it or not, it is probably pretty historically accurate (leaving out the diseases many of them had). It was just expected that the men would not only have a past, but mistresses as well.
      And it’s also historically accurate that unmarried girls at the time (in middle to upper classes especially) would have been pretty sheltered. Kleypas, like most romance writers, actually takes it pretty far and many of her heroines, including Amelia, are pretty much living and sleeping with the heroes for an extended time before they are married which I cannot imagine any real Earls condoning under their roofs at the time. There are a couple of Kleypas books where the heroines have more experience than the men, which makes sense in the context of their stories. If it were a more contemporary setting I would look at it differently but if I am being honest, up until very recently, if I polled all the couples I know, the men (while not all like Christopher) would definitely have had more experience. I am often amazed at how much the general attitude about things have changed in the past decade or so. Even living together was considered very scandalous and a big deal into the 1980’s and beyond. There was a whole Demi Moore and Rob Lowe movie about it.

      • Blackjack
        Blackjack November 2, 2017 at 6:27 pm - Reply

        Strange because one of the main feelings I took away from the middle of the romance was Beatrix’s lack of self-esteem in bed with the hero and her feelings of inferiority, none of which he helped to assuage for her.

        I do of course get the historical accuracy of men having considerably more sexual experience than women. With Kleypas though, there’s more going on than an attempt to be a historically accurate author (which she really isn’t in many ways). She uses the factual accuracy of women’s sheltered lives to create men who relish their role as sexual teachers for nearly *all* of her heroines who are virgins and most of whom are sweet and innocent of the world and looking for a man to tell her what to do, especially in bed. Even the heroines who are not virgins, such as the heroines in her contemporary novels, the men are still more experienced and eager to teach the women. Even the one historical novel in which the heroine was older than the hero, the heroine still looked to the man for education. She rarely (ever?) has a scene where she flips this dynamic. Her books consistently feature alpha heroes who protect and educate the women in their lives in book after book. It’s not that the women are sheltered and naive about sex that’s the problem for me. It’s the message being conveyed that men are dominant in and out of bed and that’s the “natural” order of the world as Kleypas represents it I read so many Kleypas books in the past and this is a consistent theme. It reminds me of Reese Witherspoon’s speech recently where she and her teen daughter started keeping track of how often in movies, the woman on screen turns to the man and says, “what should we do?”

        • Chrisreader November 3, 2017 at 6:18 pm - Reply

          I’m not sure if it’s a message in the sense Kleypas is trying to put that out but just a reflection of either what she enjoys or what her readers enjoy. And if I had to guess (purely off of what sells a lot) it’s a fantasy that a lot of readers enjoy.

          I don’t know if it’s similar to the whole billionaire thing -where the idea of being with a man that has so much money you need never worry about paying a mortgage or worrying about the credit card payment allows the reader to just escape the worries of everyday life. Having a “know all” guy that can just take care of everything and teach you what you need to know without kissing a lot of frogs surely has its appeal for a lot of people.
          I can’t say that’s the main takeaway from this novel for me as Beatrix is the one who is wiser, especially about humans and human nature ( and has been throughout the series) and often has to solve their problems. Christopher needs a lot of work and maintenance and he’s not a guy who just steps into Bea’s life and makes it great, it’s really the other way around -which makes me suspect that’s why this isn’t the most popular book in the series, for in the preceeding books the heroes (mostly) do exactly that. Maybe he had to be a sexual dynamo because readers at a certain point would wonder what he was bringing to the table, apart from being another of Bea’s wounded animals.

          • Blackjack
            Blackjack November 4, 2017 at 12:43 am

            I definitely do agree that the alpha guy/submissive female is a popular feature in romances and sells well. And I don’t doubt the popularity of Kleypas’s books. In fact, I think her books appear in this Top 100 poll more than any other author. What bothers me the most about Christopher’s sexual prowess is that he’s not unique in her books; he’s the same as all the other heroes she’s created. She’s hit upon a formula that sells well, it seems to me. It’s the formula though that troubles me, especially as I do not see anything different from her. We’re only at #59 with lots of Kleypas’s to come.

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