by Lisa Kleypas, historical (2010)
St Martin's Press, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-312-60539-1
Aww, Love In The Afternoon breaks the pattern of titles in Lisa Kleypas's Hathaway family series. After reading this book, I can say that a more accurate title for this depth-free throwaway fluff of a story is Asinine In The Afternoon.
If you have read the previous books, or the first quarter of this story, you will surely be aware that Beatrix Hathaway is special. No, not special in the same sense that the gold medal winner of a Special Olympics event is special, but special because she loves animals and she loves whining about how she doesn't fit in even more. In this story, she befriends the shallow and vapid Prudence Mercer, apparently because she's a kind person. Surely not because this is a lazy way for Ms Kleypas to demonstrate that Beatrix is the better person next to Prudence!
Prudence likes the idea of marrying Captain Christopher Phelan because he is a dashing military man in uniform, but she grows bored with his letters which are full of descriptions of his wartime experiences and reminiscences. Beatrix knows Christopher as well because once upon a time, he mocked her to other people and thought of her as someone who was better suited to the stables than in polite company. But because Beatrix is a deep and understanding person, unlike the shallow and artificial hypocrites like Prudence and the rest of the Ton who aren't included in the sainted circle of Hathaways and Friends, she harbors an infatuation for Christopher because he is so hot. She starts writing back to Christopher on behalf of Prudence and the next thing you know, these two are in love.
Christopher eventually comes back to England. At first, he's like, "Out of my way, brown cow, I wanna marry Prudence and shag her brains out because she's hot and her letters are full of admiration for my fine self!" Various secondary characters hit him in the head that he and Beatrix are meant to be. Christopher claims that he is now a changed man because he has killed - it seems like killing people was something he clearly hadn't foreseen he'd be doing regularly when he signed up to be a soldier, hmm. Then he realizes that Beatrix was the one who wrote those letters, so he rushes to Beatrix's side and wants to marry her now. Beatrix, who up to that point had been weeping passively and hoping that Christopher could see that deep inside her is a woman who loves him and puts him on a pedestal so high that he can be mistaken for Zeus from afar, rejoices.
Because the book still have many chapters to go, Ms Kleypas proceeds to pad the pages with perfect sex between the Brown Cow and Insipid Military Jock, saccharine family antics, and a conclusion so full of overblown sentimental mawkishness that it seems as if every single cell in my body has been stricken with diabetes.
The characters are shallow. Beatrix doesn't have any personality apart from being the passive brown cow who keeps whining and crying, waiting for the world to come to her instead of taking any steps to stop being so unhappy. Christopher never apologizes for his past treatment of Beatrix. Instead, he just makes a quick turnaround when he realizes that the hot babe he lusts for, Prudence, doesn't hero worship him and therefore he chooses the brown cow to whom he would never do anything wrong in her eyes. Seriously, Beatrix keeps thinking of how gorgeous and awesome he is and how unworthy she is of him, she never once thinks about what he can do for her. He may as well be marrying his preening reflection in this case. Since Beatrix has demonstrated zero ability to deal with any problems well and Christopher is as shallow as can be, I can only wonder how long these two will last as a married couple.
Perhaps if the author had used the last few chapters to actually flesh out the romance, I may believe in the longevity of the romance more. As it is, the author seems incapable of dealing with long-term conflicts between her main characters and opts instead to pour on the sugar. Since the whole overly sweet saccharine confection lacks depths or believable romance, Love In The Afternoon is more like cotton candy than anything else - neither satisfying nor filling.
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