The Hathaways series by Lisa Kleypas was supposed to be my “read during the year” romance series for 2017. Five books spaced out over 12 months would give me something to look forward to and get some classic Kleypas under my belt. But then I read book three, Tempt Me at Twilight and realized that book four took place immediately thereafter and decided why bother savoring? Give me all the books right now.
I am so glad I did, and it is probably why I’ve rated Married by Morning higher than some of Our Ladies of the Kissing Books, because its links to the stories around it helped to buoy it in to steady 4.5 stars territory for me. While Love in the Afternoon takes place a few years later than the middle three books in the series, it is also aided I think by having the previous plots, characterizations, and memories of its heroine so firmly in the mind’s eye.
For clarity’s sake: Married by Morning earns itself 4.5 stars on the Katie scale because of some issues in believability there at the end, but Love in the Afternoon is a solid 5 star classic which made me realize I like epistolary romances and should probably seek out others (well, others as good as Kleypas delivers).
It is nearly impossible to summarize these two outside the other three so I won’t bother and instead give you a series rundown. The Hathaway family have been elevated in society by a seemingly cursed estate (the males keep dying). Leo Hathaway inherits, and as he is hell-bent on self-destruction, his sister Amelia takes over – the events of Mine Till Midnight cover this time. Once the family gets its feet under it, and Leo chaperones second sister Win to France so that she can regain her health (and to a lesser extent his) they return and the should be skipped or at least skimmed for the Amelia and Cam parts book two, Seduce Me at Sunrise takes over. (Seriously, just… Merripen in that book is terrible and it feels off entirely to who that character is in the rest of the series.) In order to get the family into society for the benefit of the younger sisters, Poppy and Beatrix, a chaperone and governess is brought on, one Miss Catherine Marks. She helps, but that does not stop Poppy from marrying the manipulating hotelier Harry Rutledge in what is perhaps the most twee, and certainly has a premise that should be beyond frustrating but is instead delightful (Kleypas writes great characters).
Which brings us to book four. It is uncovered that Catherine Marks is really Harry Rutledge’s half-sister and is in hiding from something terrible in her past. She and Leo Hathaway have spent the previous two books bickering in only the way that people who are going to end up together do. Now Leo is set on discovering why Marks has been lying, and eventually putting himself on the line to protect her. Once those two are settled in (your mileage may vary on how Kleypas makes that all work) we are off to book five, a few years later, when a now 23 year old Beatrix is probably firmly on the shelf and declining another London season, but has accidentally fallen in love with a soldier in the Crimea. Now she has fallen in love with Christopher, but he thinks she is someone else, and she has sworn not to reveal the secret. That is, until it is impossible for Christopher not to realize that the woman he believed himself to have fallen in love with possesses none of the qualities he fell for.
Married by Morning and Love in the Afternoon do not stand out in a plot summary, but rather in the execution of what Kleypas is after. She builds strong characters with strong familial ties, who are bucking the system (whether that be Society, Family Expectations, or the Limelight) and places them in a situation where the reader is able to happily ride along. It is difficult to find the words for why I found these two so lovely and enjoyable (partly because I put this combined review off for nearly a week), but also because what Kleypas achieves is so subtle as to be difficult to describe. I wanted more time with these characters; to see them improve over time and be strengthened by their relationships, and enjoy a good bit of smolder as well.
What greater compliment could I pay them but to say I wished to reread them almost immediately?