Beatrix Hathaway has always been regarded by society as odd as she enjoys spending more time in the company of animals than people. Indeed Beatrix has a whole menagerie of animals that she keeps at the Ramsey estate where she lives with many of her equally eccentric relatives. Her friend Prudence struck up a flirtation with Christopher Phalen before he went off to war and he wants to start a correspondence with Pru. However, Prudence has no interest in this younger son who's letters are filled with war time troubles and insecurities. Beatrix has never been fond of the arrogant young soldier, but his letter strikes a chord in her and reveals hidden depths so she begins a correspondence with him. Things go farther than she was expecting and she finds herself falling in love with this much different young man but eventually she realizes she cannot continue lying to Christopher about her identity and she breaks things off.
Christopher arrives home a changed man determined to find Prudence and make a life with her. He finds her much different than the woman he had expected from the letters as she seems more interested in his new fame and his inheritance as his older brother died. His neighbor, Beatrix Hathaway keeps showing up in his life and she helps him rehabilitate his dog after the war. He is absolutely stunned when signs point that Beatrix is the woman who wrote the letters that had given him hope during the war. He is already half in love with the oddities of Beatrix and finding out who she is forces him to realize he needs her in his life and the two agree to marriage. However, there are still demons from Christopher's past as he suffers from some form of PTSD it seems and is worried about how he will act around Beatrix. When someone from his past threatens his newfound happiness, he knows he should let her in and share.
Kleypas returns to top form again after the minor disappointment of Married by Morning and brings the story of the youngest, and most eccentric, of the Hathaway sisters, Beatrix. While reading all of the books in the series I was a little concerned about how she would manage to write a romance with such an unconventional character who seemed so childlike in her adoration of creatures and I was worried she would water down Beatrix's personality and oddness. I was not at all disappointed as Kleypas kept all of those little things that made Beatrix so special and at the same time made her more mature so she was really just a great character all around. Her talents with animals translated so well in helping Christopher overcome his war related problems and there are some fantastic scenes where she can just read him and knows what she needs to do to help him, when no one else can.
Christopher was also a very well written character as he underwent some great development as he came to love Beatrix. His war related problems were very well explored and dealt with in what seemed to me to be a realistic and helpful manner. And best of all his love for Beatrix was just so great and his desire to keep her safe explained some of his more awkward behavior. The relationship between these two was wonderful and I absolutely loved reading about it. The sex between them was not exciting, but it was not boring either- it kind of seemed as though it was formulaic and rather hastily put together, but it was not out of place or awkward, it just could have been better. While the Hathaway relationships have never grated before, it just felt like they were a little too perfect and loving in this book with too many inside jokes for my taste. However, I am still very sad that this book marks the end of the Hathaway series.
Rating: Kleypas in near top form with great characters and an amazing relationship between them. Recommended, but not necessarily her best work in my opinion.