Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review: A Matter of Class

A Matter of Class
Historical Romance/Regency London
Vanguard Press/December 2009
Library book

From the author's website ~

Reginald Mason is rich, refined, and by all accounts a gentleman. However, he is not a “gentleman” by birth, a fact that pains his father, Bernard, since Regency society values station above all else. And the Masons, despite their vast wealth, are still members of the merchant class.

An opportunity for Reginald’s social advancement suddenly arises through the possibility of marriage to Lady Annabelle Ashton. Since Annabelle is the only child of the Earl of Havercroft—who is both neighbor and arch enemy to Bernard—the elder Mason is positively joyous. After all, this would allow him to both one-up the earl and raise his son’s social standing, in one fell swoop.

The fact that Reginald and Lady Annabelle both loudly proclaim their disgust at the idea of marrying each other matters not at all.

But Annabelle has been disgraced by a scandal that has left her branded as damaged goods, just as her father desperately needs the money that would come from marrying her off to a wealthy man.

Regency-era damsel that she is, Annabelle is trapped. She’ll be shunned by society for life if she doesn’t marry someone even close to respectable. Plus, she’ll carry the crushing lifelong guilt of believing herself personally responsible for causing her family’s financial ruin if she doesn’t immediately marry someone wealthy enough to pay-off their looming debt.

By the same token, Reginald proclaims that he doesn’t want to get married now, especially to a hoyden who has managed to disgrace herself. Instead, he insists he’d rather live the wild, extravagant bachelor life to which he has recently become accustomed. However, Bernard gives Reginald an ultimatum: Marry Annabelle or be cut off from all family funds.

Reginald grudgingly consents, and an openly antagonistic engagement ensues. So does a tale riddled with secrets, deception, and the trials of love. In A Matter of Class very little is as it first appears.

Mary Balogh, oh how I love you! Yes, big fan of Ms. Balogh, have been for many years. A Matter of Class reminds me of just why I love Ms. Balogh's writing. I promise I'll try to make this an actual review and not let it veer off into a lovefest of all things Balogh. :)

I must say that is a long blurb for what is a 190 page novella. It really sums up the story quite well. But with Balogh there is so much more to the story than the particulars. There is the character development, which she excels at, bringing her characters to life along with their hopes and dreams. Then there is the plot which wraps the reader up in the romance and only lets go when the hero and heroine have arrived at their Happily Ever After. Ah yes, that is a Mary Balogh story.

We starts with Reginald Mason looking every bit like a gentleman of the ton. He enjoys superb clothing, a bit of gambling and all the finer things in life. He gets his money primarily from his father and would be hard pressed to afford his lifestyle without those funds. Reggie at first glance comes across as a typical wealthy young man of the ton. Enjoying life without a care in the world. His only real concern is keeping up in the latest styles and lately it's boots. He has bought ten pairs in the past ten weeks so it can be quite time consuming. But thankfully there is more to Reggie than a handsome exterior. He is sharp witted, a caring son and tenacious when he needs to be. I found Reggie to be utterly endearing. He is a bit of a scamp, teasing Annabelle while making her blush.

Annabelle Ashton is a lady of the aristocracy. It's important to her father that she marry well, certainly not below her station. But below her station she must go if the Ashtons are to be saved from financial ruin. Annabelle is left with no choice but to sacrifice herself for her family and marry Reggie. Poor dear girl. :) Annabelle is a likable heroine, adhering to the wishes of her parents but also following her own longings. It may seem like she merely tolerates Reggie but there is a definitely spark between these two.

One thing that I usually don't like in my books is the extended flashbacks. I don't mind a paragraph or two but when it goes on for pages, it usually doesn't work for me. Balogh does this in A Matter of Class, going back to when Annabelle and Reggie were children. We get to see how they grow up as neighbors but with this terrible animosity between their fathers. I found I enjoyed seeing the young Annabelle and Reggie. The way they acted when they were away from their parents and able to be themselves. It's like Balogh let the reader into this secret little world of Annabelle and Reggie that no one else knew about. I loved the way Balogh incorporated the flashbacks into the story arc. It added to Reggie and Annabelle's love story beautifully.

This sounds like a standard Regency romance. Either the hero or the heroine are seen as less than the other through the critical eyes of the ton. Some saving is in order and there are the family obstacles to be overcome. But the way Reggie and Annabelle deal with not only their families but fulfilling their most secret desires is anything but standard. A lovely story of romance and friendship. Completely enjoyed this little jewel from Ms. Balogh.

Rating: A


  1. Wasn't this a fun book? It's the first Mary Balogh I've read (just last month) and I loved it. Can't wait to read more of her books.

  2. This is one book in which I loved the flashbacks MORE than the present story line. I'm so glad you liked it, too!

  3. Ugh, everyone who read this book loved it... and I just can't put my hand on it. I would have bought it right away if it had been longer. I guess i'm going to cave soon, LOL.

    Great review, Leslie.

  4. Mary ~ What a great book to start with! It was fun to read. :)

    Christine ~ I was so thankful the flashbacks worked for me. They were so important to the story.

    nath ~ any chance the library would have it? I know it's a lot for such a short book.

  5. Nah, I checked already. But guess what? I just found out that Book Depository has it for really cheap :P Yay me! Going to order it tonight :D

  6. I'm SO glad you loved this book too, Leslie. I really loved the way Balogh told this story. The flashbacks really told the story in this book and were perfectly used in this case. It's wonderful to read a short story that is complete and satisfying. :) Great review!

    PS: We'll both squee together about all things Balogh. *g*

  7. nath ~ good for you! I think you'll like it. :)

    Hils ~ I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the flashbacks.

    lol We can be Balogh fangirls together. :)