Readers’ Advisory 2: A Matter of Class. Mary Balogh

Quick Facts

Author: Mary Balogh

Narrator: Anne Flosnik

Published 2009 Brilliance Audio. $19.99

4 discs, 4 hours and 10 minutes. 9781441826374

Regency romance

Available in print, eBook, and audio

Why I Read It

Truthfully, I needed something short, that I could read in one sitting. Balogh has been a favorite author of mine ever since I read the Bedwyn series. It always surprises me how much she’s written over the years. I’d never heard of this little story until I was perusing the audiobook section at the library. It fit the criteria of being short, and it had the added benefit of being one of my favorite subgenres, so I knew I would be able to finish it. Moreover, it is not often that one or more of the main characters in a Regency romance is not of the ton. My boxes were checked. {Has anyone else noticed that the majority of my books come from the library?}

TLL’s Tag

The Ashtons and the Masons were not friends, yet circumstances dictated Annabelle Ashton marry Reginald Mason or risk ostracism.

The Rundown

Years ago, Bernard Mason, nouveau riche from coal mining, extended the hand of friendship to his neighbor, William Ashton, the Earl of Havercroft. Havercroft would have none of that and declared the Mason household anathema to his own. Mason, insulted and a little hurt, declared the same. The families and household servants are not to even glance at the other in church.

Annabelle Ashton and Reginald Mason don’t mean to disobey their fathers. They meet on the banks of the river that separates their family properties at the tender ages of five and eight, respectively. What follows is a love story that lasts over prolonged absences, secret meetings, and an elopement scandal.

Annabelle and Reginald have known each other all their lives, became friends and lovers, how could they not get married? Under normal circumstances, if their fathers weren’t so bent on ignoring the other, they would be married with the full support of both families. But the enmity between Bernard and Havercroft throws a wrench in that dream. The reality is that the two must come up with a convoluted way to be together, which includes having Annabelle cause so public scandal that the entire ton will be talking about it for weeks.

Reggie’s and Anna’s goal is to make their parents think the idea for marriage is their own, when in reality Reggie and Anna planned it that way.

Here’s what I think

I have to admit, I began to suspect that all was not as it seemed with the first flashback chapter. Reggie and Anna were childhood friends. He gave her her second, but most memorable kiss. It was only logical that they get married in the land of romance novels. Reggie and Anna, though, play their parts well in the present. One does not suspect from their first interactions that they are in love with each other and have conspired to be together. One does, however, wonder why Anna would be so public in her elopement. This is also a giveaway that there is something more to the story. Why, when hieing oneself off to Gretna Green, would one stop for a snack in a packed, well-known establishment unless one wanted to get caught?

The interactions, past and present, between Reggie and Anna are well done. I liked seeing their progression from friends to lovers to fake stranger/enemies. The dialogue was refreshing as well. One would never have guessed that Reggie knew the answer to his question about Anna’s virginity. It was cute, though, that he cared enough about her to consistently want her to look her best, resulting in him teasing her to get a reaction from her.

It can be difficult to fit plausible character development in a short space, and this story is no different. The almost complete shift in characterizations for Havercroft and Mason felt sudden. While the reader never doubts both fathers’ love for his child, their very macho-ness seems undercut by their final scenes. Odd.

Short, sweet, and with a clever twist, A Matter of Class is Balogh at her best.

Final decision

There’s a reason Balogh is a best-selling author. Her Regencies are unmatched.

5Q–Hard to imagine it being better written.

4P–Broad general or genre appeal.

Readalikes, courtesy of NoveList Plus

Authors

Jo Beverley

Stephanie Laurens

Kasey Michaels

Titles

The Husband List, Janet Evanovich

The Mischief of the Mistletoe, Lauren Willig

Whitney, My Love, Judith McNaught

Appeal Factors

Amusing, upbeat, Regency, witty, richly detailed

Book talk ideas

Feuding families

Annabelle’s “elopement”

Reggie’s talk with his father

Book discussion questions

1) Were you reminded of any other stories while reading A Matter of Class?

2) When did you figure it out?

3) Do you believe Lady Havercroft and Mrs. Mason will become good friends?

4) Did your opinion of any of the characters change throughout the story?

Clues to the Future

Regency romance, Mary Balogh, Anabelle Ashton, Reginald Mason, childhood friends, feuding parents, tricksters

Awards and Lists

2011 RUSA The Reading List Romance

Links to the Author, Interviews, and Reviews

Author site: http://www.marybalogh.com/

USA Today Interview: http://www.usatoday.com/story/happyeverafter/2014/06/25/romance-unlaced-madeline-hunter-mary-balogh-excerpt/11322197/

Dear Author Interview: http://dearauthor.com/features/interviews/interview-with-mary-balogh-and-giveaway/

Impressions: Review: http://www.impressionsofareader.com/2010/01/review-matter-of-class-by-mary-balogh.html

The Romantic Life Review: http://theromanticlife.blogspot.com/2010/02/review-matter-of-class-by-mary-balogh.html

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