My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In Regency England, the upper echelons of society thrive on outward appearances and intrigue. Reginald Mason has the look of a gentleman, but his recent behavior of “sowing his wild oats” and accruing massive gambling debts is making it more difficult for his “new money” family to fit into wealthy society. As it stands, Reginald’s father is in the midst of a feud with the Earl of Havercroft, whose estate abuts his lands. Gambling debts and less than appropriate behavior is only giving the Earl more ammunition to persuade proper society to snub the Mason family as a whole.
When the young daughter of the Earl runs off with a coachman in a mad dash to the Scottish border, the scandal soils the family name and leaves Lady Annabelle virtually untouchable to any prospective suitor. To make matters worse, the Earl of Havercroft is in a precarious financial situation as he is going broke.
The Mason family sees an opportunity to elevate their status by marrying their son off to the disgraced Lady Annabelle. They have the money to save the Earl of Havercroft from bankruptcy and they have leverage over their son. Reginald will lose all claim to the family fortune if he does not settle down and marry Lady Annabelle, while the Earl realizes he has no choice but to hand over his daughter to the only eligible bachelor who will have her.
On the surface, Reginald and Lady Annabelle appear hostile to one another and resent the ultimatums presented by their parents. However, not all is as it seems. Beautifully rendered flashbacks offer a tantalizing trail of breadcrumbs that quickly allows readers to become willing accomplices in the ruse.
Balogh scores high marks for capturing the atmosphere of the English gentry and conceiving a delicious twist ending. However, several passages in the novel suffer from chronic repetition of phrases and plot points. For such a short book, the reader can be trusted to remember what happened just a few pages ago. Despite this flaw, A Matter of Class offers a satisfying take on historical romance.
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