A Matter of Class
Grade : A-

A Matter of Class is a short novel by Mary Balogh. Not only is it short, but it has large print and lots of white space. Those of you who are frugal might want to check it out at the library, or look for a nice discount. If money is no object – go on and buy it. But whatever your preference, do yourself a favor and read this wonderfully charming book. I read it with the greatest delight and it jolted me out of a minor reading slump.

Bernard Mason is rich, very rich, one of the super rich as a matter of fact. He is a bluff, kind, friendly man who loves his wife, his son and his extended family. He owns a fine estate and should be one of the most prominent members of the County. However, Mr. Mason made his fortune in coal and has stubbornly retained his Yorkshire accent. This makes him persona non grata to his neighbor, the Earl of Havercroft. The Earl has snubbed the Masons for thirty years, and even though Lady Havercroft would like to be friends, her husband will not bend.

Mr. Mason has one son, Reginald to whom he is devoted. Reginald has been given a good education, has never wanted for money, and up until recently, his father cast a benign eye on his son’s increasingly wild ways. However, Reginald has lately been spending way too much money on horses, clothes, and gambling and his father has had enough.

Meanwhile over at the Havercrofts, the earl has his own problems. He is in deep financial trouble himself and the bills are coming due. However, the Marquess of Illingsworth is willing to help him out. The marquess will pay off Havercroft’s debts in return for the hand of his daughter, Lady Annabelle. That young lady did not want to marry the marquess (he has terrible teeth among other bad traits) so she eloped with her father’s coachman. While nothing happened, Lady Annabelle has been compromised, the marquess has withdrawn his offer and she is now considered damaged goods by the ton.

When Mr. Mason finds out about his neighbor’s problems he hatches a plan that just might get him accepted socially. He informs Reginald that it’s time he settled down and married and Lady Annabelle will make him a good wife. (And she will give the Mason family entrée into the County social life). So his father gives Reginald an ultimatum. Marry Annabelle, or be cut off. Then Mr. Mason tells the earl he will pay off his debts if the earl will give Annabelle’s hand in marriage to Reginald. The earl grudgingly accepts, and tells Annabelle, marry Reginald Mason or be exiled. So the son of a coal merchant and the daughter of an earl find themselves betrothed.

To say more would spoil this delightful book, so I will let you all discover it for yourself. At first I thought it would be yet another tale of the lady and cit, but Mary Balogh takes the story in an entirely different direction. I read it with increasing delight until the final twist at the end which wrapped up everything in a perfect package. The characters are delightful. Mary Balogh is known for her angsty characters, but she can write sweet and charming ones just as well and Annabelle and Reginald are both dears. I was in a bit of a romance slump until I read A Matter of Class, and it jolted me right out of the slump. Well played, Mary Balogh – this is a practically perfect read.

Reviewed by Ellen Micheletti

Grade: A-

Book Type: Historical Romance

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : January 15, 2010

Publication Date: 2010

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