A Matter of Class
Mary Balogh detours a bit from her usual series writing to produce a charmingly delightful book that is a must-read on every romance connoisseur’s list.
It must be read to know why.
That is part of the beauty of this book, discovering the surprise twist as the story unravels. The ingenuity of the story alone makes it an incredibly fun read. The characters are charming—even the fathers—and the story is delightful.
Annabelle is an aristocratic lady, born to privilege as the only daughter of a haughty earl. She is overly protected, and yearns for freedom even as a small child.
Reggie is the son of “new money.” His father earned a fortune and longs to be accepted by the beau monde. He educates his only son, hoping he will one day marry into the world of aristocratic gentility.
As children, Annabelle and Reggie meet by the river, where they continue to see each other on occasion as they grow up. They have to keep their friendship a secret, however, since their fathers despise one another, and Annabelle’s father has forbidden his family to even acknowledge the existence of Reggie’s.
Years later, with both Annabelle and Reggie of marriageable age, both have proven to be disappointments to their fathers.
Annabelle, in a desperate move to avoid marriage to a wealthy and well-titled older man (arranged by her father because he desperately needs money due to bad financial decisions), runs away with a servant. They are caught, and Annabelle is locked in her room as she awaits banishment to one of her family’s more secluded estates.
Reggie, always a sensible sort before, took a sudden interest in “sowing oats,” spending his father’s money lavishly and excessively on clothes and gambling as he strived to be “as extravagant and reckless and idle as the best of his would-be peers.”
As Reggie’s dad threatens to cut him off financially, he has an idea: He would force Reggie to marry Annabelle, thereby putting his enemy in his eternal debt (literally and figuratively) and stopping Reggie’s feckless ways.
That sets up the story that will have you smiling and frowning as the couple try to make the best of their situation.