Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Matter of Class

Reginald Mason is wealthy, refined, and, by all accounts, a gentleman. However, he is not a gentleman by title, a factor that pains him and his father within the Regency society that upholds station over all else. That is, until an opportunity for social advancement arises, namely, Lady Annabelle Ashton. Daughter of the Earl of Havercroft, a neighbor and enemy of the Mason family, Annabelle finds herself disgraced by a scandal, one that has left her branded as damaged goods. Besmirched by shame, the earl is only too happy to marry Annabelle off to anyone willing to have her.

Though Reginald Mason, Senior, wishes to use Annabelle to propel his family up the social ladder, his son does not wish to marry her, preferring instead to live the wild, single life he is accustomed to. With this, Reginald Senior serves his son an ultimatum: marry Annabelle, or make do without family funds. Having no choice, Reginald consents, and enters into a hostile engagement in which the prospective bride and groom are openly antagonistic, each one resenting the other for their current state of affairs while their respective fathers revel in their suffering.

So begins an intoxicating tale rife with dark secrets, deception, and the trials of love—a story in which very little is as it seems.

Oooh... (rubbing hands together)  Nicely done, Ms. Balogh!

Ok. I loved this one! An arranged marriage but with a big twist. The families HATE each other. So why the arrangement? Well, when an Earl's daughter runs off with a coachman, scandal ensues, rendering Annabelle unmarriageable in the eyes of the ton. So when the neighboring Masons see the opportunity for advancement in society through Annabelle's disgrace, what other choice is there for Annabelle and her cash-strapped family but to accept?

Ms. Balogh uses a ploy in this book, but really to good effect. The first chapter sets the scene in present day (Regency time), then the even-numbered chapters 2 through 8 are flashbacks. I kinda raised my eyebrows to this discovery at chapter 2 because I've read a book similarly written in this form and I was really disappointed. But Ms. Balogh accomplishes this task beautifully and it really works! And as much as I would love to put a spoiler alert on this entry and gush about how she did it, I just can't because I really think this was a great novella, and you need to enjoy it for yourself.

And speaking of novella, that is indeed what you are buying when you cough up the full price of $15.95 at the bookstore - a 190 paged, small hardbound (about 5 1/2 x 7 3/4 inches) with 3/4 to 1 inch margins. Now aesthetically, the book is very pleasing. I truly wish more books were published in this way because I love the size and shape and I always prefer hardbacks especially when it comes to my favorite books on my keeper shelves. While I didn't pay full price, I still paid a bit more than I would for the average 300+ page full-length novel. But I am not complaining too much. It will grace my keeper shelf, and be a story I return to when I am in want of a dreamy, quick read.

But back to the story now... I will raise my hand and admit defeat - I did not see the plot twist coming until shortly before it happened! And now I want to go back and re-read the whole thing and scour for clues! It was brilliant! The flashbacks were really sweet and romantic (and rather idealistic), so when mixed with the present day chapters (again, Regency time) it really made you ask 'where is all this going?' So, read the book to find out! Its a great short story, and one I will enjoy again. There is no epilogue, but (I never thought I would say this) does not need one! :)

Oh, and this is only my third Balogh novella. I have yet to read any of the handful of full-length novels I have waiting patiently on my shelf. I need to rectify that.

My rating: 9 – Loved it!

1 comment:

  1. Darryl ProsperieJuly 14, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    Thanks for the review. Historical romance books that make use of flashbacks are really smart because that way they get the best of both time periods. Glad you liked it.