A Matter of Class / Mary Balogh. 2010
Here's a short review because Mary Balogh's latest is a short book, slightly longer than a short story that would appear in an anthology, but shorter than one of her old traditionals. And it's an unusual story because of the way that it explores the wide gulf that existed between the classes in Regency England.
There's a cover quote from Debbie Macomber that says in part: This is a not-to-be-missed story with a surprising twist. And really, that's it in a nutshell. Of course, I'm a die-hard MB fan who never misses any of her books as it is. The twist caught me by surprise, although the way it's written allows you to catch on to the fact that something is up from almost the beginning. But I did not see the full extent of what she had done until the last chapter. And then I did something I never do. I went back to the beginning and read the whole thing over again. This time I caught the double-meanings that were laced throughout the book. Very cleverly done.
I'm not going to say a word about the plot. I don't want to give anything away. But there are several themes woven into this little book that are worth mentioning: the very wide gulf between the aristocracy and everyone else in society, how even grown children will strive to please their parents, how sons and daughters could be bartered in marriage in order to secure a family fortune, and how important it was for young women to have an absolutely spotless reputation. Balogh has often used issues of class, family, and money to great effect in her books. This one is no different. It's quite a gem. Oh, and check this out. The book has its own website complete with questions for use at a book club.
I read a library copy. If I can get my hands on a decent coupon, I'm buying this in hardcover to add to my MB collection.