Recently read: A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

Reginald Mason is a wealthy, refined, and, by all accounts, a gentleman. However, he is not a gentleman by birth, a factor that pains him and his father, Bernard Mason, 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. Besmirched by shame, the early is only to happy to marry Annabelle off to anyone willing to have her.

Though Bernard wishes to use Annabelle to propel his family up the social lade, his son does not wish to marry her, preferring instead to live the wild, single life he is accustomed to. With this, Bernard 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 resent the other for their current state of affairs.

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

I can remember a time when Mary Balogh’s European historical were auto buys for me. It was a narrow window, just after I’d discovered her backlog of traditional Regencies, as she was making the jump to hard cover series and single titles.

I stopped buying her books because she didn’t make my short list of hard cover auto buys, and then gradually stopped borrowing her books from the library or buying them in mass market release, too, although I couldn’t give a specific reason. Lack of distinctiveness in a glutted genre market, maybe, or just that I had other things to read that caught my attention first.

How have the more recent releases been received by readers? Now that I’ve read A Matter of Class, I’m going to have to look.

The cover art is nice, although I’m not clear which scene it might be representing.  More interesting to me is the use of cover quotes from Debbie Macomber and Christine Feehan.  Macomber used to write good categories but now her work seems to be more cozy and inspirational (I’m guessing, I haven’t read anything of hers in at least 5 years).  Feehan is a big paranormal author who writes edgier, sexier stuff than either Macomber or Balogh (I’m guessing based on reviews, haven’t read her).  So what market was Balogh’s publisher trying to tap into by having cover quotes from both?  Is there a big overlap between the two readerships, or was the intent to appeal to both?  

As a romance novel, well, it wasn’t bad or poorly written. The characters were fairly flat, but I attribute that to the very short nature of the book – very little page space for anything other than clichés. The plot was extremely predictable. The backblurb hints at dark secrets and deception. Not sure what the dark secrets were, but I guessed the deception by the opening paragraph of the second chapter.

As an object, the mmp price ($6.99) was too high: length-wise, it was shorter than many category romance novels that sell for $4.50 to $5.50. The book is quite slender but is padded by 10 page author Q&A and then 5 pages of discussion questions. (Really? What market was the publisher going for? That seems very unusual for genre romance.) And it was originally released as a hard cover. Personally, I would have been very unhappy to pay $15.95 for that.

Meh. C for me.


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