Sometimes you read a book that makes you feel as though your insides have turned to sunshine and glitter. You read over passages and, no matter how curmudgeonly you are, find yourself smiling. As you reach the climax of the book, a joy swells within you at being able to partake of such love, even if it's completely vicarious, because you want that for yourself.
A MATTER OF CLASS is that book.
Reginald is the rakish son of a coal merchant who became part of the nouveau riche through hard work and good business decisions. He burns though cash like a flame, and has a gambling habit to boot. Annabelle is the daughter of nobility, well known for her incredible beauty, but after being caught in a compromising position with a carriage man all her beaux have withdrawn their proposals, leaving her in a most sorry state.
Upon finding out about Annabelle's disgrace, Reginald's father, Mr. Mason practically runs over to Lord Havercroft's house to offer a solution that he feels will benefit both sides. He will marry his son to Annabelle for her title in exchange for a sizable dowry and redemption from a fall from grace.
It seems to be hate at first sight. Reginald and Annabelle bicker continuously and it is immensely entertaining. Many of those smiles I referred to in the beginning of this review came from their back-chat. I am a sucker for witty banter, and this book did not disappoint. The sexual tension is off the charts here, too, and a couple scenes - surprisingly chaste considering what happens in many romance novels these days - had me reaching for a nonexistant fan.
I think what I liked best about this book were the characters, though. Reginald/Reggie and Annabelle/Anna were wonderful. The more I read about them, the more I liked them, to the point that by the end of the book, I was utterly smitten. I loved their families, too, especially the mothers of the hero and the heroine. They were so sweet. Even the fathers, despite their shortcomings - pride and greed, you could say - loved their children, and as we see at the end, were willing to sacrifice their own ambitions in order to make their children happy. This is a romance novel that is completely, and unashamedly about love, in its many forms, and it was an absolute delight to read.
A MATTER OF CLASS was my first Mary Balogh book - but it won't be the last.
4.5 to 5 out of 5 stars.