I read Mary Balogh’s A Matter of Class last night. And as soon as I got to the end, I re-read the chapters set in the “present” of the story (rather than the past interludes). Why? Because the tone of the story reads completely differently once you have reached the end and understand what is really going on.
I am still sitting here this afternoon in awe of the masterful job she did at both controlling the tone and diverting reader’s sense of what was going on by virtue of the context. She presented a scenario that, if taken at face value (which in the opening chapter of a story the reader will do, lacking any cue not to), creates one reading of everything that follows, and the double entendre of tone supports that reading. But if you reread knowing the real story, then the opening has quite a different effect.
I am just in awe. I recommend it to anyone playing with either unreliable narrators or twists that are fully supported textually but would read differently when the reader has incomplete information. It is very short and moves fast. Excellent book and going on my learning shelf in a positive way (most of the fiction on that shelf is things not to do).