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Bless Thine Inheritance

Narrated by: Matt Addis
Length: 9 hrs and 46 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Summary

Pretty Celia Mardham should have been a success in her London Season, but a near fatal riding accident has left her with a pronounced limp which means she cannot even make a good curtsy, let alone dance.

There can be no expectation of marriage, but her mama makes one last effort. She draws up a list of guests for a country house sojourn, picking only young ladies she feels will not be rivals, and some potential suitors. Among the well-bred gentlemen is Lord Levedale.

When he meets Celia he sees her, not the limp, but even as his heart draws him to her, he is held back by his duty to his family name.

©2018 Sophia Holloway (P)2019 Soundings

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A Regency romance with an unusual heroine

Bless Thine Inheritance by Sophia Holloway is a traditional Regency romance whose unlikely heroine is anything but the usual society belle. When a family bequest heightens the rivalry between two branches of the family, Celia Mardham finds herself - and her future happiness - caught between warring Mamas.

The book opens with a delightfully catty scene between sisters-in-law which made me laugh aloud before I was even five minutes into the book. Due to the 'house party' format, there is a large cast to set up in the beginning and it did well to avoid feeling laborious while introducing the group we would follow throughout their eventful summer at Meysey manor.

The hosts, Lord and Lady Mardham, were somewhat reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice's Mr and Mrs Bennett, though Lord Mardham's understanding of his daughter's circumstances was both more compassionate and more tactful than any of Mr Bennett's views on his less-desirable daughters. I also very much enjoyed the camaraderie between our heroine, Celia, and her brother, Richard. Siblings in Regency novels frequently treat each other like they are separate species, which is often reflective of how very differently they were raised. There felt to be sincere warmth between the young Mardhams, and because of this it felt very natural that Richard would have reassured his sister that there would always be a place for her in the Dower house when he inherited Meysey. It allowed Celia a level of security that most unmarried ladies of the period could only hope to attain via marriage, and in that regard Celia was less vulnerable than many of her peers (a position which was nicely contrasted with her cousin Sarah's experience as "the poor relation"). Allowing Celia's circumstances to remain nuanced, with her privilege juxtaposed against her misfortunes, was vital to helping her feel like a rounded character with a story all her own and not simply a tragic plot device.

There is a point toward the end of almost every Regency romance where the reader is conscious of awaiting that one last, crushing, misunderstanding between the central couple which must be resolved before their HEA, and it always has the potential to grind. Here, however, it was done well, with the scheming Darwen's claw-sharpening practically audible in the background as the stage is set for the final act. Overall the book felt very well paced, neither dragging nor feeling rushed.

Unlike many modern Regencies, there was a wonderful levity to much of this audiobook, which one might not expect given the prominence of Celia's injury. Her witty exchanges with the playful Lord Levedale were a delight, and the gloriously-irascible Dowager was a highlight of every scene she entered. There were so many characters I came to like, including Lord Deben, who reminded me very much of Bertie Wooster; kind-hearted and jolly but not terribly bright. Miss Darwen was the perfect antagonist, far outdoing the spoilt cockscomb, Mr Wombwell, as the villain of the piece.

Another aspect of this audiobook that is important to address more specifically is the author's approach to Celia's disability. A horse riding accident left Celia with a pronounced limp in an era when young women were judged on their grace, poise, and dancing when assessing their eligibility for marriage. With matrimony being a necessity for most women if they were to have any chance of avoiding becoming a burden on their families, Celia's injury was life-changing in every regard. This could have proven to be a difficult aspect to incorporate sensitively, but I felt that Holloway succeeded and several moments within the book were especially resonant with my own lived experiences of disability.

I cringed when Miss Marianne Burton greeted Celia by saying "Oh Celia, my dear friend, how terrible. And you used to be the best of dancers, and so very pretty." Miss Burton's sincerity does not erase her indiscretion, but it is very reflective of the way healthy/physically 'desirable' people often view disability. Celia's reaction - to inwardly wince while attempting to maintain polite gratitude - was painfully familiar.

One of the reasons I liked her so much was that whilst Celia is certainly pitied by a society that cannot see beyond her disability, she is never pitiable in herself. She is fully cognisant of the impact her impairment has on her value in the 'marriage mart', but she is not defined by it and it is never treated as a gimmick.

One of the most important aspects of Celia's story to note is that she is not miraculously cured by the love of a good man. True love does not recoil from imperfection, and it is wonderful to see a heroine whose happily-ever-after embraces her as she is, and does not insist that she must be fixed to be happy.

Lifting the entire novel and infusing it with humour and emotion was the narrator, Matt Addis. I challenge anyone to listen to this book and not fall a little in love with his voice by the end of it. He infuses personality into his portrayal of each character, adroitly performing both the male and female parts; in fact, few gentlemen-narrators give a better Dowager or overbearing Mama, and I am always impressed by how seamlessly he can switch from one character to another. I know few narrators who could convincingly portray a furious Earl, an imperious Dowager, and a heartbroken ingénue almost within the same breath. In fact, there were times (such as during a heated argument between Levedale and his father, Curborough,) when I was so invested in the performance that I almost forgot that the book has a single narrator. There was none of the blurring of one character into another that is common to such an energetic moment in most narration, even by the most talented voice actor.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sophia Holloway's previous book, The Devil You Know , which was also narrated by Addis, yet this novel comfortably surpassed it; juggling the wealth of characters and the restrictions of the setting to emerge feeling generally much more accomplished. It is rare to find a traditional, 'clean', Regency novel with so much humour and vibrancy, and I very much hope that it is not the last Regency romance by this author, especially when aided by such a marvellous narrator.

My overall rating for this audiobook is 4.5 stars, but has been rounded up to 5 because of the wonderful narration and the astute, compassionate portrayal of chronic pain and disability. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Regency romance, but most especially to those who yearn to see themselves represented within its pages, and may finally find that in Miss Celia Mardham.

*I received this audiobook from the publisher free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

More like this please!

Sophia Holloway has written a charming romance which will delight fans of Georgette Heyer. She has a lightness of touch which draws the listener in. Her characters are believable and likeable, especially her disabled heroine, who, thankfully, is not a patient saint suffering bravely but a well-drawn, occasionally cross girl who the reader comes to like more and more.
The story is well told and the narrator, Matt Addis, is ideal.
I hope this is the first of many titles from Sophie Holloway. I’ve read all the Georgette Heyer Regency romances many times and Sophie Holloway is the first writer I’ve found to come near her standard. More please!

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Very enjoyable

I really enjoyed this. I haven’t the energy for a proper review, but I’ll definitely be reading others by this author.

I particularly appreciated the handling of disability, as I’m disabled myself.

I find the narrator’s voice deeper than many I’ve listened to, which took a little while to get used to, but it is very well done.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Excellent piece of frivol

It took me a while to get into this but, once I had, I very much enjoyed it as a bit of excellent frivol. I did have some difficulty, at first, getting to grips with who was who and what everyone's family, and financial, background was. When I was about half way through, I had to stop and listen to the first few chapters again, to get a proper handle on everyone. It was good fun though and I'll probably look for more books by the author.

1 person found this helpful