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  • Bless Thine Inheritance

  • By: Sophia Holloway
  • Narrated by: Matt Addis
  • Length: 9 hrs and 46 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (47 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
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: Romance

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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.

13 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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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!

6 people found this helpful

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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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • MM
  • 10-06-22

Lovely story but not as good as the rest

Again a great book from Sophia Holloway as usual amazingly narrated by Matt Addis but the story is not as enthralling as the rest of her books but would definitely recommend listening to it. Lovely regency romance. Can’t wait for her next book to come out!

1 person found this helpful

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Unusual regency tale which tackles disabiliry

Regency romances abound and they vary from the sublime, Georgette Heyer and Jude Morgan to the ridiculous like the popular Bridgerton series. This novel is somewhere near the top and interested me particularly as it has a disabled heroine and I too am disabled. The empathy show in the depicting of Celia is great and while some characterisation is a little obvious it is a nice plot well written and well read by the reliable Matt Adis. I liked it enough to make me seek out further books by this author.

1 person found this helpful

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Enjoyable experience

Loved it was enthralling and historical accurate. Would suggest it to a fire d. Bravo

1 person found this helpful

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Another wonderful story…

Again Sophia Holloway has done it - a charming story which draws you in and again Matt Addis presented it with such splendid style - it is a joy to listen to him - as he brings life to the characters and never fails !!!

A great team between author & presenter !!
I shall look forward to the next book!

1 person found this helpful

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Great story marred by a bit of bad grammar

I really liked this book! It made me laugh out loud more than once. However, 'she was sat' is such bad grammar and very irritating.

1 person found this helpful

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Good solid Regency

Enjoyable with believable characters. Nice to listen to a story without the boring obligatory sex. Narrator did a good job.

1 person found this helpful

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Similar themes

Enjoyed this although the story was very similar to one of her previous books. Matt Addis is a super narrator, he has a great voice.

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  • Sue
  • 19-06-20

Well written and a fun read

Enjoyed the wit and polished writing. The narrator made it all the more enjoyable.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Melinda A. Bell
  • 27-07-22

How Delightful!

What a charming and fun read. Thoroughly enjoyable! I look forward to more from Sophia Holloway.