A Magical Inheritance is the first book in the Ladies Occult Society series. I enjoyed the feminist themes and the characters. However, readers should be advised that nothing much actually happens in the book. This is a fantasy Regency without romance but with The Power of Friendship Between Women and a lot of books. Also, there is tea.
Elizabeth Knight is unmarried. She lives with her stepmother, who is younger than she is (and who is a sympathetic character) and her father (NOT a sympathetic character). She has a wastrel brother and a whiny married sister and, as an unmarried adult woman, spends her time managing all of them, tending to whoever whines the loudest.
Elizabeth was very close to her uncle. When he dies, he leaves her his collection of occult books. She can sell some of them for a lot of money, which is a game-changer for her as long as she can keep her father from taking the money or the books (he can’t, legally, but he can pressure her). However, she plans to keep some of them despite being told that it’s an established fact that women can’t do magic.
Elizabeth has allies in her stepmother, her friend Maria and Maria’s husband, and her Aunt Cass. A more unusual ally is a voice that comes from one of the books, Mrs. Egerton. Mrs. Egerton’s spirit resides in an autograph book. She can speak when addressed with certain incantations, and she’s very opinionated. Gradually the circle of women and a few supportive men grows larger.
This book consists almost entirely of Elizabeth and her friends sorting books into piles to sell and piles to keep. Whether this is a feature or a bug will depend on your personal tastes. What the book does, it does well. Themes of women’s limited options, grief, marriage, family, and friendship are beautifully explored. There are books. There are clothes. There is tea.
However, it does seem reasonable to me that a reader approaching a book called “A Magical Inheritance” might expect more magic. Mrs. Egerton is great but she just talks. There’s no action beyond one scene and there is very little magic. For a reader who knows what to expect, that could be fine, but I was a bit disappointed and, on occasion, a bit bored. This will not stop me from reading the next book in the series. I love these characters, even if the next book consists of them filling out tax returns.