Webb’s well-written romantic mystery spans four generations but, told largely from the perspective of two women, The Legacy is a very personal story. What could have been clichés – the crumbling manor houses, a stern matriarch, a fading photograph – are skillfully woven into an intelligent and addictively readable novel.
In 1905, Caroline Calcott, a desperate young woman alone in her Wiltshire manor house, commits a terrible act. We cannot understand the deed until we learn, in flashbacks, about her earlier life – perhaps not even then – but we will see the consequences.
When Caroline’s great-granddaughters inherit Storton Manor many years later, they are ignorant of its past. Beth, a thirtyish divorcee, and her younger sister, Erika, were never close to their grandmother, Caroline’s daughter, Meredith. As children, they spent summers at the manor, where Meredith’s careless oversight allowed them full run of the grounds – but a tragic accident ended the carefree visits.
Now Beth, who is deeply depressed, never wants to see to Storton Manor again. Erica believes her sister has painful memories that need airing – and Erika wants to see Dinny, the young gypsy whose friendship was once forbidden – and she persuades Beth to return for the first time in over 20 years.
All goes well at first. But Dinny’s presence rekindles sibling rivalry, making Erika unsure whom to trust. Then she stumbles on a photograph that raises different issues.
By now, we know more about Caroline than Erika does but not the whole story and, like Erika, we have questions about the half-remembered tragedy that Beth refuses to discuss. We expect revelations. Childhood memories may be suppressed (or just inaccurate) but when examined in view of Caroline’s legacy, they take on different meanings. The Legacy is highly recommended.