Autumn Vows

Lady at Risk

Midnight Waltz

The Runaways

Wild Roses

 
The Scottish Legacy
by Barbara Hazard
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-19888-3
***
Rewriting old Regencies has become something of a trend these days. Catherine Coulter has done it; Mary Jo Putney has done it; and now Barbara Hazard has chosen to take a story she wrote back in 1981 and redo it. Hazard assures us that The Scottish Legacy is very different from the old The Covington Inheritance and I am certainly willing to take her at her word. However, the style and approach of this rewrite do hearken back to older times, much older. Indeed, all the way back to my youth. For The Scottish Legacy reminds me very much of the old gothic romances of days gone by.

To begin with, it is written in the first person. And very well written in the first person. We see the entire story through the eyes of Lila Douglas, one of seven cousins who have been summoned to the Scottish estate of their great-aunt, Lady Cecily Douglas. The wealthy Lady Cecily has finally decided to make her will and she has invited all of her young relatives to visit Grimshead Castle in the depths of winter.

Those assembled include Lila, her brother Robert, her second cousins Alastair Russell, Grant St. Williams, Earl of Byford, Roger Danvers and his very unpleasant wife, Sylvia. Also included in the mix are Mr. Douglas-Moore, a descendant of Lady Cecily’s father on the wrong side of the blanket, Miss Simpson, her browbeaten companion, and all the elderly servants.

I don’t need to tell you that Grimshead Castle is, well, grim. That goes with out saying. Of course, you just know that a snowstorm isolates the group from civilization. And that strange accidents begin to happen to the potential heirs.

As I said, pure Gothic!

Lila travels to Scotland with some enthusiasm. She had met and fallen for her handsome cousin Alastair the previous spring and is looking forward to pursuing the acquaintance. Of course, she doesn’t much expect that this leader of fashion will return her regard, but hope springs eternal.

Reading The Scottish Legacy made me appreciate the mastery of those mistresses of the gothic, like Victoria Holt or Mary Stewart. I realize how very difficult it is to create and sustain an aura of danger and uncertainty. Hazard doesn’t quite pull it off. I’m afraid I figured out who the culprit was almost immediately. So, as a gothic, the book doesn’t quite work.

It does work much better as a romance. I knew pretty quickly that Alastair is not the stuff of which romance heroes are made, so it was pretty clear that Lila and the other eligible gentleman, the Earl of Byford, comprised the romantic duo. Hazard does a good job of detailing Lila’s changing opinion of both men and her growing appreciation for Grant. There are complications to their growing love. Of course, as is ever the case in a first person narrative, the feelings of the other party remain somewhat obscure.

The Scottish Legacy is a pleasant read. The gothic elements give it a somewhat unusual character and the first person narrative is a nice change of pace. A perfectly acceptable Regency romance.

--Jean Mason


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