Desert Isle Keeper
Where does Medallion Press find its debut authors? This is the second time in a fortnight I have read a debut novel published by this house, and each time I have been overwhelmed by the quality of the writing, by the fascinating characters, and by the authors’ happy disregard of the usual formulas of historical romance writing. After finding myself swept away by Judith James’s Broken Wing two weeks ago, I was astounded to discover another DIK in TJ Bennett’s The Legacy.
The novel begins with a forced marriage: The villainous Baron von Ziegler blackmails his stepdaughter Sabina, a former nun who has escaped from the convent with the advent of the Protestant Reformation, and Wolfgang Behaim, a commoner and master-printer, into marrying. Von Ziegler does this in order to lay hands on Sabina’s legacy from her late mother, but neither bride nor groom want this marriage. Wolf still mourns the loss of his first wife, Beth, in childbed three years ago, and Sabina has had her fill of men after running away with a fortune hunter when she was sixteen. Both are keen to apply for an annulment at first, which is possibly under newly reformed law, but both are unable to deny the deep attraction that exploded between them from the first.
At first sight, Sabina and Wolf appear as different as chalk and cheese: a commoner, risen through hard work, a conservative Catholic, and a man who is used to taking care of his womenfolk single-handedly, on the one hand, and an aristocrat who spent nine miserly years in a convent, escaped with great daring, embraced the ideas of Protestantism and is well used to acting for herself. From their first conversation, however, TJ Bennett leaves no doubt that they are kindred spirits and more than well-matched. They share laughter and heated debates, and while power struggles take place between them, their moods and who’s in ascendancy may change with lightning speed, so it was constant delight to read about their interactions – of all sorts.
The novel’s sensuality was difficult to grade. Although there are quite a lot of heated thoughts, there is in fact only one – albeit long and wonderfully luscious – sex scene. Still, as the characters’ feelings remain paramount, I would describe this novel as “warm/bordering on hot.”
What else did I love about this novel? I loved the way the historic background got subtly woven into the tale without overpowering it. That includes the issue of religion. Sabina is a former nun, and religion is an integral part of the characters’ lives without any trace of preachiness. The secondary characters were delightful(though I would have liked to see Sabina interact more with her fellow escaped nuns), and I can’t wait to read about Wolf’s delicious brothers Günter and Peter. Both Wolf and Sabina act irrationally or stupid occasionally, but never for long, and I enjoyed reading about such mature and rather pragmatic people.
By the way, I will say that you may think you know rather early on to what ‘legacy’ the title refers, but its true meaning is revealed in more and more layers as the book progresses. And for those of you who like the villains to come to a grisly end, you won’t be disappointed here.
The Legacy is a complex novel with a delightful romance, and it proves that you can leave well-trodden paths and write something utterly fascinating. I highly recommend you give it a try. As for me, I plan both to read The Promise, its sequel, as soon as it comes out in spring, and take a look at Medallion’s backlist. With luck, I just might discover another treasure.