The Randolph Legacy
The Randolph Legacy is a powerful early-American novel that started a little slowly, but quickly picked up steam until I became totally absorbed in the story and its wonderful characters.
In 1803, a young boy from an American ship is impressed on a British ship. When he refuses to obey the captain’s orders, he is flogged until he faints. A French soldier rescues him, more dead than alive, and when the boy regains consciousness, he cannot remember anything. The Frenchman, Maupin, names the now-crippled boy Henry Washington, and hides him from the captain for ten years. This long period of hiding the boy did stretch my willing suspension of disbelief, but I accepted it.
After ten years, an American Quaker missionary and his daughter, Eli and Judith Mercer are passengers on board the British ship and meet Henry. Judith and he become good friends and she and her father try to find out his identity. The Mercers find the young man is really Ethan Randolph, the third son of a wealthy Virginia planter family. When they return Ethan, some members of the Randolph family receive him grudgingly. Judith Mercer has fallen in love with Ethan even though he is crippled and nearly a decade younger than she. Ethan declares his love for Judith early on in the novel and has no problem with the differences in their ages and backgrounds.
There is not much internal anguishing in The Randolph Legacy. Both Judith and Ethan have very few doubts as to their love for each other, but there are lot of external conflicts that they have to face. In showing all these external conflicts, Ms Charbonneau gives the reader a vivid picture of the life of the period. We see Quakers and their beliefs and a portrait of a Virginia plantation. The secondary characters are just as memorable as the primary ones, especially the Randolph family and the slaves on the plantation.
I love historical novels set in the United States, but most of the ones I have read have been set during the Civil War or in the West. This is one of the few that I have read that was set in the post-Revolutionary period, a time when the United States was in its infancy.
If you enjoy historical novels, please try The Randolph Legacy or Ms Charbonneau’s two others, Rachel LeMoyne and Waltzing in Ragtime. She not only captures the period of which she is writing, but she peoples it with vivid and realistic characters. I would love to see a television mini-series based on one of her books – if they could find someone who would do it justice.