REVIEW: A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden
Lucy Drake’s mastery of Morse code has made her a valuable asset to the American news agencies as a telegrapher. But the sudden arrival of Sir Colin Beckwith at rival British news agency Reuters puts her hard-earned livelihood at risk. Newly arrived from London, Colin is talented, handsome, and insufferably charming.
Despite their rivalry, Lucy realizes Colin’s connections could be just what her family needs to turn the tide of their long legal battle over the fortune they were swindled out of forty years ago. When she negotiates an unlikely alliance with him, neither of them realizes how far the web of treachery they’re wading into will take them.
Dear Ms. Camden,
Wow, okay what historical events and devices are going to be featured in this book? Telegraphs, carrier pigeons, NYC plumbing, oceanic canal building and insane asylums are on the menu for “A DANGEROUS LEGACY.” It’s always something interesting with an Elizabeth Camden book. To all that is added some class differences and US/UK battles of wits and zesty verbal exchanges between a transplanted English aristocrat and a confident NYC working woman. My interest was immediately caught and I hoped the book would live up to what it was promising. Oh, there’s one thing about the period I’d never heard of before and which I totally agree with Colin about: little tableaux of taxidermy stuffed animal tea parties is just weird.
Lucy and her brother Nick are hardworking New Yorkers. Lucy can quickly transcribe telegraph messages and loves her job at the AP wire. She’s a doer and proud of her abilities. And she maintains the pneumatic tube system too! Yay, I love to see this in any heroine but a historical one gets bonus points. Her easy going brother has the plumbing genius that has revolutionized water delivery to buildings, made the family a fortune and also tore it apart. I was skeptical about what it could be that had the siblings so scared of their Uncle and his determination to crush them but as the story progressed, it all began to become clearer.
The introduction scene between Colin and the Drakes was not what I was expecting. The set up was leading me down one mental pathway but the actual event sounded delightful with Lucy and Colin immediately striking sparks of attraction and enjoying trading good natured barbs. Colin might smilingly rib them about Queen and Country vs brash Americans but everyone has a good time. It’s too bad that Colin is on the lookout for a wealthy American heiress to save the Old Stately Pile from the rising damp, falling plaster and flooded fields that threatens his home and risks 90 tenants being out of work and in poverty. Colin might regret not being able to pursue his immediate interest in this lovely and smart American but needs must and at least he isn’t whinging on about sending a brother to Eton. It’s the tenant’s fate that haunts him the most.
I always learn something when reading your books and the history and rivalry of the AP vs Reuters was fascinating. Colin’s endless curiosity suits his choice of going out into the field as a reporter and Lucy’s delight in learning all about the world through the AP stories she transposes from reporters around the world makes these two a news hound match made in heaven. If only there wasn’t that pesky need for Colin to snag a rich American …. He charms Lucy and me with his carrier pigeons Beatrice and Bianca. I would initially have agreed with Lucy about pigeons being dirty street birds but for these two I would make an exception.
From the outset, we are told that Lucy and Nick are up against family in a decades long lawsuit. By this point there is an ocean of bad blood between the two branches but … it’s about a plumbing valve? Yeah, once it’s explained what the valve is and what it does, it makes sense that NYC with its soaring high rise buildings and the urgent need in the “dirt poor” tenements for running water would snap these things up and how greed could take over – the other branch of the family, that is. Nick and Lucy give ample proof that their desire is the same as their grandfather – the original designer of the valve – to help those in need of clean running water. His desire – to do good with the gifts that God gave him – also provides Lucy with her motivation for all that she and Nick do to try and win the David vs Goliath legal fight on their hands. Little by little it’s shown the insidious and nefarious methods their unscrupulous Uncle will resort to in order to win the lawsuit and the ways are chilling and ruthless.
Colin’s far flung reporting has unfortunately left him with a little legacy curtesy of his time in the Boer War – severe PTSD triggered by loud sounds. At various times, this will plague him and cause issues both with his heiress hunting and when he becomes involved with helping the Drakes. Thankfully there is no magic cure tendered to us. Instead, it is something Colin regretfully accepts will be a part of him and that he’ll have to try and endure. It does, however, set up one of the villains of the story whose treatments horrify Colin and presage future events as the story reaches a climax. It also brings Lucy and Colin together in a quid pro quo – and believable – agreement to help each other out. The situation also piques Colin’s drive to ask questions and find answers.
The romantic attraction between Lucy and Colin is immediate and two sided. They also both acknowledge it even if they also reluctantly agree that it can’t progress further. Colin is up-front about why he needs money and Lucy has lost past suitors due to her Uncle’s foul machinations. There are, thank goodness, no tantrums or misunderstandings. When Colin reveals something he and her Uncle agreed on, well that does set Lucy off but Colin does tell her right away. They might not always agree on things but there are no Big Mis’s waiting to rear up and bite.
Just when I thought the conflict would only be about marrying for money, how to pronounce words – British vs American – or family quarrels, another brickbat gets hurled through the story’s window and this one makes the others pale. I knew something about the Panama Canal and TR’s involvement in it but not how controversy brewed up about it before TR “bullied” his way through. Again, the way it becomes a part of the book flows and brings up the fact that Americans have agreed and violently disagreed with their politicians since day one. Once again, Lucy shows she’s got grit and core deep integrity as she jumps into the fray. Colin’s admiration for her grows by leaps and bounds as he sees just how far she’ll agree to go to prevent a tragedy and to save him.
Colin and Lucy are honest and it brings about the final conflict between them and a HEA. Colin at first can’t understand Lucy’s reaction to their actions but as I pondered it, it makes perfect sense. Meanwhile, Lucy has to know that Colin isn’t now interested in pursuing her because of any money. And Colin has to work out how he’s going to save the jobs of the people depending on him and what it’s worth to him to do that. Nothing is slung at us in two pages of “let’s wrap this up.” When Colin finally appears and sends his – carrier pigeon – message to Lucy, they’re ready. She finds his quipping and English humor wonderful and he is devoted to his callused fingered American.
Telegraphs, pigeons, plots and plumbing – who would have thought all these could come together. And with the intriguing glimpses we get of Lucy’s brother Nick, I’ll be eager to see how his changed life affects him in the next book. B+