cover image Legacy of Love

Legacy of Love

Joanna Trollope, Caroline Harvey. Viking Books, $24.95 (544pp) ISBN 978-0-670-89181-8

In a trio of linked novellas, Trollope--under her historical-novel pseudonym Caroline Harvey (The Brass Dolphin)--follows the romances of three adventurous women. Spirited, flirtatious Charlotte Brent, deathly bored with life in the countryside of early Victorian England, marries Hugh Connell, a rich officer, and accompanies him (bringing her sister Emily, who narrates) as he joins the doomed army of occupation in Kabul, Afghanistan. There, Trollope introduces the dashing womanizer Alexander Bewick, the British Resident (loosely based on the historical figure Alexander Burns). The Afghans evict the British army and take the women and children hostage, but between Charlotte's pluck and Bewick's daring, a successful rescue is inevitable. The second novella takes place in England two generations later, where Harvey more convincingly evokes her familiar historical terrain. Charlotte and Bewick's granddaughter Alexandra, who has grown up in the shadow of her illustrious ancestors, leaves home to care for the elderly Emily and discovers her own poise and capabilities with a little help from a reclusive artist. In the third, Alexandra's charismatic daughter, Cara, suffers and works through WWII. The three generations of women are very similar: intelligent, impulsive and na ve. Each has to choose between a handsome, stylish, silly young man and a brooding, driven, older man; not surprisingly, each makes the same choice. The novellas sometimes feel a little cursory, especially in the third, where wartime years are dismissed in a sentence in order to get on with Cara's romance. But Harvey brings a practiced hand to these nuanced narratives of young women's trials, sexual awakenings and self-discoveries. (Oct.)