From the back of the book:
Five Fingers, the Garrisons’ island estate, lay like a tiny jewel under the brilliant Texas Gulf sun. To all appearances, Janne, heiress to the Garrison kingdom, was the girl who had everything – youth, beauty, riches, and a glamorous family.
But behind the glittering wall of privacy that separated the Garrisons from the ordinary world, there lurked a shapeless, shadowy terror that had haunted Janne from childhood: mysterious “accidents” that had nearly taken her life… the dark silence about her mother’s suicide… rumors of madness in the family’s past.
Now, Janne’s return after the sudden death of her husband had awakened the old horrors. There were new “accidents.” Someone at Five Fingers wanted to kill her. But who? Why?
What murderous monster was hiding behind the smiling mask of love?
In the laundry room of our apartment building stands a large bookcase filled with the most random assortment of books you can find – it has everything from Readers Digest versions of classic novels, to pulp mystery novels, to harlequin romances. Every time I do my laundry, I root through the bookcase to see if anything jumps out at me – even though it’s not often that something actually calls to me. Strange Legacy, however, piqued my interest.
I had never heard of this author, and I had a hard time finding out anything about this book when I searched for it online… which is a pity, because it was a thoroughly enjoyable book and probably could be enjoyed by a large group of readers even still. What I did find out was that it was published by a company that no longer really exists, that specialized in comic books.
While this book was written late 1960’s, it doesn’t feel dated – it actually felt like it could have been written and taken place this year, except that it spoke about the events in the past tense. (Though the events did happen in the recent past from when the story is being told.) I had expected this to be dated, so it was definitely a pleasant surprise that it wasn’t.
I discovered after reading Strange Legacy that this book was classified as a “romance” novel – though this isn’t necessarily what I would consider it. In fact, I definitely considered it more gothic, from before I even read it. Since the manor is practically a character unto itself, even reading it I felt this had a much more gothic feeling than romance. There was a threatening atmosphere, and a lot of mystery surrounding everything.
Janne was an interesting character – she had depth, but seemed so much older than her age. She also seemed to have conveniently forgotten about some of the “accidents” that had happened in her past, and didn’t seem scarred enough by the fact that her dead husband had abused her. She was, however, a very competent woman for the most part as long as it comes to finally investigating the mystery that surrounds her family, but still needs a man to save her from the worst of the trouble in the end. She’s an interesting contradiction, and typically my feminist self would be raging about the fact that she literally fell flat on her face right as she was learning who was behind all of the scary stuff in her life, causing them to capture her and nearly kill her, until dreamy heart throb busts open the window to rescue her sudden and imminent death.
But dreamy heart throb really WAS a dreamy heart throb and rather made my heart go all pitter patter.
Sigh… Burne, you are absolutely swoon-worthy.
The Bottom Line
It looks like Barron wrote eight additional books. Not sure what to expect from them, if they really are romance novels, or if like this one they straddle the line between romance and gothic as well. I think I will keep my eyes open for them, though I’m not sure how much luck I’ll have finding them.
This one, however, I would definitely recommend to people looking for a fun read with a family mystery and a swoon-worthy romantic interest.