A whole new look at Louisa May Alcott

“…I often feel as if I’d gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom.”

So states the fair Rosamond in desperation, in the opening line of Louisa May Alcott’s A Long Fatal Love Chase. One of many manuscripts the author, best known for Little Women, wrote to help pay her family’s bills in the mid-1800s, the novel was considered so “sensational” it was not published until 1995.

A thriller from the writer who brought us the Marches, a semi-autobiographical classic that then led to follow-up novels in Little Men and Jo’s Boys? The same writer who penned heartwarming coming of age stories like An Old Fashioned Girl and Eight Cousins?

Yes! When I picked up this book at the library, I wasn’t sure what to expect, even though I’ve always loved Alcott. “Sensational” and “thriller” aren’t exactly adjectives that come to mind when I think of her writing, and as I read the book, I realized they also meant very different things in the 19th century than they do now.

The basic premise is a young girl trapped under her grandfather’s care on an island off of England. When one of her grandfather’s friends and pupil shows up one stormy night, Rosamond is enchanted by this supposed knight who promises to show her the freedom and adventures she desires, and take her away on his yacht. But little does she know that this man has a dark past, and it will rear up to cut her happiness short, leading to a chase around Europe as she searches for protection and friends, and he tries to win her back, through a mix of passion and devious pursuit.

Every time I thought things were about to be okay again, Alcott surprised me with another twist, so I couldn’t put the book down, and it took until the very end (spoiler alert: no happy ending here!) for the story to wrap up.

Now that I’ve read this, I’m interested in reading some of Alcott’s other works in this genre. It actually is fitting since when she first began writing stories for her and her sisters to perform, and later to sell, they were full of pirates and deceptive characters and dark romantic twists.

Has anyone else read A Long Fatal Love Chase? Are there other authors you like that have lesser-known works in a different genre that you liked or didn’t?

Next on my reading list: Alison Weir’s Captive Queen, a story of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II.

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