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Review: "Rose in Bloom" by Louisa May Alcott

Rose in Bloom may be downloaded for free from our ebook catalog. Cover art is by Janice Tarver, for sale at Etsy.

My first emotion upon finishing Rose in Bloom was tremendous surprise. Whereas, its antecedent, Eight Cousins was uncomplicated to the point of being almost saccharine, Rose in Bloom featured quite a bit of conflict, along with some very adult emotions.

The novel begins when Rose returns from two years in Europe with her uncle Alex and her handmaid, Phoebe, whom Rose has released from service and come to regard as her sister. Rose’s seven male cousins have grown up, and the family and community now look upon some of them as possible mates for Rose. The winner of this lottery would be very fortunate, since Rose is a very rich orphan and is now at the age where she can spend of her fortune. Even Uncle Alex, Rose’s chosen guardian, has not escaped speculation as a prospective husband.

Rose is in no hurry, opting to socialize a bit before making a commitment. After several rounds of parties, of which Uncle Alex disapproves but does not forbid, Rose decides that the social life is not for her, and begins to turn a more discerning eye toward her cousins.

The suitor apparent is “Bonnie Prince” Charlie, the suave and charming one, who also has become rather spoiled. Charlie has many fine points, but his faults prove rather serious—one being an excessive fondness for alcohol.

The cousin with which Rose has the most in common is her bookish cousin, Mac, although neither seriously believes that their relationship will turn into something permanent. Mac is dedicated to his career, and Rose is still shy about commitment. Meanwhile, the eldest cousin, Archie, who is considered the best catch, has fallen in love with Phoebe and is struggling for approval from the family to marry her.

The events that ensue to determine the winning suitor are both interesting and heartbreaking. This story has all the conflict and reversals that never happened in Eight Cousins. As such, Rose in Bloom is a much more adult novel than its predecessor. However, it is vintage Alcott, echoing some of the sentiments one remembers from Little Women.

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