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Book Review: A Long Fatal Love Chase

(WARNING: spoilers possibly (and probably) contained below)

Bottom Line: I liked it. A lot.

Louisa May Alcott’s A Long Fatal Love Chase is a far cry from Little Women. It’s almost hard to believe both books written by the same author. A Long Fatal Love Chase is the story of a young, beautiful, and naive girl, Rosamond, who, bored with life, admits that she “often feel[s] as if [she’d] gladly sell [her] soul to Satan for a year of freedom”. Cue the man. As Rosamond’s elderly grandfather remarks, “speak of Satan, and he appears”. In walks Philip Tempest, an older (but not too old), handsome, and wealthy man who wins Rosamond from her gambling grandfather and whisks her off on his fancy yacht to exotic places around the globe. Almost sounds like a great romance novel. Almost. Rosamond receives more than a few hints that something is very wrong with Philip Tempest, but her desire for love and excitement blind her to the obvious red flags seen long before it was too late.

With some semblance of conscience, Rosamond demanded that Tempest marry her (as her grandfather requested) before they began their whirlwind adventure and Tempest reluctantly consented. Unknown to Rosamond though, her marriage to Tempest was void. Upon discovery of such great tragedy, Rosamond feels (rightly so) deeply wronged and flees from her life with Philip Tempest. And, as the title implies, Tempest chases after Rosamond because he can’t bear to lose her. He is enthralled by her beauty and excited nature. Tempest tracks Rosamond to the house of a famous actress and friend, and from there unravels her secret escape to a convent. At the convent, Rosamond finds an unlikely new friend in the person of one of the priests: Fr. Ignatius. A young priest. A young, handsome priest, and the obvious attractions develop.

(Okay, BIG SPOILER warning)

Full-hearted Catholic that I am, my red flags were raised, and I hoped for a decent treatment of such a precarious subject. Living in our modern world, my expectations were set low, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that our author handled this relationship amazingly. Truly. One of my favorite parts of the novel: (this is the BIG SPOILER)

Fr. Ignatius is helping Rosamond escape Philip Tempest and so is keeping a close watch on her in England;  Tempest, always spying, confronts Fr. Ignatius on the road at night:

“Tell me one thing; you love Rose and are beloved yet cannot marry; how will it end?”
Tempest needed one more lesson and he received it when Ignatius turned on him a face full of love and longing, full of a man’s dearest and strongest passion, yet answered steadily though his cheek paled and his eyes darkened with intensity of feeling, “I shall love her all my life, shall be to her a faithful friend, and if I cannot remain loyal to both God and her I shall renounce her and never see her face again. You call this folly; to me it is a hard duty, and the more I love her the worthier of her will I endeavor to become by my own integrity of soul.”

… You don’t see that nowadays. Honesty. Faithfulness. True love. All developed and praised appropriately together. It was such a relief, and truly made the story all the better for it.

Philip Tempest was truly a scary character, and the ending only proved to make him seem crazier… but such was the character. Rash, evil, and obsessive.


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