A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott

I remember reading that Alcott actually preferred this book over Little Women, but this story turned out to be too risque for the time it was released and Little Women took the spotlight. A Long Fatal Love Chase is certainly a much more quick and easy read than Little Women. I could have finished it in one day, but I stopped myself and finished it in two days instead. It has Jane Eyre vibes – if Mr. Rochester was an obsessed sociopath. Charlotte Bronte was Louisa May Alcott’s favorite author so there are certainly very similar plot elements.

Rosamond is a young woman who feels trapped on the island she’s grown up on with her grandfather. The very first line of the book is her brazen exclamation of “I tell you I cannot bear it! I shall do something desperate if this life is not changed soon. It gets worse and worse, and I often feel as if I’d gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom.” A threat she comes to regret as it seems to summon Philip Tempest. He’s a man of mystery and adventure. He thrills her with stories of his journeying and quickly wins her heart. She gets her year of happiness, but finds out Tempest is not an honest man and has deceived her into an illegal “marriage” since he turns out to already be married. With this realization, she runs from him, and he follows, digging her out of every safe burrow she tries to hide herself in.

If it was right to cease loving you, I’d do it if I spent my whole life in the task … you might kill me but not bend me if I had once decided to oppose you.

He turns everyone he can against her, making them believe she is insane or just plain wrong to deny a man who so clearly loves her with all his heart. He puts on the costume of doting husband in front of others and even to her when he is attempting to entice her back to him. However, each outlandish act to secure her as his only makes her realize more and more how unhinged he is and how selfish his “love” truly is. His love was more of an obsession. He wanted her because he believed her to be impressionable; he believed he could mold her to be what he wanted. Yet, when he realized she was defiant and held fast to her virtues, he loved the challenge of chasing her down and trying to break her.

Some invisible barrier had risen up between them to baffle and defeat him. What it was he could not tell, but felt it, and the subtle resistance roused passion, pride and will to conquer it at all hazards.

These “hazards” were always for others – especially Rosamond – never hazards to himself of course. She had a few steadfast friends through it all. A priest whom she met at one of her short-lived safe havens. Tempest’s son who has his own journey and quarrels with Tempest. And, maybe surprisingly, Tempest’s wife. Both women hurt deeply by this man find comfort in each other which was a very lovely touch. The priest, Ignatius, inspires Rosamond to continue to hold fast to her faith and not let her soul be corrupted by Tempest. The love that grows between Ignatius and Rosamond and his devotion to his priesthood and subsequent denial of anything other than a friendship only strengthens her resolve and admiration for him. He is her guardian angel to Tempest’s devil – like the angel and devil on her shoulder.

In her heart yet lingered love for the hero of her early dreams, not for the man who had deceived and wronged her.

It’s also a tale that teaches you about toxic relationships and how confusing they can be. At times in the story you find yourself thinking, well maybe he does truly love her. And that’s the dangerous part. He can be charming and doting, but he has also shown his other truly viscous sides and how easily he can slip between the two. If Rosamond were to give in to him, she’d never know when her happiness would once again turn to horror. It’s a call to the abused to fight for their peace and self worth, and it’s a way to help others understand how hard it truly is to break free from such toxic relationships.

**DO NOT READ FURTHER UNLESS YOU ARE OKAY WITH THE ENDING BEING SPOILED BEFORE YOU READ OR IF YOU DON’T PLAN ON READING BUT WANT TO KNOW HOW IT ENDS**

I don’t intend to die until I’ve enjoyed my life. Everyone has a right to happiness and sooner or later I will have it.

Another bold exclamation from the feisty Rosamond at the beginning of the novel. Sadly, her initial belief in everyone deserving happiness and love being able to fix everything is used against her by Tempest throughout the book causing her only suffering. Tempest tries to use her words against her to entice her to give him another chance, and when she still refuses him, he comes up with yet another plan to make her his.

Rosamond asks Ignatius to escort her back to the island her grandfather raised her so she could apologize to him and seek solace there. Tempest follows, planning to run down Ignatius’s boat, eliminating his “rival” and being there for Rosamond as she mourns. However, it ends up being Rosamond’s boat he runs over. When he finds this out and finds Ignatius alive – by her side – he still claims her as his.

…he drove a hidden dagger deep into his breast and, dropping on his knees, gathered the dead woman in his arms, saying with mingled love and defiance in his despairing voice, “Mine first – mine last – mine even in the grave!”

Thus the book ends with both the hunted and the hunter dead. However, I take the stance that Ignatius took before Tempest’s desperate suicide which was that the love Ignatius and Rosamond had for each other was pure and they would be together in an afterlife that Tempest would not be able to reach. Rosamond being pure and virtuous was ultimately freed from him by his accidental killing of her, sending her to a place he would never be able to enter.

It’s certainly not the happiest of endings, but with a title like A Long and FATAL Love Chase, I wasn’t really expecting it to be. However, it certainly holds your attention and I think it is a very important piece of literature speaking on a topic that isn’t always touched upon and is actually very often ignored in every day life. If more of the people Rosamond turned to would have believed her, she may have evaded Tempest and lived happily.

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