Little Women was one of my favorite books growing up, and since Louisa May Alcott and I share a birthday, I've always been a bit fascinated with her and her life. I'm not sure how I went all these years without checking out some of her pseudonymously published romantic potboilers, but thanks to the technological serialization of DailyLit, I just finished reading Behind a Mask: Or, A Woman's Power (1866) in 48 easy installments.
Alcott was much like her Little Women character Jo, and wrote Behind a Mask and her other A. M. Barnard stories to earn the money that her family needed but her idealistically transcendentalist father could not supply. The story is romantic and suspenseful, but skilfully written with underlying themes that make it something more than just a paycheck.
A young and lovely governess, Jean Muir, is recommended to the wealthy Coventry family as a companion for the teenage Bella. She is coldly received by the eldest son and heir, Gerald, and his betrothed, his cousin Lucia, but warmly welcomed by Mrs. Coventry and her younger son Edward. Ms. Muir quickly enchants most of the family with her quick wit and lovely singing voice, and earns their pity with a delicate constitution and sad back-story. In fact, one by one, even the hardest hearts of the family will fall madly in love with her. But at the end of the first chapter, when the new governess is left alone in her room, we see her remove her make-up, relax her guard, and show us that she is not at all what she seems.
This book worked particularly well being divided up into daily segments, and I'm keen to check out some of Alcott's other works for hire...