It is not easy to make a historical figure your own, but that is just what author Anna Maclean has done with the New England author Louisa May Alcott. In Maclean's series, Alcott unravels mysteries that befall her friends and family. This series originally hit shelves in the mid-2000s from Signet and this month the series first, Louisa and the Missing Heiress, has been re-released by mystery publisher Obsidian. Today get Maclean shares a look at how she brought Louisa back to life to unravel these very unusual cozy mysteries!
Louisa May Alcott was so wonderfully complex! As a daughter she had to be loyal and useful; as a woman she had to follow the severe conventions of her time without losing her originality; as an author, she managed to find a way to work with so many different areas of her creativity!
Louisa, as I imagined her for my cozy mystery series, beginning with Louisa and the Missing Heiress, is a woman of her times: intelligent, well-bred, resourceful. Yet she has a shadowy side. She must, for the times themselves were often dark, brooding, dangerous.
Louisa May Alcott, as an author, is most famous for Little Women and the other books in that series specifically written for children. But Louisa, just like Jo March in that novel, had another side, and wrote ‘blood and thunder’ stories, lurid tales full of dangerous men and fallen women. In my depiction of Louisa, or Louy as her family and friends called her, I wanted to show the reader both sides of this fascinating woman. She is a loving, hard-working daughter and sister; but in her attic writing room, she gives full vent to a very rich imagination and writes tales of passion and crime. So when a crime of passion appears in her own life, when childhood friend Dorothy Wortham goes missing after an extended honeymoon in Europe, Louisa is not unprepared. She has thought much already about what people are capable of, what crimes and quirks lurk behind the fastidious veneer of Boston society.
And what about Louisa’s own love life? We know historically little about it, only that she never married. Surely a woman with such intelligence and warm humor, to say nothing of her lovely eyes and thick chestnut hair, was attractive to the young men around her! Louisa as I imagined her is, in this respect, much like her alter-ego, Jo March: playful, fun-loving and warm, but also very independent, very aware that the path she has chosen for her life may not allow the comforts (and time-using distractions!) of children and husband. Louisa has admirers and probably is even tempted; but her work as an author is her true calling.
In the next book in this series, Louisa takes a much-needed holiday to the countryside in New Hampshire. She things she’s getting away from the crime of Boston but of course it doesn’t quite work out that way! There’s more romance, more danger, more untimely death. And in solving the mystery, Louisa continues to grow, from an inexperienced young woman to the confident and talent woman who will, in some years hence, write that timeless story of family love and the growth of daughters: Little Women.
- Anna Maclean