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Behind a Mask, or a Woman's Power

Louisa May Alcott

Book Overview: 

Fans of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women will remember that her heroine Jo wrote racy novels before turning her hand to more "serious" literature. Alcott, writing under the pseudonym A. M. Barnard, often did the same, and Behind a Mask is one of her sensation novels. It focuses on Jean Muir, who enters the home of the wealthy Coventry family as governess to their sixteen-year-old daughter. But is the beguiling Miss Muir all that she seems to be?

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . governess, who sat with her hand over her face as if in pain.

Gathering himself up, Coventry slowly obeyed, but involuntarily quickened his pace as he heard Miss Muir say, "Don't call him; he can do nothing"; for the emphasis on the word "he" was very significant.

"What is it, Bella?" he asked, looking rather wider awake than usual.

"You startled Miss Muir and made her turn her ankle. Now help her to the house, for she is in great pain; and don't lie there anymore to frighten people like a snake in the grass," said his sister petulantly.

"I beg your pardon. Will you allow me?" And Coventry offered his arm.

Miss Muir looked up with the expression which annoyed him and answered coldly, "Thank you, Miss Bella will do as well."

"Permit me to doubt that." And with a gesture too decided to be resisted, Coventry drew her arm through his and led her . . . Read More

Community Reviews

This was beautifully written. The dark undertones almost made it unrecognizable as being written by Louisa May Alcott, however not quite. Reading this was like falling under the spell of the main character who although I know was deceiving everyone I couldn't help but keep reading and see how it...more

These stories are delicious.

But with "Behind the Mask," Alcott veered from her traditional path of 'wholesome' writing. The book consists of four novellas, most of which were published anonymously at the time as what Alcott called her "Blood-and-Thunder Tales." Modern 'literary' readers might co...more

How cool was it to find out that Louisa May Alcott wrote gothic thrillers under another name? I was excited. The first and longest novellette of the collection is Behind A Mask or A Woman's Power (She's very fond of this or business in her titles) and that is fairly stunning. The twist happens immedi...more

Louisa May Alcott was a very talented author. This collection is proof of that. The stories may have been thrillers in their day, and indeed are inhabited with ghosts, revenge minded cast-off lovers and forbidden matches, but they are entertaining nonetheless, admirably represent their genres and...more

This was a fun read. Certainly not something I'm going to run out and tout as a classic-must-read book, but as a big fan of Alcott's writing growing up, this was an adventure.

I found the storylines less than compelling, but the characters themselves (always Alcotts strong point) were...more

This is the first book I've read in a while that I just couldn't put down. As much as I love Little Women, I think I like Alcott's potboilers almost as much. This one is really interesting because even though I knew from the first chapter that Miss Muir was not a good person, I completely enjoyed...more

Alcott wrote Little Women and others in that genre for her Bread-and-Butter. But she reveled in her "Blood-and-Thunder" tales of a more Gothic nature. She particularly excelled at creating female characters with a Dark Side. (Perhaps what lies behind Ms. Alcott's mask is her own Bad Girl Self)......more

"Behind a Mask" - (4 stars)

"Pauline's Passion and Punishment" - Pauline's revenge against a false lover (4 stars)

"The Mysterious Key" - a young widow and her...more

This was a side of Louisa May Alcott that made me chuckle, it was like reading all those fantastic stories that Jo wrote in her attic in Little Women. Very melodramatic! There are also quite a few of these where you can definitely see her abolitionist roots, but also how very prejudiced she and h...more

In this collection of four "blood and thunder tales" I found incredible, powerful female protagonists who were VILLAINS. This was not what I expected of Miss Alcott's writing! Each character quickly enters complicated webs of interaction with the others. Included in each story are unexpected plot...more

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