The title pretty much says it all about this first novel from McNees, an entry into the new subgenre that imagines the love life of spinster authoresses.
In her early 20s, Louisa moves to Walpole, N.H., for the summer with her financially strapped family: rigidly idealist father Bronson (portrayed with far more complexity in Geraldine Brooks’s Pulitzer-winning March), loving mother Marmee and sisters Anna, Lizzie and May, all obviously recognizable as the models for the Little Women characters. While Marmee hovers over frail Lizzie and spoils immature May, Anna and Louisa get to know the young people of the town. Conventional Anna falls in love with Nicholas Sutton, a wealthy young man who clearly reciprocates her feelings. Louisa, who already has literary aspirations, tries to resist her attraction to Joseph Singer, whose father runs the local dry-goods store and whose younger sister becomes May’s best friend. Louisa is as rude as possible to Joseph, but eventually his intelligence and sensitivity wear her down and the two share a kiss. But at a harvest dinner soon after, Mr. Sutton announces the engagement of Nicholas’s younger sister Nora to Joseph, an arrangement made by the fathers. Unfortunately, Joseph’s father is not only deathly ill but also on the brink of financial ruin, while heiress Nora requires a respectable fiancé to rehabilitate her tarnished reputation. Louisa is crushed, but she and Joseph rendezvous and make love. Nicholas dies in an accident; Anna leaves home to become a teacher; the Alcotts leave Walpole; and Louisa heads to Boston. She is despondent over a lack of publishing success when Joseph shows up. They make plans to run away, but then she receives word that The Saturday Evening Gazette has accepted her story, and she stands Joseph up at the station. Years later, now a famous author, she returns to Walpole to see him once again.
Standard romantic pabulum, but Alcott fans will find interesting tidbits to savor.