Rose In Bloom

This month, Reading and Refreshments will be highlighting another one of Louisa May Alcott’s lesser-known but delightful novels: Rose in Bloom. In this sequel to her children’s novel Eight Cousins, Alcott’s heroine Rose Campbell is all grown up and returned from a tour round the world, to find herself up to her ears in complications: helping guide seven boy cousins now grown to manhood, supporting her poorhouse friend Phebe in her singing career, starting her own philanthropic vocation, trying to avoid the pressures of a worldly social circle, and having to handle far too much money of her own! With the help of her wise and understanding Uncle Alec, Rose learns to discern who her true friends are, finding love and a settled plan for her future along the way.

Rose felt as if something splendid was going to happen and set her affairs in order so that the approaching crisis might find her fully prepared. She had “found out” now, was quite sure, and put away all doubts and fears . . .

– Rose in Bloom    

Meanwhile, Rose helps Cousin Archie through his own entangled romance—

If he had known what was going on in the mind of the silent young gentleman behind the newspaper, Steve would have been much astonished, for Archie, though apparently engrossed by business, was fathoms deep in love by this time. No one suspected this but Rose . . . [who] lately had begun to feel as she fancied Wall must have done when Pyramus wooed Thisbe through its chinks. She was a little startled at first, then amused, then anxious, then heartily interested, as every woman is in such affairs . . .

– Rose in Bloom    

Anxiously watches over “Prince Charlie,” who is getting to be far too “fast” of a young gentleman of leisure.

“That’s all very well for him, because he doesn’t care for society and may as well be studying medicine as philandering about the woods with his pockets full of musty philosophers and old-fashioned poets,” answered Charlie with a shrug which plainly expressed his opinion of Mac.

“I wonder if musty philosophers, like Socrates and Aristotle, and old-fashioned poets, like Shakespeare and Milton, are not safer company for him to keep than some of the more modern friends you have?” said Rose, remembering Jamie’s hints about wild oats, for she could be a little sharp sometimes and had not lectured “the boys” for so long it seemed unusually pleasant.

– Rose in Bloom    

Actually does succeed in “bringing out” bookworm Mac into genuine polished society:

“It is a favour, a great favour, and one I don’t choose to ask any of the other boys,” answered the artful damsel.    

Mac looked pleased and leaned forward, saying more affably, “Name it, and be sure I’ll grant it if I can.”

“Go with me to Mrs. Hope’s party tomorrow night.” 

“What!” And Mac recoiled as if she had put a pistol to his head.  

“I’ve left you in peace a long time, but it is your turn now, so do your duty like a man and a cousin.”    

“But I never go to parties!” cried the unhappy victim in great dismay.

“High time you began, sir.”    

But I don’t dance fit to be seen.”

“I’ll teach you.”    

“My dress coat isn’t decent, I know.”

“Archie will lend you one—he isn’t going.”

“I’m afraid there’s a lecture I ought not to cut.”

“No, there isn’t—I asked Uncle.”        

“I’m always so tired and dull in the evening.”

“This sort of thing is just what you want to rest and freshen up your spirits.”

Mac gave a groan and fell back vanquished, for it was evident that escape was impossible. “What put such a perfectly wild idea into your head?” he demanded  . . .

– Rose in Bloom   

And even succeeds tolerably well in keeping young Jamie out of mischief!

“ . . . You catch very well for a girl, but you can’t throw worth a cent,” replied Jamie, gamboling down the hall in his slippers and producing a ball from some of the mysterious receptacles in which boys have the art of storing rubbish enough to fill a peck measure.

Of course Rose agreed and cheerfully risked getting her eyes blackened and her fingers bruised till her young receptor gratefully observed that “it was no fun playing where you had to look out for windows and jars and things, so I’d like that jolly book about Captain Nemo and the Nautilus, please.

Being gratified, he spread himself upon the couch, crossed his legs in the air, and without another word dived Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, where he remained for two mortal hours, to the general satisfaction of his relatives.

– Rose in Bloom    

And then what with all the new household arrangements, literary discussions, balls, projects, charity concerts, adopting orphans, shopping excursions, courtships, and welcoming new cousin Kitty into the family, Rose in Bloom is full of the triumphs, struggles, and simple pleasures found in a circle of family and true friends. The heartwarming message of the story is poignantly delivered, through the eyes of a young girl who desires nothing more than to keep this circle as wholesome and innocent as always, as the recital of the pleasant New Year’s Day festivities—and its dramatically intense conclusion—clearly illustrates.

“A happy New Year, Aunty; same to you, Cousin, and best wishes for as many more as you deserve,” said Mac . . . as he gave the old lady a hearty kiss and offered Rose a quaint little nosegay of pansies.    

“Heart’s-ease—do you think I need it?” she asked, looking up with sudden sobriety.

“We all do. Could I give you anything better on a day like this?”

– Rose in Bloom

. . . for, looking at the gallant figure before her, it was impossible to repress the womanly longing to keep it always as brave and blithe as now.

– Rose in Bloom

So she could only sit mourning for the Charlie that might have been while watching the Charlie that was with an ache in her heart which found no relief till, putting her hands there as if to ease the pain, they touched the pansies, faded but still showing gold among the somber purple, and then two great tears dropped on them as she sighed: “Ah, me! I do need heart’s-ease sooner than I thought!”

Rose in Bloom  

And while you are finding out how Rose and her relatives come bravely through the crises that they meet together, with courage and determination that all families would do well to emulate, why not enjoy these gingerbread muffins from Alexandra’s cookbook, similar to the wholesome treat Rose brings Mac to eke out Jamie’s offering of candy!

“Did you get any letters?” asked Rose, declining the sticky treat.

“Lots, but Mama forgot to give ‘em to me, and I was rather in a hurry, for Mrs. Atkinson said somebody had come and I couldn’t wait,” explained Jamie, reposing luxuriously with his head on Mac’s legs and his mouth full.  

“I’ll step and get them. Aunty must be tired, and we should enjoy reading the news together.”  

“She’s the most convenient girl that ever was,” observed Jamie as Rose departed, thinking Mac might like some more substantial refreshment than sweetmeats.

“I should think so, if you let her run your errands, you lazy little scamp,” answered Mac, looking after her as she went up the green slope . . .

When Rose returned with ice-cold milk, gingerbread, and letters, she found the reader of Emerson up in a tree, pelting and being pelted with green apples as Jamie vainly endeavoured to get at him. The siege ended when Aunt Jessie appeared, and the rest of the afternoon was spent in chat about home affairs.

– Rose in Bloom

And remember, if you decide to hold your own “Reading and Refreshments,” please let us hear about it! Tell us how your family enjoyed the book and whether or not you made the treat to go with it. If you can, send us a photograph as well. You can contact us at

Gingerbread Muffins

Walnut-Gingerbread Muffins


½ cup (113 g.) unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup (120 ml) cooking molasses

1 cup (220 g.) brown sugar

3 ½ cups (500 g.) all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup (240 ml) boiling water

2 large eggs

½ cup (60 g) walnuts, finely chopped

½ cup (75 g.) raisins, tossed with a tablespoon of flour


Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C. Grease 18 standard-size muffin cups.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, molasses and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, spices, and baking soda. Pour the boiling water over the creamed mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the dry ingredients. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl after each addition. Add the nuts and raisins. Scoop ¼ cup of the batter into each muffin tin.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 18-23 minutes. Cool in pans for 5 minutes and then remove to wire racks.

Yield: 18 muffins


3 thoughts on “Rose In Bloom

  1. Thanks for sharing this story. Did her singing friend Phebe turn out to be a good friend or did Uncle Alec warn Rose off?

    Hope you are all well and that the new year has started well for you. Just having an hours relax before I go back for rehearsals until 8. Best wishes Charlotte

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