Today I am delighted to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for Kathryn McMaster’s latest true crime novel Blackmail, Sex and Lies. This little noir darling has the perfect balance between historical artifact and creative nonfiction to create a gripping read that flies by way too fast!
I had originally intend to post this excerpt, a review, and a giveaway all in the same post, but decided that it would be best to split them up into two as all together it was too long!
Please be sure check out Part 2 for this stop!
Blackmail, Sex and Lies is a story of deception, scandal, and fractured traditional Victorian social values. It is the tale of a naïve, young woman caught up in a whirlwind romance with a much older man. However, both have personality flaws that result in poor choices, and ultimately lead to a tragic end.
For 160 years, people have believed Madeleine Smith to have been guilty of murder. But was she? Could she have been innocent after all?
This Victorian murder mystery, based on a true story, takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, 1857. It explores the disastrous romance between the vivacious socialite, Madeleine Hamilton Smith, and her working class lover, Pierre Emile L’Angelier.
After a two-year torrid, and forbidden relationship with L’Angelier, that takes place against her parents’ wishes, the situation changes dramatically when William Minnoch enters the scene. This new man in Madeleine’s life is handsome, rich, and of her social class. He is also a man of whom her family approve.
Sadly, insane jealous rages, and threats of blackmail, are suddenly silenced by an untimely death.
Purchase from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blackmail-Sex-Lies-Victorian-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0758DV8CY
Purchase from Amazon.com –https://www.amazon.com/Blackmail-Sex-Lies-Victorian-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0758DV8CY/
The novel is based on the true story of the infamous Madeleine Hamilton Smith, a young socialite from Glasgow. In 1857, she was accused of murdering her working-class lover, Pierre Emile L’Angelier with arsenic. In this excerpt Emile manages to seduce Madeleine, with little resistance from her side. However, will this act bring Emile the marriage into a wealthy family that he has been wanting all along, or will his plans be thwarted?
‘It was Tuesday night, and all occupants within the house at Row were in bed. Madeleine feigned a headache, telling Mama she thought she was coming down with a migraine. Excusing herself early from the evening reading session, and making sure no one was about, she slipped out of the kitchen and into the garden in search of Emile, whom she had promised to meet.
For once, there was a clear night and a full moon, allowing her to navigate her way around the shrubs and trees until she finally came to the secluded steps, singled out as their meeting point. When she arrived no one was there.
She stood waiting for a few more minutes, wondering if he were coming. Perhaps he had changed his mind. She fiddled nervously with her necklace, speculating where he could be. She chewed her nails as she waited. Then, without a sound, he stepped out from behind a large yew tree where he had been standing all along, watching her.
Madeleine was startled by his sudden appearance.
“Oh! Emile! You startled me!”
He wrapped her in his arms, and kissed her chastely on the forehead. Madeleine drew Emile closer to her. She giggled, and he placed a finger to her lips to silence her.
Placing both hands on either side of his face she said, “Oh, my darling pet, Emile. How I love you! I’ve missed you. It’s so good of you to come all this way to Row.”
“And why would you think I wouldn’t come, my love? Did Emile not promise in his last letter that he would?”
“Oh, my sweet! Life here in Row is so tedious without you.” She pouted a little and he stroked her cheek with the back of his hand.
“I am here now, my love, but not for long as I need to return to De Mean’s house in Helensburgh. How are things?”
“Dreadfully dull without you, pet. How are you keeping? Are you well? It seems like an age since I saw you last.”
“I had one of my bilious attacks last week. I took to my bed once more, but dear Mary Perry was good enough to come and bring me some grapes, and look in on me from time to time.”
“Please go and see a doctor, Emile. You cannot go on like this without knowing the cause. Promise me you’ll go and see Doctor McFarlane. I hear he’s a skilled physician.”
She placed her hand on his chest and he reached out and caressed it gently before kissing the tips of her fingers.
“Stop fretting, I shall be fine. Have you told your papa about us yet, Madeleine?”
“You know he doesn’t approve. I’m hoping to find the right time to persuade him to have a change of heart. After the last conversation with Mama, it has become impossible for them to agree to anything.”
She could see he was angry. His voice was cold when he responded.
“Madeleine, you have been promising to do this since last summer. You know I want to marry you and we cannot carry on meeting in secret like this. I have needs and urges. Each time I see you I want to love you, all of you. I need you, Madeleine. Do you not want us to marry?”
She hated it when she made him angry. She felt so young and silly sometimes. Her inexperience with men made her unsure of how she should act. Emile had told her he had enjoyed relationships with other women of his own age in the past. He confessed to having been intimate with them. She felt the panic rising. Emile should know what was right. He was so much older and wiser than she was. She looked to him for guidance.
“Emile, you know I love you, but should we not be careful with expressing our physical feelings? We need to wait until we are married, and yes, I do want to marry you.”
“How can we continue like this? Waiting and waiting for your family to accept me, to even acknowledge me? I cannot carry on like this; the furtive glances, the secret meetings, the covert love letters. Madeleine, we’ve been doing this for over a year now. Things have to change. Perhaps it would be better for us to stop seeing each other. I shall take a job in Australia or Lima, anywhere, but here. Being here with you and not being able to have you is torture to my soul.
“And, Madeleine, if I do go abroad, I hope you will at least make an effort to know how much a letter costs to post. I’m tired of having to pay for your letters. You never pay enough for the postage. You really are a silly girl, Madeleine. Never thinking of others, it’s always about yourself. You treat me cruelly. All I’ve ever wanted was to be your husband. Is that not what you’ve always wanted too? Tell me, Madeleine! For if it is not, than we can end this now, as hard as it will be. I need the truth from you, now!”
Madeleine felt ensnared like a spider in a sticky web. How could she prove to Emile she loved him but still remain true to Papa? The fact that she was seeing Emile behind her father’s back was giving her pangs of guilt. She despised the circumstances they were in.
On the other hand, she thought of Emile wanting to leave Scotland to live so far away from her, wanting to escape her, and it caused her high anxiety. How would she survive without him? He had threatened before, and not gone. Perhaps this time he would.
“I want to be your wife, Emile. I’ve never loved anyone but you. I want to please you, pet and I know I’m often a disappointment to you. You think me young and foolish. Let me prove to you that it’s not true. If you want to love me, love me. Take me as your wife.”
Her response caught him off guard and then she kissed him passionately, as a way of confirmation.
The argument was forgotten as he feverishly pressed her face to his, kissing her closed lids, the tip of her nose, before finding her mouth with his tongue and pushing it gently inside her parted lips.
Her lips had opened readily, for she was eager for his love and caresses. But she was frightened too by his sudden ardour and roughness, and again she pulled back.
This time, Emile did not stop. He undid her cape, allowing it to drop to the grass, and moved his hands to the pert breasts which pressed against the thin material of her nightgown. He knew they were aching to be stroked and kissed. He slowly undid the six pearl buttons to expose her nipples. He bent down to kiss them, teasing them to attention as he ran his teeth up and down, gently sucking on each in turn.
He watched in the moonlight, with great satisfaction, as her rosy nipples enlarged and stood erect. He heard her groan and felt her arch her back.
She felt a strange sensation between her legs aching; tension building. She did not stop him when he lowered her onto the grass and moved his hands from her breasts to under her gown. His hands moved deftly between her legs. Repeatedly touching her as she kissed him and whispered, urging him on.
Their ardour and passion overtook reason and responsibility. He pushed himself into her and she winced at the fire of pain. She wanted to love him, but was surprised at how much it hurt.
He pushed a little deeper and then he was moving inside her. He was trying to be gentle, but in the end passion overcame consideration. She waited for him to finish; wishing for it to be over. It was nothing like she had expected. The speed at which he moved inside her increased, until he managed to withdraw before collapsing and quivering on top of her; it was over in a matter of minutes.
She lay there quietly, not knowing quite what to say, or what to do. Instead she caressed his head and ran her fingers through his hair as she felt his pounding heart against her exposed skin.
As she hugged him to her she heard him say, “Oh Mimi, what have we done?”
Madeleine only knew she had wanted to please the man she loved. And she had not regretted any of it, even though she had not taken much pleasure from it.
“You must return to the house, Madeleine, before you are missed, and I need to return to Glasgow. We will correspond tomorrow. We’ve a lot to talk about and much to think about.”
He stood up, extending a hand to help her, and placed her discarded cape around her shoulders. They walked back to the house in silence and she was bitterly disappointed that he wanted to depart so soon. When they arrived at the edge of the garden, he planted a chaste kiss on her brow, and vanished into the darkness, leaving without a word.’
Kathryn McMaster is a writer, entrepreneur, wife, mother, and champion of good indie authors. She co-owns the book promotion company One Stop Fiction (www.onestopfiction.com), where readers can sign up to receive news of free and discounted 4 and 5 star reviewed books. She is also a bestselling author of historical murder mysteries set in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Her debut novel, “Who Killed Little Johnny Gill?” was well received. All her novels are based on true stories, and she melds fact with fiction, writing in the creative nonfiction style. She lives on her 30 acre farm in the beautiful Casentino Valley, Italy for 6 months of the year, and during the other half of the year, on the small island of Gozo, Malta.
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Don’t forget to check out Part 2 of my tour stop for a review and giveaway!
Many Thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for organizing this fabulous blog tour, and to Kathryn McMaster for providing an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.