Delighted to be joining the blog tour today for Blackmail, Sex and Lies by Kathryn McMaster, a Victorian true crime murder mystery available from Amazon in the UK and US. I’m sorry I couldn’t fit in the reading of this one, but you might like to – the price is reduced to 99p/99c for the duration of the tour.
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.
Let’s take a look at an extract, with an introduction from the author:
The novel is based on the true story of the infamous Madeleine Smith. She was a young, vivacious socialite who was accused of murdering her social-climbing, working-class lover, Pierre Emile L’Angelier with the aid of arsenic in Glasgow, 1857. The following excerpt is taken from one of the first chapters of the book, and was written to highlight the unstable mind of L’Angelier. We meet him several years before Madeleine does, and it gives backstory to Emile, as he was known, that only we are aware of, as the reader. How much worse will Emile get before Madeleine finally realises that she is in a toxic relationship of which there seems to be no way out?
A dark silhouette filled the window frame. He watched aghast as his roommate climbed through the narrow opening of the third floor window and balanced on the outer sill. Emile’s nightshirt whipped around his pale thighs as the wind swirled and howled.
Robert was voiceless, unable to move. Images flashed before him when seven days prior he had physically manhandled this waiter, Emile L’Angelier, away from Leith Pier as he threatened to hurl himself into the grey, murky waters below. The incident had left Robert Baker emotionally fraught.
Looking at a second suicide bid, so soon after the first, caused Robert’s heart to thrash against his ribcage wildly, sound waves of strangulated cries pushed upwards and outwards, his throat pulsated as he held his breath. He watched with increased horror as his colleague shuffled further forward, teetering on the edge, and peering into the abyss below; one small step between stability and finality.
As time froze, Robert watched Pierre Emile L’Angelier remain inert. He wondered what was going through his head. Was he contemplating that soon his short life would be over? That he had had nothing to live for? That he no longer cared?
Getting over his initial shock, Robert made his way to the window ledge and grabbed a handful of cotton cloth, yanking Emile backwards. The pair ended up entangled in a heap on the floor.
“Jiminy Crickets, Emile! What the hell were you thinking?”
Emile started to cry hysterically. He just wanted to die.
Robert rolled out from underneath him, his heart still beating wildly, and he felt nauseous. He swallowed hard to hold the contents of his stomach as the bile pushed upwards. Sweat broke out on his upper lip and his teeth began an involuntary chatter.
Emile remained on the floor, curled into the foetal position while Robert sat next to him hugging his trembling knees. For a long while the two of them sat there, perished with cold, but unable to muster the strength to staunch the icy air which fed in from the open window.
Eventually, Robert stood up and pulled down the casement. He returned and sat on his haunches, the balls of his feet making contact with the roughly hewn floorboards. Placing a hand on Emile’s shoulders, he spoke to him in gentle tones, coaxing him to share his dark, brooding thoughts.
“Emile, surely nothing could be so dreadful that you would continually try and kill yourself. For days you’ve been pacing the floor and crying yourself to sleep. You have to tell me what’s troubling you. Perhaps I can help.”
Emile’s fresh young face was deathly pale. Moonlight previously masked by the dark clouds streamed through the undressed window. Moonbeams illuminated his large, pale blue-grey eyes, now red-rimmed, dull, and lifeless. He shook his head sadly.
“You won’t understand. No one does.”
“I’ll try and understand. Tell me!”
After a long silence, Emile finally spoke in a flat, monotone voice.
“I’ve never been so unhappy in my life. I wish I’d the courage to blow my brains out.”
“Hush, Emile, it’s a sin to speak so. You don’t mean it.”
“Oh, but I do, every word. I loved her, I truly did, my lady from Fife. For years, we exchanged affectionate letters whilst I was away in France, but now she tells me she prefers someone else, someone who will be a better provider. I no longer have the will to live. She meant everything to me.”
“Why would you want to kill yourself over a woman? You’re still young, with a lifetime ahead of you to find someone else.”
“I’m tired of this existence, Robert. I want out of this world. I’ve no money of my own. I’m working for your uncle here under his bounty. No woman wants me because I have no money. What’s the point in carrying on when I know my situation is hopeless?”
“Because situations change, Emile, they always do. I promise, in time to come you’ll meet someone more worthy of your affections. One day you’ll have a better position in society, and better prospects.”
Emile thought about it for a moment and smiled faintly.
“Perhaps you’re right, Robert. I guess, in any case, I don’t have the courage others have to finally end it all. I want to end my life because I’m such a failure, and yet I fail even at this. What a disappointment of a man am I. I cannot live, nor can I die.”
The irony of Emile’s ineptitude did not escape Robert as he picked himself off the floor and climbed back into bed.
Wishing you every success with this one, Kathryn! Here are the other blog tour stops:
About the author
Kathryn McMaster is a writer, entrepreneur, wife, mother, and champion of good indie authors. She co-owns the book promotion company One Stop Fiction, 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.