Blog Tour, Blogmas

Blog Tour: Blackmail, Sex and Lies By Kathryn McMaster

Today on Hayley Reviews I am part of another of Rachel’s Random Resources blog tours.

I am lucky enough to have an extract of Blackmail, Sex and Lies….so without further ado…

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 Janet Smith, Madeleine’s mother, discovers that Madeleine is still involved with L’Angelier after she had been forbidden to see him. Will she now be the dutiful daughter she is expected to be, or will her rebellion continue to bring untold shame on her family?

‘Janet Hamilton Smith walked into the drawing room to find her daughter bent over the writing desk so engrossed in what she was doing that she failed to hear her mother’s swishing skirts, or her soft footsteps approaching from behind. She jumped as her mother spoke.

“Madeleine? What are you doing?

“My goodness, Mama! You scared me half to death. I didn’t hear you coming.”

“Who are you writing to?”

“Oh, just a friend,” she replied airily.

“You’re being evasive, Madeleine. To whom are you writing?”

Her mother stood at the table, while Madeleine obscured the contents of the letter with her left hand.

Her mother stretched out her hand, palm up.

“Give it to me, Madeleine. I fear you are not being entirely honest.”

“Mama, please! It is merely a letter to a friend. You remember Mary Buchanan? She wants to visit us soon and I was writing to tell her she could.”

“Then, if that is the case, you won’t mind me reading the letter, Madeleine.”

“Mama, of course you can read it; there’s nothing here of interest. And I’m sure Mama has more interesting things to do with her time than to read my silly prattle.”

“I don’t like your impertinence, Madeleine. Your behaviour of late has left a lot to be desired. I hope that you’ve not rekindled your relationship with that French scoundrel. I trust you’re obeying your papa’s instructions.”

“Of course, Mama, why wouldn’t I be?”

“Because I know you, Madeleine Hamilton Smith. You’re wilful, and it’ll be your downfall one day, God forgive me if it won’t. Now give me that letter.”

“I would prefer not to, Mama.”

“I’m not asking you, Madeleine, I’m telling you. Now give it to me.”

Madeleine was unsure if she was more surprised by the fact that her mother showed more strength of character than she gave her credit for, or whether she should be mortified for being caught out as a liar. Reluctantly, she slid the letter along the desk towards her.

Her mother’s hand, skin taut and blue veins pronounced, lifted the letter off the desk and read the few lines written in ink barely dry. A fairly innocuous letter in content but there was much fault with it. She stood for a long time in silence, staring hard at the page; reading the lines, and between the lines. Her free hand unconsciously covered her mouth in a sign of disbelief.

When she looked up, her eyes shone wet with tears. Madeleine swallowed hard, her cheeks burned.

“I’m sorry, Mama. I’m sorry for lying. I didn’t want you to know I was writing to Emile. I…”

Her mother cut her off with a flick of her hand.

“I cannot believe you would cross us so, knowing we forbade you to have any further dealings with this man. Why do you continue to be so rebellious, Madeleine?”

Her mother’s voice was icy cold; soaked in abhorrence and disdain, a voice foreign to Madeleine. Madeleine remained silent, her eyes fixed on the floor. She felt the heat on her cheeks resurge from the strong and unexpected rebuke.

“You refer to this man as your husband, Madeleine. What’s the meaning of this? Please tell me you’ve not brought further disgrace upon this family? Whatever do you mean by this? Tell me the truth, I implore you!”

Madeleine looked up.

“No, Mama. I swear. It’s my pet name for him. That is all. I love him, Mama. We love each other. We want to be married. He’s a gentleman, Mama. Emile would never to do anything to bring my name into disrepute. I wish you would try to know him. Give him a chance. Please, Mama! I beg of you! Meet him, for my sake. Help me with Papa. I’ll never be happy with another.”

“Now listen here, Madeleine Hamilton, marrying this man is out of the question. If you continue to see him your father will be quite within his right not only to disinherit you, but also to disown you. Is this what you want? To be cast out of the house like a fallen woman? Is this man worth forsaking everything – monetary comfort, losing your family, your friends? It has come to this now, Madeleine. You need to give your actions serious consideration. What about William Minnoch who has started paying you attention?”

“I care not a fig for my friends, or money, or for William Minnoch! If I could marry Emile I know I would be happy,” cried Madeleine between sobs.

“Don’t talk like a child, Madeleine! You have to start showing some maturity in this matter. Running off and marrying this penniless skilamalink will bring you nothing but financial ruin and a lot of personal misery. Your suggestion is unconscionable. Your father will have to hear about this. Your disobedience has tested me, and I cannot hide this from him. I cannot vouch for his reaction because not only will he be deeply saddened, Madeleine, he will also be exceedingly angry, and rightly so!”

“Yes, Mama.”

“Now remove yourself. I do not want to see you, or hear from you until dinner time. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Mama.”

“And if you think it is only your father who is disappointed, it is not. I cannot tell you, Madeleine, how deeply distressed and unhappy you’ve made me feel this afternoon. I feel as if I don’t even know you.” ’

So who would love an E-copy of this beauty just tell me why you want it? And the best comment will win.

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