The first thing which struck me about an Echo of Scandal is the Sumptuous cover which perfectly conjures up the settings of Historic Tangier and Spain in the early 20th century.
The Luscious cover
I must admit I'm dreadfully disappointed that I haven't been able to make time to read it yet but also really glad I still have it to look forward to as it sounds like the most perfect bit of autumn escapism.
So, instead of a review to whet your appetite I have a free extract for you which I hope you'll read to see if you fancy reading the book, I know I do.
Heres a description of the book from the publisher Black Swan (an imprint of Penguin Random house books) :
"The sumptuous and seductive world of Tangier in the early 20th century is a world where men make decisions and women follow. But Alejandra is determined to secure her independence, at any cost."
In the dead of night, with blood on her hands, she made her escape.
Accused of murder, Alejandra flees her home, escaping to the southern edge of Spain, where she faces a life of poverty and destitution.
Seduced by the power of the rich and the anonymity that waits across the water in Tangier, Ale makes a bid for a new start. But it will come at a cost: a life of deception. Because Ale’s new friends want to know what she is running from, they want to know who she is and whether they can trust her.
Fifty years later, a young American writer wanders the streets of Tangier, searching for inspiration. When he stumbles across a trace of Ale’s life, he finds himself tangled in a story of scandal, love and danger that has not yet reached its end.
WOW, that sounds so good!
Now here's a generous extract so you can taste the flavour of the authors writing and dive into the heady world of early 20th century Tangier and the heat of Spain.
BLOOD AND SAND
Take a pony of fresh blood orange juice and another of good Scotch whisky.
Add into this the same of Cherry Heering and sweet Italian vermouth.
Shake violently enough to break a sweat and strain into a coupe glass.
An experience rarely repeated.
Blood and Sand.
It’s the name that haunts me. It takes me straight back to that night. Every time I read the recipe, I can’t help but imagine another one, written in its place:
Take one girl as ripe as fruit and one man as hard as liqueur. Throw them together with sweet words turned rotten and fill them with alcohol until the result is inescapable.
It’s the Scotch that does it. After that night, whenever I opened a bottle – however expensive – all I could ever smell was blood.
The Señor was the source of it. The blood had run down the sides of his neck on to the pink flowered rug that had been his gift from Madrid, glistening on the creamy roses before sinking into the pile, as if into sand. His gaze was fixed on the corner of the room. That’s where she stood, with her pretty dress spattered and the broken neck of the bottle still clutched in her hand, the jagged edge dark with his blood. Droplets of it fell into the Scotch that had pooled around her feet, like vinegar into oil.
I should have spun on my heel and screamed, should have bellowed murder down into the courtyard below. But I didn’t. And that was the start of all the trouble for me. It’s what brought me here.
I’ve always suffered because of blood. Right from the start, I was told that the two bloods that made me, rich and poor, shouldn’t have been mixed: that they had no business being shaken together and even less business resulting in a child. Some of our customers – like the Señor Ramón Vélez del Olmo who bled out on the rug – called me a mongrel. Most of the girls called me that too, though never to my face.
It was all right for them. They were of somewhere. I was of nowhere, except for the inn. Which is why, I suppose, I eventually named myself for the place. Del Potro.
The Hostería del Potro stood on one side of a small plaza, where the city had once held horse fairs, back before anyone could remember. It was the centre of my world, the plaza, with its fountain topped by a crumbling stone horse, and its tiled rooftops that butted and jostled one another, a cat’s highway down to the river. I knew those roofs and streets as well as my own body, and nowhere better than the hostería, the oldest inn in Córdoba.
I believe I was born there, or at least, was left there soon after. The hostería’s flaking plaster walls absorbed the sound of my first cries. The draught through its cracked windows was the breath that soothed my fevers, the groan of its floorboards was a grandmother’s voice murmuring a lullaby, the clanking of bedposts and the snores of countless men were the familiar sounds of my childhood years.
I had been at the inn longer than anyone, except for Mama Morales. Once, I made the mistake of asking whether she was my mama. She had looked at me with such contempt that I knew the truth immediately: I did not belong to people, to mother or father or family. I belonged to the inn, like the cats born in the stable that lived and died too soon amongst the hay.
I sometimes worry it could still get me into trouble, this talk about the inn. But it seems so small now, so distant, after everything else. I’ll never go back to Córdoba, and anyway, you already know that I didn’t kill the man.
It’s the rest of it that could be dangerous for me; what came after. The only other person who knew it all is dead and gone. Perhaps – at last – I have kept his secret for long enough. I drowned it at the bottom of cocktail glasses and buried it beneath the scrapings left on silver platters. I tied it with white silk and hid it in plain sight. I held my tongue, kept fifty years of silence. Even he could not have asked me for more.
Of course, if he had, I might have given it. But he is not here, is he?
Perhaps silence is no longer the answer.
Perhaps this is a story that should finally be told.
And after all, I have already begun.
There you are - if this has tempted you, feel free to follow this link to buy the book from Amazon uk
Or find it in your favourite book shop.
About the author
After a childhood spent acting professionally and training at a theatre school, Laura Madeleine changed her mind, and went to study English Literature at Newnham College, Cambridge.
She now writes fiction, as well as recipes, and was formerly the resident cake baker for Domestic Sluttery. She lives in Bristol, but can often be found visiting her family in Devon, eating cheese and getting up to mischief with her sister, fantasy author Lucy Hounsom.
Here is what people are saying about Laura Madeleine
Readers love Laura Madeleine
Quotes provided by the publisher
**** ‘The comparison with Kate Morton is very apt. I was thoroughly swept up in the story. Highly recommended’ *****
**** ‘This is the first novel I have read by this author but it will not be the last’ *****
**** ‘Beautiful, tormenting, poignant and un-put-downable’ *****
**** ‘Will certainly look for other works from this talented author’ *****