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Vertigoby Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Synopses & Reviews
10 January 1899
Dear Mr. Wood,
I write to you having received your name and address from my husband, John Smith, who has been doing some research at the prison where you currently reside for a novel he is completing. I have never corresponded with a prisoner before. I do not know if, or why, you might have committed the criminal act for which you are serving time. My husband says he believes many of the criminals at Hollow gate to be innocent victims of injustice. I, having never been in any prison, have no way of knowing the truth behind his assertions. I do know, were I in prison and deprived of the companionship of family and friends, I should find it a consolation to have another person with whom to share the occasional thought. I hope I can be that person for you.
Wishing you well,
Mrs. John Smith
One week later, I had my first reply. Though the writing was crude, the paper it was written on still worse, the words themselves were put together rin an educated enough fashion:
Dear Mrs. John Smith,
I do not know why you have taken it upon yourself to do this, but I do sowish you would stop.
31 December 1898
Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, announced the Collinses' butler as we made our way into their crowded salon at the top of the cascade of stairs, the house yet festooned with the remnants of Christmas, the scents of pine, myrtle, oranges, cinnamon, and cloves in the air, the applewood burning in the fireplace as if the season might never end.
We were twenty-four at dinner.
Beneath one of three chandeliers adorned with glass globes and crystal prisms, I sat near the head of the table, the legs of which were carved to look like a bear's claws, on one of the leather-upholstered chairs in the long scarlet dining room. To the right of me was Joshua Collins, the head of the household. Captain Brimley, portly as ever, was on my other side.
Captain Brimley was thought to be an overly feminine man, but he was a delightful conversationalist, frequently called into service as escort to Lady Collins, Joshua's widowed mother. Lady Collins herself, still a sparkling woman at nearly seventy, had adorned her perpetual mourner's black clothes with jet bead for the occasion and was seated to one side of John at the other end of the table, opposite to me; on John's other side was Joshua's wife, Maeve, a lilac gown softening a natural severity of feature brought about by bearing far too many children.
Tell me, said the captain, mustache bristling mischievously, what is your good husband working on now?
Taking advantage of a lull in the talk as diners bent heads to the soup a la reine, I half shouted down the table, repeating the captain's question.
John set his sterling soup spoon down carefully, planted elbows firmly on the table, rubbed one palm against the other. Well, Captain, he spoke studiedly into the relative silence that had fallen over the table hard upon my half shout, I can tell you that if you want to know about my next novel, he paused dramatically, the candelabra before him reflecting as a pleased glint in his eye, all questions you have will surely be revealed when you purchase a copy upon its publication sometime next year.
The table roared at the captain's expense. All assembled were familiar with John's reluctance to discuss works in progress. The men all rested on family fortunes large enough they needn't work, so in essence John was the only one with a career to speak of. Well, except for Captain Brimley.
You're a heartless man, John, spoke the captain, mockingly clutching athis chest as though wounded.
I can tell you this, said John. It has to do with a prison.
The wife of a respected novelist and member of a prominent family, Emma Smith embarks on a correspondence with Chance Wood, a man incarcerated at the local prison for murder, writing a series of letters that become ever more intense and erotic, in a novel of obsession, intrigue, and lust set against the backdrop of Victorian England. Original. 22,500 first printing.
In turn-of-the-century London, an exemplary Victorian wife begins a noble-minded project: writing letters to a lonely local prisoner. What happens next in this brilliantly crafted novel of literary suspense will change Emma Smith’s life forever—and ignite a dark, erotic drama of suspicion, loss, and awakening.
In the year 1898, Emma makes a New Year’s resolution: to become a better person. So, under the tutelage of her novelist husband, she begins an innocent correspondence with Chance Wood, a man serving his sentence for the murder of his wife. But from the beginning, in words that shock and intrigue her, Chance dares Emma to unveil her unspoken thoughts and desires. And when Chance receives a pardon, Emma is set dangerously free. She will use her freedom—and Chance’s—to pursue the fantasies that have been swirling dizzily around her. Slowly, recklessly, Emma exchanges all that was familiar and safe for her new, dangerous double life. As the risks mount and a friend turns blackmailer, Emma cannot stop her fall. For once she has given in to her truest, basest desires, she cannot avoid the ones that come next.…
About the Author
LAUREN BARATZ-LOGSTED was an independent bookseller for eleven years. She is the author of three novels, including her first, The Thin Pink Line, which launched Red Dress Ink's hardcover line in 2003. She lives in Danbury, Connecticut, with her husband and daughter.
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