Friday, August 9, 2019

Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway: The Sweetest Poison (Pitfourie Series Book One) by Jane Renshaw

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for The Sweetest Poison by Jane Renshaw. This book tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt for you as well as an interesting guest post about a true life mystery. There's also a tour wide giveaway. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for more excerpts, guest posts, interviews, reviews, and more. Enjoy!
Title: The Sweetest Poison
Series: Pitfourie Series Book One
Author: Jane Renshaw
Publication Date: April 30th 2019
Genre: Mystery
When life has cast you in the role of victim, how do you find the strength to fight back?

When she was eight years old, Helen Clack was bullied so mercilessly that she was driven to a desperate act. Now she is being targeted once more, but this time her tormentor’s identity is shrouded in doubt.

When her life starts to disintegrate, she flees home to the wilds of north-east Scotland, and to the one man she knows can help her – Hector Forbes, the dubiously charismatic Laird of Pitfourie, with whom she has been hopelessly in love ever since those hellish days in the school playground, when he was her protector, her rescuer, her eleven-year-old hero.

But is Hector really someone she can trust?

And can anyone protect her from the terrible secret she’s keeping?

And then into her misery had come the letter.

The first letter he’d ever written her, with her name, ‘Helen Clack’, and her address in his neat sloping writing. Inside, a single sheet of writing paper. And his words, telling her how sorry he was about Dad, how much he’d liked him, that he wished he could have been at the funeral. That he hoped she was all right. That it was something, that Dad hadn’t had to suffer through a long illness, that his death had been so sudden, at home at the Parks rather than in an anonymous hospital ward.

And then the words that she’d never forget as long as she lived: I’ve been thinking a lot about you –’

Well, you and your mother. But still.

She’d carried the letter around for days. Suzanne had found her staring at it, and snatched it away and read it, and then perched on the kitchen table and said, ‘So. Have you replied?’

And when Helen had said she hadn’t, Suzanne had offered to help.

‘They don’t think like us. They don’t spend – how many days have you been mooning over this? – six days analysing and pulling apart and putting back together every little thing we say. You have to treat them like they’re simpler forms of life. Stimulus–response.’

‘Hector’s not a “simpler form of life”. That’s the whole problem.’
Having discovered early in her 'career' that she didn't have what it takes to be a scientist, Jane Renshaw shuffled sideways into scientific and medical editing, which has the big advantage that she can do it while watching Bargain Hunt! Jane writes what she loves to read – series of novels in which the reader can immerse herself, which let her get to know an engaging, interesting and/or terrifying cast of characters slowly, in the same way you get to know people in real life. Ideally, the drama should be played out in a gorgeous setting, and the cast should include at least one dangerously charismatic, witty, outrageous protagonist with whom the reader can fall in love. A bit of murder and mayhem in the mix never hurts either... Hence the Pitfourie Series.

What true crime mystery interests you the most and why?
The case of Madeleine Smith, a young Glasgow woman accused of murdering her lover in 1857, has always fascinated me, partly because it’s such a melodramatic story (lots of novels, plays and films have been based on it) and partly because the outcome of the trial would have been impossible anywhere but Scotland.

Madeleine lived a privileged existence as the pretty, indulged eldest daughter of a prosperous Glasgow family who owned two grand residences – a Georgian town house in Blythswood Square and a Scots Baronial mansion, designed by her architect father, on the west coast. In 1855, when she was nineteen, Madeleine fell in love with a handsome but penniless nurseryman, Pierre Emile L'Angelier, originally from the Channel Islands. (A surviving photograph shows a tall man with fashionable facial hair: sideburns, a beard and a droopy moustache.)

Her parents were horrified, and forbade her to have anything more to do with the man. But she secretly carried on seeing him and they exchanged hundreds of letters. Scandalously, for a respectable young woman in the 1850s, she lost her virginity to him.

Were her parents aware of what was going on? Possibly. They began cultivating a young Glasgow businessman, William Minnoch, inviting him to spend time with the family at their country retreat. William and Madeleine hit it off, he proposed, and she accepted. Madeleine told Pierre that their relationship was over – could she have her letters back? Pierre refused and began to threaten blackmail.

Madeleine bought some arsenic... for ‘cosmetic purposes’...

On 22 March 1857, Pierre returned to his lodging house seriously unwell. In the morning he was dead.

Large quantities of arsenic were found in his body. Madeleine’s letters were discovered in his room, and she was arrested for his murder. It seemed a cut-and-dried case – Madeleine had the motive, means and opportunity, with the prosecution maintaining that she had poisoned Pierre during clandestine meetings at her bedroom window in Blythswood Square, when she was in the habit of passing him cups of cocoa through the window. The explicit letters she wrote to Pierre caused a sensation in court, but pretty Madeleine herself, composed and calm throughout the trial, made a good impression. Her family had procured the best legal representation, and the defense made much of the fact that no one had seen Madeleine and the dead man together in the three weeks before his death. Her sister Janet also testified that Madeleine had not left her bed on the night of 22 March.

The jury returned a verdict of ‘not proven’. This is a verdict peculiar to Scotland, occupying the murky, controversial middle ground between ‘guilty’ and ‘not guilty’. The implication was that the jury believed she was guilty, but felt that the prosecution case, built as it was on circumstantial evidence, had not been proved to their satisfaction.

Madeleine was free.

The engagement with William had long been broken off. Madeleine moved to London, where she married George Wardle, a Pre-Raphaelite painter. They had two children, Tom and ‘Kitten’, but the marriage was not happy and ended in separation. George died in 1910 and Madeleine, now seventy, immediately married again, to William Sheehy, a New York concrete contractor in his forties who was probably unaware of the age gap – in her later years, the youthful-looking Madeleine made out that she was twenty or even thirty years younger than she really was. She died in New York State at the actual age of ninety-three, although she claimed to be in her sixties.

In 2018, an interesting twist was revealed. Crime writer Denise Mina was chatting to two archivists from the National Archives of Scotland after a crime fiction event. They mentioned that a cocoa cup retained as evidence in the Madeleine Smith case was still in storage, and recent health and safety checks on it had revealed that it carried traces of arsenic...
Jane Renshaw will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter after the tour.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Hi and thank you! Writing this guest post was really interesting - challenging choice of topic (in a good way!).

  2. Congrats on the release. I hope that your book is a success,

  3. Happy Friday! I hope that you have had an enjoyable and successful book tour and I wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors. Have a great weekend!

  4. Happy Friday! Thanks for the great tour, I’ve enjoyed following it and learning more about The Sweetest Poison and can’t wait to check it out.

  5. Very good blurb and excerpt - I need to know the secret!

  6. The book looks and sounds amazing, Thanks for your great generosity.

  7. I have enjoyed the tour. Sounds like a good book.

  8. Thank you for sharing your book with us and for the giveaway as well. I appreciate them both.

  9. This book sounds like a very intriguing and fantastic read.

  10. Nice cover, thanks for the chance!

  11. Thank you, everyone - I've really appreciated your comments and interest throughout the tour. If you read The Sweetest Poison, I hope you enjoy it!

  12. I love a good mystery and this one sounds like one I'll truly enjoy.

  13. Great post! Thanks for sharing it.

  14. Gorgeous cover!

  15. What a fascinating case! I'd never heard of it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Glad you found it interesting!

  16. I love the cover.

  17. Posted on the 9th & already over?

    1. It ended at 11:59 pm Eastern time on August 9th (yesterday). The giveaway was only running for the day it was posted on my blog. Sorry you missed out.

    2. Also, I don't get to decide when the giveaways end. The tour organizer decides that. Sorry =(