Mrs. Alice Vanderbilt Cordially Requests The Honor of Your Presence…
Good morning and welcome to The Breakers! I am Alice Vanderbilt. Yes, yes, I’m Cornelius’s wife, and though I am not the only Mrs. Vanderbilt on the social register, many people consider me The Mrs. Vanderbilt. How good of you to come at such short notice. Do come in.
Ah, I see you gazing up at our lovely ceiling. Yes, when Richard Morris Hunt designed the house after the palazzos of Italy, we thought it only fitting for the soaring ceiling of our Great Hall to be painted to mimic a summer sky. Oh, but do let us sit out on the veranda beneath the real sky. It’s such a beautiful day and the ocean breezes here in Newport work wonders on the constitution.
I asked you here for a reason. It’s my niece, you see. I’m really at my wits end where that girl is concerned. Not that she’s a bad girl—quite the contrary. But she simply refuses to take her Vanderbilt roots seriously and she has these…shall we call them tendencies?…that may well lead her to ruination someday.
For instance, she’s taken to driving her own carriage. And her stays…good heavens! I always tell her, “Emmaline, loose stays indicate loose morals.” Not that she’s wanton—no, no no!—but one doesn’t wish to give a wrong impression, does one? And every time I go to considerable lengths to arrange a suitable marriage for her, what does she do? Well! The fact that she’s still single at twenty-one should give you a good indication. Twenty-one and single! And I’m forever reminding her, “Emmaline, you don’t need to be writing a society column for that little local newspaper. We’d be happy to supplement your pitiful annuity and provide you with anything you need.” She’s very sweet about turning my offer down, but turn it down she does, every time! The prideful, headstrong thing.
Oh, but that’s the least of it, really. What truly worries me is the company she keeps and the places she goes—places no well-brought-up young lady should ever be seen in. Dockside taverns, stable yards, the city jail—good heavens. The child has gotten it into her head that she is somehow responsible for seeing justice done in the city of Newport, and let me tell you, she is as persistent as the ocean tides once she gets a notion into her head. Yes, all right, it is her half-brother, Brady, presently sitting in the Newport jail accused of murder, and yes, the police are about ready to ship him off to Providence to stand trial, but that Brady has always gotten up to some trouble or other between you and me, I’m not at all certain he didn’t do it. And really, it’s simply not proper for a young lady like Emmaline to be exposed to such sordid business.
If only it hadn’t been my latest marital prospect for Emmaline who’d turned up dead—or rather fallen down dead after tumbling from the balcony of my husband’s bedroom. What a pickle, and on the night of our daughter Gertrude’s coming out ball, with 300 of our closest friends in attendance. My dear Cornelius lost a very adept financial secretary that night—such an inconvenience. Oh, but I digress. If only I’d been able to persuade Emmaline to see Alvin Goddard’s finer points, well, she might have shown him more attention at the ball and for all we know, the poor man might still be alive today and Emmaline would never have gotten caught up in the sort of intrigue that is sure to tarnish her reputation.
More tea? Another slice of blancmange?
At any rate, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you I’m worried sick about her. Won’t you be a lamb and help? I think you would be a good influence on Emmaline. Invite her to tea, or for a stroll through the Newport Casino, or perhaps an afternoon on your father’s yacht? Oh, your father doesn’t own a yacht, you say? Hmmm…. No matter. Surely you’ll think of something to take Emmaline’s mind off clues and evidence and matters that simply make one shudder. I’d be ever so grateful.
What’s that? You need more information first? Well… Shhh, but I’ve recently discovered that Emmaline has been keeping a dossier, if you will, of recent events. She calls it “Murder at The Breakers” and I just happen to have a copy. If you think it will help, you may read through. Oh, don’t ask me how I came by it, and it must remain our little secret. Emmaline must never know you and I spoke….
Newport, Rhode Island, August 1895: She may be a less well-heeled relation, but as second cousin to millionaire patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt, twenty-one-year-old Emma Cross is on the guest list for a grand ball at the Breakers, the Vanderbilts’ summer home. She also has a job to do—report on the event for the society page of the Newport <Observer.
But Emma observes much more than glitz and gaiety when she witnesses a murder. The victim is Cornelius Vanderbilt’s financial secretary, who plunges off a balcony faster than falling stock prices. Emma’s black sheep brother Brady is found in Cornelius’s bedroom passed out next to a bottle of bourbon and stolen plans for a new railroad line. Brady has barely come to before the police have arrested him for the murder. But Emma is sure someone is trying to railroad her brother and resolves to find the real killer at any cost…
You can read more about Emma in Murder At The Breakers, the first book in “The Gilded Newport” mystery series, published by Kensington. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.
GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by noon EST on March 29, and you will be entered for a chance to win a copy of Murder At The Breakers. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.
Meet the author
Alyssa Maxwell, author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries, began a love affair with the city of Newport while visiting friends there back in her high school days. Time and again the harbor side, gas lit neighborhoods drew her to return, and on one of those later visits she met the man who would become her husband.
Always a lover of history, Alyssa found that marrying into a large, generations old Newport family opened up an exciting world of historical discovery. From the graveyards whose earliest markers read from the seventeenth century, to original colonial houses still lived in today, to the Newport Artillery Company whose curator for many years was her husband’s grandfather, Newport became a place of fascination and romantic charm.
Today, she and her husband reside beneath the palms and bright skies of Florida, but part of her heart remains firmly in that small New England city of great historical significance. The first in the Gilded Newport Mysteries, Murder At The Breakers, was released on March 25, 2014, to be followed by Murder At Marble House in October of this year. For more about Alyssa and her books, please visit at www.alyssamaxwell.com, on Twitter or on Facebook.
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