The Engagement

By Chloe Hooper


Liese Campbell is working as an estate agent in Melbourne when she first meets Alexander Colquhoun.

The handsome scion of a prominent farming family, he is searching for a pied-a-terre in the city. At another disappointing viewing, Liese leads Alexander to the bedroom, and they sleep together. Afterwards, he pulls out a roll of cash, and she takes three hundred dollars. ‘Half price’, she says jokingly, ‘because I like you.’ Liese is not a prostitute, but it is an erotic game, she thinks, that both parties are playing.

Whenever Alexander is in the city he calls her, and pays for sex. For Liese, who has travelled to Australia from England after losing her job, the relationship is fun, and a useful way to begin paying off her debts. When Liese decides to return home, she receives a letter from Alexander inviting her to the country for the weekend, and offering a price she cannot refuse. A few days of sex and luxury, she thinks – a final fling before she departs.

At his house, a grand Victorian mansion at the centre of countless acres of farmland, he presents her with a ring. It is a ridiculous proposition, but in it Liese sees a way out of her penury, and a fairytale ending. She accepts. Alexander however is not quite ready to make Liese his wife. First he wants her to tell him what she does with other men. When she explains she is not a whore, he refuses to believe her. Worse, he shows her letters he has received from former customers, describing in obscene detail what she used to do for them. One of the letters even refers to her schooldays in Norfolk. Who has written these letters? And why?

Trapped in the house, Liese must uncover the true nature of Alexander’s fantasies, and her own, if she is ever to escape. A powerful and unsettling novel of sex, deception and the lure of money, “The Engagement” is a provocative and thrilling new work from a writer of rare talent.

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