Gasp, laughter, repeat.
The reaction to historian and lecturer Sloane Meyer was uniform as she addressed a crowd of local women while in full Victorian costume at the Dawson County Library Tuesday.
Her lecture "Naughty Women, Lovely Tea" covered the real life story of Victorian-era killer Christiana Edmunds and her plot to knock off the wife of the man she thought she loved.
Library guests laughed a lot as an animated Meyer gave a brief history lesson on the social status during the reign of Queen Victoria before detailing Edmunds life, as well as those of the characters in Gustave Flaubert's novel "Madame Bovary."
Meyer told the tale of Edmunds and how she became known as The Chocolate Cream Killer after putting strychnine into French cream chocolates which poisoned several people and killed four-year old Sidney Barker.
The group ate up the delicious details as Meyer paused to observe that the chocolate on the plates may not be consumed after the stories she had to tell.
Dawson County Library Branch Manager Stacey Leonhardt was pleased with the turn out saying she'd considered allowing for two separate groups for the next event.
"It's so funny, story time meets in here. Now this, is an extreme difference," she said.
A self-professed lover of literature who battled dyslexia, Meyer travels to present lectures that she says are "equal parts education and entertainment."
Meyer sews all of her own costumes in an effort to be true to the period.
"Christiana Edmunds was not a hot mama so to speak," she told the gathered ladies with an impish grin.
Meyer explained that Edmunds was so eager to be a part of the upper class that she was willing to claim in open court she was pregnant by the town doctor when she wasn't pregnant at all.
"She's got to be crazy and for a woman-bless her heart," Meyer was interrupted by laughter. "Poor thing, she's a spinster."
Meyer has been on stage and screen since she was a child. Her involvement with the Jefferson Community Theatre and teaching experience lend themselves naturally to becoming what she calls an "academic performer."
She encourages lecture attenders to pick up the books she describes to read them for themselves.
"OK, I am speaking like she is real. This is fiction. In my head, she lived there. You know what I mean?" she said of Emma Bovary, the main character of "Madame Bovary."
"There is a difference between a book actually written in the Victorian era and a modern book based in the Victorian era. The language it's all English but it's very different. Sometimes it's a little too dry, a little too wordy. Be patient. If you want to read Madame Bovary or any of the other novels, just give yourself the chance to absorb it," Meyer said.