Published by Kensington on July 28, 2020
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Format: Kindle or ebook
Source: the publisher
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Also by this author: Elementary, She Read, Body on Baker Street, The Cat of the Baskervilles
In this charming new cozy mystery series from nationally bestselling author, Vicki Delany, a New York City expat-turned-Cape Cod tea shop owner must solve the murder of a local real estate developer to help her feisty grandmother out of a jam . . .
As the proud proprietor and head pastry chef of Tea by the Sea, a traditional English tearoom on the picturesque bluffs of Cape Cod, Roberts has her hands full, often literally. But nothing keeps her busier than steering her sassy grandmother, Rose, away from trouble. Rose operates the grand old Victorian B & B adjacent to Lily’s tea shop . . . for now. An aggressive real estate developer, Jack Ford, is pushing hard to rezone nearby land, with an eye toward building a sprawling golf resort, which would drive Rose and Lily out of business.
Tempers are already steaming, but things really get sticky when Ford is found dead at the foot of Rose’s property and the police think she had something to do with his dramatic demise. Lily can’t let her grandmother get burned by a false murder charge. So she starts her own investigation and discovers Ford’s been brewing bad blood all over town, from his jilted lover to his trophy wife to his shady business partners. Now, it’s down to Lily to stir up some clues, sift through the suspects, and uncover the real killer before Rose is left holding the tea bag.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
The Pleasure of Afternoon Tea
a guest post by author Vicki Delany
There is something very special about afternoon tea. It speaks of tradition and history, but it also speaks of serenity and friendship.
Afternoon tea is about taking time out of your busy day to simply relax. To enjoy a cup of tea and a few tasty treats in the company of friends without having to gulp it down and rush off to the next thing on your to-do-list.
Afternoon tea was invented by Anna, Duchess of Bedford, a friend of Queen Victoria, around 1840. Anna began feeling a mite peckish around four in the afternoon and she wanted a small, light meal to tide her through. She began inviting friends to join her, and the idea spread, and
here we are.
Afternoon tea (which is NOT the same as high tea; originally, afternoon tea was sometimes called low tea) today is most definitely not a small, light meal. It is, usually, quite substantial. It is also not something to be had daily or even regularly. To be properly enjoyed, the table must
be beautifully set, the dishes fine china, the tea perfectly prepared. And the food must be a mouth-watering arrangement of scones (always served with jam, butter and clotted cream), tea sandwiches, and tiny pastries.
The protagonist of my new Tea by the Sea series, Lily Roberts, is a trained pastry chef from New York City, but her grandmother, Rose Campbell, is an Englishwoman. When Rose was young, she was a cook’s assistant in a grand manor house in Yorkshire. The Lady of the house loved entertaining at afternoon tea, and Rose was taught to prepare it to perfection. Rose has handed that tradition down to Lily (Lily’s 16th birthday gift from her grandparents was a set of Royal Doulton Winthrop china), which Lily incorporates into her new Cape Cod tea room, Tea by the Sea, on the grounds of the 19th-century house that is her grandmother’s B&B, Victoria-on-Sea.
In the first book in the series, Tea & Treachery, Lily is questioned by the police about a murder on the B&B property. She decides she might as well be comfortable so she arranges tea for the detective. Lily explains what it means to her:
“Do you know, I don’t think I’ve ever had a proper afternoon tea.” [Detective Redmond said]
“Time to start, then.” I lifted the teapot and poured. “I didn’t know what you liked, so I’ve made my favorite. This is a Creamy Earl Grey.”
She took a deep breath, clearly enjoying the rich, fragrant scent. “Isn’t tea just tea? Usually black, but green in a Chinese restaurant? Served with ice in parts to the south.”
“Tea is a highly varied beverage,” I said, “although it all has its origins in the plant Camellia sinensis. I’d educate you on what goes into making and serving the different varieties, but we’d be here all night, and that’s not why I called. But I will tell you that Creamy Earl Gray is based on the traditional Earl Gray, with an added hint of caramel for a boost.”
“This place is a labor of love for you, isn’t it?”
I smiled at her.
Redmond helped herself to a scone. She cut it in half and spread it with butter, then added a spoonful of jam and a dollop of clotted cream. I put a macaron on my plate and put a splash of milk and a half spoon of sugar in my own tea. I was glad I’d thought to serve tea. This felt a lot more comfortable than a police interrogation should.[…]
“Do you make all the food served here yourself?”
That was an abrupt change of topic. Had she even heard me? Might as well answer the question.“I do, and everything’s made completely from scratch. Nothing purchased and nothing out of a package. More than once, people have complained when they saw the prices. We never apologize. Good food, well prepared with excellent ingredients, much of it sourced locally, costs money. Not to mention fresh flowers on the table and real china and silver and linen at every place. Afternoon tea isn’t an everyday thing, not even in the UK and certainly not in America. It’s a treat, an indulgence, and I believe it needs to be presented accordingly.”
Scone finished, Detective Redmond helped herself to a macaron and sipped her tea.
Tea and Treachery By Vicki Delany
Tea and Treachery (July 28, 2020) is the first in the Tea By the Sea mysteries from Kensington Books.
Tea & Treachery is a delightful opener to Vicki Delany’s newest cozy mystery series, Tea by the Sea. I hesitate to use the word “charming,” because the blurb already did… but I can’t help it: it is charming!
Take one pastry-chef-cum-teashop-proprietor. Add a feisty, wily English gran (who owns a B&B), the teashop owner’s best friend (a would-be writer and a force of nature), a hot English gardener, an unscrupulous developer, and an unpleasant property owner and his very pleasant son. Season with a suspicious death, a smattering of B&B guests and several local authorities, from police to the mayor and a councilman, who may or may not have agendas of their own. Stir until well mixed, pour into a Cape Cod village, and bake. Ice with summer breezes, the sound of the waves, and delectable descriptions of afternoon tea treats. Pour yourself a cup of Creamy Earl Grey, and enjoy!
One of my pet peeves in cozy mysteries is when the heroine has no real reason to get personally involved in the investigation, other than curiosity. Delany neatly avoids that problem in Tea & Treachery. Lily would rather concentrate on baking treats and running her teashop (not to mention cooking breakfasts for the guests at her grandmother B&B). But between her grandmother Rose’s position as chief suspect, Rose and Lily’s friend Bernie’s determination to find the real culprit, and Lily’s own doubts about the detective in charge of the case, she has little choice but to join Bernie and Rose in investigating. And the trio prove surprisingly good at it.
Lily is a sympathetic main character: intelligent, caring, and loyal. She doesn’t make the classic TSTL (too stupid to live) mistake of going off to meet a suspect alone, and she doesn’t withhold information from the police (which are two of my other pet peeves. I suppose you could say this book is peeve-free.) Rose is feisty, stubborn, and not above pulling the old-lady sympathy card when it suits her purposes. Bernie is one of those would-be writers who is more interested in having written a book than actually writing it; she’s constantly changing everything from plot to characters to setting. But she, too, is as loyal as they come, and loves Rose nearly as much as Lily does. There are other secondary characters who seem destined to become regulars; all have just enough presence and detail to play their roles in this book, while leaving plenty of room for character development as the series progresses.
The plot is pretty typical of a cozy mystery: plenty of suspects, including a few who don’t turn up until Lily and Co. have been detecting for a little while, and several possible motives, ditto. The clues are all there for the reader (the mark of a good mystery!) The one thing that kept this from being a 5-star cozy for me is that Lily doesn’t really figure it out; instead, the killer is revealed by their own actions. There are also one or two potential clues that weren’t followed up as thoroughly as I’d like, and a couple of people I wasn’t sure of but Lily seemed to trust—which is fine, but I wasn’t sure why she didn’t see them as suspects. But these are very minor quibbles, and didn’t impact my overall enjoyment of the book.
Tea & Treachery is a perfect summer confection: a light, entertaining book that should keep you absorbed for several hours. But don’t read it without a pot of tea and a large plate of scones or teacakes handy! The descriptions of food, particularly afternoon tea, are mouthwatering. You have been warned. (Hint: there are recipes in the back for light scones and coconut cupcakes.)
Vicki Delany is one of my favorite authors of light-and-believable cozy mysteries. She writes the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mysteries, which also takes place in New England, as well as the Year Round Christmas series. As Eva Gates, she writes the Lighthouse Library series, set on the Outer Banks. And now she has added the Tea by the Sea series to that list… which means they’re now on my list of cozy series to follow.
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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Quarantine Edition (2020)