Alyssa Maxwell: Murder at the Elms

Gilded Newport #11

Murder at the Elms is the eleventh book in Alyssa Maxwell’s Gilded Newport series, featuring intrepid newspaper reporter Emma Cross, who solves mysteries among Newport’s elite.  Emma is a poor relation of the Vanderbilts, so she is intimately familiar with the high society of Newport, while at the same time having sympathy for the working class.  This is the first book I had read in the series, so I don’t know the details of Emma’s life and upbringing, but from the hints that are given in this novel, it sounds like her branch of the family fell on hard times, and she grew up in an area of Newport that was relatively far from the Gilded Age mansions.  When this book begins, in 1901, she is newly married to newspaper heir Derrick Andrews, and together they own the Newport Messenger.  From what I gather, Derrick’s family objected to his marrying her, I assume because she was a poor relation.  But at the same time some of the working-class people among whom she grew up have rejected her because of her wealthy relations.  So, Emma has a foot in both worlds, without really feeling a part of either. read more

Vicki Delany: Steeped in Malice

Tea by the Sea #4

Steeped in Malice opens with Lilly Roberts on a mission to get her tea house, Tea by the Sea, some additional tea cups and saucer sets from a local antique sale. A Peter Rabbit themed tea set in a wicker basket causes her to bring home a lot more than she bargained for. Specifically, it causes a very irate and rude woman named Kimberly to come storming into her place of business, demanding to buy the basket and tea set back, and oddly enough she seems primarily interested in the basket. After much harassment, Lilly finally decides that surrendering the basket would be less trouble in the long run. When she does, however, Kimberly doesn’t take it, instead extracting an envelope from its lining and leaving. read more

Karen Rose Smith: Murder with Earl Grey Tea

Daisy’s Tea Garden #9

I have enjoyed many volumes of Karen Rose Smith’s Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery series, and the ninth addition is no exception. In Murder with Earl Grey Tea our heroine Daisy Swanson is having to juggle a bunch of events in her life. Her daughter Vi is moving to her own place with her family, and starting to move forward with planning her own wedding. Vi is marrying her boyfriend Jonas, and Daisy’s tea garden is preparing to host a large Alice in Wonderland themed event. Over all things seem to be going well for her and her family. The only drama on the horizon is her aunt Iris being put into the predicament of having to start to face having to choose between two suitors, but that all changes with the traumatic discovery of the body of a friend. read more

Emmaline Duncan: Flat White Fatality

Ground Rules #3

Flat White Fatality is Emmeline Duncan’s third book in her ground rules series. First, I feel I would be remiss in saying that heroine Sage is every barista’s dream manager as she is passionate about coffee and cares for her employees, as well as sticking up for them. Anyone who has worked behind a steaming espresso machine will appreciate the realism of Emmeline Duncan’s descriptions of running a coffee establishment – including the customers who get unreasonably angry over having ordered the wrong thing and not wanting to admit it. In such situations, Sage’s managerial prowess also shines as she deescalates the situation and stops the customer from abusing her baristas. Ground Rules is currently just a coffee cart, but is expanding to a brick and mortar building due to its popularity. Given how innovative Sage is about her product, their growing popularity isn’t a surprise. read more

Erica Ruth Neubauer: Intrigue in Istanbul

Intrigue in Istanbul is the fourth book in Erica Ruth Neubauer’s Jane Wunderly series, featuring an American war widow in the 1920s.  Each book has a different setting: the first takes place in Egypt, the second at an English country manor, the third on a transatlantic voyage on the sister ship of the Titanic, and the fourth, obviously, in Istanbul.  Neubauer makes great use of the setting in each of her books, and this is no exception.  She takes the reader to Istanbul along with Jane, as her intrepid heroine searches for her missing father as well as a legendary relic.  This is a tribute to Indiana Jones, but with some significant nods to Agatha Christie. read more