Book Review: Plum Tea Crazy by Laura Childs—and a Giveaway!

Plum Tea Crazy
A Tea Shop Mystery #19
Laura Childs
Berkley Prime Crime, March 2018
ISBN 978-0-451-48960-9
Hardcover

From the publisher—

While viewing the harbor’s Gaslights and Galleons Parade from the widow’s walk of Timothy Neville’s Charleston mansion, local banker Carson Lanier seemingly tumbles over a narrow railing, then plunges three stories to his death. But a tragic accident becomes something much more sinister when it’s discovered that the victim was first shot with a bolt from a crossbow.

At the request of the mansion owner, Theodosia investigates the tragedy and is soon neck deep in suspects. An almost ex-wife, a coworker, a real estate partner–all had motives for killing the luckless banker, but one resorted to murder to settle accounts.

The prolific Laura Childs is back with another of her cozies I find so appealing, this one in the Tea Shop series. I think this is my favorite of her series…or at least I think so until a Scrapbooking or Cackleberry book comes out and then all bets are off. What I *do* know, with absolute certainty, is that I always welcome a new Laura Childs book.

The Indigo Tea Shop has to be one of the best settings for any reader who loves tea. Can’t you just imagine walking in and being surrounded by all those delightful tea aromas and colors not to mention all the scrumptious food that goes with a proper tea? Unfortunately, that peaceful ambience doesn’t extend to the Gaslights and Galleons Parade when Theodosia and her partner, Drayton, watch a man fall to his death from the very mansion where they’re viewing the festivities. When a small crowd reaches him, it’s Theodosia who discovers that Carson Lanier was shot, apparently with an arrow and, impetuously, Theodosia and Drayton race next door where she thought she saw a figure watching. Chasing the figure, Theodosia runs right into Detective Burt Tidwell.

Naturally, all is in good hands with the detective and life goes on in the tea shop, very briefly, until Timothy Neville, owner of the mansion where the dead man met his demise, comes by with a list of his guests and asks Theodosia to do her own investigating because, as he puts it, “she brings a different perspective to things”. Equally naturally, Theodosia and Drayton can’t resist, despite Tidwell’s somewhat disgusted reaction…but he recognizes that Theodosia has a certain affinity with one of his best detectives, Pete Riley, so Tidwell’s rejection of her involvement has an effect for no more than a few minutes.

Theodosia and Drayton are soon in the thick of things (as well as keeping up with all the neighborhood shopkeepers) and in hot pursuit of a likely suspect. Jud Harker. Will the killer turn out to be Jud or someone else with an entirely different motive?

As always, I was charmed by this entry in the Tea Shop series and had great fun following the clues along with these so-called amateur sleuths plus my mouth is watering over all the recipes. Book #20, Broken Bone China, can’t come fast enough 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2018.

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of Plum Tea Crazy by Laura Childs,
just leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Wednesday
evening, April 4th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Pekoe Most Poison by Laura Childs

Pekoe Most Poison
A Tea Shop Mystery #18
Laura Childs
Berkley Prime Crime, March 2017
ISBN 978-0-425-28168-0
Hardcover

Old cities have some pretty odd traditions and Charleston is no exception. However, even though the tradition was originally for a good cause, the idea of “Rat Teas” is perhaps one of the oddest.  According to author Childs‘ latest Tea Shop Mystery, the  idea of holding fancy teas with servers dressed up in rat costumes comes from an effort to raise funds for rodent prevention early in the city’s history. In Pekoe Most Poison, the eighteenth book in the Tea Shop Mystery series, the tradition was revived by socialite and philanthropist Doreen Briggs. Although the costumed “rat Servers” are a little unnerving, the tea seems to be going quite well until a fluke accident causes a fire at one of the tables and the hostess’s husband ends up dead. Worse yet for Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop, it initially appears as though it was the orange pekoe tea that caused the death.

I have been a fan of both the Tea Shop books and Childs’ Scrap Booking series, because each puts readers right in an old American city like none other. In the Tea Shop books, it is Charleston. Over the years the author has done an excellent job of setting each book’s plot around something unique to that area. Having visited Charleston fairly regularly over the years, it is fun to see how very accurate some of her descriptions are. But setting alone won’t carry a book. The main characters need to be well developed letting readers get to know them over the course of the series. And the characters need to be true to themselves.  It is with the main characters in this book, and frankly the previous book in the series, that things have gone off track. Something is different. The characters just aren’t the same. Theodosia isn’t acting at all like herself nor is Drayton. I for one don’t like the change.

Another thing that needs to be present for a series to survive is a strong plot. Again, in the last couple of books the plotting has fallen off the mark. The idea behind this one–the Rat Tea–is fun, but that part is over very quickly leaving the rest of the book to a sort of jumble of helter-skelter actions by some seriously obnoxious supporting characters.

I will probably give the series another try, but the author needs to get it back on track.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St. Clair, June 2017.

Book Review: Sweet Tea Tuesdays by Ashley Farley

Sweet Tea Tuesdays
Ashley Farley
Leisure Time Books, May 2917
Ebook
Leisure Time Books, March 2017
ISBN 978-1-946229-37-3
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Three best friends met every Tuesday for twenty-six years. And then they stopped.

When new next-door neighbors Georgia, Midge, and Lula first assembled on Georgia’s porch in Charleston for sweet tea, they couldn’t have known their gathering was the beginning of a treasured tradition. For twenty-six years they have met on Tuesdays at four o’clock, watching the seasons change and their children grow up, supporting each other in good times and in bad. With their ambitions as different as their personalities, these best friends anticipate many more years of tea time. And then, one Tuesday, Georgia shares news that brings their long-standing social hour to an abrupt halt. And that’s only the beginning as unraveling secrets threaten to alter their friendship forever.

Picture yourself and a couple of neighbors enjoying a glass of sweet tea on the front porch once a week, spending a little time catching up on each other’s doings and the latest tales about the kids and the men in your lives. Some weeks, you’ll watch the sun set; others, you’ll just savor the warm afternoon and coastal breezes. There are tears sometimes, a lot of laughs, perhaps the occasional spat, and the tea just might become a glass of wine. Most importantly, this is tradition and the essence of friendship, the very reason front porches were created.

Lula, Midge and Georgia are such normal women and so nice (for the most part) but not too much so. I would welcome them all into my life if I could do so and, after reading about the years on that porch, I feel as though I know them as well as my own best friends, alas both now departed. These are seasoned women who have seen and experienced much in their lifetimes and therefore they are compellingly interesting. When life deals Lula what she sees as a bad hand, the effect is nearly catastrophic and heartache is inevitable while continuing to care about her becomes really difficult. Many of us have been faced with problems similar to that which nearly brings the three friends to an apparent impasse; would we react the same or differently?

With each book Ashley Farley writes, she just gets better and better and she has become one of my favorite contemporary Southern fiction authors. Sweet Tea Tuesdays is a summer afternoon’s paean to friendships and family and the ordinary lives of women and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Georgia, Lula and Midge.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Ebook:

Amazon

Print:

Barnes & Noble // Indiebound // Amazon

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About the Author

Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you’ve read the last word, then she’s done her job.

After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save.

Ashley is a wife and mother of two young adult children. While she’s lived in Richmond, Virginia for the past 21 years, part of her heart remains in the salty marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry where she grew up. Through the eyes of her characters, she’s able to experience the moss-draped trees, delectable cuisine, and kind-hearted folks with lazy drawls that make the area so unique.

Catch up with Ashley

WebsiteGoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram

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Follow the tour:

Monday, June 5th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Tuesday, June 6th: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, June 7th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, June 8th: Reading is My Super Power

Friday, June 9th: Bibliotica

Monday, June 12th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Monday, June 12th: Jathan & Heather

Tuesday, June 13th: Tina Says…

Thursday, June 15th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, June 16th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, June 19th: Based on a True Story

Tuesday, June 20th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, June 21st: Buried Under Books

Thursday, June 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life

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Book Review: Devonshire Scream by Laura Childs—and a Giveaway!

Devonshire ScreamDevonshire Scream
A Tea Shop Mystery #17
Laura Childs
Berkley Prime Crime, March 2016
ISBN 978-0-425-28166-6
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Catering a high-class trunk show at Heart’s Desire Jewelry is a shining achievement for Theodosia and the Indigo Tea Shop. After all, a slew of jewelers, museums, and private collectors will be there to showcase their wares and sip some of Theo’s best blends. But just as Theo settles in to enjoy the fruits of her labor, the party is crashed by a gang of masked muggers who steal the precious gems and jewels on display. The thieves disappear almost as quickly as they arrived, leaving shattered glass, scattered gemstones, and a dead body in their wake. 
 
Although the last thing Theo wants is to get involved, she can’t help but intercede when her dear friend Brooke, aunt of the victim and owner of Heart’s Desire, begs for help in figuring out who committed the brutal burglary. Though the FBI believes this daring “smash and grab” is the work of an international gang of jewel thieves, Theo is convinced that the felon is someone much closer to home…

Right off the bat, let me just say I love this cover. It’s so…so cozy 😉 Seriously, though, the combination of colors was just the thing to bring spring to my mind and I send kudos to designer Lesley Worrell and artist Stephanie Henderson.

Laura Childs juggles three longrunning series and I have endless admiration for her ability to do that and do it well. I enjoy them all but, of the three, I like the Tea Shop series the best. (By the way, she’ll be debuting a fourth series in July and there’s a preview at the back of this book. That one’s definitely not cozy so she’ll be using her real name, Gerry Schmitt, and I can barely stand the wait.) Anyway, there are a lot of reasons this series strikes a chord with me—I love tea of all sorts, Charleston is one of my favorite cities, the included recipes always sound and are scrumptious and the main character is a woman I can relate to.

Theo has a lot going for her in her personal life and in her shop and catering a high-end jewelry show is sort of the icing on the cake. When violent thieves strike, Theo is as confused and frightened as everyone else but she quickly gathers herself together and does what an experienced amateur sleuth should do, taking charge until the police and ambulances arrive and trying to keep people calm. When the first responders get there, Theo sets right in to help wherever she’s needed and it’s this kind of behavior that makes me like Theo so much.

This is, however, a cozy and, as we all know, that means our intrepid sleuth needs must do some sleuthing. In this case, Theo is reluctant to meddle as the curmudgeonly “real” Detective Burt Tidwell would call it but her friend Brooke, owner of the jewelry shop and aunt of the dead girl, makes it impossible to refuse her pleas. She soon finds herself involved with not only the local police (Tidwell knows it’s in his best interest to share information with Theo because of previous cases) but also a pair of FBI agents and they all have a lot to do to solve this case and prevent another heist, that of a Fabergé egg that’s on its way to town.

Amongst all the snooping…er, detecting…we’re given a good look at the inner workings of a tea shop in Charleston and I always love this part. It’s a curious blend of murder, mayhem and the tranquility that goes along with such an oasis of gentility and peace, a blend that’s hard to beat, and it’s extra fun to watch Burt Tidwell become a marshmallow when confronted with delectable scones and tea. I think I would enjoy having a cup with Burt at the Indigo Tea Shop and I’m definitely going to have to try the recipes for Drayton’s Devonshire Cream and Haley’s Beef Stroganoff 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2016.

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To enter the drawing for a hardcover
copy of Devonshire Scream,
leave a comment below. Two winning
names will be drawn Sunday evening,
March 13
th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US.

Book Review: Ming Tea Murder by Laura Childs

Ming Tea MurderMing Tea Murder
A Tea Shop Mystery #16
Laura Childs
Berkley Prime Crime, March 2015
ISBN: 978-0-425-28164-2
Hardcover

Theodosia Browning and the rest of her crew at the Indigo Tea Shop are back for another go at solving a murder—if she can beat Detective Tidwell to it.

This time around, Theo’s boyfriend, Max, who is public relations honcho at the Gibbes museum, is fired when a wealthy contributor is murdered inside a display Max had advocated. He is a suspect in the murder, which has taken place in the middle of the gala opening of a Chinese teahouse exhibit. When Detective Tidwell’s investigation moves too slowly for Theo, she is compelled to take a hand.

As we’ve come to expect of an Indigo Tea Shop mystery, the murder seems to play second fiddle to the business of running a popular tea shop. Tea, food, and friendship fill more pages than the sleuthing. Still, it is interesting how criminal activity seems to permeate Charleston high society—in fiction, that is.

If I have one complaint, it is that there’s not much chemistry between Theodosia and Max. I often wonder what she sees in him. Also, although Theo and some of the other characters are supposed to be young, vibrant people, they strike me as being at least a generation older than they are. Some seem almost like caricatures. Still, the mystery always intrigues, the tea and food sounds elegant, and it is fun to visit for a few hundred pages with the cream of society.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2015.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

Book Review: Sweet Tea Revenge by Laura Childs

Sweet Tea RevengeSweet Tea Revenge
A Tea Shop Mystery #14
Laura Childs
Berkley Prime Crime, March 2013
ISBN 978-0-425-25288-8
Hardcover

This fun, cozy mystery, Sweet Tea Revenge, is set in charming Charleston, South Carolina, a tourist town with quaint shops and friendly people.

Theodosia runs the bustling Indigo Tea Shop where the action takes place almost daily amongst a litany of delicacies, such as tomato cream cheese tea sandwiches or Brie and Pear Crostini with Peanut Butter Scones for dessert, served up by her dapper friend, Drayton, a tea connoisseur.

But, at Theodosia’s best friend’s wedding, the groom is most brutally murdered and Theodosia takes on the task to help the inept and over-weight Detective Tidwell solve the crime. Thus begins a nonstop between Charleston’s horse-drawn carriages, strolling through haunted mansions or serving her customers Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits, and dozens of various and sundry flavored teas brewed up in antique Royale Garden Amari Chintz teapots.

Amidst gallons of tea and multi-flavored scones, her friend’s disastrous wedding, and a spur of the moment Home Tour Garden party in the murdered groom’s backyard, Theodosia unravels the clues.

Sweet Tea Revenge is a fairly good read, strongly steeped in tea and crumpets. Ms. Child weaves a plot with a satisfactory mystery, though she follows the much-expected template fairly typical in so many mysteries today. Surrounded by quirky friends and an inept police force, amateur female sleuth Theodosia, must solve the crime, and in so doing, finds herself and the killer in a hand-to-hand battle in the garden at a haunted mansion.

If the reader is a tea connoisseur, or a devoted pastry baker as well as a cozy mystery reader, she will love this book.

Reviewed by Elaine Faber, July 2014.
Author of Black Cat’s Legacy.

Book Review: Men and Dogs by Katie Crouch

Men and Dogs
Katie Crouch
Little, Brown and Company, 2010
ISBN 0316002135
Hardcover (ARC)

Both people and place serve in characters in this mystery which moves with the elegance and charm of a Southern drawl. As teenagers, Hannah and Palmer lost their father, Dr. Buzz Legare in a boating accident. While their Mom, Daisy, was able to move on, neither of them have quite recovered. While both are quite successful, Hannah shares an adult toys business with her husband Jon and Palmer is a veterinarian. Both have commitment issues: Hannah cannot stay faithful to her husband and Palmer’s the first vet of my acquaintance who doesn’t have a close bond with even an animal.

When Hannah returns home to Charleston to recover from a drunken accident, she comes back face-to-face with the memories of her father’s abrupt departure from their lives and seeks answers. Did her Mom actually know the man she married too quickly for Southern society after her Dad’s death prior to the accident? She’s looking for connections and finding secrets — some, she wishes she hadn’t uncovered.

Confronted with his partner’s desire to have a child, Palmer’s ready to terminate the relationship with Tom. The past haunts him–was he to blame for his father’s disappearance?  But, when the relationship does fall apart, Palmer’s feeling empty and alone.

Meanwhile, we get a fascinating look at the city of Charleston itself from the culture, to the food and the accent. The novel’s steeped with Southern flavor and a slow bake in a sultry SC summer.

“Men and Dogs” has a lot to offer and delivers with typical Southern generosity. If you enjoy mysteries with a strong feeling of family and place, you’re going to want to check this one out.

Reviewed by Rebecca Kyle, March 2010.