When her fashionable Manhattan restaurant goes under, Sophie Taylor retreats to her grandmother's cozy shop, Auntie Rose's Victoria Tea House, where serenity is steeped to perfection in one of her many antique teapots. The last thing Sophie expects is a bustling calendar of tearoom events, like her old friend Cissy Peterson's upcoming bridal shower.
Not everyone is pleased with the bride-to-be's choice of venue-like Cissy's grandmother, who owns a competing establishment, La Belle Epoque, and has held a long simmering grudge against Rose for stealing her beau sixty years ago. Tensions reach a boiling point when Cissy's fiancé’s mother dies while sampling scones at La Belle Epoque. Now, to help her friend, Sophie will have to bag a killer before more of the guest list becomes a hit list...
Sophie Taylor is a chef whose restaurant, In Fashion, is a bust. She grew up rich, and her mother wants her to get married, preferably to a rich man, but Sophie is tired of the blind dates and decides to lick her wounds privately at her grandmother's in Gracious Grove.
Grandma Rose has a delightful tearoom where she not only shows off her own baking skills, but her wonderful teapot collection. Sophie has a collection also, not as extensive, but quite as nice, that she began when Rose gave her a teapot many years ago. After she settles in, in her room above the shop, she ventures out and meets her friend Cissy, who tells her she wants her bridal shower in Auntie Rose's, and that she wants Sophie to help Gretchen, the matron of honor, host it. It turns out Gretchen is not Cissy's choice, and she doesn't even want her as the matron of honor, but feels obligated to do so, since Gretchen's husband is Frankie's (Cissy's fiance) best man.
It turns out that Cissy's grandma, Thelma, is a horrible cook and downright nasty; but to placate her she has a 'pre-bridal shower' at Thelma's shop. While there, Frankie's mother Vivienne drops dead. Hearing the screams from the shop next door, Sophie rushes over and see's the woman's demise. Convinced that it wasn't an accident, Sophie decides to find the killer, since the police don't seem to be making much headway.
There is an entire cast of potential killers here, all who might want the woman dead. While it appears that Vivienne was actually a nice woman, there are people in town who didn't enjoy her philanthropic activities and wanted her out of the way.
The book started off slow and I would have liked to have known more about Sophie's restaurant. We know that it was in Manhattan and went bust, but why? If Sophie is an excellent cook, people would have flocked to the place (people will always go where the food is). So did she have bad employees? Bad hours? Dirty restaurant? We never do find out, and I wish we would have. Just hinting that she wanted to expand wouldn't close a GOOD restaurant - I've seen people here (in Las Vegas) waiting outside a restaurant to eat for over an hour because the place didn't have enough seating to accommodate everyone.
Plus, this is supposed to be a small town, yet everyone flocks to tearooms for events. I guess I really don't understand this. Now don't get me wrong; I'm a HUGE tea drinker; and I collect tea-for-one sets, so I was really interested in this book. We even have tearooms here. But it appeared that every event that wasn't at the Country Club was held at the tearoom. That must be some good food! On the flip side, Thelma not only is a terrible cook, she buys past-date and uses frozen food; yet for years her tearoom has remained open, right next door to Rose's. Huh? To be fair, it was also run as an inn, so I suppose that guests wouldn't know how bad the food was until they stayed there. But they wouldn't be coming back.
Aside from those few things, I truly enjoyed the book. While I felt at times that Sophie was a little too obvious in questioning people, the plot was interesting and kept me reading to see how it all turned out. There were sub-plots woven in which were just as interesting, and the way it all tied in at the end was believable. There is a nice recipe for scones in the back, with a guide for brewing the perfect cup of tea, for all the tea drinkers out there.
I look forward to the next book in this series, and Ms. Cooper is a welcome addition to the cozy genre.