I have been following the Oxford Tearoom Mystery series by H.Y. Hanna for some time and am impressed with her entertaining stories and classic English desserts! I was delighted that I didn’t have too long of a wait in between her last book and eagerly pick up the newest release in her series, MUFFINS AND MOURNING TEA.
Gemma Rose, owner of Little Stables Tearoom near Oxford, has finally moved into her own tiny cottage with her darling tabby, Meuseli. Gemma is happy to be on her own except for worrying a bit that her boyfriend, CID Detective Devlin O’Connor, might be a tad upset that she chose not to live with him. But between working at her busy tearoom and preparing for May Day festivities, she doesn’t have much time to worry too much. Her best friend, Cassie, talks Gemma into attending Oxford’s early morning May Day celebration, like they did as students. With the crush of people on the bridge listening to the university’s choir usher in the day, Gemma is horrified when the man next to her topples off the bridge and instead of swimming out of the water, floats face down.
It is soon discovered that the student was stabbed to death. Gemma is sorry for the young man and his distraught Russian girlfriend, but is glad she’s not connected to this death…until her chef begs her to solve the case because her best friend, middle-aged Miriam, is the chief suspect. Miriam worked as the Scout (housekeeper) for the dead man’s university room and the weapon turns out to belong to her. The four “Old Biddies” are soon dragging Gemma into the investigation even though Devlin repeatedly warns her to stay away from his case. Can Gemma survive the Krav Maga training the Old Biddies drag her to? Can she figure out why Devlin is so withdrawn or will she cave in to his wishes to not investigate? Will she be able to clear Miriam’s name or will the killer walk away from the crime? And just what is Gemma going to do with all the hysterically hideous housewarming “gifts” and plants being given to her by the Old Biddies and her mother?
MUFFINS AND MOURNING TEA is even better than the last book in the series, which is saying a lot since I’ve loved each and everyone of H.Y. Hanna’s books. She makes you feel like you’re actually visiting Oxford and participating in the May Day celebrations and sipping tea at her Little Stables Tearoom. I loved the bits and pieces of history that she provides about the area and the traditions. It adds to the book without detracting from the story. Be sure to read through to the back of the book for the Glossary of British Terms, which is entertaining reading on its own.
The plot has a good flow to it with lots of interesting suspects that kept me guessing until the very end. But once again, it’s the characters that have me coming back and eagerly waiting for the next installment! Without a doubt, the Old Biddies steal the scenes they are in and they create many laugh out loud moments. Adorable Meuseli is a cheeky little tabby that will win your heart. Gemma’s relationship with Devlin seems to be at a turning point while her friendship with Cassie provides a sounding board. They all combine to create a story where I wish I could hang out at Little Stables Tearoom and take in the gossip and atmosphere while Gemma solves her cases!
H.Y. Hanna also provides a recipe for Classic Banoffee Pie at the back of the book. When she asked me to test the recipe I’ll have to admit that while I had heard of this dessert I had never tried it or even seen a recipe. Thank goodness for Wikipedia and Pinterest 🙂 According to Wikipedia, “credit for the pie’s invention is claimed by Nigel Mackenzie and Ian Dowding, the owner and chef respectively of The Hungry Monk Restaurant in Jevington, East Sussex in 1971.” They combined the the words banana and toffee to create Banoffee which is amazingly rich and decadent! The pie isn’t difficult to make but the results are quite elegant and I think I just about licked the plate clean! In fact, the toffee sauce is so easy I’ll be making it for ice cream sundaes instead of purchasing the jarred caramel sauce. Thank you, H.Y., for allowing me to share your delicious recipe!
A huge thank you to H.Y. Hanna for providing winner’s choice of print or an e-book copy of MUFFINS AND MOURNING TEA to one winner. Since the author is traveling internationally, I’ve extended the contest for a few extra days and it will end Friday, November 4, 2016 at 11:59 pm PST. Please use the Rafflecopter box located below the recipe to enter. The winner will be announced on this page and on Cinnamon & Sugar’s Facebook page, as well as notified by email (so check your spam folder!)
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