STEEPED IN MALICE is the fourth book in the Tea by the Sea Mysteries by Vicki Delany. The author knows how to weave a tantalizing tale to tempt your tastebuds and tease your deducing skills with all the twists and turns in this newest release. Using the spectacular setting of the Cape Cod Bay, protagonist Lily Roberts owns a charming tea shop set alongside her grandmother’s Victorian B&B. Let me tell you, Lily is a hard worker, up at the crack of dawn to cook for her grandmother’s guests and then back to her tea room to bake for her own customers. The author shows the realistic side of owning your own business and fitting in all the work that goes into it. When there’s a murder to solve, it’s not unusual for Lily to be up late at night, trying to fit it all in.
I love that Lily, her grandmother, Rose, and Lily’s best friend, Bernie, have such a close relationship. Early in the series, I found Rose to be annoying by the way she steamrolled over Lily and anyone else she crossed paths with. As the series has progressed, Rose has mellowed while retaining her spunky personality. I especially like that she’s quick to jump into helping Lily investigate. There’s much humor throughout the book with Rose and Bernie, who are “thick as the currants in the fruit scones”, getting into mischief.
Ms. Delany starts the conflict early in the book, keeping the reader engaged with “what’s going to happen next”. This time the catalyst is a darling Peter Rabbit-themed children’s tea set, complete with a wicker basket. The adorable cover of Steeped in Malice perfectly captures the theme! Lily becomes involved when she acquires the tea set and two feuding half-sisters insist that the set belongs to them. When one sister is murdered on the grounds of the B&B, Lily can’t help but become involved. There are several suspects to consider and some twists I didn’t see coming. The author’s clever plot kept me turning pages late into the night until I’d read the last page. There’s a hint or two that more portend what’s coming next for Lily, and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out!
Lily’s delightful tea time goodies and B&B breakfast dishes sound utterly delicious, so be prepared to drool as you read! Fortunately for the home cook, there are a few recipes at the back of the book to try out. My family is partial to lemon treats, so I tried the recipe for Lemon Squares. This recipe calls for a combination of both lemon and limes, which gives it a more tempered flavor punch than straight lemon. The shortbread-style crust is easy to mix up as is the filling. All-in-all, these Lemon Squares are a refreshing afternoon treat, with tea, of course, or a light after dinner dessert.
Afternoon tea isn’t just about flavorful brews and delicious treats. It’s also about presentation—fine china teacups (never mugs!), with carefully coordinated saucers and plates. With her fragile stock running low, Lily has an excuse to indulge in one of her favorite hobbies: visiting an antiques fair for replacements.
Among other finds, Lily snaps up a charming Peter Rabbit-themed tea set in a wicker basket, perfect for children’s events. But a few days later, a woman named Kimberly marches into the tearoom, rudely demanding to buy it back—then later returns and removes an envelope hidden in the basket’s lining.
An acquaintance of Lily’s named Rachel is on the trail of the tea set too. Apparently, she and Kimberly are half-sisters, searching for their mother’s final will. To her annoyance, Lily is dunked into the middle of this mess—especially when her ex-boyfriend turns out to be involved. But it’s more than a storm in a teacup when one of the sisters is found dead on the grounds of the B&B owned by Lily’s grandmother, Rose.
Is this a simple case of greed boiling over, or are there other suspects in the blend? It’ll take some savvy sleuthing from Lily, Rose, and their allies to find the answers before a killer shatters more lives.
A special thanks to Kensington for providing a print arc copy of STEEPED IN MALICE! Contest ends July 30, 2023 at 11:59 pm PST and is limited to U.S. residents only. Please use the Rafflecopter box located below 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!)
These lemon squares are a popular addition to the sweets course of afternoon tea.
Makes about thirty squares.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon grated lime zest
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- Icing sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
Mix together the butter, confectioners' sugar, flour, and salt until well blended. The mixture will look like fine breadcrumbs.
Pat into a 9 x 13-inch greased pan. Prick surface with a fork. Bake for twenty minutes, until the pastry is golden.
Beat together the eggs, granulated sugar, flour, zests, and juices. Pour the mixture over the cooked base.
Bake for fifteen to twenty minutes until set.
Cut the squares and liberally dust with icing sugar.
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I was provided with an advance copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.