Status: Granddaughter of the Earl of Wroxly
Who doesn’t love cake? Miss Henrietta Finch, headmistress of the Haverleigh School for young ladies certainly did. Most particularly Madeira cake. With extra cinnamon and almonds.
Unfortunately, that fondness for Madeira cake would be her undoing. And I can’t help feeling at least partially responsible. You see, it was because of me the cake was baked in the first place.
I meant well. With the Great War over now for several months, it had become clear to me that work still needed to be done in the service of our country. To that end, I established The Relief and Comfort of Veterans and their Families, or RCVF, if you will. It was really quite simple. I head up the organization that solicits donations, both monetary and in the form of household and personal goods, to be distributed among impoverished and wounded veterans and their families residing in the Cotswolds. And to that end, I’d enlisted the efforts of the students of the Haverleigh School. We were to throw a grand luncheon for patrons of the school and of the RCVF.
The luncheon, prepared by the students themselves, couldn’t have been the success it was without Miss Finch, a forward thinking and independent-minded woman if ever there was one. Only, not everyone approved of her progressive curriculum. Some parents, and even students, didn’t see the point of young aristocratic ladies learning mathematics and science and such. Others who disapproved of Miss Finch included the assistant headmistress, members of the school’s governing body, and the very student who baked the individually sized Madeira cake and set it in front of Miss Finch at the luncheon.
During my keynote speech of gratitude, Miss Finch suddenly turned quite blue and keeled over, taking the tablecloth, dishes, and everything else with her. By the time my sister Amelia could summon the school nurse, it was quite apparent that Miss Finch was beyond all help. At first we thought it a heart attack, or an apoplexy, or an asthma attack. But no, telltale signs pointed to something much more insidious.
Constable Miles Brannock is on the case, but sometimes a softer touch, a woman’s touch, is needed to get at the truth. We have a school full of girls, teachers, and mothers, any of whom might have done in poor Miss Finch. Will the school I had attended, which my sister presently attends, as well as my grandmother and her mother before her, be forever closed?
Not if I have anything to say about it. But it’s a tricky thing, investigating not only figures of authority such as teachers and the school’s governing body, but children. One can’t take a direct approach, or one might traumatize an innocent girl for life. Ah, but some of them aren’t so innocent, are they? No indeed. They have secrets, they sneak around, they sometimes cheat on their schoolwork, and they bully each other when no one is looking. Did one of them slip a deadly ingredient into Miss Finch’s Madeira cake?
My lady’s maid, Eva Huntford and I intend to find out.
Despite some serious themes, A Pinch of Poison was fun to write and reminded me of my own school days, the good, the bad, and the wildly dramatic. Do you have fond memories of your school days? A favorite subject or teacher? Was there lots of drama among students? Comment below and be entered to win a signed hardcover copy of A Pinch of Poison, book two of A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries. (Due to shipping costs, open to US residents only.)
A Pinch of Poison is the second book in the Lady and Lady’s Maid mystery series, published by Kensington, December 2016.
In post–World War I England, Lady Phoebe Renshaw and her lady’s maid, Eva Huntford, encounter an uncharitable killer at a charity luncheon sponsored by a posh school for girls . . .
Good deeds build good character, and good character is what the Haverleigh School for Young Ladies is all about. Lady Phoebe—with the tireless assistance of Eva—has organized a luncheon at the school to benefit wounded veterans of the Great War, encouraging the students to participate in the cooking and the baking. But too many cooks do more than spoil the broth—they add up to a recipe for disaster when the school’s headmistress, Miss Finch, is poisoned.
The girls at Haverleigh all come from highly respected families, none of whom will countenance their darling daughters being harassed like common criminals by the local police. So, Lady Phoebe steps in to handle the wealthy young debutantes with tact and discretion, while Eva cozies up to the staff. Did one of the girls resent the headmistress enough to do her in? Did a teacher bear a grudge? What about the school nurse, clearly shell shocked from her service in the war? No one is above suspicion, not even members of the school’s governing body, some of whom objected to Miss Finch’s “modern” methods.
But Lady Phoebe and Eva will have to sleuth with great stealth—or the cornered killer may try to teach someone else a lethal lesson.
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About the author
Alyssa Maxwell is the author of the Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries. She lives in South Florida in the current year, but confesses to spending most of her time in the Victorian and post WWI eras. In addition to fantasizing about wearing Worth gowns and strolling the gardens of her imaginary manor house, she loves to watch BBC and other period productions and sip tea in the afternoons. She and her husband are the proud parents of two beautiful twenty-something daughters. They love to ride bikes, shop at farmers’ markets and consignment shops, and, when they can, travel. Please visit Alyssa at alyssamaxwell.com to learn more about her books, send her a note, and to connect with her via her social media links.
All comments are welcomed.
The giveaway ends December 29, 2016. Good luck everyone!