A Day in the Life of Phoebe Renshaw by Alyssa Maxwell

a-pinch-of-poisonStatus: 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 alyssamaxwellSouth 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!

34 responses to “A Day in the Life of Phoebe Renshaw by Alyssa Maxwell

  1. I completely agree with the first line. Who doesn’t like cake! Lol! I hate being first 😦

  2. Sounds like I would so enjoy this book…..
    Thank you for the giveaway…..

  3. An author once commented that it was a wonder there wasn’t more murders in academia since so many teachers were always asking for it. My own comments about school were that I don’t have too many fond memories. Too many clicks!

  4. Kathy Gonzales

    This series is excellent , thank you for a chance to win !

  5. Sounds like the perfect book to curl up with! Thank you for the opportunity to win.

  6. Good morning! Thank you so much, Dru Ann, for hosting me today! I have to admit, I sympathize with Miss Finch because I love my cake, too. In fact, there’s leftover cake from Christmas day, and I’m having a hard time not digging in for breakfast. I’ll do my best, and meanwhile I’ll be popping in here throughout the day – someone needs to keep an eye on things, lol.

  7. I haven’t heard of this author, but her books sound like fun . Will have to check them out.

  8. conniepsaunders

    This story sounds very intriguing! Thanks for sharing!!

  9. Thank you for providing information about Alyssa Maxwell and her two series. I enjoy reading about this era and can’t wait to get one of her books to read. My question is do you have to start at the beginning of each series to be able to make sense of the newer books? robeader53(at)yahoo(dot)com

  10. elainehroberson

    This is a new author for me, but the series sounds fantastic. Thanks for a chance to win a signed copy. I enjoyed my school days most of the time. I liked my teachers with just a few exceptions.

  11. Ah, a progressive woman cut down. So sad.

  12. My high school English and Government teachers were wonderful, and I actually looked forward to their classes and remember them fondly. I look forward to reading A Pinch of Poison ~

  13. Almost lost my scholarship in college because of a letter from home. It was from a friend back home who had a job watching over kids as they changed busses. One kid ended up with a swirly and she had to clean him up. Apparently, a swirly was not a worldwide act. I was laughing, it was lunch in the girl’s dorm. They begged me to read my letter out loud. I did. One obnoxious freshman kept telling us (sophomores) we would never do that. That we were too chicken. This continued all day to everyone in my group of friends. She was an especially obnoxious person anyway. Waking us at all hours with a Tarzan yell. Anyway we gave her a warning at dinner to let it rest or we would give her a swirly. She just could not let it alone. My group of best friends and I grabbed her as she got off the elevator and gave her a swirly. Everyone on the floor packed into the bathroom to watch and yell, ‘Go. Go. Go. Go’!!!! Immediately afterward they all turned on us and told us were disgusting. (A swirly is sticking someones head in the toilet and flushing) Hey we made sure it was clean.
    Anyways, there was some discussion in the elevator one day and the dorm director heard about it. She called us all into her office one by one. She placed us all on probation. She almost placed us on a higher level that would have cost us all our scholarships. She accused me of being the leader because it was my letter from home. I was ordered to never share my letters from again.

  14. That’s quite a story! I’m glad you didn’t lose your scholarship, but I hope there were no more swirlies after that!

  15. I loved being in the chorus and performing with a girl’s sextet called the Melodettes. So much fun!

  16. Thanks Alyssa and Dru! I had 2 favorite teachers in HS. Mr. Niebuhr was the music teacher. He was crabby, eccentric but loveable. The other teacher was Mr. Schroeder. He taught English and German. He made me want to study his subjects. They have both passed away, but I remember them fondly.

    Jan Nelson

  17. “A Pinch of Poison” sounds amazing! I haven’t read this series, but definitely look forward to reading in the new year. Thanks for the chance. Happy New Year!

  18. I love Alyssa’s Gilded Newport Mysteries. I haven’t read this series, yet. I would love to win a copy. Thank you for the chance.

  19. I can hardly explain how much I can barely wait to read Alyssa’s new book. I had been hoping for the book on CD or MP3 format but since one is not released yet I definitely want to order this in paper format. But I will wait just in case I were lucky enough to win a copy. 😊 I am so thrilled for Alyssa’s release and have been spreading the word about this fantastic series to many friends. Congratulations Alyssa.

  20. I forgot to mention about a favorite teacher that was asked about in the posting. My 8th grade teacher was the one who inspired me to do things I had been afraid to try, for fear of failure. She guided me to debating club, to drama club, and showed me that I had leadership qualities that I had been hesitant to explore. But in one year I had suceeded in all of these challenges and others as well. I attribute her guidance and faith in me to have gotten me to believe how much I could accomplish including graduating second in my class in high school and assuming leadership roles in college and in many ways in business afterwards. She was someonevtgst I looked up to until the day she passed awzy, which was a very sad day for me.

  21. Cake? Who doesn’t like cake? I personally love cake but wouldn’t eat German chocolate cake for many years because i didn’t like the coconut. Until someone pointed out that coconut shreds weren’t that much different from real fresh coconut, just a different texture.

  22. A favorite memory was a class trip to the new branch library – we all got our first library cards that day.

  23. Looks like a great book Thanks for sharing
    There was a lot of drama I don’t have fond memories that’s for sure

  24. I loved the first book & can’t wait to read this new one. I loved reading & world history all the way thru school.

  25. I loved the first book in this series and have anxiously awaited the next one. Love Alyssa’s other series too. These are my favorite time periods to read about and I love that the women are stepping out of traditional roles.

  26. Sounds like a fun series. I haven’t read the first book yet but I’m certainly going to look for it. Thanks for the chance to win!

  27. Yes I have many fond memories of my school days and some favorite teachers. Sounds like a great book and series. Thanks for the chance.

  28. I have so many good memories from my school years. My absolute fondest memories are from 1-4 grade. Was still a “child” then and saw everything thru a “child’s” eyes….those were innocent, fun-filled times!!

  29. Della Williamson

    I have never enjoyed sowing. But when in the 11th grade we had a foreign exchange teacher from Scotland. She loved Home Economics in all it’s forms. Especially cooking & sowing. Sowing in particular her passion. So we all learned. She gave us the drive. I can make, sow almost anything, as well as make almost invisible repairs. When we talked the other students would start snickering, or laughing outright. We were a bit puzzled by it once we realized it was US they were laughing at. After about 3 months I asked one of the girls why they kept laughing at us. She said “You really don’t know?” “No.” Then came the shocker. “You talk to her in the same voice, same heavy accent that she talks in.” “I do?” “Yes.” After some thought I approached Miss Kayla and told her what Janice said. She was as surprised as I. Neither of us had noticed. We talked about it a bit. Mentioned that maybe that was why I was always getting in trouble with my Mom. I responded to her in the same tone she spoke to me with. She suggested that I be more careful in how I responded to my Mom. And she wasn’t worried about how I responded to her and suggested that I take foreign language courses because she felt my tendency showed a natural aptitude for languages.

  30. Michelle Fidler

    I was going to read the first one but never got around to it. I really enjoy historical mysteries, especially this kind. Favorite subjects in high school were French and German and I enjoyed the word processing block I took. I liked doing book reports in junior high.