Friday, April 8, 2022

Tea & Sympathy Tour and Giveaway


Tea & Sympathy

A Tea & Sympathy Mystery Book 1

by J. New

Genre: Cozy Mystery


Meet Lilly Tweed. Former Agony Aunt. Purveyor of Fine Teas. Accidental Sleuth.

When Lilly Tweed former agony aunt with the local newspaper is made redundant, she takes the opportunity to pursue a lifelong ambition, to open The Tea Emporium in the small market town of Plumpton Mallet.

But with her replacement making a hash of the column, it’s not long before she is once again being sought for valuable advice.

When the body of a local woman is found drowned in the river, the contents of her pockets reveal a letter from Lilly and she’s unwillingly drawn into the case.

But is it just a tragic accident, as the police think? Lilly isn’t convinced, but pursuing her own inquiry means it isn’t long before she gets into hot water.

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Lilly looked up just as the bell above the door rang and a familiar face walked in.

“Archie Brown!” she exclaimed, pleased to see him. “I wondered when I’d get a visit from you.”

“Sorry it’s been so long, Lilly.” He said, removing his Trilby hat and giving her a peck on the cheek. “It’s a busy life as a crime reporter, you know.”

“Have a seat and I’ll get you a drink. What do you fancy?”

“Anything to take the edge off and stop me wanting to throw things.”

Lilly raised an eyebrow. This was unlike the Archie she knew. She perused her tea selection then nodded, picking a passionflower blend noted for helping with stress. She chose Rooibos for herself and with both teas made she asked him how life at the newspaper had been since she’d left.

Archie sighed. “Awful, if I’m honest. Abigail Douglas, your replacement, is a complete nightmare. She’s ruined your column and unfortunately has discovered people are still writing to you. She knows about your letterbox outside and she’s on the war path, I’m afraid.”

“I realised there must be a problem when the column was missing from the paper, but it’s hardly my fault. I installed the letterbox because I was getting so many letters. I thought it would trickle off once they got used to Abigail. Looks like that’s not going to be the case though, doesn’t it?”

Archie scoffed. “Well, it’s hardly surprising considering she’s unintentionally ‘outed’ a couple of people in the column already. Infidelity and fraud, would you believe? Didn’t go as far as actually naming them, but gave enough clues so that they’d be recognised by their nearest and dearest. People won’t write in to her if she’s going to splash their problems all over the paper.”

“But she can’t do that, Archie! Doesn’t she realise this is a small town? You can’t walk six feet without bumping into someone you know.”

Lilly broke off for a moment to serve a couple of customers who had come in for their regular supplies.

“Try telling Abigail that,” Archie continued once Lilly had returned. “She’s from a bigger concern, remember. Dealing with large cities where people don’t know their neighbours and sensationalism sells papers. Her advice is dreadful. She’s peddling gossip rather than genuine advice. Between you and me, I think she wrote the last few herself. But don’t repeat that.”

“Of course I won’t. So, if the column is failing, what’s she doing?”

“She’s after my job.”

“What? I saw the article about the thefts at the University, but I thought she was just covering because you were so busy.”

“Oh no. She went behind my back. Unbelievable isn’t it. Apparently the agony aunt thing was just to get her foot in the door. She’s always wanted to be a crime reporter. Says she’s got unique skills and fully expects to win awards and have the nationals fighting to give her a job. She’s completely delusional if you ask me. She can’t get a decent quote anywhere because no one will talk to her, so she exaggerates.”

“I’m sorry, Archie. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“See, that’s why I’m here. For a bit of tea and sympathy.”

Lilly laughed. “You know, that would have been a great name for the shop.”

“And talking of the shop… you’ve done a superb job here, you know. I’m so pleased you were able to put the redundancy money to good use. I don’t know why I felt so worried for you. You’ve got a knack for bouncing back.”

“I’ve had a lot of support from the community though, Archie. The place wouldn’t have worked without them.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, Lilly. There’s a reason you’ve got their support. You’re a good person and they like you. You give sound advice and never gossip. Plus, your tea is excellent.” He said, draining his cup.

“Do you want a re-fill?” 

“Yes, but I’d better not. Look, there’s another reason I dropped in.” 

“Oh?” Lilly questioned, raising an eyebrow. Archie’s expression had changed. She’d seen that look before when he was working on a serious article. “What’s happened?”

“It’s not common knowledge yet.” Archie leaned closer, his voice dropping to a whisper. “But there’s been a body found in the river.”

Lilly gasped. “A body?”

Archie nodded. “I’ve a contact at the police station, as you know. The body of a woman was found early this morning by a couple of joggers.”

“What happened?”

Archie shrugged. “It could have been an accident, or maybe suicide. I don’t have much information at the moment. I expect the autopsy will be done over the next few days and we’ll know more then. But be prepared for a possible visit from the authorities. I wanted to be the one to tell you first.”

“Me? But why would they want to see me? Wait, was it someone I know?” A nervous knot had formed in her stomach and she suddenly shivered.

“I assume so. There was a letter from you found in her pocket.”

A Deadly Solution

A Tea & Sympathy Mystery Book 2

Meet Lilly Tweed.

Former Agony Aunt. Purveyor of Fine Teas. Accidental Sleuth.

It’s the height of summer and Lilly has been asked to demonstrate at a local book club. Not only is this her first event, but it’s for the crème de la crème of the town’s residents, a member of the aristocracy and a wealthy heiress included.

When the proceedings get underway Lilly notices underlying tension and competition between the members and it’s not long before tragedy strikes. The heiress is found dead.

As a prime witness Lilly is asked unofficially to help solve the crime, but with motives galore, animosity running rife and all the women having spent time alone with the victim, the culprit could be any of them.

The more she digs the murkier it becomes, and she soon realises appearances are deceiving when it comes to the rich and titled of Plumpton Mallet. 

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Tiffin & Tragedy

A Tea & Sympathy Mystery Book 3

Meet Lilly Tweed. Former Agony Aunt. Purveyor of Fine Teas. Accidental Sleuth.

Invited to celebrate the wedding anniversary of two close friends, Lilly jumps at the chance. Not only is there to be a party, but as the family owns a luxury seaside bed-and-breakfast she’s looking forward to a well-earned break. 

Unfortunately, nothing goes to plan. Beneath the happy, carefree exterior, lurk secrets and lies, and as the tension mounts somebody reaches breaking point.

The party ends in a tremendous storm which causes a power cut and fells trees across the only access road, and the inhabitants of The Palms find themselves trapped with no way to call for help. Then a body is discovered and Lilly realises the danger outside is nothing compared to within.

There is a murderer among them.

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The fight between John and Morris and the older man’s sudden departure had left an uncomfortable tension in the air, not to mention grave concern for Morris’s safety. The festivities were well and truly over. After listening to several apologies from both Robert and Joanne, Lilly assured them she was fine and not to blame themselves, before retiring. The party broke up and everyone else decided to go to bed, too. Frankly, she was relieved to be alone in her room.

She felt as though she’d only been asleep for a few minutes when she was awakened by shouting. As she came out of her sleep induced haze, the shouting grew louder, accompanied by banging, and she wondered what on earth was happening. She hurriedly got out of bed, flung open the door and ran down the hall, where she found Sarah pounding on a door.

Lilly wasn’t the only one who’d been awakened by the racket Sarah was making. Robert, Joanne, Chloe, Walter, Fiona, Dominic and Edward were all standing in the hallway with torches, trying in vain to calm her down.

“What’s going on?” Lilly asked Chloe

“Aunt Sarah thinks John is in there with Natalie,” the girl whispered.

“Really? Oh, dear…”

“Sarah, for crying out loud, please stop, you’re going to wake dad up,” Robert pleaded. “Not to mention our only paying guest.”

“My husband is in there with our housekeeper, Robert! What do you expect me to do?” Sarah yelled. “This does it, John. I swear, you had better open this door, this minute.” She shouted, pounding on the door even harder. “I knew you were having an affair. I just knew it! Natalie Sampson, when I get my hands on you I’m going to ring your cheating neck. Do you hear me? Open this door, you cowards.”

“Sarah?” a voice said from the end of the hall.

Lilly turned and saw Natalie Sampson in her nightgown, walking towards them with a torch of her own. She looked as though she’d just woken up.

“What’s going on?” she asked, stifling a yawn.

Sarah’s face turned scarlet, and Lilly heard Joanne mutter, “Oh, Sarah,” under her breath.

“Wait a minute,” Natalie said, as the words Sarah had been shouting suddenly registered. “You thought I was in there? With your husband? I dropped off the towels hours ago, Sarah.”

Sarah shook her head. “I… I thought you were. If you’re not in there, why won’t John answer me?”

“You thought I was having an affair with your husband? How dare you? How could you think such a thing?”

“I’m sorry,” Sarah said tearfully. “Why won’t he answer? I know he’s in there.” She resumed the banging on the door, shouting for John.

Lilly glanced at the number four artfully painted on the door, recalling John had gone in there to clean up after Morris had thrown soup at him. Had he not returned to his wife all night?

“Do you think something has happened?” Lilly whispered to Joanne and Robert.

“I don’t know,” Robert said. “Let me get the master key from reception and we’ll find out.”

He was gone less than a minute. He unlocked the door, only to find the security chain was in place.

“John, let us in,” he shouted. When there was no reply, he rammed the door hard with his shoulder, breaking the chain and they all plunged inside.

A Bitter Bouquet

A Tea & Sympathy Mystery Book 4

Meet Lilly Tweed. Former Agony Aunt. Purveyor of Fine Teas. Accidental Sleuth.

Organising and catering for a local wedding means the potential to expand into events for Tea Emporium owner Lilly Tweed, and she’s pleased to confirm the booking.

But as the bride’s family let her down one by one, Lilly finds herself taking on more tasks than she’d agreed to. Luckily, she’s brought a local café owner on board to provide the food.

During the rehearsal, family arguments and spilled wine are the worst catastrophes, but the wedding itself ends in murder. For at the heart of this family lies a dark secret.

It’s up to Lilly, alongside her friends, Bonnie, the detective in charge of the case, and Archie, the local crime reporter, to solve the case. But while there are motives galore, clues are scarce.

When the family suddenly close ranks and the investigation stalls, Lilly is left wondering if blood really is thicker than water, especially when she discovers their secret.

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A Frosty Combination

A Tea & Sympathy Mystery Book 5

Meet Lilly Tweed. Former Agony Aunt. Purveyor of Fine Teas. Accidental Sleuth.

It’s Christmas in Plumpton Mallet, but it’s not all holiday cheer and goodwill.

The festive season brings with it the biggest and most important event of the year for Plumpton Mallet, the annual Christmas Market. Attracting visitors nationwide, this time it’s bigger than ever.

But there’s one unexpected arrival who’s not welcome, and he’s out to cause trouble.

When a lifeless body is found outside Lilly’s shop, she’s shocked. But the arrest of one of her staff changes the shock to anger and compels Lilly to turn sleuth once more to prove their innocence.

Yet proving one person innocent means another must be guilty and this time Lilly might not be ready for the truth.

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Several of the other vendors, shocked and saddened at what had happened to Laura’s beautiful inventory, also came forward to help, murmuring commiserations.

Anywhere there were larger pieces of glass, Laura sifted through to see if anything could be saved and repaired. Sadly, there was very little that could be fixed. As she worked, Lilly spotted among the debris on the table the little grey cat she’d been coming originally to purchase, and picked it up. One of the ears had snapped in half, but this made Lilly grin. She took it over to Laura.

“I’d like to buy this, Laura.”

“But it’s broken.”

“I know, but so is my cat. I already thought it resembled him, but now it couldn’t be more perfect. Earl Grey has part of his ear missing, too. Courtesy of street fight when he was a stray, probably. Do you think you could touch up around the sharp bit so I don’t cut myself?”

“Yes, of course I can, but, Lilly, you aren’t buying a broken ornament because you feel sorry for me, are you?”

“Absolutely not. I was going to buy it anyway and now, for me at least, it’s better than it was originally. I’m so sorry this had to happen to you, Laura. I know how much money and time you’ve invested. I’m really heartbroken for you.”

“Me too. It takes hours just to make one of these little animals. But on the bright side, I am insured. It just means I don’t have much to sell again this year. But now we’ve tidied up, I’ll display what’s left and see how it goes. Thanks so much for helping me clean up.”

It had taken over an hour to get Laura’s stall back up and running, then Lilly left her to go back to her tea shop. She needed to see if Stacey and James needed any help.

As she navigated her way through the vendors and back out onto the row where the shop was, she heard sirens, and by the time she got there, she found an ambulance parked outside. She hurried over and, to her relief, found Stacey and James standing outside the door.

“What’s happened?”

“I was helping a customer out to her car with a purchase when I saw a man had passed out on the pavement over there,” Stacey said, pointing to the back of the row of vendors. “So I called an ambulance.”

“Who is it?” she asked, approaching the paramedics, who were lifting a loaded stretcher.

Her heart thumped as she briefly looked at the man they were carrying before one of them pulled up the blanket to cover his head.

“I’m sorry,” one of the paramedics said to her, obviously recognising her distress. “I’m afraid he’s dead. Did you know him?”

Lilly nodded. “Yes.”

Steeped In Murder

A Tea & Sympathy Mystery Book 6

Meet Lilly Tweed. Former Agony Aunt. Purveyor of Fine Teas. Accidental Sleuth.

It’s all steam ahead as Lilly and Archie board The Lakes Express on their first official date. The train is full of writers travelling to a conference, which adds to the ambience and piques Archie’s interest.

But what starts as pure luxury ends in chaos. On the journey home, the train screeches to an unsanctioned stop in the middle of nowhere.

Night has fallen, it’s pitch black outside, and a body has been discovered. The scene staged to mimic one of the best loved crime novels of all time.

Currently on board a luxurious 1930s steam train, the homage is not lost on Lilly and Archie, who are asked to help. But its meaning eludes them.  

Can they discern the truth from myriad lies? Cut egos down to size while dealing with bouts of creative jealousy and finally unveil the culprit?

And can they do it before the police arrive?

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J. New is the author of The Yellow Cottage Vintage Mysteries, traditional English whodunits with a twist, set in the 1930's. Known for their clever humour as well as the interesting slant on the traditional whodunit, they have all achieved Bestseller status on Amazon. J. New also writes the Finch and Fischer contemporary cozy crime series and (coming in 2021) the Will Sharpe Mysteries set in her hometown during the 1960's. Her books have sold over one hundred-thousand copies worldwide.

Jacquie was born in West Yorkshire, England. She studied art and design and after qualifying began work as an interior designer, moving onto fine art restoration and animal portraiture before making the decision to pursue her lifelong ambition to write. She now writes full time and lives with her partner of twenty-one years, two dogs and five cats, all of whom she rescued.

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