Hi, Ellen here, and I’m so excited to welcome Alyssa Maxwell to Chicks today. I adore Alyssa’s historic series, The Gilded Newport Mysteries and Lady & Lady’s Maid Mysteries. Take it away, Alyssa!
Hello Ellen and Chicks on the Case! Thanks so much for having me here today and helping me celebrate the release of A SILENT STABBING, number 5 in my Lady & Lady’s Maid Mysteries.
In A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries, sleuths Phoebe Renshaw, granddaughter of an earl, and her maid, Eva Huntford, work together to search out clues and solve crimes above and below stairs at a country estate and the surrounding village and countryside. Think Downton Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs, with a mystery twist. Their relationship is a special one, without the typical employer-servant reserve. Since Phoebe lost her mother at a young age, and then her father during WWI, and is often estranged from her older sister, she has come to lean on devoted Eva for love, advice, and support.
I do a lot of research for my writing, much of it intentional, some of it accidental. Since I write two books a year, alternating series, it means that while I’m writing, say, a Gilded Newport book, I’ve got to start thinking about and plotting the next Lady’s Maid. That doesn’t give me much (or any) down time, and there are times when I think, “Yikes, what’ll I write about next??” Of course, that’s where research comes in to generate new ideas, but sometimes you just stumbled on things, and ideas spring up where you least expect them.
Take A Silent Stabbing. I was in the middle of Murder at Kingscote, and one evening after a long day of writing, feeling generally braindead and certainly not planning to start plotting my next book, I sat down to watch one of my favorite “relaxation” shows: Escape to the Country. If you haven’t seen it, it’s like House Hunters, only set in the English countryside. This particular episode happened to be in the Cotswolds region and I thought, “Great, that’s where my series takes place. Should be fun.” The show always includes a segment on local culture and traditions, and this one featured something about the Cotswolds I hadn’t stumbled upon previously—Perry. What’s perry you ask? It’s a hard cider made from pears, and apparently there’s no better perry than that made in the Cotswolds. The people there love their perry.
Now, being a big fan of “living research,” I hunted down where I could actually buy perry so I could try it. I chose Samuel Smith’s (they also makes a lovely organic chocolate stout, by the way). I’ll say this: it’s very sweet! (and I have a sweet tooth). Even sweeter than hard apple cider. But I digress. Suddenly, an orchard bursting with autumn pears waiting to be harvested formed in my mind, owned by two brothers: one who cares very much about the family tradition of perry-making, and one who doesn’t and wants to sell out, to an obnoxious developer wanting to build a resort on the land. Can you guess what happens next? Oh, and did I mention there’s an entire village unwilling to give up their favorite drink, who’ll do anything to keep the orchard and brewery up and running, even to the point of fibbing to the chief inspector?
Luckily, Phoebe Renshaw and her lady’s maid, Eva Huntford, believe as much in preserving local tradition as they do in seeing justice done. Can they catch a killer and save the perry too?
Readers, what would you like to research?
Blurb: As England recovers from its costly involvement in the Great War, Lady Phoebe Renshaw and her lady’s maid, Eva Huntford, find the steady comforts of their lives unsettled by a local case of murder . . .
Eva is excited for a visit from her sister Alice, who lives in Suffolk with her husband and three children. But when Alice arrives alone, desiring a break from her family, Eva becomes concerned. Her dismay deepens as Alice starts spending time with a former beau, Keenan Ripley, who owns the nearby pear orchard. At the same time, Phoebe’s sister Julia, now a widow and pregnant, is in a fretful state, and Phoebe struggles to be helpful to her.
When Keenan’s brother Stephen, the new head gardener at the Renshaw estate, Foxwood Hall, is found impaled by a pair of hedge clippers, the police—including Eva’s beau, Constable Miles Brannock—suspect his closest kin. Stephen had been eager to sell their orchard to an American developer, but Keenan had fiercely resisted. A table set with two teacups and scones suggests Keenan had company the morning of the murder—and Eva fears her sister was with him.
If Alice were to provide Keenan with an alibi, her reputation and marriage would be ruined. She denies being there but is clearly withholding secrets, much to Eva’s consternation. Now, to protect her sister, Eva and Phoebe set off to expose the gardener’s real killer, putting their own lives at risk . . .
Bio: Alyssa Maxwell, author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries, knew from an early age that she wanted to be a writer. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles of all kinds drew her to the mystery genre. She and her husband reside in Florida, where they love to, ride their bikes, and shop at farmer’s markets and go antiquing. Alyssa also loves to watch BBC productions, sip tea in the afternoons, and delve into the past. She is a member of her local chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and the Florida Romance Writers. You can learn more about Alyssa and her books at www.alyssamaxwell.com, and connect with her at: