BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: VINTAGE FASHION PAPER DOLLS AND A TEA COZY

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When I was a little girl I loved paper dolls. I had them in all shapes and sizes. My most favorites were the Brenda Starr paper dolls that appeared in the Chicago Tribune Sunday Comics, very glamorous. I would carefully cut them out with my tiny sewing scissors and then create new garments for them. Brenda and her wardrobe lived in their special golden box. The beginning of my love of anything fashion, perhaps!!!  Why am I’m telling you this, because my friend, Randy Bryan Bigham (see his Profile on nenasnotes on January 8, 2018) who is THE authority on all things Lucile Duff Gordon, the Couturier, (see January 12th post) has given us a wonderful insight into the clothes worn on the Titanic.  By now we are all very familiar with the fact and fiction of this ill-fated voyage.  By seeing some of the garments, worn by 6 of the women, of different stages of society, as illustrated by the renowned artist, Norma Lu Meehan, makes them even more ”real” to us. Randy has provided a thumbnail sketch of each of these women.

BAF1C28C-4912-4338-9CB3-8EB3035309B3I for one can’t wait to get my hands on the book when it is published on April 27th, (you can pre-order on Amazon or Paper Studio Press right now!)  I will actually need two, one to treasure and make it’s home in my fashion library, the other to cut up and ”play” dress up with like I did as a child.  There are many ”celebrity” paper doll books but trust me this has the authenticity of being championed by one who knows what he is talking about!  I believe this will start a new trend in paper doll book collecting, move over coloring books!!!

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While we are thinking England, yes, that is what we are thinking, let’s talk tea, shall we!  The next book I wanted to discuss today isn’t set in England at all but it is all about tea.  The 19th in Laura Childs Tea Shop Cozy Mystery series, Plum Tea Crazy, reunites us with our heroine, Theodosia Browning and her ”crew”.  As always, in this series, the murder occurs at the very beginning and Theo is pulled into solving ”who done it”. Set in Historical Charleston, insightful details about the charming homes, neighborhoods, traditions are always woven into the plot along with a multitude of characters, many are in each volume, along with new shop owners, visitors, business and cultural leaders, etc. Our protagonist owns a tea shop, the Indigo Teahouse, where she hosts many themed special teas with her debonair tea sommelier, Drayton Conneley and chef, Haley, who creates magic in her teeny kitchen. The murder isn’t all it seems to be, a fall, but rather death by an antique crossbow and arrow. Many suspects, many encounters and consultations with the head of Homicide, Detective Tidwell, a romantic attachment to the handsome, charming, Detective Pete Riley.  This story involves us in guns and other weapons, rather interesting given all the important issues regarding gun control we are contemplating now.  It goes into jealousy, fraud, money laundering, I didn’t suspect the murderer right away, and lots of talk about what tea to serve with each course (you will want to check the appendix for tea purveyors, there are many) and as always in Childs’ books, recipes….yay, you know I love recipes!!!!!  What’s not to love about a Cozy Mystery, and when they are by Laura Childs, you become enchanted with her characters, her locations, her enthusiasm for giving her readers a thoughtful feel good reading experience (besides the murder, of course!!!!!!!)  Thanks to Penguin Random House for giving me the opportunity to read the book, it is out now for you to enjoy.

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BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: PEKOE MOST POISON

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Yes, I do read a Cozy Mystery now and then…to me, they are like an Intermezzo between dinner courses, they cleanse your brain, it doesn’t have to work too hard and the characters are all familiar.  I find that especially true with Laura Childs’ Tea Shop Mysteries I have read almost all of them.  I also like her Scrapbooking Mysteries series, they are set in New Orleans, one of my most favorite cities in the States, I’m not a scrapbooker, oh wait, I do love Pinterest and have always been a clipper, do those count! www.laurachilds.com

Pekoe Most Poison, while being formula, which is why I like Childs, is a good read and a much needed break from some very heavy reading that quite frankly I gave up on and will start again later.  You can easily sit comfortably on your deck, by the water, in your garden and read while sipping tea, of course, or in my case on the South Shore Train going to and from Michigan City, Indiana one day last week.  The protagonist, Theodosia Browning, owns a tea shop in charming Charleston (which always plays an important role in the stories) along with her staff, her tea sommelier the debonair, Drayton, her chef the young, Haley and, of course, her dog Earl Grey.  As always, I would suggest starting with the first of the series just to get the lay of the land, but I’ll leave that up to you.

The murder in each story always happens quite near the beginning of the book and gives you many, many suspects along the way.  In addition, and an addition I really like, you get to know Charleston’s charm as well as the surrounding area.  Theo was a marketing whiz and decided to change lifestyle and became the owner of an extremely successful tea shop.  She, Drayton and Haley plan not only the day’s breakfasts, lunches and tea times but also host themed tea parties in each book, sometimes several.  The recipes included are always delightful and sound quite delicious.  I am a tea drinker and have found many of Drayton’s suggestions interesting and Childs gives a list of purveyors at the back of each book.

This book opens with a “Rat Tea” (a Charleston tradition) being given by one of Charleston’s wealthiest women (her money not her husbands), Doreen Briggs, in her elaborate mansion  During the course of the party Doreen’s husband, Beau, drops dead…we learn from poison. The police arrive with a new detective, Detective Pete Riley, who, of course, is fabulous (will this develop into a romance…Theo usually has a beau in each book, we shall see!).  Theo has helped the police in the past, much to the dismay of Detective Tidwell who is out of town for this book and has just met Detective Riley.  We find out much about Beau’s soon to be opened Gilded Magnolia Spa.  Learn about misappropriated funds, an overpowering PR woman, Starla, Beau and Doreen’s family, and many of the usual cast of characters from previous books.  A grant that Doreen is holding over Drayton’s head to “blackmail” Theo into getting to the bottom of the murder.  As always twists and turns, but a fun romp none the less…my little gray cells didn’t have to work very hard and they could take a breath.  When you want a “book breath” why not cozy up with a cozy!