Trouble in a Teacup #giveaway

Edith/Maddie here, not sure how it got to be the end of the month already! I’m so happy to welcome my friend Alyssa Maxwell back to the blog. Her new book came out two days ago. Here’s the blurb:

Lady Phoebe Renshaw and her siblings travel to Staffordshire to commission a china service bearing the Wroxly coat of arms from the venerated Crown Lily Potteries, a favorite of Queen Mary. The two leading designers at the illustrious china manufacturer offer competing patterns. But when one of them is found dead—his body crushed in a grinding pan and his design pattern book missing—his rival is immediately suspected. The police are also suspicious of the dead designer’s resentful young son, a schoolmate of Phoebe’s fifteen-year-old brother Fox. When Fox gets involved to help his friend, Phoebe begins to investigate the rival artist.

At the same time, Eva is enlisted to go undercover at the works so she can gain the confidence of the female employees, who are only allowed to paint, not design, which may have led to a grudge against the victim. Pursuing a killer who has no compunction about using a kiln as a coffin, Phoebe and Eva take their lives into their hands to discover the shattering truth . . .

Trouble in a Teacup

What could possibly be troublesome about teacups and fine bone china? China is lovely. It’s elegant. It raises drinking tea to an artform.

It can also cause a good bit of havoc.

In A Sinister Service, Renshaw siblings Phoebe, Julia, Amelia and Fox travel to Staffordshire to commission a unique tea service for the grandparents’ anniversary. What begins as a happy endeavor to procure a special gift soon becomes an ordeal rife with conflict. To begin with, each sibling has a definite view of what their grandparents would like—and none of them are in agreement with the others. Then, at the fictional Crown Lily Potteries, egos and ambitions have not only set the two top designers at odds, but other department heads as well. Rivalries and resentments burn as hot as the kilns at every turn. When one of the designers turns up dead in a clay mixing vat, his teenaged son, a friend of Fox’s from Eton, is accused. But from their tour of the Crown Lily Pottery Works, Phoebe and her lady’s maid, Eva, know the boy wasn’t alone in possibly wanting his father out of the way. They resolve to discover the truth.

Well, leave it to mystery writers to envision the worst in even the most innocuous of circumstances.

So, why teacups? My own love affair with fine bone china developed only in recent years. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit lovely china from a grandmother or anyone like that. Or did I?

One day, I received a gift of four beautiful Shelley China cups and saucers. The Shelley Pottery Works, I soon learned, was one of Staffordshire’s premier china producers. These particular teacups came to me from the daughter of an elderly reader who had recently passed away; it was a thank you for the joy my Newport series had brought her mother in her final days. She had lived in Newport during the 40s and 50s, and the books brought her back to what had been some of her happiest years. Turns out, those cups had also been a gift to her—from my husband’s own great aunt, who had been her friend and landlady. Talk about a small world. Talk about karma. Talk about coming full circle.

I quickly became an avid collector of Shelley china—I, who had never really collected anything before. But I knew from the moment I opened the package that I held something extraordinary in my hands. I educated myself about Shelley to discover it was indeed one of the—if not THE—most exquisite of all English fine bone china. It’s all about their ratio of raw clay to stone to beef bone ash, which allows Shelley china to be translucent thin, yet incredibly strong and enduring.

And then, of course, my dastardly mind began to conjure. And although the original four teacups in my collection came as a result of my Newport series, it only made sense to set a story about English china in England, during the years when the industry was about to experience a resurgence following WWI. It may have been Emma Cross who is responsible for this non-collector becoming a collector, but it’s Phoebe Renshaw and Eva Huntford who spring into action and follow the clues to a murderer at the fictional Crown Lily Pottery Works in Staffordshire, England.

Following are some of the shapes and patterns in my collection that helped inspire A Sinister Service. They span from the 1890s to the early 1960s.

One of the original four: Footed Oleander shape with the Bridal Rose Pattern inside. Circa 1940s.

The pink one, front and center, is a “pre-Shelley” Wileman & Co. cup from the 1890s.

Three examples of Regent shape, from the early 1930s.

Readers: Are you a collector? If yes or no, and no matter what it is, share below for a chance to win a signed hardcover copy of A Sinister Service! (One winner will be chosen, must reside in the U.S. due to shipping costs.)

Alyssa Maxwell 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 drew her to the mystery genre. She is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries. She and her husband reside in Florida, where she is a member of the Mystery Writers of America-Florida Chapter, Sisters in Crime-Treasure Coast Chapter, and the Florida Romance Writers. You can visit her at www.alyssamaxwell.com, where you can find all her social media links.

74 Thoughts

  1. Oh, this book sounds so interesting. I look forward to its release. I used to have a lot of lovely china and crystal, but have given as much as she wants to my daughter. I sold the rest. Time to get rid of unused things and someone else have the joy of ownership. However, I’m not getting rid of collection of giraffes. I only collect realistic (not cartoonish) ones made of beautiful materials – wood, leather, ceramics, pewter, and museum prints.

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  2. Your collection is lovely, Alyssa! I don’t really collect anything these days, but as a kid I used to collect foreign coins. I still have some, but that’s mostly because I’m not sure how to get rid of them. I doubt there’s anything of value in there.

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  3. I just recently started collecting tea cups. Mine have yellow roses on them but I do love pink roses too. I collect the yellow roses in my Mom’s memory. I also started collecting sport cards mostly of players from my younger days. I got a Bobby Orr card. I still love that man!! Thank you for this chance at your giveaway. pgenest57 at aol dot com

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  4. I am a collector only in the sense that I accrue things and am reluctant to release them. I DO have one cup and saucer from a dear elderly Friend which had belonged to her mother, and a china service that had belonged to my long-gone mother-in-law.

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      1. Sadly, my late husband was asocial and I now live in a 14’x48′ trailer, so the china stays in the cabinet with the doors with glass windows.

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  5. So beautiful and unique. I have many tea cups as well, my grandmother helped me start my collection although after she was gone I haven’t bought as many, preferring to use and remember. Looking forward to reading this! Thanks!

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    1. I believe it’s important to use it. Otherwise there’s really no point. Part of the joy of having fine china is holding it in my hands. And I believe it makes tea taste better!

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  6. I guess by virtue of attending so many book signings in the recent past, I collect signed books. Not fancy schmancy old first edition stuff. I just mean books by authors whose work means something to me. Hank Phillippi Ryan says it best when she ends her talks with “A signed book makes a great gift”. In my head I always add, “even if it is just for myself”.

    I collect comic books, though I have been paring down that collection the last couple of years.

    And though it is less an active collection and more that I simply love my music, I kind of collect compact discs. Everyone continually exclaims that the format is dying but never forget that among physical media, it is the most portable form of music. AND I DO NOT USE STREAMING SERVICES.

    I’m sure there’s other stuff that by simple accumulation counts as collecting but I don’t think I’m actively pursuing any other kind of collections.

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    1. Ah, yes, books! I have them everywhere! As most readers and writers do. It’s always so tempting to just “buy one more.” As for music, although they took up a lot of space, I miss the old days of collecting albums of favorite bands, with all the pictures and lyrics that came with them. Streaming isn’t the same at all.

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  7. Alyssa, thank you for educating us on what bone china is – I never knew the origin of the name! I have a collection of fine teacups from my family and Hugh’s. They are in a glass-door cabinet, but alas, we never use them. Maybe I’ll have a cuppa in one this afternoon.

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    1. Thank you so much for inviting me today, Edith! I definitely recommend using your cups! Otherwise, it’s like having books you don’t read – they look nice on the shelf, but . . . It’ll bring a bit of elegance to your day and make you feel special. And if they take on even the slightest stain, I recommend a bit of baking soda and a drop of white vinegar.

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  8. Congrats on the book! Love the book cover. I collect china. And books. Does that count? 🙂

    Thanks for the chance! Excited to read your books!

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  9. I inherited my grandmother’s collection of teacups and saucers. Nothing like what you have, but most of it is hand-painted by her and some of her friends. It’s not sealed, so they are purely decorative. I also have a collection of teddy bears.

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  10. I have a few tea cups that were passed down to me from my mother andother relatives but unfortunately I have them packed away since I don’t have anywhere to keep them safe. My collection consists of “as my husband would say” too many bears. lol! Thanks for sharing information about Alyssa Maxwell’s new book.

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  11. Although not a teacup collection, I am very proud of the display in our china cabinet. I inherited my Mother’s and Grandmother’s china sets. In addition, hubby and I had our own set from when we got married in the early 80’s. A few years back we bought a new Amish made dining room set. One of our main considerations was to be able to display all three sets of china showing three generations. Brings me great joy to look at and to explain to others when they comment on it.

    Through the years I’ve collected several things. A search in antique stores for an Emmett Kelly clown doll like the one I had when I was a child, led to me collecting clowns, meeting Emmett Kelly Jr. with whom we became friends with and eventually us becoming Cook E. Lady and Pepp R. Mint Pal and clowning as well. A few years back when we downsized and moved to our dream destination, our clown collection was also downsized keeping only the pieces that had real emotions for us.

    My oldest and dearest collection would have to be my bells. Early in our marriage, hubby bought me the most gorgeous rose bell. He has always given me just because roses and although not a real rose this was one of them. I became fascinated with all the different types of bells – from style to sound. I eventually ran out of space for more small bells. I started working on saving larger amounts of funds in order to get the large bells to fill up our yard. My inside collection includes such bells as a navy ship’s bell, a boxing ring bell and many small bells in a curio. The outside bells including a fire wagon bell from before they had fire trucks, a brass bell off of Southern Pacific Railroad engine, and a 24 inch church bell out of an old church and a 34 inch bell from Oklahoma both with the old wheel. Although I parted with some of the smaller bells when we downsized, the large bells most definitely made the move with us. Quite the undertaking since they were on 16 feet towers which had to be dismantled being careful not to break or crack the bell or its parts. In our new home the towers are different with two made out of solid rock to match the house and flowerbed under them. Getting them all back up was some undertaking but having them up makes me happy. Love the ring them!

    Can’t wait for the opportunity to read “A Sinister Service”. Thanks for the chance to win a copy! Shared but hoping to be the fortunate one selected.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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    1. I would love to see pictures of your china, your dining room set, and your bells! They all sound fabulous! And you and your husband knowing Emmett Kelly and becoming clowns yourselves? You have led an interesting life, to say the least. How wonderful!

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  12. When one of my lovely colleagues, who was English, retired, we hosted an afternoon Tea Party in her honor, complete with 60 Fine China Tea Cups and saucers, different manufacturers and patterns, courtesy of a lovely retired couple who volunteered in our library. They had collected them over the many, many years of their married life. Best tea party ever!

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  13. Thank you for sharing photos of some of your collection. How beautiful! I can’t wait to read this adventure. I’m not a collector but do admire the craftsmanship and beauty of the teacups and saucers.

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  14. I inherited some fine bone china teacups from my stepmother when she downsized- I took my favorites patterns (no Shelly, I just looked!). I have let my daughters use them for tea parties since they were little. My grandmother collected teapots all my life and gifted me my favorites when she was moved to assisted living. They mean a lot to me! I look forward to reading your new book!

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  15. I have a good friend who collects teacups and my hubby and I inherited some casual china which includes tea cups. Moving so often, I have tried not to be a collector. Like others here, I read books and prefer the real in print books I have loved all my life. However, boxes of books weigh so much that I have only a few favorites collected. Your series sounds delightful! Best of luck with the new book!

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    1. Thanks, Judy! Space can certainly become an issue, and it has with me, forcing me to slow way down and even store some of my collection away. But that means I can rotate them, which is almost like getting some new ones every so often.

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  16. Wow, did this post send me down memory lane. My late husband’s Aunt Penny, was an avid collector of tea cups and porcelain. She lived in a cottage on her sisters estate. When my husband and his business partner (who was 6′ 8″ & the biggest man I’ve ever met, all muscle) would go to visit her, they were terrified to move about the room for fear of breaking one of the hundreds of cup displayed. After his aunt passed, they found out she was very shrewd in her collecting. She liked to play the silly little thing. The collection was worth thousands of pounds. I’m always sad I never got to meet her. His family was unique to say the least. I’ve always thought I could write a romance novel using their lives… I’ll be thinking about all the stories now for the rest of the day. Good memories of my Lark.
    Anyway, I’m always collecting things. It changes from time to time. I do try to tread the fine line between collecting and hoarding. Books are my most induring passion. I also collect mugs and tea pots.
    I greatly enjoy your Guilded Age books. I haven’t read your Lady & Ladies Maid series yet but they are high on my TBR list.

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    1. I love that she had everybody fooled! She probably loved her private joke, at the same time knowing she would leave behind something significant. Thanks for reading the Newport books!

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  17. I don’t collect tea cups as I don’t have the space and they don’t hold enough liquid for me. I use a 20oz Contigo insulated mug- and it stays hot for hours! But, I have picked up a teapot here and there that interests me and I recently found a beautiful teapot at an antique store in the pattern of my mother’s china! – which I ended up with after she died. No one else wanted it, and it’s not really my taste, but she was so proud of it that I couldn’t let it go to the Goodwill. We were poor growing up and she got pieces from the bank with every deposit and ended up with 13 place settings (an extra in case something broke) and a bunch of completer pieces (but no teapot!)

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    1. I think the whole reason old teacups were small is so you’d finish before the tea cooled. People tended to brew a pot so they could refill their cup. And that’s what I do. When my mother was young, she collected china from the movie theater, of all places. You’d get a piece each time you saw a movie. That was back in the 1930s.

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  18. You had me at, ‘his body crushed in a grinding pan’.
    I love a good tea, and pretty cups are part of the ritual.

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  19. Your teacups are lovely! My late uncle had a home filled with beautiful things, including lovely blue & white and fliw blue China. I have a few of his things in my collection along with teapots, cups and other China pieces, many are Japanese and a small collection of Delft. I also love glassware, nothing like having a drink in a special glass of a cup of tea in a beautiful cup! I look forward to actime when I can entertain again and use my special dishes and cups.

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  20. Congratulations on the new book! What pretty examples from your collection. I don’t have anything that has special history or value except that I love what is pretty and catches my eye, so valuable to me. My daughter used to check out yard sales, thrift shops, etc. with particular patterns and eras in mind and amassed quite a little collection of old cups and saucers. She generously gifted two of them to me, and while I don’t quite remember the particulars about them, they are front and center in my cabinet.

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  21. The China is beautiful. I just have no place for it in my condo.

    I collect too many things as it is. Books, ornaments, and Disney pins. Fortunately, that last one doesn’t take up nearly as much room as the first two.

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  22. Prior to moving, I had a collection of Sebastian figurines. The collection now resides in the home of a former neighbor.
    I’m on my library’s wait list for A Sinister Service – thanks for the chance to win a copy.

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  23. Most of my collections are because of my dad. He had a small collection of racing cards and he bought me my first pack when I was eight. Been adding more ever since. He got interested in carnival glass when I was in my 20s, and I ended up with a few pieces of my own.

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  24. I would have loved to have my grandmother’s teacup and salt and pepper shake collection. Like her, I love tea and an elegant tea cup and tea pot make it that much more enjoyable. Loved the collection. Know anyone who wants a silver tea set?

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  25. Welcome back, Alyssa. A Sinister Service sounds wonderful. My father was an only child, as was his father so I inherited china–way too much of it. Some of it had to go (and more probably should). I don’t think of myself as a collector, but as a guardian of some things ancestors treasured, including a very incomplete set of beautiful Coalport, teacups, creamer, sugarer, and dessert plates.

    My mother-in-law, on the other hand, never saw a teacup with a slight crack in it or a saucer with a little chip that she didn’t think deserved a home. My sister-in-law says she saw it like taking care of orphans.

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    1. Thanks, Barbara! Funny you mention being a guardian, or china needing a home. We have a few pieces of Shelley we consider “rescues,” meaning we didn’t need to have it, but felt it needed to be saved from a dusty shelf in a consignment shop or wherever.

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  26. Your book sounds like a great read! Your story about how you were given the tea cups is really something, Wow, yes, it is a small world, and how sweet of the lady’s daughter to gift them to you for bringing joy to her mama. Your collection is beautiful! I collect Angels, and I have a collection of the miniature tea sets, I only have about 7 and I don’t buy myself anymore though, I also collect other things. Thank you for sharing your beautiful true story and for sharing about your great sounding book. Have a Great rest of the week and stay safe.

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    1. Yes, the circumstances are still emotional for me, and that makes my collection more special. Miniature tea sets would be fun to collect. I also love miniature anything and have a dollhouse and a “tower” of room boxes.

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  27. I used to collect comics and some other things but now I give my comics to my cousin after I read them. I do enjoy the souvenirs from my trips and other knick knacks. Stay safe and well.

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  28. Congratulations on your release this week! I’m so happy for you to have another book out in this wonderful series! I’m definitely anxious to get your book and hopefully in CD format as well sooner than later.

    There is no time or space here to list everything I collect or have collected over many years, but the list is very long! Having to downsize when we retired and moved into a house three rooms smaller and much less square footage meant donating many collections but it had to be done as we have only one daughter and she only collects glass (mostly Murano) paperweights that were my mothers! So holding onto all the glass and China was pointless. And no one wanted a stamp collection from the 50’s through the 80’s of US and World stamps but a distant relative! It was time to purge! Sad but necessary! 😊
    I still have my Bone China tea cup collection and kept a few unique tea pots and antique kitchen utensils and butter molds etc but those are still packed away whereas my tea cups are used often. I still enjoy my vintage brooches/pins and silk scarfs when I have a tea party ! .

    I had a cookbook collection of over 800 hard covers with many signed by authors that I met at events and cooking shows. But those were almost all given away to libraries etc.

    I make jewelry and other crafts so use vintage items for those so having collections was helpful!

    We have gradually given away 1000’s of books but I still keep all my favorites of current authors whom I know and the book that was dedicated to me is my all-time favorite and is in the very front of my glass front bookcase.

    Hoping there will be many more books in both of your series!

    Again, Congratulations!
    Cynthia

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    1. Thanks, Cynthia! I’m so glad you have and use your teacups! And brooches – I have a bit of a collection of those, too. Nothing valuable, but many are vintage and fun. P.S., I hope A Sinister Service will be available on CD, too.

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  29. I’m not a collector of china tea cups only because I don’t have room to display them. I love looking at them. I have a few that my mother gave me that came with her mother to America from England. I do treasure those cups and saucers.

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    1. Of the Shelley I collect, the best ones still come from England. It seems only certain shapes came to this country. Canada has a bit more to choose from, but I’d love to take a trip to England and haunt the antique shops to see what I can find.

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  30. Thank you Edith, the Wickeds, and all of you who came by yesterday! I appreciate it so much. The winner of the signed copy of A Sinister Service is Judith! We’ll be emailing you shortly. Stay safe, everyone!

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  31. I love the china patterns. If you ask my Dad he will tell you I collect too many books. I also like Precious Moments figurines. I do not have a lot of them due to the cost. Thank you for the opportunity.

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  32. I am delighted to know about your new mystery featuring ‘tea’. About 6 years ago we started a Mystery Lover’s Book Club at our Tea Parlor in our small town. The owner, who started the group, would bake and cook ‘goodies’ mentioned in the chapters we were reading each week, and at least 2 of the teas described. It was fun to be able to select your tea cup every week from the vas collection of tea cups at the Tea Parlor. At the end of the book we would have a lavish High Tea and each one would dress as a character in the book. We continued this fun tradition, even moving our meetings to a small book shop after the tea shop closed. At this time we would bring our own sweets or savory delights for all of us to share. Then the pandemic came, and we missed our meetings. Now we meet every Wednesday on Zoom, and even though we can’t share culinary delights, we drink tea, share recipes and comment on successes or failures…Also, we have the pleasure of reviewing and commenting on our current mystery with friends that had moved away all over the country and had not been able to join us before the pandemic. We are currently finishing our dear friend Barbara Ross’ Clambake Mysteries, and are deciding on our next series. I will suggest we continue the tea mystery tradition by reading your book. Thank you for sharing your blessed talents with us!!!

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