Steeped in Secrets – Lauren Elliott

“Shayleigh Myers or Shay, as her friends and family called her, hopped out of the black Explorer into what was a typical cloudless California late August morning.

Shay’s been having a rough time of it, thanks to a nasty ex-husband and losing her business and income. But, this is a cosy mystery, so we start off with the fates smiling on her and dropping a new career and a free house into her lap. Yea-ah o.O

Of course, all is not smelling of (tea) roses, as pretty soon a dead body turns up, as they do. Oh, and the oh-so-cute bloke she has a crush on in about 5 seconds flat has a girlfriend, so that’s not okay either.

I do like a cosy mystery between more serious reads, and this sounded like a great chance to try a different theme – I usually go with book/library-based mysteries. But I like tea, and the whole crystals-and-woo-woo sounded like it might add a fun layer, so overall I thought there was at least escapism to be had here. And there is, as far as cosies go, but overall I think far too much of this book irritated me.

Right from the off, our heroine is practically throwing her hand to her forehead in despair and oh look isn’t the ocean so pretty? And clean air so marvellous, but woe woe. It felt hugely uneven and somewhat jarring, and as an opener it had me almost instantly disliking this too-lucky-by-half lead character.

It does settle down, thankfully, but still not issue-free. I loathed all the ‘Oirish’ that one character speaks in – at least, when it suits. There’s a whole former friends now hate each other subplot, but we won’t explain until the end and it wasn’t worth the wait. And the woo-woo: nope, just didn’t work for me. I was down for tea leaves being read, and soothing teas, but the whole fairies in the wood and visions bit was just too weird. And don’t get me started on the dog that appears to know everything in advance.

On the plus side, there’s a nice teenager – a little too helpful, but it’s well-explained – and I did like the bulk of the character interactions, especially how the family functions. And the mystery wasn’t awful, in the end, if – as is so often the case – more than a little far-fetched.

I’m not sure I’d want to try another in the series. Maybe one, to see if it calms down any once the intro stuff is out of the way. But… hmm. Not a bad read, but definitely flawed.

Steeped in Secrets book coverNetGalley eARC: 304 pages / 33 chapters
First published: 29th November 2022
Series: Crystals and CuriosiTEAS Mystery book 1
Read from 9th-14th July 2022

My rating: 5/10

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