Thursday, December 12, 2019

FOLLOW IT UP ~ Shades of Earl Grey by Laura Childs

"Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is finally invited to a social event that she doesn’t have to cater—but there’s more than champagne bubbling… 

Theo is mingling with the cream of Charleston society at the engagement soiree of the season. But as they eagerly await the dazzling young couple’s arrival—the groom meets with a freak accident. The exquisite wedding ring—a family heirloom from the crown of Marie Antoinette—is mysteriously missing.

Theodosia suspects that trouble is brewing. But when she goes to the authorities, they treat her like she’s been reading tea leaves—and that’s the surest way to put Theodosia’s kettle on the boil…"


There is a bit of disappointment in writing this post. Why? Well, I found the third book in Laura Childs’ Tea Shop Mystery series, Shades of Earl Grey, uneventful and "gray". Earlier this year I did a video describing how I adored the series. I especially adored Childs’ red-headed amateur sleuth and tea shop owner, Theodosia Browning. Theodosia came across as the quiet type of character. She seemed reserved and soft-spoken. While standing as a determined type of character. I could see myself getting attached to her, as well as her murder mystery excursions down the road. You see, I gravitate towards the cozy sleuth who harbors a bold and witty and coy personality. Theodosia was the opposite, but she was cool. I adored my time with her within the first two books of the series.

Then came the third book, Shades of Earl Grey. Afterwards, my enthusiasm for Theodosia “regressed” a bit.


But first things first–the actual story/murder mystery. So Shades of Earl Grey does contain a murder. And it's no doubt a murder of the wrong-place-wrong-time variety. Yet the book isn't about said death, per se. Instead the story orbits around the jewel-stealing, heist-plotting contrivances of a small-town cat burglar. This left some of the suspecting characters, as well as his or her various failings in connection to the victim, elsewhere. The need to care about the majority of the story seemed removed to me, as the focus wasn't on the victim (as in the dead one and not the victims of burglary, of course). This lacking may or may not be part of my eventual disillusionment with Theodosia from this entry. Either way these events need notice.

So back to my original point about Theodosia herself…


The issue is quite simple: Theodosia doesn’t have a whole lot of flavor to her–after all. In a matter-of-fact, she’s a bit too perfect and void of personality. I get she owns a tea shop that’s popular in the Charleston area. I get she's involved with the town's art and exhibition scene. Heck, she takes her rescued doggy to the hospital to comfort sick and grieving children. But I couldn't tell you too much of anything else about her. Well, I will give her resolve to climb a ladder in search for clues a big thumbs up. But once she’s down that ladder, what makes her relatable and interesting as a character? How does she stand out? I'm not as sure of her as I thought.

One highlight of my issue with this character revolves around her love life. Theodosia has a boyfriend. This caught me off guard because, for whatever reason, I couldn't recall if he showed up in the previous two books. OUCH! That lack of recall is a glowing piece of evidence about my tussle with Theodosia's character. Because even her love life doesn’t seem to shine insight or provide relish to her character; good or bad. Her boyfriend showed up once within the first 100 pages of Grey, and I only wondered what was the point of him by the end. There was no chemistry within the tasteless exchange between the two. And my goodness, he was as perfect as Theodosia with his property attorney career and town volunteer role.

And y'all know my view on relationships in mysteries. Here, I couldn't even complain about there being one. Anyway, I scratch my head.

I will say the two characters surrounding Theodosia and her tea shop have a little extra spice to them. The sixty-something-year-old Drayton is a touch pretentious, but loyal. But three books in and I’m still wondering if he’ll come out of the closet (or did I miss something?). So where the chance of Theodosia blossoming fails, Drayton keeps me anticipating his upcoming path. And poor, poor Haley; the young baker of the trio. I don’t know what to say about Haley yet, other than I wish Drayton would get off her back sometimes.


I don’t want to shift this series from ADORE to FENCE status, but I’m going to have to. One more book will be the deciding factor. I still think Theodosia's investigative prowess and moments of bravery are nice. Well, given she refrains from silly/illogical investigative choices often seen in cozies. To me Theodosia lacks a character arc. I don’t see her growing, evolving, or changing in the books to come. As I said in my “ADORE” video, she is who she is. Unfortunately with nothing more or less.

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