Twenty-seven-year-old witch Minnie Wells is steeped in trouble.
It’s Jane Austen week and the fall streets of Bath, England, are bustling with women in gowns and men in tailcoats.
When Minnie, Fitz and the butlers from the tea room cater the big Regency style ball, Minnie – an Austen super fan– is looking forward to dancing the reel with her new vampire beau. Instead, one of the attendees–a famous hair care influencer–is murdered, and one of Minnie’s butler buddies is the prime suspect.
Now, Minnie teams up with a former flame detective and his vampire hunting partner, to clear her coworker’s name and get to the bottom of the vampire blood mysteriously found in the victim’s system.
Of course, it’s no easy task, as Minnie’s magical powers grow frighteningly more powerful and the very coworker whose name she’s trying to clear is clearly harboring a secret. Plus, she’s working as a double agent–pretending to be a vampire hunter herself, while trying to protect her supernatural friends–and having trouble keeping her stories straight.
When Minnie’s sleuthing leads her to an exclusive med spa, helmed by an intimidating doctor with a penchant for off-the-menu services, she’s in over her head.
Will Minnie solve the influencer’s murder and clear her friend, or will she become the next victim, caught in a web of lies and magic gone wrong?
Thanks to Darius and the council both Prescott and Kurt think Minnie is a vampire hunter. This will come into play in this book.
It’s Jane Austin week in Bath and there are many folks walking around in costume and of course there will be a Ball. It brings the Regency era to the fore for the entire week.
The day of the ball, Cho gets excited at seeing a beautiful influencer. Tasha Melani, her mother and sister are enjoying sitting at one of Cho’s tables.
As a proper cat mom, Minnie drops everything to go settle Tilda in her basket by the fire and give her a couple of scritches. That’s when she overhears the question of why people are in costume. Cho ever the attentive butler answers her and adds that there is a Regency Ball tonight.
Tasha is interested but her mother insists they are way too busy with previous engagements that start early in the morning. With Tasha’s interest Minnie chimes in that it’s amazing and there’s a shop nearby where she could rent a regency gown.
There was an awkward moment when Tasha leaves the table to go outside, and Cho doesn’t immediately offer his arm to her mother when she’s about to go to the powder room. Al quickly takes his place and Minnie and Cho both are stunned by the look on his face.
Fitz, the butlers and Minnie are working the Ball, and for Minnie it was everything she dreamed it would be. Tasha even shows up to Cho’s delight.
This is a favorite scene.
In the grand ballroom, they were just beginning another dance, so Fitz and I joined up with three other couples to make a square. I couldn’t wipe the goofy grin off my face as the elderly caller instructed us on a few steps that comprised the dance. In a loud, though slightly wavering voice, she commanded the ladies to hold each other’s gloved hands and circle, while the men surrounded us circling the other way. We linked arms, twirled, formed squares, and did prancing little steps around each other.
While I’d hungrily watched Regency dances portrayed in Jane Austen movie adaptations, desperately wishing I could join in, in my wildest fantasies I’d never imagined the reality to be so fun. My cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing, and I’d never seen such joy on Fitz’s face. I could see it plainly. For those brief few minutes, he’d forgotten all about the modern world, all the trauma of his past, the fact that he was now undead. He was just Fitz, living in the present and enjoying every moment.
My giddiness only escalated as the string quartet picked up the pace and the foot stomps of the hundreds of dancers twirling and hopping in unison echoed off the towering, gilded ceiling. Men whooped, ladies clapped their gloved hands, and in two long lines that spanned the length of the enormous ballroom, we all galloped in time together.
When the musicians pulled their bows across their strings in the last notes of the song, the entire ballroom erupted in applause. Panting, chest heaving, I beamed at Fitz, who dipped into a deep, courteous bow.
The caller announced a brief intermission before the dances picked back up in ten minutes, and the crowd dispersed. It was as if the spell had been broken, and when I smiled up at Fitz again, the weight of the world had returned. His dark eyes held their usual tinge of melancholy, and a bittersweet smile tugged at his lips. I could almost viscerally feel his longing to be back in his home time of the Regency.
“Thank you for the dances, Minnie.”
I chuckled. “Are you kidding? That was hands down the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.”
He brightened. “Truly?”
I scoffed. “How could it not be? The dancing, the dresses, the music, the moving all as one. It was—” I searched for the right word. “Exhilarating! Pure joy.”
His bright smile returned. “I’m so gratified I got to experience your first Regency dance with you.”
I squeezed his chilly hand. “It wouldn’t have been half as fun with anyone but you.”
A slight blush crept to his cheeks. “Well… I suppose we should return and help out the men.”
I nodded and fanned myself with my hand. “I might just pop into the restroom first.” Sweat tickled my hairline, and the thick silk of my dress suddenly felt stifling.
Fitz gave a knowing look. “I’ve worked up a bit of heat myself.”
And that was saying something, for a cold-blooded vampire.
He gave me directions out of the ballroom, down a set of wide, carpeted steps to a lower level where I’d find the ladies’ powder room. I joined a flow of other women in their lovely outfits into the surprisingly huge restroom. A plush lobby filled with couches, settees, and a row of lighted vanities formed the entry hall to the actual restroom stalls.
I waited my turn, one of the last in line, until most of the women had finished powdering their noses, adjusting their dresses, and fanning themselves. After using one of the stalls, I returned to the now empty lobby to wash my hands and splash some cold water on my face. Thumps on the ceiling overhead told me the dances were starting up again. Otherwise, the restroom had fallen rather quiet. Which made it all too easy to eavesdrop on someone talking in one of the stalls.
I wasn’t trying to, of course, but I found myself listening to a somewhat familiar-sounding voice.
“I need to reschedule.” Then louder. “I said I need to reschedule—for tomorrow morning.” A long pause. “I don’t care. Cancel it then.”
I placed the voice a moment before the young woman stepped out of the stall with an agitated huff.
She lifted her head and blinked at me in surprise, then wrinkled her brow, evidently confused by who I was.
I gave her a sheepish smile as I spun on the velvet stool perched in front of one of the vanity mirrors. I placed a hand on my collarbone. “Minnie. From the Bath Butler Cafe earlier this afternoon?”
“Ah, right.” Tasha gave me a half smile. “I don’t think we actually officially met.”
She swept over in a long, indigo dress that complemented her smooth, dark skin. She’d piled her curls into a messy bun atop her head, much like mine, and I felt a flush of pride that I’d styled my hair similarly to a famous hair influencer. She extended a hand in a blue silk glove, and we shook before she plopped down on the stool beside me.
She dug around in a small, beaded purse, frowning and muttering to herself. “Where’s that cartridge… urg!” She slumped. “I just bought it earlier today and have already lost it.”
I raised a brow. “Cartridge?”
She rolled her dark eyes. “My vape cartridge. I’m trying to quit.” She lifted the puffy sleeve of her dress to reveal a square white patch stuck to her shoulder. “Nicotine patches are supposed to help, but when life gets stressful, it’s not enough.” She shot me a sardonic smile. “Clearly, quitting is going quite well for me.”
I chuckled. “It’s a process, right?”
She grinned and spun to face the mirror, applying some pink lipstick she pulled from her purse. “I keep thinking it’ll get easier once life calms down. But it never does, does it?”
I thought back to last year, when I’d been in the thick of my nasty divorce. I’d been about to be deported, had no job prospects, and was doing my best just to keep my head above water. Now I was finding my feet, in a blossoming new relationship of sorts with Fitz, and generally loving my life.
I shot her a bracing smile. “It does get better—I promise.”
She let out a heavy sigh. “I’ll have to trust you on that.” She shook her head. “A lot of people think I live a glamorous life—jet-setting around the world, owning my own business, looking picture-perfect online.”
Cho came to mind. He’d gushed over how envious he was of her life.
“But it’s not all that. It’s hard work, lonely.” She looked down and fingered the gold necklace that hung around her neck—a round pendant with engraved vines creeping up the sides. “I haven’t had a boyfriend in—gah! Ages!”
I grinned. “Well, I think my friend Cho has a thing for you if you’d like to change that.”
Tasha grinned, her smile lighting up her lovely face. “He is quite cute, isn’t he?”
I winked. “I’ll relieve him of serving duties for a while so you two can get some dances in, if you’d like?”
Tasha looked me up and down and winked. “Thanks, Minnie.”
Johnson, Erin. Save the Last Dance for Tea: The Magical Tea Room Mysteries. Kindle Locations (311-362 Kindle Edition.
It was a fun evening for all, and Cho was able to dance with Tasha and even walk her back to her hotel.
However, the next day everything takes a tragic turn. Cho calls Minnie to tell her Tasha is dead and he was called to the station to talk with DI Prescott. Now he’d like Minnie to find out if he is high on the suspect list.
Being the good friend she is, Minnie goes to talk to Prescott. She is surprised when Kurt is there with him and to find they were trying to contact her. While Tasha had died of respiratory failure from nicotine poisoning, there was also an unknown substance in her blood. That substance Kurt identified as vampire blood.
Of course, they are going to want Minnie’s help and they are also going to be putting her in danger. Quite a bit more than she’s been in before.
There are many twists and surprises in this one and it’s quite the journey to solve this case.
I really love the way Minnie and Fitz’s relationship is slowly moving forward.
I can’t wait to read the next book!
5 Contented Purrs for Erin!
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A native of Arizona, Erin loves her new home in the Pacific Northwest! She writes paranormal cozy novels– stories that are mysterious, magical, and will hopefully make you laugh.
When not writing, she’s hiking, napping with her dogs, and losing at trivia night.
Erin’s had a ton of different jobs, from blackjack dealer to PA on a horror movie to Pilates instructor but has finally embraced her true calling as a writer. Thanks so much for your interest and for supporting her!