Twenty-seven-year-old witch Minnie Wells has an a-maze-ing ability to land herself in trouble.
Minnie’s vampire beau Fitz has just opened his country estate’s hedge maze to the paying public. They’re counting on the proceeds to fund the restoration of Fitz’s crumbling manor house, and to keep him from having to return to living in his cunning vampire sire’s nest.
But on opening day, a local school teacher is found murdered in the middle of the maze. And to add to the intrigue, Minnie’s chased off by the ghostly specter of a Regency woman whose own life was taken in the labyrinth two hundred years ago.
Now, Minnie teams up with a friend who has unexpected abilities, to catch the culprit, appease the spirit, and get the maze back in business.
But when her sleuthing uncovers a strange tie between the two women’s deaths, Minnie questions whether the killer is living, or undead, and if the maze will ever be safe again.
Will Minnie catch the culprit and put the angry spirit to rest or will she hit a dead end and become the murderer’s next victim?
At the end of the last book, Minnie, Waverlyn, Mim, Tilda and Fitz all help to break the curse on Al’s wife Yasmin. This is followed by Fitz not only thanking Minnie for saving him but also sealing it with a kiss.
This book opens six months later, Minnie is sitting in the dining room of Fitz’s ancestral estate. She knew it hadn’t been updated but wasn’t expecting the emptiness of it all.
Darius was responsible for all of that, wanting to keep Fitz under his control, forever.
Fitz long since used to the cold and dismal environment is serving Minnie dinner. Minnie couldn’t let him know how uncomfortable she was, and she really did enjoy the food. She’s startled when a man runs past the window though and informs Fitz.
Turns out it’s Dom from the cafe, he’s living in the Gardner’s Cottage and is helping to restore the hedge maze. Minnie’s latest idea to help Fitz earn more money.
Fitz and Minnie are about to go in the maze when Gus pulls up to the mansion. Fitz goes up to meet him and Dom and Minnie go in alone. Everything is fine until a ghost shows up and seems menacing, so they race out.
That night Minnie has a nightmare, rather a vision while she’s asleep. She wasn’t herself but the ghost she saw in Fitz’s maze, and saw what happened to her. Tilda was trying to wake her, but she came out of it herself. On top of that, someone was waiting for her on the porch.
Dom, wanted to talk to her and suggested they do so on the way to work.
This is a favorite scene.
Dom stalked along beside me, the early morning streets of Bath quiet. In another hour, commuters would be driving to work and shop owners unlocking their doors, but for now, Tilda, Dom, and I had the city streets mostly to ourselves.
I clutched the warm paper cup in my gloved hands, took a sip of the bracingly bitter coffee, and glanced up at my friend. With his furrowed brow and downcast gaze, he looked even more pensive than normal.
Someone’s got his tail in a twist.
Tilda, my little black cat familiar who strolled along on my other side, seemed to have noticed too. Of course, Dom didn’t know about my witchy powers, so I couldn’t exactly answer her in public.
I ached with curiosity to ask about this secret of his but bit my lip and forced myself to wait and give him space. After a few blocks, my patience paid off.
He cleared his throat. “Last night, in the maze…” His dark eyes searched mine. “You saw her too, yes? That wasn’t some dream?”
I nodded. “I saw her too.”
He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, and when he looked at me again, relief filled his face. “I’ve never met anyone else who could see ghosts.”
Ghosts? Plural? I sucked in a breath and raised my brows. “I have to admit that was my first.”
He looked down as we stopped at a corner to wait for a lone car to pass. “Oh.”
I noted his flushed cheeks. Was he embarrassed? “I gather she wasn’t your first spirit?”
A muscle in his jaw jumped and he strode forward, walking a few paces ahead of me. Tilda and I jogged to catch up.
“Dom—it’s okay. I’m just curious. I don’t think you’re weird, if that’s what you’re afraid of. I mean—I saw her too.” I caught his eye and shot him a goofy smile. “If that makes you weird, I’m right there with you, buddy.”
That got the tiniest quirk of his full lips. Not quite a smile, but hey—it was a start. Mercifully, he slowed his pace—I could barely keep up with him and his long legs. He kept his hands shoved into the pockets of his wool peacoat, his shoulders hunched.
I cast about in my mind for a way to reassure him and make him feel comfortable sharing more. I wasn’t quite ready to tell him I was a witch, but maybe I could hint at it a bit. “She might’ve been my first ghost but…” I looked around to make sure we were alone. The cobblestoned streets stretched empty in all directions, the gas street lamps haloed in the heavy morning fog. I lowered my voice. “That wasn’t my first rodeo with the supernatural.”
He shot me a side-eye look. “In fact, I’ve, uh… had visions before. Sometimes I see things that happened in the past… or are going to happen. I think I had a vision of that woman’s ghost last night.” I shook my head, recalling the panic I’d felt. I put a hand to my neck—I could almost feel my throat closing off again.
“I was running through the maze—as her, I think—and I couldn’t breathe. I collapsed—or she did.” I blew out a heavy breath. “Whether a vision or a dream, it was intense. I think she was trying to tell me something.”
Tilda slunk up against my ankles and rubbed her little head against my boot as we walked. I grinned down at her. She was so good at giving me comfort and strength when I needed it.
When I glanced up at Dom again, his expression had softened and his shoulders relaxed. He pressed his lips together and shot me a sympathetic look. “That sounds frightening.”
I scoffed. “Yeah, it was pretty wild. Not something I’d like to repeat.” I raised my brows at him. “Is that something you’ve experienced?”
He pulled his lips to the side and nodded. We ducked down a narrow, dark alleyway. Normally, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable walking alone among the crates and broken glass, but having my behemoth friend next to me eased my worries about safety.
“I’ve always seen ghosts, since I was a little boy. I can speak with them too.”
I gaped at him. “Wow.” I smirked. “The gift of ghostly gab, huh?”
His face closed off, and I immediately knew I’d said the wrong thing.
Tilda sniffed. You hurt the big guy’s feelings.
I gently grabbed his elbow and gave his beefy arm a little squeeze. “Sorry. I was just making an awkward joke.” Sometimes I forgot how sensitive he was for being a massive, hot dude. This must be something hard for him to talk about. I thought over what he’d disclosed. “That must’ve been tough to make sense of as a kid. My supernatural experiences only started once I moved here in college.”
Dom arched a brow. “Must be something in the water.”
I sucked on my lips to keep from chuckling. Considering my powers were tied to the enchanted waters of Bath, he was more right than he knew. At least he’d made a little joke—hopefully that meant he’d forgiven my lame attempt at one.
Johnson, Erin. Steep With One Eye Open: A Magical Tea Room Mystery (The Magical Tea Room Mysteries Book 7). Kindle Locations (432-465). Kindle Edition.
Minnie has so many secrets to keep, Fitz’s and Gus’s Leo’s, Al’s and now Dom’s. How is she ever going to keep them straight.
She’s doing fine with though, and even manages to put Darius in his place at the soft opening at the maze. Unfortunately, it’s not to be a complete success, as a patron dies in the maze.
Minnie figures the two mysterious deaths in the maze are somehow connected and it’s intriguing the way she figures it all out.
I love these books, Fitz and Minnie are perfect together and the angst caused by Prescott and Kurt just add to the fun. There’s a really fun ending to this one which should prove to be interesting in the next book.
I can’t wait for the release of A ‘Bitter Brew’!
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!