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“Fans of Downton Abbey will be delighted in the setting, the smart and likable aristocratic heroine, her plucky American maid and the stowaway cat.” -Rhys Bowen, New York Times bestselling author of the Royal Spyness mysteries and the international bestseller The Tuscan Child

Behind the Book: Lady Takes the Case

“I would like to propose a toast!” Annabel suddenly cried merrily.  She leaped to her feet, her pale gold silk and lace gown gleaming, the topaz and diamond necklace at her throat flashing.  As Cecilia peered closer, she saw to her surprise that it was her mother's necklace.  Part of the topaz parure that had once been a wedding gift.  Had her mother actually given it to Annabel?  Before any announcement?

Lady Avebury studied Annabel with wide, startled eyes, her hand frozen on her fork.  Ladies did not give toasts at dinner parties!  But then again, the best wine from the Danby cellars had been flowing freely all evening, the chatter growing steadily louder.  Lady Avebury quickly gave a fixed smile, as if this sort of thing happened all the time.

“Is this an American custom?” Cecilia's grandmother snapped.  “No wonder New York dinners are interminable.”

“How charming,” Lady Avebury murmured.  Patrick just looked confused, and Lord Avebury barley turned from the talk he was having with Lady Byswater about the best clarets.

“You've all just been so very kind, so marvelous to me, after my terrible, terrible ordeal,” Annabel declared with a bright smile.  “I absolutely must thank you all, thank beautiful Danby, my darling refuge.  I could never have hoped to find a better harbor!”

Redvers and the footmen came in with the entree course, and the butler froze at seeing the unprecedented scene in his dining room.  He glanced at Lady Avebury, who gave him a subtle little wave.  He had Paul go ahead to the dowager countess with his silver serving tray of lamb cutlets, and the new footman behind him with the mint sauce.  Cecilia saw it was Jesse from the village, and he winked at her behind Redver's back.  The cheek!  She turned away, her face warm.

At least no one had seen him do that.  Redvers would surely have had an apoplexy with a winking footman added to a lady giving a toast.  The butler's low murmur seemed to tell them to take their time serving Annabel, the guest of honor, as she talked on.

Suddenly, Paul seemed to trip.  He stumbled against the table, spilling some of the tray onto Lady Byswater's lap.  She cried out, leaping to her feel, while Lady Avebury hurried over to try and placate her and Redvers pulled Paul back.  Sebastian growled under the table, and the dowager laughed in delight at the silly scene before her.

“I don't feel at all well,” Mr. Hayes gasped.  Cecilia swung back around to face him, and saw he had turned quite gray.  He half-rose to his feet, grasping the damask tablecloth in his fist.  Cecilia, most alarmed, reached for his arm to try and steady him.  But he fell sideways, taking the cloth, plates, and silver with him.  He was ill all over the mess, a greenish, foamy sort of sick, and seemed to tense into a convulsion.

“Oh, help, please!” Cecilia screamed.  She knelt down by Mr. Hayes, trying frantically to pull him onto his back, but he went very still.

“Here, let me,” Jesse said.  He knelt down beside her, taking off his livery jacket as he frowned down at Mr. Hayes.  “What happened?  Did this come on suddenly?”

Cecilia was amazed at his calm demeanor, the way he seemed to know what he was doing.  “Very.  We were talking, he took a drink of the wine, then poor Paul tripped...”

“That was my wine!” Annabel screamed.  Cecilia looked up to see her gesturing toward the spilled glass next to Mr. Hayes's curled fingers.  The red wine was dribbling out onto the carpet.

“I hardly think that matters right now,” Patrick said, trying to draw Annabel away.  “Let's go over here, give him some air.”

“Redvers, call the doctor at once!” Lady Avebury cried.

“I think it's too late,” Jesse said grimly.  “He seems to be dead.”

Available November 2019

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Eliza Casey

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“Downton Abbey’s got nothing on stately Danby Hall. When a murder occurs, the suspects are plenty and it’s up to Lady Cecilia Bates to solve the crime in this charming romp by Eliza Casey. I’ll be counting the days until the next book in the series arrives.” -Lorraine Bartlett, New York Times Bestselling author of Yule Be Dead

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