Monday 4 December 2023


Welcome, dear readers, to the much-anticipated kickoff of the Cyanide and Sensibility Virtual Book Tour here at My Jane Austen Book Club! We are delighted to bring you an exclusive sneak peek into the latest installment of The Jane Austen Tea Society Mystery series by the talented author Katie Oliver.


Join us in the charming world of Laurel Springs, where murder is on the menu, and our protagonist, Phaedra Brighton, is ready to serve up justice in the most delectable way possible. In this delightful cozy mystery, Phaedra, lacking a Mr. Darcy in her life, finds contentment in her loving family and loyal cat. As her sister, Hannah, opens a new patisserie, Tout de Sweet, the town is abuzz with excitement. But when a dark chocolate cupcake turns deadly, Phaedra is drawn into a quest to save her sister's reputation and budding business. The question lingers: Who was the intended target, and how far will the culprit go to permanently remove them from the menu?


  • "This is the first book I have read in the Jane Austen Tea Society series, but it won’t be my last…If you enjoy cozy mysteries, then this is a book you will enjoy." — Book Looks by Lisa

  • "The book is filled with great characters and a fun, twisty plot. Highly recommend." — Cara Putnam, author of Come What May

  • "5 STARS" — Gwendalyn’s Books


Prepare to immerse yourself in a world where Jane Austen meets amateur sleuthing, as we unravel the delectable mystery served up by Katie Oliver in Cyanide and Sensibility. Scroll down for an exclusive author interview and look out for the next stops of the virtual tour and follow us on our enchanting virtual journey through the pages of the latest Jane Austen Tea Society Mystery. Let the tea be poured, and the mystery unfold!


Cyanide and Sensibility is part of your Jane Austen Tea Society Mystery series. Can you share their connections to Austen and her original novels?

I think Jane Austen’s novels are as much about finding true love as finding (to paraphrase Virginia Woolf) ‘a home of one’s own’. Her heroines seek not only a husband, but a home. A place in society, and in the world. Like Fanny, Elizabeth, Anne, and all of Austen’s fictional young women, Phaedra Brighton is single. In her case, determinedly so, despite her mother’s best efforts to see her married. Like Mrs. Bennet, Nan Brighton won’t rest until both of her daughters are happily married.

Phaedra’s world—as an Austen scholar and professor of nineteenth-century English literature at Somerset University in Virginia—is upended when a new professor arrives. Mark Selden is Oxford-educated, distractingly handsome, and dismissive of Jane Austen. He thinks she takes
Austen too seriously. She thinks he’s a literary snob. Sparks fly… and not in a good way. (Not unlike a certain couple in Pride and Prejudice.)

For each book in the three-book cozy mystery series, I consider the theme and characters of Austen’s original novel and try to build my plot (and murder) accordingly. It can be a challenge; but although times have changed, people haven’t. They’re still avaricious, jealous, pompous,
deceitful. And as Phaedra learns in each book, some of them will stop at nothing—including murder—to achieve their goals.

What was your spark of inspiration for Cyanide and Sensibility?

I began with two elderly sisters, owners of Scents and Sensibility, an apothecary shop in Laurel Springs, Virginia. The shop is as unique and eccentric as Rebecca and Biddy Bondurant themselves. With a medicinal herb garden behind the shop and Rebecca’s extensive knowledge of poisons, Phaedra can’t help but wonder if one of the sisters might be a killer.

I was also inspired by the different paths two sisters might take. Like Elinor and Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, Phaedra and her younger sister Hannah are chalk and cheese. Phaedra is observant, critical, and cautious, while Hannah is impulsive and outgoing.

Can you share your thoughts on your heroine Phaedra Brighton? What personality traits make her a good detective? 

As a scholar and an academic, Phaedra notices small details and looks beyond the surface. She doesn’t take situations or people at face value… traits which definitely prove advantageous to an amateur detective! She enjoys teaching, researching, and publishing articles on Jane Austen almost as much as she enjoys solving mysteries. Particularly if solving
the mystery will help clear the name of a close friend or family member.

She’s a bit eccentric, enjoys lecturing her classes in Regency attire, and is definitely not in want of a husband. Or at least, not yet.

Who was your favorite character to write in this story, and why?

I really enjoyed delving deeper into the character of Marisol Dubois, Phaedra’s lively young teaching assistant and a member of the Jane Austen Tea Society. Like Marianne, she meets a handsome and charming young man and falls hard for him. But like John Willoughby, Michael Farrar is destined to leave her with a broken heart.

There have been several movie adaptations of Sense and Sensibility. Which one is your favorite?  

I’m only familiar with the Emma Thompson version, so I can’t really answer this one. Ms. Thompson’s screenplay kept true to the original novel in most aspects, and the cast was incredible. However, the 2008 BBC television series is the version I’d most like to see.

What’s up next in your writing career?

I’m finishing a proposal for three more Jane Austen Tea Society Mystery books, based on Austen novels (with a murder thrown in, of course). After that? Who knows! I started out writing romantic comedies, and that was loads of fun, so perhaps I’ll revisit the world of “meet cute” and pen another romance.


Katie Oliver is known internationally as a writer of Jane Austen rom-coms with a hint of mystery. In the US and the UK, she is the bestselling author of the Dating Mr. Darcy and Marrying Mr. Darcy series.



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