Cozy Wednesday with Alyssa Maxwell – Author of Murder at the Breakers (Giveaway too!)

cozy wednesday 2013 640Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!

I am delighted to welcome Alyssa Maxwell here today.

Alyssa outside (2)

Escape with Alyssa Maxwell to the world of The Gilded Newport Mysteries…


cover frontIn the Gilded Age New York’s wealthiest escaped the heat, grime, and yes, pestilence of the city’s summer months by loading up their steamships with those priceless objects they simply couldn’t live without and making a mass pilgrimage to bright, breezy, seaside Newport, RI. They brought carriages and servants and countless trunks and even their safes, packed with jewels and important documents. They bought the best land, built palaces, and claimed as their own the finest Newport had to offer. They turned a sleepy, artsy village into the posh summer resort. The men sailed their yachts and rode horses and played golf and tennis. The women held teas and parties and balls, married their daughters to rich, powerful men, and wore a different gown from House of Worth, Paris, for each daily activity – mornings at home, social calls, promenading, carriage riding, tea, supper….

I’ll bet you’re thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot of research to do. Must be hard.” To which I say, “No way, I love it!” Digging around in the past is my way of stepping into a time machine and escaping from whatever has me gritting my teeth in the present. And sometimes that’s a lot! Or maybe it’s a past life thing. Whatever it is, I’ve always been this way and some days I’d much rather be there than here.

The truth is, I sometimes spend way more time researching than I need to. But how to stop oneself from poring through the Metropolitan Museum’s collection of Worth Gowns? For instance, there are these two:


Do these not make your heart beat faster? Can’t you imagine the feel of that lustrous, embroidered silk against your skin? I literally gasped out loud when I first saw them. I covet! And you can bet I used them in describing dresses worn by my sleuth, Emma Cross, and her friend, Grace, to a ball in Murder at Beechwood, the third book in my series, which is still a work in progress. Rest assured there are plenty more drool-worthy masterpieces where these came from in the Museum’s database, and one can easily while away a good hour or two without even realizing it. Ooh, here’s another, in glorious gold:



Obviously I can’t help myself. But don’t even get me going on the shoes, handbags and jewelry women wore during the Gilded Age! Seriously, don’t!


Are these not exquisite?


Unfortunately, I also discovered the website of the American Carriage Association. I say unfortunately because here again, I can become lost studying styles and details. Here’s one I imagine my sleuth driving, though hers wouldn’t be quite so shiny and new:

Her wealthy Vanderbilt relatives would probably drive something more like this:
Oops, did I say drive? I meant chauffeured around town in. Emma’s aunt Alice is forever telling her it isn’t seemly for her to be driving her own rig. Does Emma listen? Of course not! Sometimes a girl’s just got to get where she’s going, and she doesn’t have time to wait around for someone else to drive her. Like when she gathering clues to solve a murder.

I believe I mentioned yachts? For that there’s the New York Yacht Club website. The NYYC set up a satellite headquarters in Newport in 1894, paving the way for future Americas Cup Races to be held there. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be sitting in the shade at, say, The Breakers or Marble House, watching those majestic vessels cutting through the waves?







Or maybe we could sail to Europe on Willie K. Vanderbilt’s private steamship, The Valiant:

Bet we could fit lots of trunks filled with gowns, shoes and jewelry on that ship! Not to mention a complete staff to see to our every need and desire.

Sailing to Europe might have been the thing to do in fall and spring, but when summer came around Newport was definitely the place to be. Who needs Europe anyway when your house looks like this:

(The Breakers, styled after the Italian Palazzos of the Renaissance)

Or this?

(Marble House, inspired by The Petit Trianon at the Palace of Versailles)
(Marble House, inspired by The Petit Trianon at the Palace of Versailles)

Or when your view is this:

This is the world I love to spend my time in. It’s my own comfy gilded cage, my haven and my escape.

Thanks for escaping with me today! If you’d like to spend more time in Newport’s Gilded Age, no problem! Stop by my website where there’s lots to see, including an excerpt from book one in the series, Murder at the Breakers. Here’s where to find me online: http://alyssamaxwell.

You can also explore:

Metropolitan Museum – House of Worth:

The American Carriage Association:

New York Yacht Club:

The Preservation Society of Newport:

(All pictures provided by Alyssa Maxwell.)

About Alyssa Maxwell
I began a love affair with the city of Newport while visiting friends there back in my high school days. Time and again the harbor‑side, gas‑lit neighborhoods drew me back, and on one of those later visits I met the man who would become my husband. Always a lover of history, I found that marrying into a large, generations‑old Newport family opened up an exciting world of historical discovery. From the graveyards whose earliest markers read from the seventeenth century, to original colonial houses still lived in today, to the Newport Artillery Company whose curator for many years was my husband’s grandfather, Newport became a place of fascination and romantic charm. Today, my hubby and I reside beneath the palms and bright skies of Florida, but part of my heart remains firmly in that small New England city of great historical significance. The first in the Gilded Newport Mysteries, Murder at the Breakers, AVAILABLE TODAY!! to be followed by Murder at Marble House in October of this year.

cover frontMurder at the Breakers
(A Gilded Newport Mystery)

A Brand New Series
Historical Cozy Mystery
Kensington Books (March 25, 2014)
Published by Kensington Publishing Corp.
Trade Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0758290823
E-Book File Size: 1188 KB
Nook: ISBN-13: 9780758290830


Newport, Rhode Island, August 1895:

She may be a less well-heeled relation, but as second cousin to millionaire patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt, twenty-one-year-old Emma Cross is on the guest list for a grand ball at the Breakers, the Vanderbilts’ summer home. She also has a job to do—report on the event for the society page of the Newport Observer.

But Emma observes much more than glitz and gaiety when she witnesses a murder. The victim is Cornelius Vanderbilt’s financial secretary, who plunges off a balcony faster than falling stock prices. Emma’s black sheep brother Brady is found in Cornelius’s bedroom passed out next to a bottle of bourbon and stolen plans for a new railroad line. Brady has barely come to before the police have arrested him for the murder. But Emma is sure someone is trying to railroad her brother and resolves to find the real killer at any cost…

Dollycas’s Thoughts
What an awesome debut!!!

Emma Cross inherited much more than Gull Manor from her Aunt Sadie. She inherited her wit and her spunk as well. Her parents have traveled abroad to follow their own dreams and left her to handle everything on her own.  Using the small annuity left to her by her Aunt and the wages she earns writing about social events for the local paper she keeps up what she can at Gull Manor. She really is not Cornelius Vanderbilt’s niece. She is actually his second cousin “twice or thrice removed” but she calls him Uncle because she could never call the shipping magnate or his wife by just their first names. They invite her to parties, try to watch over her and hope to find her a suitable husband even though that is the furthest thing from her mind. She is very independent and has little fear of anything and seems to be wise beyond her years. She is a wonderful protagonist. I was engaged by her story immediately.

The author introduces us to many wonderful characters, the local Vanderbilt’s of course, Emma’s step brother Brady, her “cousin” Neily,  Nanny, who has been at Gull Manor forever, Emma’s maid, Katie, Officer Jessie Whyte, and Derrick “Anderson”. I look forward to getting to know more about all of them and their stories in future installments.

What I really loved about this book is that while the story is fictional it is based on fact. A party similar to the one in book actually took place. The author used her research to craft a mystery that was interwoven into a story of a family most of us are familiar with on some level, maybe not back to 1895, but they were one of the riches families in American history.

The mystery was a good one too. Emma was not afraid to keep digging and observed many things the local authorities either missed or ignored. She was not afraid to ask the hard questions even when those questions put her own life in danger. She also found an unexpected ally.

There was so much I loved about this book. It takes us back in time to a slower lifestyle when visiting meant harnessing up the horse to the buggy and traveling down a dirt road going house to house or manor to manor.

This is definitely an author to watch.  I can’t wait for Murder at Marble House (A Gilded Newport Mystery) out September 29.

a perfect escape5 STARFISH

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Thanks to the author I have 2 copies to give away!

Contest is open to anyone over 18 years old
with a US or Canadian mailing address.

Duplicate entries will be deleted. Void where prohibited.

You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

Leave a comment for Alyssa for 5 Bonus Entries !

If you publicize the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere you will receive
5 Bonus Entries For Each Link.

Contest Will End April 9 , 2014 at 11:59 PM CST
Winner Will Be Chosen By
Winner Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

40 thoughts on “Cozy Wednesday with Alyssa Maxwell – Author of Murder at the Breakers (Giveaway too!)

  1. Looks like an excellent murder mystery – a must-read! Thank you for the chance to win 🙂

  2. Good morning, and thank you, Dollycas for hosting me today, and for that wonderful review. Honestly, I’ll be floating the rest of the day on that one! I’ll be in and out this morning, but I’ll be back later to answer any questions anyone might have. Enjoy escaping into the Gilded Age!

  3. This book is on my reading list! After visiting the Newport area and seeing the mansions, I think it will be very interesting!

  4. This series looks like it will be a lot of fun and very interesting also, because of the unusual setting and time in history. I look forward to reading it, thanks!

  5. Congratulations on the publication of Murder at the Breakers! It sounds like a fascinating book. Loved your post on research. Thanks for sharing.

  6. This sounds like a really good story! I enjoyed the review very much and the books is one I’ll have to read. I always like series books and this one being set in Newport makes it even better.

  7. This looks so fab! I, too, enjoy reading a book that is fiction but based on fact. I like finding a new main female character who forges ahead and bucks the system. I look forward to reading this book and the rest of the series.

  8. Your book sounds fantastic. Looking forward to reading it. Thank you for the opportunity of the giveaway.

  9. Alyssa: Good morning. I can see why you chose the setting, but how did you come up with your main character, Emma, and how did you choose her name?
    I like the idea of visiting the past, but would only want to do so if I visited as a wealthy person. And I think I’d miss my creature comforts like air conditioning, especially when wearing those heavy dresses.

    1. Vickie, Emma is a favorite name of mine, but I wanted to make it fussy, something her relatives would insist on using, much to her chagrin. Hence, Emmaline. In my mind Emma is a true combination of Vanderbilt – someone who’s driven and determined – and native Newporter, which makes her stubborn and sturdy. She was also influenced by the 19th century reporter, Nellie Bly. I love writing with the challenges of the past in terms of solving crimes without modern forensics and a woman having to work within the social confines of propriety (or find ways of getting around them), but in reality, I’m with you. I like my modern comforts, but I’m very much aware that the people who came before us paved the way for us with their ingenuity and spirit of adventure.

  10. Alyssa, I am impressed at the amount of clothing, jewelry, transportation etc. you researched and applied in this tale!
    It is beautiful and amazing!

  11. I haven’t read a historical in awhile, this one seems like a good one to get back into them. I love the pictures, the gowns are gorgeous and I can’t believe the detail work in the shoes and bags, a lost art. Thanks for the chance to win.

  12. Love this time period. Often reading about England but interested in reading this one set in NY. I do enjoy historical mysteries! Thank for the giveaway chance!

  13. This sounds like a great beginning of a terrific new series! It makes it so much more fun when you know that a lot of research has gone into the crafting of the story. Thanks for all your hard work and fun facts. This would make such a nice win.

  14. Wow, what a wonderful response! Thank you all for taking time out of your day to escape with me! And thank you, Dollycas for having me. I see the contest ends on April 9th, so I’ll check back every now and then in case anyone has a question. I see I must have left the .com off my website link, so here it is again: Good night!

  15. I love history. This sounds like a great read and I am looking forward to reading it 🙂

  16. I love the time period the book is set in, and the pretty cover. Emma sounds like a great character, and I’d love to read it. Thanks for having the giveaway.

  17. I have always thought the GIlded Age would have been fun – as long as one had plenty of money. This is a wonderful period in America. So many things going on – inventions, the Wild West, the Klondike Gold Rush. Everywhere you look there is the possibility of adventure. This sounds like a wonderful tale.

  18. I can’t believe those gowns and accessories! But I’m so awkward I’d probably trip over my train. Or someone else would step on in and I’d end up on the floor. How on earth did one dance wearing one of them?

  19. Sounds like a terrific read, Alyssa. Movie to the top of my TBR list.

  20. Looking forward to the marble house book. I just toured it on Monday March 31 2014

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