After dropping out of culinary school and getting her heart broken by a cowboy, Everly Swan has returned to Charm, her quaint seaside hometown in North Carolina. Things are looking up: she's just opened her dream iced tea shop and cafe in a gorgeous Victorian house that's also her new home. But when a cranky local councilman is found dead on the boardwalk with one of Everly's signature tea jars next to him and poison in his system, she must battle a wave of suspicion from the townspeople. An anonymous vandal begins targeting Everly's shop, and she becomes even more determined to clear her name and find the killer. Bree Baker brews up a cozy mystery as sweet and Southern as Everly's tea in her debut, Live and Let Chai.
Baker fills her town with (mostly) appealing characters, including the owners of Charm's other small businesses: the bookstore, the ice cream shop, the general store. Everly's quirky beekeeper aunts, Fran and Clara, offer more local color and emotional support, while an unnervingly handsome, new-in-town detective provides expert crime analysis and a bit of romantic interest. In classic amateur sleuth fashion, Everly follows every lead with more tenacity than discretion, throwing a wrench or two into the police investigation, but also turning up some useful information. While Everly's cooking skills far outpace her sleuthing abilities, this is an enjoyable setup for Baker's series, best enjoyed with a sweating glass of sweet tea. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams