Book review: ‘High Tea’ by Sandra Harper

Margaret Moore runs a quaint tearoom in downtown Los Angeles, where she’s lived near her ex-husband and grown daughter for decades. A British expat, Margaret adjusted reasonably well to life in the Golden State — but now, after years away from London, she’s wondering what she might have missed. Compounded with her disillusionment over the hurried, superficial lives of L.A.’s residents, Margaret’s daydreams about returning home may become more than fantasies.

Baking scones and brewing tea alongside Margaret at Magpie’s Tearoom are Lilly, a pastry chef who yearns for more out of life — and her relationship with Deborah, her girlfriend much her junior; Clarissa, an aging actress still desperately clawing for that one part to send her on the path to stardom; and Lauren, a younger actress who spends more time gallivanting with her boyfriend than studying the craft of acting . . . but still manages to snag good roles. Lauren and Clarissa are servers at Magpie’s, but tensions around the building are brewing faster (and stronger) than the tea.

Sandra Harper’s High Tea looked to be a light, savory little chick lit novel — and I guess, if I were feeling vapid and ridiculous, I might have enjoyed it more. I read Harper’s Over The Holidays last December and thought it was fun, though it was badly stricken with Too Many Characters-itis. This one suffered the same illness: too many characters and far too many storylines resulted in my total ambivalence about everyone in this quick read.

Margaret is our main character and, as such, we get the most of her back story — which would have been fairly interesting if I had a clue what any of it meant to her. Her ex-husband, Tony, was a starry-eyed actor who brought his young family to Los Angeles as he pursued a stage career. Now older, wiser and, you know, gay, Tony and Margaret have divorced but continue to raise their daughter, Kate, together. As the years have gone on, Margaret and Tony have become friends — even as Tony, now 60, lives with his long-term boyfriend but watches said boyfriend parade young men through the house.

All very interesting, but how was Margaret feeling? She’s a 60-year-old divorcee whose husband — a man with whom she was once madly in love — has left her and come out of the closet. That’s enough to send anyone into a psychotic break, I’d reckon, but we never get even an inkling of emotion from our heroine. This isn’t a fresh wound in the story, of course; all of this went down years before High Tea opens. But still: there’s nothing.

Lilly’s plotline felt completely ridiculous to me, too. Here we have a woman with dreams, ambitions, goals — and the inability to stop being a doormat to her young girlfriend, a high-powered Hollywood producer who treats Lilly more like a mother than a significant other. Lilly is obsessed with their sex life — or lack thereof — and spoiler: she hops into bed with a stranger with absolutely no preamble. Struck dumb by the idea of life without Deborah, Lilly somehow has zero issue cheating on her with someone she doesn’t even know. And suddenly they’re planning a whole life together? In about .567 seconds? What?

Clarissa and Lauren passed in and out of the story so infrequently, I can’t really bother to comment on them. I never got to know either woman, other than that one was “old” and one was “young,” and apparently that’s an “issue” in Hollywood. Yeah, thanks for the breaking news that all starlets are supposed to be fresh-faced, doe-eyed and thin. Got it.

Meh. I won’t go on. I’m a huge fan of chick lit and love tea — hence why I picked this one up, coupled with the pink cover — but I sped through it in no time because I was bored. Margaret’s sojourn to England provided a brief and promising change of scenery, but it never amounted to much.

2 out of 5!

ISBN: 141658062X ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy purchased by Meg

8 thoughts on “Book review: ‘High Tea’ by Sandra Harper

  1. I think the cover would have sold it to me too. Shame it wasn’t very good. Can’t understand why they put so many characters in it, and end up confusing the reader.


  2. I agree with you- the cover would make me pick this up, as would the premise, but apparently those are misleading!

    Oh, I got your card and my new favourite bookmark in the mail the other day. Thank-you!


  3. I so appreciate the honesty you infuse into your reviews. As a writer who is currently wrestling with her second novel, it is very very helpful for me to see the things that weigh a book down and hinder its appeal. Today I learned to be careful about creating too many characters and also to make sure that all back story should serve a purpose in furthering the present story line… I don’t reckon you intended to “teach” with this review, but I must say I learned!


  4. Meg — your honesty is appreciated — I am going to veer away from this one because now I have read enough of your reviews that I know this one isn’t for me. Sorry you had to push through… 🙂


  5. Thank you so much for this review, Meg. I have picked this book from the shelf many times – and fortunately put it back. I am always drawn to the cover but have never purchased it for one reason or another. Now I am fairly certain that I won’t be getting this one – ever.


  6. Thanks for your honest review. You’re certainly right about the cover- adorable! However, I’ll definitely be staying away from this one…I can’t stand when there are too many characters- I get so lost!


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