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A Cup of Tea

A Cup of Tea

3.8 5
by Amy Ephron

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A seductive romance, set in New York City's high society during the period of World War I

A Cup of Tea is about two very different women and their pursuit of one man. Inspired by the classic Katherine Mansfield short story, Amy Ephron's novel begins when a privileged socialite, Rosemary Fell, invites Eleanor Smith, a penniless young woman, to her home to


A seductive romance, set in New York City's high society during the period of World War I

A Cup of Tea is about two very different women and their pursuit of one man. Inspired by the classic Katherine Mansfield short story, Amy Ephron's novel begins when a privileged socialite, Rosemary Fell, invites Eleanor Smith, a penniless young woman, to her home to warm herself by the fire and to have a cup of tea. When Rosemary sees her fiancé Phillip, exchange a look with Eleanor, she gives the young woman a few dollars and sends her on her way, thinking she has cast Eleanor out of their lives. Instead, this chance encounter sets into play a tempestuous and all-consuming triangle in the great romantic tradition. Rosemary will marry Phillip, but can she stop the passion between Eleanor and Phillip? As the war builds in Europe, Phillip is conscripted to fight abroad, throwing all of their lives further off-balance.

Amy Ephron's beautifully written tale is brought to life by its vivid (and often amusing) cast of characters, its wonderful period detail of New York's drawing rooms and hat shops, and its delightfully spare and picturesque sense of story.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ephron turns the notion of the good Samaritan on its head in a bauble of a tale about altruism gone horribly wrong. In New York City in 1917, well-to-do Rosemary Fell offers indigent Eleanor Smith tea, sympathy and shelter from the rain. Little does she suspect what sort of Pandora's box her somewhat patronizing generosity will open. After a friend of Rosemary's helps Eleanor find work in a millinery shop, it's Eleanor's destiny to become romantically involved with Rosemary's fianc, self-made Philip Alsop, as the U.S. prepares to go to war and duty-driven Philip prepares to do his part. Ephron (Bruised Fruit, etc.) alludes to the cataclysmic events about to occur, pitting sense against instinct as Philip leaves not one but two home fires burning brightly behind him. All of the period detail is correct right down to the last street lamp, but the book reads more like a treatment than a fully imagined novel. Ephron gives us a rich situation and a carefully drawn setting filled with recognizable types. But she gives us no character. Even for a lightly satiric period romance, this cup of tea is too thin and watery. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Ephron (Biodegradable Soap, LJ 4/91) spins this tale of romance in New York City circa 1917. Wealthy society lady Rosemary Fell is engaged to marry Philip Alsop. On a rainy afternoon after shopping, Rosemary spots Eleanor, an apparently homeless woman, huddled in the cold. Thinking she is being charitable, Rosemary invites Eleanor home for a cup of tea. When Philip comes home and meets Eleanor, Rosemary notices a spark of interest in Philip's eye and promptly sends her on her way. It is too latePhilip's romantic feelings have been kindled. He begins to see Eleanor while continuing his marriage plans with Rosemary. The betrothed are married ahead of schedule as Philip is to be shipped to Europe to fight in the war. The story of their love triangle continues to unfold to a surprising end. Based on the Katherine Mansfield short story, this brief yet direct novel about duty and honor makes for engrossing reading. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/97.]Robin Nesbitt, Hilltop Branch Lib., Columbus, Ohio
School Library Journal
YA--Rosemary Fell, privileged and accustomed to having all that she wants, is set to marry Philip Alsop. Of the same social class, Philip struggled years to build his own shipping concern into a success after the death of his father. Now their future together seems to promise happiness. Then Rosemary invites Eleanor Smith home with her, offering the seemingly penniless young woman temporary shelter from the weather. Instead, Philip instantly falls in love with her and the star-crossed love pulls all three characters into a dramatic, sorrowful ending. Ephron writes short, intense chapters, yet allows room for emotions and imagination to expand fully. She maintains interest by ending the chapters exactly at the next eventful point in the story, making the novel a natural page-turner. Sustaining the tension between the characters, while subtly interweaving more complexities of the plot, the author builds towards the intense conclusion. Using precise historical details of 1917 New York society, from clothing to moral attitudes, Ephron captures the ambiance of the era as well as the differences in lifestyles between the wealthy and working classes.--Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Entertainment Weekly
An elegant love story...Storytelling as exquisitely sculpted as fine porcelain.
West Coast Review of Books
A jewel...This novel will plunge you into New York City in the turbulent year of 1917 and will keep you enthralled....A page-turner from start to finish, Ms. Ephron's spare novel has classic proportions.
Kirkus Reviews
Screenwriter/novelist Ephron (Biodegradable Soap, 1991, etc., and the film A Little Princess) claims that this tragic romance, set in WW-I New York, is inspired by a Katherine Mansfield story, but her sketchy characters, unconvincing historical detail, and hopelessly wooden prose hardly benefit by the comparison.

It's the winter of 1917, and the US is on the brink of war, but New York socialite Rosemary Fell refuses to let international events interfere with her wedding plans. Motherless from a young age, Rosemary depends on her fiancé, Philip Alsop, and best friend, closet lesbian Jane Howard, to provide her with diversion, advice, and news of the world. But she acts on her own whim when, out shopping one day, she spots a poor young woman on a street corner and decides to take her home and fix her up. It takes only a few hours for Rosemary to realize that Eleanor Smith, the unfortunate product of a broken family but younger and prettier than she, is far too attractive to Philip to keep around. She dispatches Eleanor back to the streets at once, a few dollars clutched in her hand. With Jane's help, Eleanor finds a job in a hat shop, and inevitably she's there the day Philip drops by to pick up an order for his fiancée. The two become lovers, irresistibly drawn to each other despite Philip's ensuing marriage, and continuing so even after his posting to Europe and after erroneous report of his death on the battlefield. When Philip returns to America to find that Eleanor has borne his illegitimate child, he swears he'll leave Rosemary—only to be foiled by his distraught young wife, who turns out to be not so oblivious after all. A failed experiment in historical fiction. Ephron should stick to what she knows.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Ballantine Reader's Circle Series
Product dimensions:
4.94(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.37(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Cup Of Tea

New York City
January, 1917

A young woman stood under a street lamp. It was difficult to make her out at first because she was standing almost in shadow and the mist from the ground, the rains and approaching night made the air and the street seem similarly gray and damp. It was dusk. A light rain was falling.

A man walked up and solicited her. It startled her. She shook her head and turned away. Without another thought of her, he hailed a cab which stopped for him at once. She pulled the thin sweater, hardly protection from the rain, tighter around her shoulders as she stepped back from the curb to avoid the spray of dirt and water as the taxi pulled away.

Down the streets a very different scene. In an antique store famous for accepting only quality estates and European shipments where not a speck of dust had ever been allowed to gather on the shelves, a woman, slightly older than the woman under the street lamp, stood in front of a display case. Her name was Rosemary Fell. Her clothing was exquisite. Her dark hair framed her face even though in the morning she had put it up severely but it was of such thickness that no amount of Coaxing, particularly in damp weather, could ever get it not to fall, a few moments later, softly around her face. She liked the effect and would sometimes play with one of the curls about her forehead when she wanted to appear as though she was thinking of something. Her stance was casual, almost disinterested, her gloves and coat still on as though she had not yet decided whether she had stopped in long enough to actually consider anything. Mr. Rhenquist, the owner of the antique store, was all overher.

"You see, I love my things," he said, in low respectful tones, waiting for her reaction. "I would rather not part with them than sell them to someone who has not that"-he gestured with his hand displaying a pale green jade ring on his ring finger that Rosemary could not help but notice — "feeling of appreciation which is so rare."

He unrolled a tiny square of blue velvet and pressed it on the glass counter with his pale finger-tips. It was an enamel box he had been keeping for her with a glaze so fine it looked as though it had been baked in cream. "I saved this for you."

On its lid, a minute creature stood under a flowery tree. A hat, no bigger than a geranium petal, with green ribbons, hung from a branch. And a pink cloud like a watchful cherub floated above the creature's head. Rosemary took her hands out of her long gloves to examine the box ...

A Cup Of Tea. Copyright (c) by Amy Ephron . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Amy Ephron is the bestselling author of the acclaimed novels One Sunday Morning and A Cup of Tea. Her magazine pieces and essays have appeared in Vogue; Saveur; House Beautiful; the National Lampoon; the Los Angeles Times; the Huffington Post; Defamer; her own online magazine, One for the Table; and various other print and online publications. She recently directed a short film, Chloe@3AM, which was featured at the American Cinematheque’s Focus on Female Directors Short Film Showcase in January 2011. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alan Rader, and any of their five children who happen to drop in.

Brief Biography

Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:
October 21, 1952
Place of Birth:
Beverly Hills, California

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4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books I have ever read!!! Amy Ephron is by far my favorite writer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this is an awesome book. I enjoyed from start to finish. It really put you "there" and made you almost feel like a character. I recommend it to EVERYONE!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book 'A Cup of Tea' was quite a disappointment. It was very pretictable. Before Ephron wrote anymore you already knew what was going to happen. The book was well written but very typical. A classic love story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow what a book of love and total betrayal. A cup of Tea ia a wonderful book by Amy Ephron. Dealing with a love triangle that keeps you guessing from start to finish. Ephron did an exquisite job on describing the scene of 1917 and the events that happen. The detail of the characters and how society viewed them was depicted as well. This book is a quick read that will get you interested after the first chapter. You also can see how diffrent society was in 1917. I would recommend this book to everyone. It is easy to read and follow along with, it would be a good book for high school English teachers to consider giving their students to read. This book was ia awsome!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A cup of Tea is an enjoyable way to spend an hour or two. Although not quite the period piece the cover promotes, it is a charming story that will keep you guessing the outcome.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought that this book was beautifully written. Amy Ephron made me really care about the characters, and made me feel emotions like heartbreat, elation, and lividity. Go and check it out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Cup of Tea is my favorite book. I am only 14 years but i love this book. I love the way it starts happy and everything is okay, then the middle becomes of sadness when Philip has to leave Rosemary. Then when he comes back its kind of like a new world, when he sees Rosemary. Then the world begins when he sees Elenor with the .... well ur going to have to read the book to find out that one. Then the ending was a shock, I got sad when i found out the end. I highly suggest this book to people who like romance and things along that line of things.