Amy Ridley’s best friend, Carla, is getting married, and Amy is delighted to be recruited as the head wedding planner—even if Carla’s demands are less than conventional. Case in point: Carla insists on a tower of doughnuts in place of a wedding cake. But navigating the world of nuptials becomes the least of Amy’s problems when the owner of a menswear shop is found dead, and Carla’s fiancé is assigned to the case. With the honeymoon in jeopardy, Amy and Carla vow to help track down the killer…but they soon discover there are even more sinister happenings affecting the businesses in downtown Kellerton, Michigan. If Amy doesn’t figure out who is behind the deadly schemes, the nearly newlywed detective may just be solving another murder—hers!
“These are so good,” Carla said as she broke off a chunk of the cinnamon maple doughnut. She popped the pastry in her mouth and washed it down with a sip of coffee. “I want a mountain of doughnuts instead of a fancy wedding cake.”
Carla had said the W word—wedding. Amy sighed as she turned back to her work. She plunged her latex-gloved hand into the bowl of blueberry glaze to retrieve the warm doughnut she had dropped during the moment of shock. The cake rings were supposed to only be dipped half way into the lavender-colored glaze, not released to sink to the bottom of the bowl.
Her fingers closed around the wayward doughnut as she reached with her other hand to free a square of waxed paper from the dispenser box at the back of the counter. She turned to look at her best friend as she let the excess glaze drip back into the bowl. “You’re thinking about wedding cakes…or at least a version of one. Does that mean you’ve set a date?”
Detective Bruce Shepler had asked Carla to marry him at the beginning of the year. It was a huge milestone for her formerly commitment-phobic friend, who had asked Amy to help plan the wedding right after the glittering engagement ring landed on her finger. Great. Wonderful. She would love to help. But since then the couple had refused to actually plan the wedding, saying they were too busy or hadn’t figured out what they wanted. Until now.
The quip about doughnuts instead of cake was the first time Carla had mentioned the big day on her own without being prompted by Amy.
Carla grinned. “June fifteenth.”
Amy plopped the overly glazed blueberry doughnut onto the square of waxed paper and set the extra-gooey baked good on the metal-topped table in front of Carla. They were in the smaller, original kitchen of Riverbend Café that housed the doughnut makers and a pastry decorating area. Carla had stopped in for breakfast, like she often did after she finished a night shift at the hospital. She ate and chatted while Amy worked through her morning baking tasks.
“So we have a year to plan? That should be enough time to come up with a fabulous wedding,” Amy said as she resumed her icing duties. She needed to catch up. Sophie, the café’s owner, had been quietly churning out doughnuts while Amy was distracted by the big wedding announcement. She deposited two, perfectly glazed doughnuts onto a cooling rack and turned to look at Carla as she grabbed two more naked doughnuts. Her friend was pretending to be completely engrossed in studying the newly delivered sweet treat. Amy cleared her throat.
“Not a year.” Carla looked up and met her gaze. “About three weeks from now.”
This time both of the unusually slippery doughnuts escaped from Amy’s grasp. They ricocheted off the edge of the stainless steel worktable then rolled across the white tile floor before ending their journey in front of the convection oven. Her mind would likely follow suit with all of her mental marbles rolling away, possibly never to be found again.
Guest Post By Janel Gradowski:
Curiosity is an invaluable trait for writers. As we write asking ourselves “how” and “what if” can lead to some interesting plot twists. We hoard bits of information like crows, decorating our writer’s minds with sparkly ideas. Yes, the internet is a great place to research strange news stories, adorable animals and odd people. Since I write a culinary mystery series, my curiosity extends to food.
My tendency to try food because it’s interesting or different drives my family crazy, because sometimes I attempt to get them to sample the culinary oddities too. Last week I had octopus salad. My husband tried one chunk of the purple-hued seafood, declared it “better than he had expected”, but didn’t want any more. Which, I have to admit, is a more adventurous reaction than usual. Most times nobody will even try the more unusual foods I love. Miso, kimchi, dried seaweed snacks, kefir, millet, buckwheat groats and dried tofu skin are all currently in my pantry or refrigerator. One of my favorite things to do is roam around ethnic and natural foods grocery stores, checking out new-to-me ingredients.
I actually made Amy, the star of my Culinary Competition series, an adventurous eater too. She tries unusual foods to evaluate whether she can incorporate them into her award-winning recipes. I try unique foods so I can use them in my books. Right now I am making water kefir – fermented sugar water with natural carbonation when fruit is added to it. I can’t wait to try different flavor combinations, but my family just looks at the jar sitting on my counter like it’s some sort of science experiment that should be avoided. Which, I have to admit, it sort of is since there are bacteria and yeast colonies doing the work of turning sugar and water into kefir. And you should hear the complaints when I eat kimchi. While I love the spicy, tangy, garlicky Korean version of sauerkraut, my husband and kids certainly don’t appreciate the pungent aroma. Nobody in my house currently shares my love of healthy, probiotic-filled fermented foods.
There is a scene in Doughnuts & Deadly Schemes that is based on conversations that have played out many times in my real life. Amy’s best friend, Carla, is a rather picky eater. She’s watched Amy sample all sorts of foods that make her cringe. But in this book, she finds something that Amy refuses to try. My husband and kids love it when they find something they like, but I won’t touch – usually things like sausage snack sticks or extremely spicy foods. Bits of an author’s real life often end up in books. While my love of food and cooking comes through in my writing, I’m just glad the murder investigations are purely made up and not from real life experience.
Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications.
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