Skip to product information
1 of 1

Sue Hollowell

Cotton Candy and Chaos (PAPERBACK)

Cotton Candy and Chaos (PAPERBACK)

Regular price $10.99 USD
Regular price Sale price $10.99 USD
Sale Sold out


Missing rare books, a honeymoon interrupted, and a sticky situation...

With her uncle’s wedding in the books, Tilly agrees to look over the antique shop while he is on his honeymoon. A set of rare books has arrived to be brokered to a local collector.

Tilly opens up when she discovers the books are missing, and the neighboring bookstore owner hints that she has rescued the books from an untimely demise.

The investigation is quickly gummed up when suspicion lands on the newcomer cotton candy vendor in town.

Can Tilly turn the page and recover the literary collection before the honeymoon is cut short?


 Paperback 101 pages
 Dimensions 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches (127 x 12.7 x 203 mm)
 Publication date March 8, 2023
 Publisher Free Heart Productions


The beach was sparsely populated at this hour. No doubt with what promised to be another Chamber of Commerce day, it would soon be packed with families enjoying their time. I paused along the boardwalk and gazed over the foamy waves toward the light lavender sky.

Across the expanse, Uncle Jack and Linda were enjoying their honeymoon. They had chosen to island hop in Hawaii, a place I eventually longed to visit. You would think living in tropical Belle Harbor would satisfy my desire for sun, sand, and palm trees. But the lure of the Hawaiian culture and the breathtaking pictures of the recently erupting volcano firmly planted the desire in my brain.

It was too soon to consider the destination for a honeymoon for Justin and me. We weren't even engaged. And in reality, not that long ago that my husband and I had divorced. Not by my choice. You could say his affair blindsided me, but I wracked my memories for clues. Had there been evidence along the way I had missed?

Shaking my head, I continued my trek to Checkered Past Antiques. My former life contrasted my current reality in every way. The cold of Boston replaced by the almost always perfect climate in Belle Harbor. And Unkie was my biggest cheerleader. There was nothing I wouldn't do for that man.

Taking over running the antique shop felt like a trial run for Uncle Jack stepping back from his business. One that he and Uncle Frank started decades ago. I wasn't quite ready for that transition. I craved some stability and normalcy for my life, just for a bit. But life never stood still. And wasn't that what it was all about? Adventure and excitement. Hiring a new employee in the bakery meant that Unkie's new wife Linda could spend more time with him. She had partnered with me to build the bakery to what it is now. Nobody could replace her skills, experience, and friendship. But finding Noah was a coup. He had moved from Portland, Oregon, where he managed several cafés and on-site bakeries, looking for a slower pace of life.

I retrieved the keys to the antique shop, entered, and flipped on the overhead lights. Snickering, I pondered performing a little organization of the displays before Unkie returned. He and I had many conversations about the seemingly hodge-podge order of the place. Uncle Jack contended people loved the thrill of the hunt when discovering antiques. I couldn't make any rhyme or reason of the system. But with his success over the years, he knew what he was talking about.

The peace of the morning prior to the throngs of visitors arriving was my favorite time. I made my way back to the counter to prep the cash register and inventory log for the opening. Unkie was still old school with how he ran the place. With each step along the way, my shoe stuck to the floor and squeaked as I peeled it off. Leaning on a nearby table and inspecting the bottom of my shoe, I spotted pink and blue goo. There wasn't any sand sticking to it, so I must have encountered it inside the shop. Had the cleaners not arrived yet?

Placing my foot on the floor, I glanced around. Everything looked in order. I made a mental note to check with the cleaners to see if they had come. Certainly, if they had noticed the sticky floor, they would have scrubbed it. The gummy path continued the entire route to the back. What in the world had happened? The buildup on my shoe would have to be chiseled off.

Behind the counter, I retrieved the inventory log book and plopped it onto the surface. I pulled out my phone to text Carlos that I would have the place ready when his shift started. The wild start to his employment with Uncle Jack began with his wife going into labor in the antique shop, and ended with the birth of a beautiful baby boy. The family was ever grateful to Unkie for Carlos' job.

Using my peripheral vision to the right, something caught my eye. Or rather, the absence of something. A gaping space on the storage shelf where Uncle Jack staged inventory to be logged just glared at me. My pulse instantly sped up. This was not good. I shook my head to recall if Uncle Jack mentioned the broker would have already picked up the books. Goosebumps rose on my arms. While I was insanely busy at the bakery, I was certain I would have remembered that detail. The collection of rare books provided a history of birds.

I sped up and down the aisles, looking high and low for the books. I scoured every inch of the place, then stopped in the middle, spinning around. Squinting to focus intently, I slowed my pace for another round of the store. They had to be here. OK, Tilly, get it together!

Returning to the back of the store, I flopped into a seat in the coffee corner. The place Unkie loved to gab with friends and customers. Inhaling slowly, closing my eyes, I placed my sweaty palms on my thighs. Breathing out, my pulse slowed. Assuring myself there was a logical explanation, I squeezed my eyes tight.

"Good morning, Tilly." Justin's voice pierced the silence.

I bolted from the chair and placed my hand on my heart, sure it would explode from my chest. "Justin, you startled me."

He approached, holding out his hand. "What's wrong?"

Justin lived in the apartment above the antique store. He served as an extra layer of security for Checkered Past Antiques. Surely if someone had broken in, he would have heard it. Wouldn't he? With that revelation, I assured myself there was probably a silly answer to the location of those books. If only I could hold on to that fantasy.

I returned to the chair and buried my head in my hands, sniffling. "I failed Unkie."

Justin knelt next to me, draping his arm around my shoulders. I leaned into him, hoping two heads would be better than one in figuring out this mystery. "Tell me what's going on."

My ragged inhale prompted more tears. Justin patiently waited. I turned toward him. "The rare books Uncle Jack was holding for a broker are gone." I extended my arm in the direction they used to be.

He followed my gaze and stood. "Let's take it one step at a time." Of course, my logical boyfriend would calm me with common sense. He walked over to the vacant shelf, staring at it, stroking his chin. "There could be any normal reason they wouldn't be here."

Returning to my side, he started, "First, do you remember the name of the broker Jack was holding the books for?"

Springing from my chair, I grabbed the inventory book, flipping through several pages, believing the name would pop out. Nothing written in the last two weeks provided any inkling of where the books might be. "Maybe Carlos does. He should be here soon."

"Well, let's not panic until we know more."

"Is it possible the books hadn't arrived yet? And maybe Uncle Jack just made space for them?" I tried to get on board with the methodical analysis of the situation, despite my body in full-on hysterics.

View full details