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Sue Hollowell

Cupcakes and Catastrophe (PAPERBACK)

Cupcakes and Catastrophe (PAPERBACK)

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A nightmare ending to her storybook marriage. An escape to a quaint beach town. Will a mysterious murder derail a second chance at her dream?

Tilly Griffin did everything by the book. Everyone else’s book. Now it was her turn to write a new chapter, three thousand miles from her former life. Her dream of opening a bakery like her grandma Luna was now becoming a reality.

No sooner does she arrive in the charming beach town, when she and her quirky uncle are tangled up in a mysterious death. When a kite competition judge is found murdered in the bookstore next to her uncle's Checkered Past Antiques shop, Tilly questions her decision to move to Belle Harbor, and everything about her new life.

As the clues emerge, and the small-town secrets are revealed, Tilly’s uncle finds himself smack dab in the middle of the investigation, and surrounded by suspects. Will the murderer be nabbed in time for the bakery’s grand opening or will this close the book on Tilly’s dreams?


 Paperback 90 pages
 Dimensions 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches (127 x 12.7 x 203 mm)
 ISBN 979-8539227159
 Publication date March 4, 2021
 Publisher Free Heart Productions


“Uncle Jack, you don’t have to do that. Why don’t you sit and rest a bit?” My dear uncle had been working nonstop ever since I had agreed to move to Belle Harbor. I wasn’t so sure about the arrangement, but I was ready for a big change in my life. And I couldn’t get a much bigger change than leaving the cold East Coast city of Boston, Massachusetts, and leaping across the country to the small, sunny beach town of Belle Harbor. In some ways, it was an easy transition. Who could argue with the weather? And Uncle Jack was one of my favorite people on the planet. The scariest part was finally pursuing my dream of opening a bakery, just like my Grandma Luna had done.

“Don’t be silly, Tilly,” Uncle Jack said. “Hey, I made a rhyme.”

I rolled my eyes. Truthfully, Uncle Jack’s organization system left a lot to be desired. He ran the Checkered Past Antique shop right on the boardwalk at Belle Harbor. I couldn’t see how he had an inkling of what was in the store. From my vantage point, it was a hodgepodge of junk. A set of six crystal wine glasses sat next to a statue of an old sea mariner holding binoculars, next to a two-foot-tall silver-stemmed bowl holding what looked like fake dill pickles. Somehow, he and his brother had made it work for decades.

“I can’t thank you enough, Unkie. You really are making my dream come true.” I strolled through the aisles of treasures, surveying how I might help him better arrange the pieces for sale. I made mental notes, not wanting to upset the apple cart on my first official day. I stopped and observed him furiously working in the corner he had cleared out to make room for my very first bakeshop. Moving items out of the space for my supplies created even bigger piles of antiques. “You really should let me help you.”

He lifted his head from his focus at the work counter he had set up for my baking. “Oh, Til.” His voiced cracked. He stepped toward me and held out his hand. “I would do anything for you.”

Somehow, he had gotten a smudge of flour on his face. I reached up and wiped it away. He tilted his head and smiled warmly. We both returned to the baking corner. He had fully equipped me with a little kitchen to begin my new life as a baker. The area had an oven, sink, cabinets, and counters for supplies and tools. The only thing was . . . his system for setting it up looked exactly the same as his antique store. I would later find a way to hopefully, without his noticing, shift things around to be more usable for my purposes.

“OK, let’s sit for a bit,” he said. I followed him to the side of the cash register, where we each plopped into an Elizabethan-style wooden chair. I felt like we were waiting for the jester to arrive and perform for us. Uncle Jack was a spry seventy-year-old man with vigor for life. I knew my move here would inject all kinds of adventure into my life. I just wasn’t sure what it would be. He had lost a bit of his step ever since his brother, and partner in the store, had passed away. Those two together caused a lot of mischief, according to my mom. But I had only ever seen them as a hoot while I was growing up.

Mom and Dad never knew what to do with me, so they shipped me off every summer to stay with Jack and Frank. Little did they know, it only emboldened my creative side. I was about as far as you could get from the stodgy professions of my parents.

I looked at him and reached over to grab his hand. It was well worn from a life of physical labor. My uncle was never one to shy away from hard work. His balding head and trim white beard framed his warm brown eyes. That man really would do anything for his friends and family.

“I’m thinking I’ll name the bakery Luna’s Bakeshop. What do you think?”

He rested his head against the tall back of the chair, closed his eyes, and smiled. “She would be so pleased you’re following in her footsteps.” Grandma Luna was as much of a kook as my uncles. I couldn’t figure out how in a million years my mom turned out the way she did. Perhaps a reverse rebellion from a wild and crazy mother of her own. He turned and looked at me. “You look like her too. In her day, she wouldn’t have dyed her hair blue like you have. But everything else? The spitting image.”

That couldn’t have been a higher compliment. I would take that as a sign I was on the right track for my new life. “So I’m planning to make Grandma’s signature cream-filled cupcakes for my inaugural recipe.”

Uncle Jack shook his head. “Tilly, you’re going to be a hit in this town. They’ll be lining up out the door. And I don’t mean just customers.”
I stood, turned, and pointed a finger at him. “Don’t you dare fix me up. I just got out of a relationship, and I’m nowhere near ready for another. I’m going to focus on building my business and just enjoying myself for a change.” I moved to a nearby table, piled high with antiques, and shifted a few things around to busy myself. Truthfully, I wanted to hide from life in my bakery. The ink hadn’t even dried on my divorce papers. Any thoughts of that life, three thousand miles away, hurt my heart. And if I let my mind go there, it quickly became a downward spiral. In time I would process it. But not today.

Uncle Jack pushed himself out of the chair. I heard a couple of cracks in the quiet store, probably both from his knees and the old furniture. He steadied himself and said, “Let’s step outside and see what’s going on with the kite festival. I could use some warmth in these old bones.”

I looked around. “But who’s going to watch the store?”

He waved his arm around the space. “Everyone’s at the kite festival. And besides, we’ll only go far enough so that we can still see if someone comes in.”

That was something else I would have to get used to. In the big city, if you left your business unattended, you would certainly come back to looters. OK, maybe not that bad, but why take a chance?

We stepped through the doorway to the bright sun and warmth. I stopped, closed my eyes, and lifted my face, taking in a deep breath. I could easily get used to this weather.

With my move to the beach, I had needed to get a whole new wardrobe. I took pleasure in donating my winter woolies and buying some things that more closely fit my personality. No more prim and proper styles; now I was all into preppy, casual, beach fun.

Along with getting my bobbed hair colored to match the ocean, I purchased several pairs of Converse shoes in just about every color and style to match a mood. Today’s pair matched the blues and greens of the sea. Of course, I stocked up on T-shirts, and as Grandma Luna would call them, pedal pushers. In modern lingo, capris. Stepping into that outfit this morning and doing a once-over in the full-length mirror made me feel like I was one step further along my journey to a new life. And to spend time with Uncle Jack, who I expected to be my partner-in-crime was a dream come true.

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