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Sue Hollowell

Fruitcake and Felonies (PAPERBACK)

Fruitcake and Felonies (PAPERBACK)

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Riotous relatives, startling suspects, and grannies galore...

Tilly has secured one of her biggest bakery clients yet, the largest gamer convention on the West Coast. As she is preparing the menu, the pushy bookstore owner inserts herself with a homemade fruitcake offering.

Not one to rock the boat, TIlly reluctantly agrees to include the item with plans to place it far from the guests. As they are setting up for the long weekend, word comes that one of the most well-known gamers has been found dead.

Suspects abound from the cutthroat competition to attain the highest score and win the grand prize. Will Tilly follow the rules to save the day or will it be game over?


 Paperback 98 pages
 Dimensions 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches (127 x 12.7 x 203 mm)
 ISBN 979-8393877712
 Publication date May 15, 2023
 Publisher Free Heart Productions


“This is insane, and pretty awesome,” Linda said, as we entered the main room at the convention center.

She nailed it. We stopped inside the door to the main gaming room and ogled the wall in front of us. The center of it held the main projection screen, which must have spanned twenty feet long by ten feet high. On both sides of that were several smaller screens, still enormous in their own right. The seating area held rows of incredibly comfy-looking chairs the players would use as they competed for the top prize in the competition. The soft brown cushions beckoned me for a nap. I expected the din from the group tomorrow wouldn’t allow that. Between the chairs, a wooden table would hold the food and drinks for the players.

Our adorable teenage baker Dexter had been prepping for this competition for an entire year.

I moved to the front of the room and plopped into a chair in the center of the row. I sank inches into the plush and gazed at the screen. The players on the screen would be larger than life. Dexter had regaled us with stories about the football video game he and his friends enjoyed playing, Gridiron Gash. While I was no stranger to sports, and had a brother playing professional baseball, I didn’t have a chance to keep up with Dexter’s play-by-play. Though the energy of his detailed descriptions, and the spark in his eye, jazzed me up to watch a few rounds when the games began.

Linda plunked into the chair to my right, whispering, “Insane.”

“Thank you for agreeing to help. I actually have no idea what to expect.” Scooting forward, I craned my neck around the room. “I can only imagine the gamers will gobble up everything we offer them.” I’d seen with Dexter and heard that teenage boys eat you out of house and home. If my brother was any indication, I doubted we would have enough to last the duration of the tournament.

“Of course,” Linda said. “I agree. We won’t be packing up any leftovers after this.”

“If I haven’t said it recently, I’m so glad we hired Noah for the bakery.”

With Linda’s recent marriage to my Uncle Jack, I predicted her time at Luna’s Bakery and Cafe would diminish. Her partnership, and exceptional baking skills, had catapulted my business success. But to be fair, I wanted her and Unkie to spend all the time together that they wanted. Noah’s presence gave me a great excuse to encourage that. Now, to get Uncle Jack to slow down from his antique business. But that was another conversation for another day.

“Can you imagine how rowdy this place will be when they get rolling?” I could almost feel the energy.

Linda stood. “We should probably get back to the setup.”

I hoisted myself out of the chair and rubbed my sweaty hands on my apron. Nerves were not from this catering job. My boyfriend’s parents were arriving, and my anxiety about meeting them was through the roof. Justin insisted they would love me. I hoped so.

We stopped outside the gaming room and Linda quickly squeezed me and looked me directly in the eye. She grabbed both of my clammy hands and firmly said, “They will love you. But even if they don’t, Justin does. And that’s all that matters.”

Yeah, but how would that relationship go if my boyfriend’s parents didn’t like me? Justin was drama-free. But if there were tension every time his parents and I were together… I couldn’t go there. I would do my best and let the chips fall where they may. Easier said than done. I was still a recovering people pleaser.

“You’re right, but still.” Turning my attention to the task at hand, Linda and I returned to our booth. I glanced around the rest of the food court. Several stations provided hand-held savory options. The gamers would have choices of pizza slices, pigs-in-a-blanket, bite-sized quiches, taquitos, and so much more. My stomach churned just pondering all the gut bombs. “There should be a booth with just antacids.”

“I feel the same way. How do those kids do it?”

I reached for one of the boxes on a cart of supplies we had wheeled in. Finger foods were the name of the game for this gig. We had baked hundreds of mini-cupcakes, tiny tarts, baby donuts, and brownies. Removing the display boxes, we laid them out on the table. Each one had a cover and a lock. I had seriously debated whether leaving everything overnight was safe. But the conference head had committed to all the vendors that our booths would be secure. It was the only logical choice, as the gamers would start at o-dark-thirty. There would be no time to set up on day one of the competition.

We continued unpacking and loading all the treats into the cases. Special for this event, I had ordered some disposable paper cups and funnels to make it easier to transport the goodies. It was the best I could do to minimize the stickiness of the sweets on the game controllers. One booth down the aisle was nothing but cleaning supplies. They had provided each of us a bucket of wet wipes to offer each gamer.

“I’m here,” Florence announced, heading toward us, carrying a tray with mini-bundt cakes.

I whipped my head toward Linda, hoping for clarity on this surprise visit from the bookstore owner. Florence’s and my relationship was a work in progress. For many reasons. Linda shrugged.

“OK, dear. Where should I put these?” Florence gazed along our display table.

Straightening up, I gathered my thoughts. Why was she here with some type of bakery item at my booth for the video game competition?

“Hi, Florence,” was all I got out. C’mon brain. Figure out what’s going on!

She set her tray down on the table and scooted two of my display cases apart. “They can go right here.”

Her brown little mini-cakes sat in ruffled papers. They were bursting with what appeared to be fruit and nuts. Did she actually bring fruitcake to an event attended mostly by teenagers and young adults?

“What are these?” I picked one up and rotated it in my hand. Yep, fruitcake. I couldn’t imagine even the hungriest would partake. While they were adorable in the paper cups, there was no disguising the gummy lumps of clay.

“These are my specialty. You’re not the only one who can bake.” Florence sniffed and lifted her nose in the air.

Linda approached and asked, “May I try one?”

“Of course,” Florence said and handed it to her.

Unwrapping it, Linda grabbed a napkin and split it into two pieces, handing one to me. She widened her eyes and bravely took a big bite. Nothing like diving in. “Ohhh, Florence. This is fantastic.”

Florence leaned in with her hand cupped to the side of her mouth. “I don’t use that horrific candied fruit. It’s all fresh.”

Linda nodded and finished the last bite.

Following suit, I bit into the cake, discovering an unexpected delight. My mind reeled, trying to remember if a conversation with Florence about her fruitcake had just slipped my mind. It was certainly possible given all I had going on. Next task at hand, come up with a name that wasn’t fruitcake to convince the kids to eat them. I plopped the remaining bite into my mouth. “Mmmm.”

Florence grinned.

“Tilly!” Lanky, curly-haired Dexter rushed in.

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