I'm pleased to welcome Darci Hannah to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Darci writes the Beacon Bakeshop Mystery series. MURDER AT THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE BAKE-OFF is the second book in the series and will be released next week.
Kathy: In MURDER AT THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE BAKE-OFF Lindsey Bakewell enters the town-wide cookie bake off. If you were to enter a Christmas cookie competition, what kind of cookie would you enter?
DH: This is such a tough question, because there are so many delicious Christmas cookies, especially those that are family traditions and handed down through the generations. Can you tell I love cookies? While I truly love Lindsey’s Lemon-Ginger Sandwich Cookies, and Bradley Argyle’s Turtle-Topped shortbread cookies (the recipes are in the book!) I’m going to say that if I had to enter a cookie in a bake-off it would be a buttery thumbprint cookie with a local tart cherry jam in the center and topped with a drizzle of icing. I’ve been working on the recipe for such a cookie, and it’s delicious! The key is finding the perfect cherry jam!
Kathy: I really enjoy holiday themed mysteries. Does adding a holiday to the mix make things easier or more difficult?
DH: Until MURDER AT THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE BAKE-OFF, I had never written a holiday mystery before, and I have to say that I was more nervous about writing this mystery than my previous mysteries. That was because Christmas is hands-down my favorite holiday, and I really wanted to do it justice by striking the right tone and including all the relevant themes that I’m drawn to in a good Christmas tale—family, nostalgia, atmospheric, traditional Christmas trappings, hope, redemption, and a touch of magic—all while staying true to the voice of the Beacon Bakeshop Mystery series. I thought about this novel a lot before I started writing it. Then one day I was hit with the idea of a town-wide Christmas cookie bake-off, and the story just took off from there. Starting it was more difficult, but writing it was so much fun because I was steeped in the spirit of Christmas every day!
Kathy: Lindsey has a lot of Christmas time stress. Do you also strive for a picture perfect December?
DH: I’m laughing here because I’m definitely the Clark Griswold of my family. I do have a driving need to throw the perfect Christmas for my family and friends. I love Christmas and want to embrace the magic of the season as much as I do. Yet try as I might, reality usually slaps me in the face at some point and I throw my hands in the air. However, that being said, we’ve always managed to have a memorable, if not perfect, Christmas.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
DH: I honestly never thought that I’d write a cozy mystery. I started my career by writing historical fiction, which I really loved. I was lucky enough to have two books published by Ballantine Books, but while I was writing my third novel, I was told by my agent that the publisher wasn’t going to pick it up. She advised me to write something else. She thought I’d be a good mystery writer, and since I loved reading cozy mysteries, that’s what I did. I wrote a funny, modern mystery with an amateur sleuth. Little did I know that I had written my first “cozy” mystery. I love the genre and am learning so much about it every day. I’m so glad I wrote that first cozy mystery!
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
DH: I started out writing historical fiction, and really love that genre, but I’m now concentrating on cozy mysteries. My historical fiction is considered romantic suspense, and is known for its engaging characters and a strong sense of place. It’s also a touch gothic with slight paranormal elements. My first novel, THE EXILE OF SARA STEVENSON, was published in 2010, followed by THE ANGEL OF BLYTHE HALL, in 2011. They’re both a lot of fun, so if you’re interested in reading these, please visit my website where you can learn more about them.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
DH: THE BEACON BAKESHOP MYSTERY SERIES follows Lindsey Bakewell, a young woman living in New York City, who catches her celebrity chef fiancé cheating on her. She immediately brakes up with him, goes home, drinks some wine, and buys a lighthouse on the internet. The next morning when she realizes what she’s done, she decides to leave her lucrative Wall Street career for Beacon Harbor, Michigan. There she renovates her lighthouse and opens her dream bakery, The Beacon Bakeshop.
THE VERY CHERRY MYSTERY SERIES is about Whitney Bloom, a former advertising executive who is desperately trying to get her job back in one of Chicago’s largest advertising agencies, when she receives a phone call from her mother stating that the manager of the Bloom family cherry orchard has been found dead. When she learns that her father is the prime suspect, Whitney leaves Chicago and heads home to Cherry Cove and to the iconic Cherry Orchard Inn, a bed and breakfast run by her parents. There Whitney will call on her two best friends to go head-to-head against the town’s only policeman, in a race to find the real murderer.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
DH: I really like all the characters in the BEACON BAKESHOP MYSTERY SERIES, but if I had to pick just one, it would be Wellington, Lindsey’s giant, loveable, Newfoundland dog. I love dogs, and Welly is not only adorable, but he loves baked goods too. Besides, he just brings that unconditional love to the story that you can only get from a dog.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
DH: Not a specific inspiration, per se, but I’ve always been drawn to lighthouses. They’re usually standing in stunning locations, and the views from the lightroom looking out over the water are always amazing. I’m also fascinated with the history of lighthouses and love visiting them and learning the local lore. I really liked the idea of putting a modern bakery in an old lighthouse. When I went to visit the Point Betsy Lighthouse in Frankfort, Michigan, I was thinking about the new cozy mystery series that I wanted to write. I took one look at the lighthouse and knew that I had found the perfect setting for my series. Although the town of Beacon Harbor that I write about is fictitious, it is loosely based on Frankfort and the Point Betsy Lighthouse.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
DH: Since I was already a published author of historical fiction and had worked with Random House, I knew that if I was going to switch things up and write cozy mysteries that I wanted to do it the traditional way. It wasn’t an easy transition, mind you. I ended up getting a different agent, but I’m so happy that I did.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
DH: That’s an easy one! I would choose the authors whose work has inspired me to dream and to write, and who have had the greatest impact me as both a reader and a writer. I would love to have dinner with M.C. Beaton, Diana Gabaldon, Dorothy Dunnett, and Patrick O’Brian.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
DH: I’m currently reading a delightful mystery by Kim Davis called CAKE POPPED OFF, which is book 2 in her Cupcake Catering Mystery Series. I’m craving cupcakes right now just thinking about it!
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
DH: I really love the outdoors, so when I’m not writing, reading or baking, I try to sneak away every day for a hike with my dogs, Ripley and Finn. I also like working with them on obedience training, which keeps them on their toes. When I’m not with the dogs, I love to kayak with my husband and sons. We also love to ski, golf, and try all sorts of new adventures together. They can really push me to my limits! My indoor hobbies include renovating my house out of necessity! I’m a big DIYer and we always seem to be in the middle of some big project. I also like to sew when I get the chance or play my piano (when no one is listening). One of the new hobbies I have is making baking videos. I really enjoying making them and hope to get better as I learn more about the editing software I’m using. Since life is full of new opportunities and challenges my motto is to embrace what’s before me. Sometimes it works out; sometimes it doesn’t. One thing’s for sure, it keeps life interesting.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
DH: Well, that would be butter, eggs, tart cherry juice, and flavored coffee creamer.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
DH: It seems that I always have plans for future books. What’s not always certain is whether or not they’ll get published. However, I am excited to share that there will be a 3rd book in the Beacon Bakeshop Mystery series. It’s called, MURDER AT THE BLUEBERRY FESTIVAL, and it will be out in August of 2022.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
I really love the process of telling a story and connecting with readers. There’s no greater joy for an author than to know that there are readers out there who really like what you do. It just makes your soul sing with gratitude. It also makes you realize that you’re doing exactly what you were meant to do. Not all of us can be brain surgeons, teachers, or astronauts, you know. In a small way it’s nice to know that we too have a part to play in society, even if it is just telling stories.
The Second Beacon Bakeshop Mystery
Lindsey Bakewell wants a perfect Christmas, starting by decorating her bakery and lighthouse and preparing to host her parents and best friend for the holiday. To up the holiday stakes, Felicity Stewart, self appointed Christmas Queen, declares that there will be a Christmas cookie contest with all shop owners creating a signature cookie, culminating in televised bake-off. Lindsey wonders how she'll ever get everything done, especially without an assistant baker. A Christmas miracle arrives in the form of Mrs. Nichols, but competition brings out the grinches, as well as a smarmy celebrity food critic. The climax of the bake-off isn't the naming of the winner, however, but a murder! Now, in order to salvage the perfect holiday, Lindsey and her friends will search for a Christmas killer.
With themes of family, fidelity, and good old fashioned Christmas spirit, MURDER AT THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE BAKE-OFF is a mystery to get you into the holiday mood. By the second chapter I was dreaming of my own perfect Christmas, dreading problems that might arise, and wishing I had some hot chocolate and a veritable cornucopia of Christmas cookies.
I really enjoyed the camaraderie of the characters, working together and simply enjoying spending time with each other. I especially love Wellington and his antics. I could just picture the scenes in my head and he always made me smile. I absolutely adore Mrs. Nichols. What a delightful addition to the cast of characters. I was loving every moment of the book until the ending neared. Though fun and exciting, the confrontations with the suspects were a bit outrageous and the references to mental disorders a bit cavalier.
With nods to the Great British Bake-Off and a certain resident of the North Pole, MURDER AT THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE BAKE-OFF is a fun holiday mystery that will leave you believing in the spirit of Christmas and the joy of eating holiday cookies!
Murder at the Christmas Cookie Bake-Off (A Beacon Bakeshop Mystery) by Darci Hannah
About Murder at the Christmas Cookie Bake-Off
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series
Publisher: Kensington (October 5, 2021)
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Tucked away inside an old lighthouse in Beacon Harbor, Michigan, bakeshop café owner Lindsey Bakewellis ready to make her first Christmas in town shine bright. But her merry plans crumble fast when murder appears under the mistletoe . . .With the spirit of the holidays wafting through the Beacon Bakeshop, Lindsey thinks she has the recipe for the sweetest Christmas ever—winning the town-wide cookie bake-off. Unfortunately, striving for a picture-perfect December in Beacon Harbor is a lot like biting into stale shortbread. Low on staff and bombarded by visits from family, Lindsey can barely meet demands at work, let alone summon the confidence to face fierce competition . . .
Self-appointed Christmas know-it-all Felicity Stewart is determined to take the top spot in the bake‑off, and she’s not afraid to dump a little coal in everyone’s stocking to do it. Just as the competition heats up, everything falls apart when the judge is found dead—and covered in crumbs from Lindsey’s signature cookie!Solving a murder was never on Lindsey’s wish list. But with her reputation on the line during the happiest time of the year, she’ll need to bring her best talents to the table in order to sift out the true Christmas Cookie culprit.
Includes Delicious Recipes!
About Darci Hannah
Cozy mystery author, Darci Hannah, is a native of the Midwest and currently lives in a small town in Michigan. Darci is a lifelong lover of the Great Lakes, a natural wonder that inspires many of her stories. When Darci isn't baking for family and friends, hiking with her furry pals, Ripley and Finn, or concocting her next cozy mystery, she can be found wandering around picturesque lakeside villages with her hubby, sampling baked goods and breaking for coffee more often than she should.
For a chance to win a copy of the book with a cookie cutter and bookmark OR some other Christmas Cookie themed prize leave a comment on this post no later than 11:59pm Eastern on Saturday, October 2, 2021 sharing your favorite Christmas cookie. Be sure to leave your e-mail address so that I can contact you should you win.