I'm pleased to welcome Alex Wright to Cozy Up With Kathy today. You can find Alex on the pages of the Killer Chocolate Mystery series by Christina
Romeril. A NUTCRACKER NIGHTMARE is the second book in the series and was released earlier this month.
Have you ever been to Montana? My twin sister and I own a mystery book and chocolate shop called Murder and Mayhem in Harriston, Montana. We are nestled along the southwest shore of Echo with the majestic Rocky Mountains around us. Let me introduce myself. I’m Alex Wright, mid-forties, no need to dwell on that, former business banker turned bookshop owner and confectioner.
My sister, Hanna, is the chocolatier, but I can turn out a pretty decent bonbon myself. Not that Hanna would completely agree. You get a little distracted one time thirty years ago and your skills are questioned for life. Anyway, I digress. Hanna is about fifteen minutes younger than I am. After working for our parents for over twenty years she came out west to help me start Murder and Mayhem. She’d had a recent divorce and was ready to be her own boss. Even though we are identical twins, we each have our own quirks. Among other things, Hanna is more creative and I’m more analytical. I like to think our differences compliment each other.
I thought I’d take you on a little tour of our village and tell you about a few of its residents. I’ll start with Murder and Mayhem. We’ve been open for about four years and in addition to selling mystery books, we sell poison-themed chocolates. Of course, there’s no actual poison in them and they’re quite delicious. Unfortunately, they were involved in a murder or two, but once a customer buys them there’s not much we can do if they are used for nefarious purposes. Though we did recently put up a sign on the counter that says: Chocolates may not be used to commit crimes.
We have a shop mascot. Miss Watson is our rescue Staffordshire terrier. There was a time when she was afraid of her own shadow, but these days she’ll cozy up to almost anyone willing to feed her a treat. She has a sweet tooth worse than mine. Exercise isn’t really her thing either, even though terriers are supposed to be bundles of energy. Her happy place is on a window bench at the shop watching reruns of action shows featuring other canines. Despite that she and I have started to go for daily walks to the beach and back. It’s a chore, but we do it.
To the west of us is Cookies’ n Crumbs, the local bakeshop. You walk near that shop and the sweet scent of bread, vanilla, and sugar waft out to you and snare you like a fly in a web. There aren’t many days Hanna or I aren’t in there getting some kind of treat. Sam O’Connor, the owner, works magic with her pastries. Everything from scones to cupcakes and each one is delicious. Her bakeshop is a magnet for gossip. Just about everyone in the village passes through that place each week and shares bits and pieces of their lives. There’s only one other person in town who sees and hears as much as Sam.
Eudora Harris is the village postmistress across the street from Murder and Mayhem. No one knows for sure how old she is, but I have it on good authority she’s around eighty. She knows more secrets than the CIA and is just as cagey about sharing them. She looks like a fluffy old lady, all wispy white hair and pink ruffles, but there’s not much that gets by her in town. Her family helped found the village and the mansion she lives in alone is rumored to be haunted.
A few doors to the east of our shop is an antiques store run by the Wicked Witch of the West, aka Penelope Shaw. Can you tell we don’t get along? That’s mostly Penelope’s doing. The Southern divorcee hasn’t liked me since I moved in across the street from her and there was a kerfuffle about her yappy dog. But the nail in the coffin was when the newly widowed local pastor decided to ask me out instead of her. Penelope had been gunning for him since the funeral of his wife. She used every womanly wile in her arsenal from exposing her cleavage in her tight clothes, to her cloying perfume, to batting her fake lashes at him to catch his interest. Despite all that, I’m the one dating the pastor.
I’m not sure what charms I have that Penelope doesn’t, aside from cooking. Her culinary skills are likely to land you in the emergency room with food poisoning. But aside from that I’m not exactly a femme fatale. Hanna despairs at my lack of concern about my looks. She’s forever batting my hands away from my face because I have a habit of rubbing my eyes, which apparently causes wrinkles. My fashion sense also leans to the basics, jeans and sweaters. Not that Hanna dresses up much. She just seems to have a flair for adding the right scarf or chunky earrings to an outfit.
Of course, there is one thing I seem to be good at. Sleuthing. Hanna and I have helped put two killers behind bars. Oddly enough, the local sheriff and deputy haven’t appreciated our help as much as I thought they would. The attention has helped our shop, though. I had no idea that people would travel hundreds of miles to see where our little village is and to take a picture of a former murder scene. Traditionally, summer has been our busiest tourist season, but we are seeing more people stopping in town year round. Maybe, you’ll consider stopping by if you’re in the area. Of course, it’s not like Harriston is Cabot Cove, Maine. We’re not likely to see another murder in our life times.
The Second Killer Chocolate Mystery
Reunions can be difficult at the best of times, but when the high school bully is back as an obnoxious, handsy narcissist, you know it's more like the worst of times. Twins Alex and Hanna Wright are helping at the Harriston High School’s reunion weekend. Hanna is busy avoiding Kyle, the groping former football star, as well as glaring at Duncan who's hanging out with his old girlfriend while Alex is watching minor fireworks and confrontations between the former classmates. Alex heads to the basement, but instead of paper towels she finds Kyle's dead body. Nearly everyone who met him wanted to kill him, but someone actually did the dead. Police zero in on Hanna and warn Alex not to get involved, but with a sister in trouble, Alex is going to investigate!
I must admit that I love it when a jerk gets his just desserts. And I'm not talking about some of Hanna's delectable chocolates. Kyle was a lousy excuse for a human being, and though sure, no one should be murdered, but in a murder mystery someone has to be killed so why not make it a villain! Another plus to having an unlikable person become the victim there's a slew of suspects. I enjoyed seeing all the motives get uncovered. There were lots of secrets from the past and it was interesting sorting out just what was relevant to the current crime.
I also enjoyed the character dynamics. Past and present, these characters are incredibly intertwined. The relationship difficulties between Hanna and Duncan and Alex and Tom...and possibly Eddie bring more drama and questions to the plot. There's also lots of action, assaults, and bravery amid miscommunication and murder!
A NUTCRACKER NIGHTMARE brings a reunion themed murder to snowy Montana with romantic disruptions, delicious chocolates, and a poisoned pen themed blog!
A Nutcracker Nightmare (A Killer Chocolate Mystery) by Christina Romeril
About A Nutcracker Nightmare
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series
Setting - Montana
Crooked Lane Books (October 17, 2023)
Hardcover: 320 pages
Perfect for fans of Joanne Fluke and Laura Childs, when twin sisters Hanna and Alex help out at the local high school reunion, volunteering takes a turn when they find a former classmate's dead body.
Hanna and Alex, owners of the Murder and Mayhem book and chocolate shop, are busy preparing for the Harriston High School’s reunion weekend. Neighbors will connect with old friends and perhaps try to avoid old foes. One person no one can avoid is Kyle, the former star quarterback, who is busy using his entire playbook to try and score with Hanna, even threatening her if she doesn’t play nice. At the reunion, Alex glimpses more drama than nostalgia as insults are flung around like a football at a Friday night game. The party is put on hold when Alex finds the dead body of none other than Kyle himself, bludgeoned to death by a nutcracker that the sisters admired earlier in the night.
Hanna quickly becomes the prime suspect—someone saw her slap Kyle in the face at the reunion dance. She’ll need her sister, their sleuthing canine, Watson, and their old friends and colleagues to help break this case wide open. While looking through old yearbooks and taking a stroll down memory lane, Alex uncovers a few secrets about Kyle, now, it seems like everyone had a motive to kill him.
But when the suspects start becoming the victims, Alex and Hanna know that they can’t melt under the pressure—they must find the killer before they become just another yearbook memory.
About Christina Romeril
Christina Romeril is the author of the Killer Chocolate Mystery series. The series is set in Montana at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, one of her favourite places to visit. She and her husband live a few hours away in a small village in Southern Alberta. When Christina isn’t writing she loves to hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, or just hang out there eating gourmet hot dogs and ice cream. When the former banker isn’t enjoying nature, she loves to create and consume chocolate confections. Not necessarily in that order.