I have been having the most fun ever writing my Three Tomes Bookshop series, which is all about forty-eight-year old, perimenopausal Jacqueline Finch and the magical bookshop she inherited. Her life takes a complete U-turn when she loses her job as a librarian (after twenty years!), along with her house and her friends…but moves to gorgeous Button Cove (a thinly veiled Traverse City, Michigan #puremichigan).
The bookshop is a dream come true for a book-lover like Jacqueline: there are books everywhere. Old books, new books, antiquarian books, collectors’ items, and even (OMG)…maybe a few spellbooks.
But it’s the appearance of Mrs. Hudson (Sherlock Holmes’s landlady) and Mrs. Danvers (the creepy AF housekeeper from Rebecca) that really confound Jacqueline…that is, until she meets the three old ladies from down the street who bear a strange resemblance to Macbeth‘s Witches Three…
(excerpt from Tomes, Scones, and Crones, now available in print, ebook, and audiobook)
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re open,” the newcomer said breathlessly as she hurried across the room. “I came in for some of that tea.” As she surged toward the counter, she seemed to recognize Jacqueline’s disconcertion, and she slowed down, nearly coming to a halt.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said with a friendly smile and a little laugh. “That was a little much, wasn’t it? Let me try that again. I’m from right across the street, and I’ve been waiting for the shop to open again because I’ve been out of my favorite tea for over two months. My name is Nadine Bachmoto, and it’s a pleasure to meet another businesswoman on the block! Welcome to Camellia Court.” She began to extend a ringless, dimpled hand, then hesitated. “Um… you are the new owner, right? Andromeda said you’d arrived yesterday.”
“Yes, I’m the new owner. Jacqueline Finch,” Jacqueline said, shaking Nadine’s hand. She must be the owner of Sweet Devotion, the bakery. “I must admit, the minute I saw the sign across the street, I thought it was going to be very convenient to have you right there.” She decided not to mention her rule about no food in the bookshop right away; it wasn’t a good idea to get off on the wrong foot with another business owner.
“Well, you’re welcome to come on over and join a class any time you want,” Nadine said. “We’ve even got mats if you don’t have your own.”
“Yoga mats—for loan, if you need one. I like to entice people to try out a class by letting them use one of the center’s mats, and then after they take a few classes, they get sucked right in and buy their own.” She grinned and leaned one elbow on the counter. “Once people get into yoga, they tend to stick with it.”
“You own Yoga4Life?” Jacqueline said. Well, she’d certainly had that wrong—and shame on her for making assumptions.
“Going on two years now,” replied Nadine. “Having Sweet Devotion right beneath us has really helped—she’s new here too, by the way. Less than a year. I’m sure you’ll meet her soon—Suzette’s her name. Anyway, people come to the bakery then feel guilty, so they sign up for a yoga class. And people come to the yoga class and are hungry afterward or want to bring a treat home to their children—also feeling guilty—so they go to the bakery after. It’s a win-win. We do particularly well with the guilt sales on Saturdays.” Her eyes danced. “So, I came for some tea. Did I mention that?”
Jacqueline laughed. “You did. I’m afraid, though, that I literally just opened, and I don’t have—”
“It’s all right, dearie,” said Mrs. Hudson, her long skirt coming into view as she descended the stairs. “I’ve got it all taken care of.”
Jacqueline froze. She kept her attention off the housekeeper and on Nadine. If she ignored Mrs. Hudson, maybe she’d go away. The last thing Jacqueline needed was her customer watching the shop’s new owner talk to people who weren’t there. “So, anyway, I don’t—”
“Oh, hello there,” said Nadine, turning to greet Mrs. Hudson.
“Now which tea is it that you’re liking now, luv?” asked the older woman as Jacqueline stared.
Could Nadine see Mrs. Hudson? And hear her?
“It’s the Calendula Chamomile Rooibos,” replied Nadine… as if there was nothing strange about talking to the living, breathing embodiment of a fictional character. “It’s just perfect to help me relax at bedtime.”
“Oh, yes, of course,” Mrs. Hudson replied. “I just checked the tin, and we’ve got plenty. How much do you want?”
Jacqueline barely heard the ensuing conversation about the benefits of loose tea versus bagged tea and how many ounces Nadine was looking for, because she was realizing she wasn’t crazy.
If Nadine Bachmoto could see and hear Mrs. Hudson, then… then…
How could that be?
Jacqueline mentally shook her head. There was no explanation for it. None whatsoever.
And so she wasn’t even going to try to come up with one—at least, not now.
“I’ll be showing you how to ring it up, then, dearie,” said Mrs. Hudson to Jacqueline as she came around behind the counter with her.
Jacqueline was fully aware of the irony of a fictional Victorian landlady teaching her how to use a computer, but it was the only option at hand. Surprisingly, the process wasn’t difficult at all, and was far simpler than the clunky computer system for fines and library cards she’d used for fifteen years before the CPL finally upgraded.
“Thank you again,” said Nadine as she sailed toward the door with a sunny smile and a small paper shopping bag. “Gotta run—I have a class in five minutes. I hope to see you at one soon, Jacqueline!”
No sooner had the door jangled closed behind Nadine than Mrs. Danvers appeared. The housekeeper looked even more forbidding than usual.
“What is it?” Jacqueline asked, still focused on the computer screen.
“You’ll need to come with me,” replied Mrs. Danvers. “If you’ll be so kind. Ma’am.” The last was clearly a reluctant, politically correct add-on.
“Very well,” said Jacqueline with a sigh. She glanced at Mrs. Hudson. “I…um…If anyone else comes in, if you could please tell them I’ll return shortly?”
“Oh, no, dearie,” said Mrs. Hudson as she walked to the door and flipped the sign to Closed. The snick sound of the bolt locking followed. “If there’s a situation Mrs. Danvers can’t handle, it behooves me to offer me advice and guidance.” She cast an arch look at her counterpart, who gave her an icy glare.
Mrs. Danvers silently—and with obvious reluctance—led the way to the third floor.
Instead of being accessed from the tea room, whose steps led only to that level from the front of the shop, the third-floor flat seemed to only be reached by a flight of stairs from the rear foyer of the house. Jacqueline approved of that for privacy purposes, but would make certain there was a fire escape in the event she decided to live there or rent it out.
Though it had never been her intention to reside above the place she worked, the moment Jacqueline stepped over the threshold of the third floor, her decision wavered. The stairs opened near the rear of the east-side wall of the third floor. To the left was the back of the house with some storage, a lavatory, and a small bedroom or office. To the right was a short corridor that led to another bedroom and ended in what appeared to be the living room and kitchen area.
Even from here, Jacqueline could see that the front room was light and airy, with those tall, slender Victorian windows—most of which were open at the moment—and rooms so spacious that she knew walls had to have been removed from the original design. There were bookshelves all along the hallway and into the living room. She caught a glimpse of a fireplace edged with ornate wood trim and green marble. Jacqueline had no idea whether it was wood-burning or gas, but she already imagined her favorite reading chair and lamp situated in front of it. Above the fireplace was a large, round mirror with a wide silver frame.
Since the hardwood floor of the corridor gleamed and there was the faint smell of lemon and vinegar, along with the open windows, it was obvious Mrs. Danvers had been hard at work. But the furnishings in the front room were still concealed with dust covers.
Jacqueline, who had seen nothing thus far that could be described as a “situation,” followed Mrs. Danvers without comment. The woman strode down the hall past the larger bedroom to the living room, her heels thumping as purposefully as a marching soldier.
Jacqueline came to an abrupt halt, and Mrs. Hudson bumped into her from behind. (At least now Jacqueline knew the woman was corporeal and not an amorphous spirit.)
But that was the last of her coherent thoughts, because the “situation,” as Mrs. Danvers had so mildly put it, was the body of a man.
The body of a man—who was clearly dead—was on the floor of Jacqueline’s living room.
Grab your copy of Tomes, Scones, and Crones now!
A little mystery, a little fantasy, a little romance, tons of books and book references for avid readers—a love letter to lifetime readers!—this series is such a blast to write! Book three, Stakes, Cakes and Mandrakes, will be released February 7, 2023.
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