I’m so happy that the seventh novel in the Amish Candy Shop Mysteries, Peanut Butter Panic, is out. If feel so lucky to be writing such a long series that is beloved by fans. the series includes seven novel, three novellas, and a spinoff series, the Amish Matchmaker Mysteries, with more on the way! I can’t thank my readers enough for reading and loving these books so much! Enjoy the first chapter now!
“Careful! Don’t drop the turkeys! We will be ruined if we don’t have turkeys on Thanksgiving! Why do you have them here anyway?” Margot Rawlings cried as she buzzed around the Harvest village square like a spinning top. Her short curls bounced as she pointed at the young volunteers and barked orders. “Chairs over there. No, no, no. Don’t put the kids’ table facing the playground. All they’ll want to do is run off and play instead of eating their dinners.”
A young Amish man who was carrying a crate of thawing turkeys looked as frozen as the poultry in his hands. After Margot yelled at him, it seemed he didn’t know what to do.
I smiled at him as I approached, carrying a box of display dishes for the dessert table. “You okay, Leon?”
Leon Hersh was an Amish teen who volunteered often for Margot’s many events on the village square. Since Margot had taken over the Harvest social calendar a few years ago, it seemed scarcely a week went by that there wasn’t something happening in the small Amish village in Holmes County, Ohio. From concerts to weddings to Christmas pageants, the square had seen it all. Thanksgiving week was no exception.
In fact, Thanksgiving was going to be bigger and grander than any event Margot had ever thrown before. There would be a community-wide Thanksgiving meal for the village. It would include both Amish and English residents and be followed with a lighting-of-the-square ceremony to usher in the holiday season.
Margot had been working on the event for months, which meant that everyone else in the village had been too. She was great at drafting help. I always thought if the U.S. military brought back the draft, Margot should be at the helm of the effort.
Leon blinked his bright blue eyes at me. “She’s scarier than the bishop’s wife.”
I hid my smile. I knew the bishop’s wife, Ruth Yoder, as well as I knew Margot. I also knew Ruth would have wanted to be seen as more formidable than Margot. I certainly wasn’t going to tell her what this young man had said. “Why don’t you take those turkeys to the church? They’ll be cooked later today by the church volunteers. Just leave them on the counter and the kitchen staff will know what to do.”
He nodded. “Danki. I should have thought of that in the first place. But when Margot shouted at me to get the turkeys from Levi Wittmer’s poultry farm, I brought them here where I knew she would be. I wasn’t thinking.” He nodded at the horse and wagon that was parked along Main Street. “My wagon is right there. I’ll take them over now.”
The back of the wagon was laden with crates just like the one in Leon’s hands. My brow went up. How many turkeys had Margot ordered from the Wittmer farm for this event? Then again, as many as eight hundred people had said they would come for the celebration tomorrow afternoon. It was possible she would need every last turkey.
“That’s a good plan, Leon, and can I give you a tip?” I asked.
“Give yourself a break. You’re doing a fine job. Just remember Margot is, well, let’s just say she is very exacting. For better or worse, she treats everyone the same. It’s not you.”
He licked his lips and nodded. “Danki, Bailey. The Esh family is right; you are very kind for an Englischer.”
I smiled, taking no offense at the “for an Englischer” comment. It was one I had heard before, and many times since I’d moved from NYC to Harvest.
With the crate in his arms, he hurried back to his wagon, loaded the turkeys into the back with the others, and drove around to the church, which was just on the opposite side of the square on Church Street.
It was a gray and cloudy day, as was typical at the end of November, but there was a bright blue patch of sky above the church’s tall white steeple. The forecast for tomorrow, Thanksgiving morning, was clear skies and warmer temperatures. The weather was something that could never be guaranteed in Ohio, but I hoped for the sake of the festivities that the prediction was accurate.
I could only imagine the flurry of activity that must be happening in the church kitchen at the moment. When Margot an Juliet Brook, the pastor’s wife, had put their heads together to sponsor a village-wide Thanksgiving dinner, I don’t believe they realized how much work it would take.
Then again, maybe Margot, who was one of the hardest-working people I had ever met, knew. However, I bet all the activity had taken Juliet by surprise.
“Bailey King!” Margot pointed at me. “Just the person I wanted to see.”
I sighed. Maybe I agreed with Leon just a little. Margot could be scary, and nothing was scarier than being caught in her crosshairs when she had an assignment for you, which in my case was all the time. It seemed to me that whenever Margot spotted me, she had something she wanted me to do. At least I knew I wouldn’t have to drive to Wittmer Poultry Farm to collect the turkeys. I didn’t think I could stand seeing a bunch of turkeys walking around flapping their wings right before Thanksgiving.
She marched over to me. As usual she wore jeans, running shoes, and a sweatshirt. However due to the chilly temperatures, she’d added a quilted barn coat over her sweatshirt and fingerless gloves on her hands. “I stopped by Swissmen Sweets well over an hour ago looking for you. Charlotte said you were away on an errand in Canton.” She put her hands on her hips. “What are you doing traveling all that way this close to Thanksgiving? Don’t you have enough to do right here at home? I hope you don’t plan to go to New York this weekend. The village needs you.”
I rubbed my head because I was already getting a headache as I tried to remember the sage advice that I had given Leon about Margot. The advice had flown right out of my head. All I could think was that he was right—she was scary.
“I’m not going to New York this weekend,” I said as calmly as possible. “I only went to Canton to run an errand.”
It was none of her business, but I had gone shopping for a housewarming gift for my boyfriend, Aiden Brody. I knew with Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Small Business Saturday coming up, I would be so busy in the shop that I would not get another chance before I saw him.
He’d just moved into a new apartment in Columbus, and I felt I had to give him a gift to show my support of the move when in fact I wasn’t feeling the least bit supportive. The last time we’d discussed where he would live after he completed his months of training with BCI, Ohio’s Bureau of Investigations, he’d promised he would come back to Holmes County, so a new apartment nearly two hours away was not great news.
For over a decade, Aiden had been a sheriff’s deputy in Holmes County. That was how I’d met him, but earlier this year, he had been given the chance of a lifetime to work with BCI. He had made a good impression on the department when he collaborated with them on a case last summer. From what I had been told before, after his training, he would be returning to Holmes County to work as a remote agent who specialized in Amish cases. Instead, he’d been moved to one of the largest cities in Ohio. I didn’t know what this would mean for our relationship. Part of me thought when Aiden returned to Holmes County we would seriously begin talking about marriage and having a family—all those things that I knew we both wanted but were afraid to say aloud to each other.
I didn’t tell Margot any of that. Instead, I said, “I came as soon as I could.”
She folded her arms as if she had doubts. Margot was typically a tightly wound woman, but I don’t think I had ever seen her this worked up.
“Is something wrong, Margot?”
She threw up her hands. “Something always goes wrong when it comes to these events, but it’s never been anything I couldn’t handle until today.”
My eyes went wide. For Margot to admit that she couldn’t handle something was unheard of. “What is it?” I braced myself to hear something about Leon and the turkeys. My brain was already scrambling for ways to defend the quiet teenager.
“My mother is coming!” she wailed.
I stared at her. That was not what I had expected her to say. “Your mother?”
“I know, doesn’t it sound horrible?” She moaned.
“Why is it so horrible?” I asked.
“She’s never attended one of my events. Ever. My whole life long. And the first one that she comes to is the village Thanksgiving dinner. Why did she have to pick this one? Why couldn’t she have tried a concert or a bake sale or the Christmas parade next month? I have a camel at the Christmas parade. Everyone loves the camel. Would it have killed her to wait one more month?”
I knew Melchior the camel who makes a regular appearance at the village Christmas parade. He was nice as far as camels went but a bit of an escape artist. I wasn’t sure a camel running loose was the best way for Margot to impress her mother, but what did I know?
Margot began to gasp for air.
I placed a hand on her shoulder. “Are you okay?” I glanced around and noticed the volunteers who were setting up for the big meal tomorrow were watching us. If Margot noticed their stares, she gave no indication of it. “Do you want to sit down?”
She brushed my hand away and took a few deep breaths. “I’m fine. I don’t want to sit. I don’t have time to sit. I have to leave for the airport in an hour to pick up my mother. Everything has to be perfect here.” She grabbed my arm. “Bailey, I need you!”
“Me?” I squeaked.
“Yes, I need you to oversee the preparations for Thanksgiving. Everything has to be perfect for tomorrow. Perfect. I know I always want things to be perfect, but I’m not kidding this time. I can’t fail in front of my mother again.”
Again? I wanted to ask her what she meant by that, but before I could, she said, “You have to promise me.” She thrust her clipboard at me. “This is the list of everything that has to be finished. Guard it with your life. There’s a checkmark next to the items that have been completed.”
After a cursory glance, I noted that there were very few checkmarks on the page.
I tried to hand the clipboard back to her. “Margot, I’m honored that you would trust me with such an important job, but there is so much to do at Swissmen Sweets today. We have been making many of the desserts for tomorrow’s meal, and we’re getting extra candy ready for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. This is our biggest weekend of the year.”
She would not take the clipboard. “You don’t understand. You have to help me.”
“What about Juliet? She’s always willing to help.”
“I can’t ask Juliet,” Margot said as if it was the most ridiculous idea she’d ever heard. “She’s in charge of the food preparation happening at the church. And to be perfectly frank, you’re the only one who even has any remote chance of doing the job as well as I can.”
I frowned. “Thank you?” I wasn’t sure this was an honor I wanted.
“You don’t know my mother. She expects perfection. Always and in all things.”
I guessed Margot was in her sixties, so her mother had to be over eighty years old, and yet Margot still feared her?
She took a breath. “Mother, the honorable Zara Bevan, was a powerhouse attorney and the first female judge in Holmes County. She excels at everything she does.” She paused. “Until she had me.”
I had known Margot for a while now, and I had never known her to undervalue herself. Even when something went terribly wrong at one of her events—like a dead body—she handled it with the efficiency and confidence of someone who always believed that they were in the right. However, at the moment, Margot looked anything but confident. She looked terrified. The honorable Zara Bevan must be a force to be reckoned with indeed.
“Where does your mother live now?” I asked. “Where is she coming from?”
“Fort Meyers, Florida. She moved there about fifteen years ago. She can play outdoor tennis all year round down there. She says indoor tennis is not the same. She’s eighty-six years old and still plays tennis every day. She was even in the senior Olympics! How many people can say that their mother is a senior Olympian?”
“I can’t think of any others,” I admitted. “It seems your mother has achieved a lot.”
“You have no idea. All she does is achieve, and she expects the same level of achievement out of everyone around her. Out of me!”
“Has it been a long while since she visited you in Harvest?” I asked.
“You can say that. She hasn’t been back since she left. I try to get down to Florida for at least a few days every winter to see her. But between you and me, I’m always ready to come home at the end of the visit. Actually, I’m ready to come home before the visit even starts. I don’t know how I’m going to survive this weekend.” She grabbed my shoulders and shook me slightly. “Bailey, I need your help. I’m desperate.”
I glanced down at the clipboard again and thought about the mile-long list that I had left on the kitchen island back in Swissmen Sweets just a few minutes ago. How was I ever going to get all of this done?
But I said, “All right, I’ll help you.”
Really, there was nothing else I could do.
Copyright Amanda Flower 2022. All rights reserved.
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Dead by dessert . . .
Thanksgiving is Bailey King’s busiest holiday weekend. This year promises to be even more hectic, since Bailey’s candy shop, Swissmen Sweets, is providing desserts for Harvest, Ohio’s first village-wide Thanksgiving celebration. Yet, even with a guest list close to seven hundred people—Amish and English alike—the event’s organizer, Margot Rawlings, is unfazed . . . until she discovers her mother, former judge Zara Bevan, will be in attendance.
Zara’s reputation as a harsh critic is matched only by her infamy as a judge who has actively harmed the Amish community. So no one is prepared when Zara arrives with much younger boyfriend Blaze Smith and reveals their impending nuptials at dinner. That should have been the day’s biggest news, except shortly after the announcement, Blaze suffers an allergic reaction to something he’s eaten and dies on the spot.
Now, Bailey’s desserts are prime suspects, along with Margot and nearly everyone who attended the meal. With such a cornucopia of possibilities, Bailey must dig in and get to the bottom of this murder, before the killer goes up for seconds…
Happy reading! ❤