by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of Cherry Scones & Broken Bones by Darci Hannah along with an interesting interview with Darci. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Cherry Scones & Broken Bones, a link to purchase it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Cherry Scones & Broken Bones: A Very Cherry Mystery by Darci Hannah
Review by Cynthia Chow
After leaving Chicago to move back home to Cherry Orchard, Whitney Bloom is completely committed to seeing the success of her cherrycentric bakery and gift shop. In addition to her online store, Whitney has a Bloom ‘n’ Cherries! shop being run inside her family’s Cherry Orchard Inn. An unfortunate incident with an earlier murder cast a cloud over their reputation and led to a distinct downturn in bookings, which means that everything rides on the good publicity their upcoming long-term guest Silvia Lumiere could bring. Unfortunately, no one told Whitney that the celebrity artist would be accompanied by a trailer of luggage, a boy-toy assistant, and a whole lot of attitude. Silvia has a reputation for demanding first-class treatment at bargain prices, and her rudeness and infuriating attitude of entitlement has Whitney threatening to strangle Silvia. That Whitney makes her furious declaration to Jack MacLaren, Cherry Orchard’s only police officer and her high school crush, means that when they find Silvia pushed down the stairs and with a scone stuffed down her mouth, Whitney is on the top of the official suspect list.
Whitney had the motive, opportunity, and enough scones on hand to have committed the crime, but she really thought that even without an alibi Jack would never think her capable of murder. After all, she had rather abysmally begun running in the morning solely to “by chance” meet Jack during his crack-of-dawn jogs, and Whitney had even invited him to double-date with her friend while they watch her boyfriend joust in a renaissance fair. It all makes for awkward interactions and miscommunications, especially with Whitney’s charming but cheating ex-boyfriend Tate Vander Hagen intent on resuming where they left off. Incensed that Jack still seems intent on interrogating her despite the surplus of insulted guests, staff, and exes the predatory “cougar” left behind, Whitney intends to solve the crime and rub it in Jack’s face.
Spite and hurt feelings are excellent motivations for Whitney to throw herself in the investigation, especially since she had thought that she and Jack were finally about to move forward in their relationship. Of course, if they actually came right out and told one another how they felt, things would speed along a lot faster, but that requires more maturity and courage than either currently has. Local news reporters and Silvia Lumiere-fanatics protesting outside the Inn threaten the Bloom family’s businesses, so Whitney and her friends are on a time crunch to discover who was fed-up enough to put an end to the cruel, predatory, but undeniably talented artist. Livening up the novel are Jack’s non-human kids (literally kids, as in the horned, head-butting four-legged kind), experimental yoga, a dented knight, and some pretty lurid artwork. This extremely funny novel reintroduces readers to the easily-relatable Whitney, who can be fearless with her investigations but terrified of getting her feelings trounced once again. Great dialogue, extremely likable characters, adorable farm animals, and tasty fresh-farmed food all make for a winning follow-up to its impressive debut.
Interview with Darci Hannah:
KRK: How long have you been writing?
Darci: So long it’s embarrassing! Seriously, though, it’s been about twenty-one years now. I started writing when I quit my day job to stay home with my babies. I had a three-year-old, a one-year-old and one on the way. I was also working a second shift job at graphics company, editing ads before they went to press, just to make ends meet. I was busy, perpetually tired and that’s when I decided to start writing a sweeping historical epic! Talk about crazy.
Once my third son was born, I was a full-time stay-at-home mom. Although it was financially difficult, it was the best decision I ever made. I was able to raise my sons while teaching myself how to research and write novels.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Darci: The first novel I wrote, that sweeping historical epic, I never could get published. It took me eight years to complete that novel, and when it was finally done it was very, very long. I never realized I’d have a problem selling it, because it’s a fun novel, but length can be quite a deterrent. Needless to say, I got over a hundred rejection letters on that novel. That’s when I began to realize that if I was ever going to get published, I needed to write something smaller.
That’s when I wrote, The Exile of Sara Stevenson. It’s one of my favorite stories. It’s about the fictitious daughter of lighthouse engineer, Robert Stevenson, who angers her wealthy family and gets banished to one of their lighthouses on Cape Wrath, Scotland. It’s a haunting, atmospheric tale with a love story at the heart of it. That novel got published in 2010 by Ballantine Books (a division of Random House). A re-printing of that book is currently available on Amazon at this link.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Darci: I suppose, in a sense, I have. Although my first two published works were historical fiction, The Exile of Sara Stevenson and The Angel of Blythe Hall, they still had a mystery at the heart of them as well as a love story. When I was having a hard time selling another historical (and I have quite a few laying around the house!) I got very frustrated. I realized that if I wanted another shot at the publishing industry that I was going to have to evolve with the times. That’s when I decided to write a cozy mystery, and I’m glad that I did!
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Darci: When I decided to write a mystery series, I was trying to think of the most charming place I knew. That’s when Door County, Wisconsin, popped into my head. Not only is it absolutely beautiful and full of charming lakeside villages, but it’s also very special to our family. My grandparents on both sides vacationed there when my parents were growing up, and my brothers and I spent our summers there as well, hiking along the bluffs, picking cherries in the orchards, sailing in the bay and, yes, eating lots of cherry pie. I’ve always had a real soft spot for cherries, (I now live in Michigan, the cherry capital of the world) and knew that I wanted to incorporate cherries as part of the theme of the series. As for characters, believe it or not, the Blooms are loosely based on my own family. That’s why it’s so fun for me to write. Whitney’s friends, Tay and Hannah, are even based on two of my own dear friends. And they’re getting a real kick reading about the antics and adventures of their Cherry Cove characters.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Darci: Oh, purely entertainment. I want my readers to picture themselves in Cherry Cove and solve the mysteries along with Whitney and her friends. I want them to have fun, to enjoy some of the foods I’ve written about, and to feel a part of that very special community. My wish for anyone who reads my books is to kick back, relax and enjoy the journey!
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Darci: I used to be very scheduled, especially when my kids were in school. I’d drop them off, come home, walk the dog, then get to work. I’d write until they came home. These days, however, my life is a lot more scattered. I have a busy family life, two dogs that need plenty of walking, a job at my local library and a demanding writing schedule. I don’t get to write every day, but I really try to make the most of the time I do have.
KRL Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Darci: I never do a formal outline, but I do always have some idea where the book is going. It all falls together in my head. I do try to scribble down important scenes or plot twists. But the most important thing I do every day before writing is that I take a long walk with my dogs. While they chase squirrels, I think through the details of my story. Once we’re home, they take a nap and I start writing.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Darci: Noon to six pm would be perfect. That’s what I usually shoot for. I’m too busy in the morning doing chores and shopping to write, and after dinner I like to spend time with my family.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Darci: I found it extremely difficult and, believe it or not, I still do. I never did get my first novel published, but I did get over a hundred rejections on that one. Then, when I decided to write mystery, I racked up even more rejections, close to a hundred more. I keep them all! It took me seven years to get back into the publishing game. The truth is, it’s a tough industry. Sometimes I really don’t know why I do this to myself. The short answer is, I enjoy telling stories, and I believe they’re worth sharing.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Darci: When I was trying to sell The Exile of Sara Stevenson, I had so many rejections and couldn’t seem to find anyone who wanted to read the manuscript. Finally, one day I queried a well-known agent in the industry who stated that queries were by referral only. Well, I sent it anyhow, not expecting a reply. A few weeks later I got a handwritten note asking me to send the entire manuscript. That was huge, and so I did. When I didn’t hear anything for six months, however, I decided to call the agency and ask after my manuscript.
The agent remembered the title but had misplaced it and therefore hadn’t read it. She asked me to resend the first fifty pages, promising to put it at the top of her list. So, I sent her the fifty pages. Two weeks later I got a phone call from her asking for the rest of the manuscript. More waiting ensued after that until one day she called. It was the phone call I’d been waiting years for! I don’t know what I’d been expecting, but what she told me has stayed with me to this day. “I’m too old to take on new authors,” she said, “but I’ll make an exception for you.” It was a bit anticlimactic, but I was honored. And that’s how I got my first agent.
KRL Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Darci: Just recently at our tea party book launch for Cherry Scones & Broken Bones, a lovely lady came up to me and told me that last year she’d been in the hospital recovering from a very difficult spine surgery when her son brought her my first book, Cherry Pies & Deadly Lies. It made her laugh, she said, and she enjoyed it so much that there was no way she was going to miss the launch of my second book. That really touched me.
KRL: How sweet. Future writing goals?
Darci: I’m committed to keeping my Very Cherry Mystery Series going. Last fall, my publisher, Midnight Ink, announced it was closing its doors and that they weren’t going to publish my third book in the series. That was heartbreaking. Even more heartbreaking was the fact that selling the series to a new publisher is nearly impossible. I’m now going to be writing a new series for another publisher which won’t come out until 2021. It’s a long way off and I think I can squeeze another cherry mystery in there. I’m going to try publishing it with the help of a friend. We might even sneak a historical novel in there too.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Darci: For mysteries I like, M. C. Beaton, Ellie Alexander, Krista Davis and Agatha Christy just to name a few. I’m still having fun discovering new authors. For historical fiction my very favorites are, Dorothy Dunnett, Patrick O’Brian, Bernard Cornwell and Diana Gabaldon.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Darci: I read a lot of nonfiction about subjects I’m curious about, like police procedurals and forensics. I also read a lot of history. And I absolutely find the internet invaluable for looking up places and finding quick answers to questions that might arise while writing.
KRL: What do you read?
Darci: Since I’m writing cozy mysteries, I’m reading quite a lot of them to better understand the genre. I’m particularly drawn to the British cozies. I really like those.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Darci: I recently stumbled on the BBC mystery series, Agatha Raisin, and loved it. I’d like to watch more BBC mysteries, but, unfortunately, I don’t watch television until the evening, and then I’m watching it with my husband and sons. I’m outnumbered, so I’m stuck watching science documentaries, nature shows, UFO shows, treasure hunting shows, ghost hunting shows and, yes, I’ve even watched, Finding Bigfoot. I look at is as a very well-rounded watching experience!
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Darci: The most important thing is to have fun with it. Write what you love or that story that needs to be told. Believe in yourself, and when it’s time to find a publisher, keep at it!
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Darci: Yes! I would like to thank Kings River Life so very much for inviting me to share a little bit about myself and my books with your readers. I’m honored that you chose to review Cherry Scones & Broken Bones, and sincerely hope that you like it. Thank you!
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Darci: Well, I don’t own goats, but I do own two dogs, which probably isn’t very surprising. What I do think people find surprising about me is that I’m quite tall (five-foot-nine), I’m an extravert, and I love the outdoors. I’m a chatty adventurer at heart, who loves to bake for friends and family. Choosing to spend so much time at a computer writing might seem like an odd choice, but somehow it suits me.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Cherry Scones & Broken Bones, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “cherry,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 27, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode went up this week.
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