by Sandra Murphy
This week we are reviewing a new author for us, Wendy Sand Eckel. We also have a fun food related guest post from Wendy which includes some recipes! Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a signed copy of Death at the Day Lily Café and a Day Lily Café mug, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, as well as a link to purchase it from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Death at the Day Lily Café: Rosalie Hart series by Wendy Sand Eckel
Review by Sandra Murphy
Rosalie Hart was happily married when her husband announced he was not, and he wanted a divorce. She’s been able to move on and that included finally opening the café of her dreams. She inherited a farm from her aunt and with the help of Tyler, her next door neighbor, now has chickens for free range eggs, organically grown veggies, and plans to go much bigger. The café opens to a great success. So far, they’re open three days a week, soon expanding to four. As they get their balance, it will be a seven day place to eat and will include dinner and drinks.
Rosalie owes a lot to her friend Doris. When Doris asks a favor, she can’t say no, even though she doesn’t have a minute to spare. Doris’ sister, Lori, was married to Carl James (CJ). He was a contractor working on the dormitories for the college. Money went missing, and it had to be a contractor that took it. Until the mess is figured out, all the contractors are barred from the job.
CJ is dead, and the Sheriff is sure Lori shot him at point blank range with a shotgun. She swears she didn’t do it. Lori is the kind of person who does things and finds out the consequences later but never learns from the experience. It’s no wonder people doubt her.
Custer, Rosalie’s cook, is a dream in the kitchen but very close-mouthed about his past. He’s on probation, she knows that much, but no one will tell her why. Now he’s hanging out with Rosalie’s daughter, Annie.
In between trying to help Lori, reassure Doris, and keep up with the restaurant, Rosalie wonders about her attraction to Tyler, his friendship with Bini, acts as go-between for Annie and her dad and investigates new beers and wines with her helper, Glenn. Within just a couple of weeks, the café has regulars and is a gathering place, just what she hoped.
CJ’s best friend, Butch, is back to console Lori. Anyone who knows him, is sure there’s more to it than that. He’s Custer’s father and Tyler’s brother but neither wants anything to do with him. Butch can be charming when he wants something, mean when he doesn’t get it.
This is the second book in the charming Rosalie Hart series. Rosalie is low-key, doesn’t put herself in danger unless it’s where her daughter is concerned, and acts as peacemaker and diplomat for others. There’s information about organic, locally grown food scattered throughout. The characters are rich, with a depth like you’ve known them a good while, without putting every detail on the page to slow the story. This is a series to watch and will certainly be on my favorites of 2016 list. The café is where townspeople come to relax with good friends and good food. The book is where readers go to do the same.
Rosalie shares recipes for an egg bake dish, potato cakes, arugula side salad, caramelized onion grilled cheese sandwiches, ten-minute tomato soup, key lime bars, and a variety of seasoned salts.
Murder on the Menu
By Wendy Sand Eckel
Ginger hurried in the door of Brio shaking rain off her umbrella and stomping her black pumps on the mat. We were meeting for a glass of wine after work as we often did now that we were no longer neighbors.
“Sorry I’m late,” she said as we hugged.
“I’m just happy to see you.” I motioned to Dave, our favorite bartender.
Ginger and I first met twenty years ago. Both new moms who had recently been transplanted to a very small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, we were grateful to have found one another. At first we lamented about leaving jobs in larger cites, Houston and Washington, D.C., respectively, and trying to find a way to fit into the close knit community we now called home. But after a few years, Ginger and I had settled in like round pegs in snug round holes. In fact, I was so taken with the place, I chose it as the setting for my Rosalie Hart mystery series.
A flat stretch of land wedged between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic, Maryland’s Eastern Shore is a unique part of the country known for its salty watermen, dug-in farmers, and the landed gentry who are hidden by long, tree-lined lanes that lead to their historic estates along the waterways. The residents of this part of the country are insular and proud, and you have to earn their trust before you are brought into the fold.
“Tell me everything,” I said to Ginger as Dave set a glass of Chardonnay on a white cocktail napkin before me. “How are your boys? How’s your new puppy? How was your Mother’s Day?”
Ginger laughed. She had a kind face with high, round cheeks and dancing brown eyes that made her look perpetually ready for the next adventure. “I’ll start with Mother’s Day. Byron came home from college and made me breakfast. We spent the entire day together.”
“Lucky you.” Fingerprints dotted the chilled glass as I finished my first sip. “He’s such a good cook. What did he make?”
“Family fave,” she said. “Banana bread French toast.” Ginger held the stem of her glass with both hands and tasted her Merlot.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “what did you say?”
“Banana bread French toast. You mean you’ve never had it?”
My mouth watered. I licked my lips thinking it sounded like something Elvis would eat. I loved encountering a new spin on an oldie but goodie, such as topping grilled cheese with slow-cooked caramelized onions or adding basil-infused cream to tomato soup. My thoughts turned to the book I had just completed. I had recently submitted the first draft of the latest in my Rosalie Hart mystery series, Death at the Day Lily Café, to my editor at Minotaur.
In Death at the Day Lily Café, in addition to being asked to clear a friend of murder charges, Rosalie Hart realizes her dream when she opens the Day Lily Café. After several weeks of crowded tables and satisfied customers, she decides to expand her hours to include a Sunday champagne brunch.
I studied Ginger. I needed to rewrite that scene.
She tucked her light brown hair behind an ear. “You okay?”
“I need that recipe,” I said, as I dug through my bag for a pen.
She laughed. “It’s pretty darn good.”
Banana Bread French Toast
Nonstick vegetable spray
4 large ripe mashed bananas
3/4 cup flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 stick melted butter
1/2 cup lightly toasted chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350º
Coat an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs, bananas, and butter in a larger bowl until smooth (I like to put the bananas through a food processor first). Add dry ingredients to wet and whisk until just combined. Stir in walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until center comes out clean, around 55-60 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool. Slice bread into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces.
3 large organic eggs
1/2 cup whole organic milk
1/3 cup organic heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of sea salt
1 Tablespoon organic butter
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
Whisk the first five ingredients together in a medium bowl. Heat butter and oil in a large nonstick frying pan on medium heat. Dip slices of banana bread in mixture until coated. Place in pan and cook each side about five minutes. Keep cooked slices warm in the oven until all slices are cooked.
Sift powdered sugar over each slice and serve with pure maple syrup.
You can check out the book trailer for Wendy’s book on Vimeo: vimeo.com/169578719
To enter to win a signed copy of Death at the Day Lily Café and a Day Lily Café mug, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “lily,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 30, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
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