Authors: Bailey Cates
“Katie is a charming amateur sleuth.Â .Â .Â . With an intriguing plot and an amusing cast of characters,
Brownies and Broomsticks
is an attention-grabbing read that I couldn't put down.”
New York Times
bestselling author Jenn McKinlay
“Cates is a smooth, accomplished writer who combines a compelling plot with a cast of interesting characters.”
“Full of delicious recipes and descriptions of foodÂ .Â .Â . [a] charming and magical mystery.”
âKings River Life Magazine
“If you enjoy books like Ellery Adams's Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery series, and Heather Blake's Wishcraft Mystery series, you are destined to enjoy the Magical Bakery Mystery series.”
“[A] subtle blend of magic and mystery.”
âCozy Mystery Book Reviews
“[This series] just keeps getting better and better!”
âBook of Secrets
“With a top-notch whodunit, a dark magic investigator working undercover, and a simmering romance in the early stages, fans will relish this tale.”
“Complex and intriguing. If you like a little magic, you will want to read this series.”
“Ms. Cates has most assuredly found the right ingredientsÂ .Â .Â . a series that is a finely sifted blend of drama, suspense, romance, and otherworldly elements.”
âOnce Upon a Romance
THE MAGICAL BAKERY MYSTERIES
Brownies and Broomsticks
Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti
Charms and Chocolate Chips
Some Enchanted Ãclair
Magic and Macaroons
Published by New American Library,
an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
This book is an original publication of New American Library.
Copyright Â© Penguin Random House LLC, 2016
Brownies and Broomsticks
copyright Â© Penguin Random House LLC, 2012
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eBook ISBN 9780698140608
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.
I am very lucky to have so many talented and hardworking people who helped to get this book in front of readers. A big thanks to Kim Lionetti of BookEnds Literary Agency and another to Jessica Wade, who is the best editor an author could hope forâsmart, insightful, and patient. The talented and hardworking team at Penguin Random House also includes Isabel Farhi, Ashley Polikoff, Eileen Chetti, Danielle Dill, and Julie Mianecki. I can't possibly name all the individuals in the writing community at large who inspire me, but a special shout-out goes to the ones who review my work and give me both advice and tough love: Mark Figlozzi, Laura Pritchett, Laura Resau, and Bob Trott. And, as always, I'm grateful to Kevinâfor
“I can't believe I actually get to see her!” Margie Coopersmith bounced on her chair with excitement.
“Mmm-hmm,” I managed around a bite of sweet potato and brown butter scone. The rich flakiness melted on my tongue, and I made a mental note to add a bit more sage to the next batch.
My friend had stopped by the Honeybee Bakery after taking her kids to Friday-morning story time at the Fox and Hound Bookshop next door. Aunt Lucy had immediately shooed me out of the kitchen for my first break since arriving at five a.m. to start on the day's baking, and I'd joined Margie at a small table near the front windows. The Coopersmiths lived next to my little carriage house in Savannah's Midtown, so most of our conversations took place over the fence between our backyards. Lately we'd both been so busy that there hadn't been many of those chance encounters, and it was nice to have this opportunity to catch up.
Margie's blond ponytail swished as she shook her head in wonder. “I've called in to Dr. Dana's radio show twice but never thought I'd have the chance to meet her
face-to-face. I can hardly wait for her signing tomorrow night.”
But I just smiled.
The door to the bakery was propped open to the sixty-five-degree morning, and a pleasant breeze wafted inside. The Ohioan in me loved the change of seasons, even if they weren't nearly as marked in Georgia. I welcomed the caress of the mild, humid air after months of air-conditioning, happily clad in my usual skirt-and-T-shirt work uniform. Margie wore jeans and a light sweater with a denim jacket and sneakersâpractical mom garb heavy enough to ward off what she considered chilly weather.
Margie's five-year-old twins, Jonathan and Juliaâthe JJs for shortâignored their mother's enthusiasm. Sitting next to her at the table, they bent flaxen heads together over their newest book purchase, oatmeal cookies clutched in their right hands. Baby Bart snoozed in his stroller on her other side. Though he was nearly two years old, I suspected the youngest Coopersmith would be called Baby Bart until he was old enough to drive. Baby Bart and the JJs. It sounded like a band from the seventies.
As the JJs turned the page, I saw that the book gripping their attention was
The Night Before Thanksgiving
by Natasha Wing. The holiday was only a week away, and I was looking forward to a big traditional turkey dinner with Aunt Lucy, Uncle Ben, my boyfriend, Declan McCarthy, and as many of the members of the spellbook club and their families as could make it. I hadn't decided on my culinary contribution to the festivities yet. Lately all my spare attention had been devoted to working with Lucy and our part-time employee, Iris Grant, on providing plenty of delicious
snacks for the very author event Margie was waxing on about.
Work or not, it was awfully fun. Not only did the occasional catering job give us an excuse to play around with new recipes, which was one of my favorite things to do as a co-owner of the Honeybee, but we could also explore how to bring the right kind of kitchen magic to the table.
Soon after I'd moved to Savannah and started the bakery with Lucy and Ben, my aunt had delivered the bombshell that hedgewitchery ran in our family. The term came from the women who used to cross the hedges that protectively surrounded many villages. They would venture into the wild forests and fields to collect plants, which they then used to help and heal the townspeople. Of course, one of the other “hedges” my kin had access to was the veil between this plane and the next, which provided us with unusual intuition, especially in relation to our herbal skills.
That was all on my mother's side. My father was descended from a long line of Shawnee medicine men and had also passed on magical talent to his one and only daughter. Of course, I shared their physical characteristics as well. My short auburn bob was darker than Mama's fiery red hair, and my eyes a lighter green. Her pale Irish complexion had lost out to Daddy's richer skin tones, though she'd seen fit to sprinkle a few freckles across my nose nonetheless.
After I'd eventually come around to the idea of being an actual, you know,
, complete with a Cairn terrier as my animal familiar, my aunt had brought me into the spellbook club. It was a real book club with regular meetings, but it also turned out to be an informal coven.
The four other ladies had welcomed me with open arms and kindly offered to train me in their various magical specialties.
However, the ancient knowledge of herbal magic that ran through my DNA had required only a bit of reminding from Aunt Lucy, and now almost everything baked in the Honeybee kitchen featured sprinkles of positive, supernatural intention mixed in with the sweet and savory flavors of our rotating selection of pastries.
I took a sip of spicy chai to wash down the rich, buttery scone. “Well, Dr. Dana's based here in Savannah, so it's not exactly surprising that she'd have a book signing in town. And heaven knows the timing is good. Croftâyou know, the owner of the Fox and Hound?”
“He's hoping this big-name event will bring in lots of early Christmas shoppers.”
The espresso machine behind me roared to life as Uncle Ben pulled a shot for a customer, so I almost missed Margie's response. Almost, but not quite, because her exclamation was louder than the whine of the overpressure valve.
“Oh, it will! Katie, she's
! People listen to her radio show all over the country! And for good reason, too. Dr. Dana is super smart.” Margie brushed crumbs from her lips with a napkin and sat back in her chair. The solid, tanned planes of her face reflected Scandinavian roots, but the softly rounded edges of her words revealed that she was a born-and-bred Southerner.
She continued. “Practical, you know? No nonsense. I just adore that about her. No wonder she's so dang popular. I bet Croft is going to sell out of
How to Do Marriage Right
in no time.” She pointed to her diaper bag, and I
saw the author's photo staring up at me. “That's why I bought my copy early.”
I ventured a noncommittal smile. The one time I'd heard Dr. Dana Dobbs, radio psychologist extraordinaire and one of Savannah's more modern claims to fame, I'd been unimpressed. The suggestions she'd made to her call-in clients had struck me as staid and unimaginativeâexcept for when she told a woman whose father didn't like her new husband to cut off all ties with daddy and not look back. That seemed like an awfully severe solution, and honestly I'd been a little shocked to hear a therapist suggest something so drastic based on such limited information. After all, I'd had difficulties with my mother because she'd kept my heritage as a hedgewitch a secret from me, yet over time we'd worked it all out. Now we not only got along, but she'd started practicing the Craft again as a result.
Margie stood. “Come on, kiddos. We've got to hit the grocery store before your naps.” She helped Julia down from the chair and handed Jonathan his baseball cap, then looked over at me. In a conspiratorial voice, she said, “Date night after their bedtime, and I'm making Redding his favorite supperâgrilled ham steak with red-eye gravy, buttermilk corn bread, and sweet-and-sour green beans.”
I blinked. Margie's usual idea of cooking was to order pizza.
Her grin turned into a laugh. “I know, right? His mother gave me her recipes, so I'm going to give them a go. What's the worst that can happen?”
A sudden vision of the house on the other side of my driveway reduced to a smoldering pile of ash flashed across my mental movie screen.
“I'm not going to attempt dessert, though. The only thing I can reliably pull off is my Coca-Cola cake.” Pronounced
“Which is amazing,” I said with feeling.
“I do love it,” she admitted. “But I'm relying on you for something sweet tonight.”
I snapped my fingers. “Oh! I have just the thing. Eggnog pecan Bundt cake.”
Her eyes flicked to the tall chalkboard behind the register where we listed the current Honeybee offerings. “That's not on the menu.”
“Which is why it's a good thing you know the proprietors.” I grinned. “Between catering Dr. Dana's signing and the upcoming holidays, it's time to shake things up. So Lucy and I were playing around with some new recipes this morning. We'll bring some of them to the bookstore tomorrow night and gauge the responses, but this one is so good we already know it'll go on the menu. Best of all, there's an optional bourbon glaze for the grown-ups.”
Her eyes lit up. “Darlin', I am all over that!”
Happy to contribute to Margie's evening with her husband, I hurried into the kitchen and grabbed a square box emblazoned with the stylized logo of an orange tabby catâLucy's familiar, Honeybee, who had inspired the name of the bakery. A phalanx of cupcakes surrounded the perfectly formed Bundt on the counter, along with a scattering of crumbs left from our taste testing.
I pointed to the cake. “Okay if I give that to Margie? Date night with Redding,” I explained to a startled Lucy.
Beneath the gray-blond mop of hair piled up on her head, my aunt's eyes flashed amused understanding. Quickly, she bent over the cake and muttered a few words. Then, with a wide smile, she helped me load it
into the bakery box, and I took it out front to my waiting neighbor.
I kept the incantation Lucy had said to amplify the romantic effects of the cloves and nutmeg in the cake to myself.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
The next day was Saturday. After we'd closed the Honeybee at five, Uncle Ben set up the rented buffet table next door in the Fox and Hound Bookshop. Lucy and I covered it with a periwinkle blue cloth and began arranging platter after platter of goodies for the anticipated crowd. There were fig muffins and cranberry coconut cookies, buttery pecan sandies covered with powdered sugar and a variety of sweet and savory scones. Brightly frosted cake pops beckoned next to red velvet whoopie pies and miniature sticky buns laced with citrus peel and cardamom.
Dr. Dana Dobbs wasn't due to start her reading until six o'clock, so Ben took his time setting out the big jugs of mulled cider and peach sweet tea, pausing every time the door opened to see if he recognized whoever was entering. More often than not, his gentle brown eyes lit up behind his glasses, and he raised his hand in an easy wave. My guess was that by the end of the evening, he'd have added even more people to his considerable list of friends. Ever since retiring as Savannah's fire chief, my uncle had happily indulged his extroverted natureâa boon for a customer-oriented business like the Honeybee.
However, six o'clock came and there was no sign of the author. A few people looked at their watches and marched out the door five minutes later, but most of her fans continued to chat and browse. At six thirty, the owner of the Fox and Hound, Croft Barrow, caught my eye and wove his way toward me through the milling
fans. When he reached my side I could see stress in his pinched forehead and the lines carved around his thin lips. He ran his fingers through a shock of white hair, and his worried expression deepened with yet another glance at the door of the shop.
“No one's seen her?” I asked.
He shook his head.
“Do you have her cell number?”
“She didn't answer.” Frustration infused his words.
His phone rang, and he whipped it out of his pocket like it would reveal the secrets of the universe. “It's her assistant,” he said to me as he thumbed the screen. “Phoebe! Is everything all right? Where are you?”
Hearing the urgency in his voice, a nearby couple turned toward us with curious expressions.
Croft wiped his brow and sidled to the deserted corner by the magazine display. As he moved away, I heard him say, “Yes, that works. We'll see you in a few minutes.” His relief was palpable.
Breathing my own relief, I hurried back to the table, where Aunt Lucy and Uncle Ben were busy dispensing snacks. Dr. Dana Dobbs was the biggest celebrity Croft had ever booked, and I knew he wanted everything to be perfect. His store was doing better than some independently owned bookshops, but it was still a bit of a struggle at times. However, I had high hopes for lots of sales. Lucy and I had done what we could by adding a bit of cinnamon to the snickerdoodles and poppy seeds to the lemon pound cake to encourage prosperity. The grande dame of the spellbook club, Mimsey Carmichael, specialized in flower magic and had supplied small vases of Peruvian lilies to attract money. We'd set those among the pastries.
“Katie, could you grab some more cups?” Lucy asked
as she handed a cranberry walnut scone to an angular woman.
My aunt's consistent, Zen-like calm instantly dissipated the nervous energy I'd picked up from Croft. Tonight she'd twisted her mass of wavy hair into a loose French braid, and her skirt, blouse, and vest reflected the russet tones of autumn leaves and emphasized her petite figure.
“Sure,” I said, and bent down to the bin I'd stashed under the table earlier. Liquid brown eyes looked back at me. Mungo, my Cairn terrier, was guarding the extra supplies. “Good boy,” I murmured before straightening with a sleeve of disposable cups in my hand.
Lucy handed me a scone studded with flecks of rosemary, Kalamata olives, and nuggets of salty feta. “Any news?”
I took the scone gratefully. We'd spent the whole afternoon baking and setting up for the event, and I hadn't eaten much since the ham and tomato omelet Declan had whipped up for breakfast that morning.
“The good doctor's assistant just called,” I said. “It sounds like they'll be here soon.”
“Good.” Ben filled a cup with fragrant apple cider and handed it to a waiting customer. He smiled as the woman took the cup, and the corners of his eyes crinkled behind his glasses. In the two years since he'd retired from the fire department, a few white hairs had worked their way into his ginger hair and short beard.