My name is Ophelia Elizabeth Brice McLennon Honeywell. Y’all can call me Ophie. Most everybody does, although I do like it when handsome young men call me Miss Ophelia. Reminds me of the days when eligible young men were invited to tea at my grandmother’s house to meet her granddaughters. The men called her “Miss Charlotte” and she would smile coquettishly while peeking out from beneath luxurious eyelashes as if there weren’t decades separating their birth years. My sister Emelia says I got my flirtatious ways from grandmother. I don’t care where it came from, a nice smile and placing my hand briefly on a man’s arm has done me no end of good.
Mr. McLennon and I lived in Macon, Georgia for a bit and then he moved us to Pinetta. Barely in Florida, just south of the Georgia border, it’s a lovely, sleepy little town. Unfortunately that fine gentleman went off to his heavenly reward much too soon. Before my proper mourning period was over, that scoundrel Jebediah Honeywell swept me off my feet and landed me in front of the preacher while I was still too teary eyed to make such a life-changing decision. But there we were saying “I do”. So when he ran off to Mobile, Alabama with that floozy Lila Mae Cubbins, I was happy enough to wave fare-thee-well. ’Course I had to put on a show of hand-wringing and dabbing at the corner of my eye with a hankie now and again, otherwise folks would think their kindness and sympathy was wasted on me. What type of neighbor would I be if I wasn’t grateful for their thoughtfulness? Many a month passed before I had to turn on my oven for dinner or dessert, I can tell you.
Still I was at loose ends.
If I’ve learned nothing else in life, I do know that opportunity arises from the strangest circumstances. So there I was late one night browsing Facebook when a status came through my newsfeed that got my heart pumping and my blood roiling. Emelia’s daughter, my niece Bridget, was in trouble. She and her childhood friend Sassy Cabot owned the Read ’Em and Eat Café and Bookstore down in Fort Myers Beach set right on the Gulf of Mexico. Her imaginative and inspired chef, Miguel Guerra, fell and broke his leg—right there in the café kitchen. Who could match Miguel’s kitchen skills? Why me, that’s who. So I tossed a few things in the back of my car. Only essentials mind you: my highly polished lavender make-up case, my multi drawered mahogany jewelry box, and a dozen pairs of my spikey, brightly colored sandals. I hit I-75 and caravanned with a dozen long distance truckers until just before dawn when I reached southwest Florida and saved the day for Bridgy and Sassy.
Miguel’s accident was only the start of trouble in the Read ’Em and Eat. A sweet woman, one of Sassy’s favorite book club members was murdered—struck down in her own home. We found out a few minutes after I arrived. Thank goodness I was there to support the girls in their darkest hour. I kept the kitchen moving, I can tell you. Although I never did understand all the fuss I had to hear from both Bridgy and Sassy about cleaning. After all, I came to rescue them by cooking fabulous meals. Cleaning is not creative enough to be considered my domain.
Time passed and I’m happy to say the killer was caught. Too soon Miguel was able to get back into the kitchen to bake the Miss Marple Scones everyone loves. And I was back at loose ends. I’d come to love Fort Myers Beach but the café kitchen would be too crowded for Miguel and me, each trying to outdo the other. You know what they say about too many chefs. . .
Still and all, the Good Lord always provides. A cozy little consignment shop became available just a few doors away from the Read ’Em and Eat. The perfect business for a connoisseur of fine things. And who appreciates the finer things more than I do? I sold my house in Pinetta and here I am enjoying the sun and the surf in Fort Myers Beach with a business of my own and family and friends to keep me company. Don’t y’all dare to visit the beach without stopping by the Treasure Trove. I’m sure I have something in my collection that will catch your eye.
You can read more about Aunt Ophie in Caught Read-Handed, the second book in the “Read Em and Eat” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series is Well Read, Then Dead.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on July 17 for the chance to win an autographed copy of Caught Read-Handed + a small bag signed by Elaine Viets, R.P. Dahlke, Barbara Graham, Kathy Aarons, Leigh Perry, Melody Johnson Howe, Dianne Vallere, Beverly Allen, and Terrie Farley Moran. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected.
About the author
Agatha Award winner Terrie Farley Moran is the author of Read ‘Em and Eat cozy mystery series including Well Read, Then Dead and Caught Read-Handed. Her short mystery fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies. Her stories have been short-listed twice for Best American Mysteries. Terrie’s web address is terriefarleymoran.com. She blogs at womenofmystery.net and can be found on Facebook.