Returning to my hometown of Ashland, Oregon was the best decision I ever made. Ashland’s charming streets and warm community welcomed me in as if no time had passed. There was nothing like breathing in fresh mountain air or the sight of black-tail deer noshing on the grass in Lithia Park. The mood in Ashland was always upbeat and festive. Perhaps it was due to the fact that our little hamlet was a favorite stop for tourists, who came to take in a world-class production of Romeo and Juliet at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival or spend the day trekking through stunning canyons of the Rogue River Valley. Maybe Ashland’s laid-back vibe was due to its thriving art scene or its natural healing waters in the nearby hot springs. Whatever the reason, I was content and happy to be running Torte, our family bakeshop.
Torte is more than a bakeshop. It’s a gathering space, and a beacon of joy in the form of delectable sweets, pastries, savories, and artisan coffees hand-crafted by a staff that makes everyone who walks through the front door feel like family. Sometimes I have to pinch myself. I can’t believe how lucky I am to get to work in a place that I love with people who I adore. Since returning home we had been steadily growing our team and our offerings.
When my parents opened Torte, they had been focused on providing customers with delicious baked goods that tasted like home, and a cozy spot to curl up with a book and latte. In the process they had created a lasting legacy. Visitors from all over the globe frequented our busy bakeshop not only for one of our famed pastries but because Torte had become known as a place where someone would always lend a listening ear. We heard stories about our customers’ travels, learned about their grandchildren, and were the spot to go for local news and happenings.
Now it was my turn to carry on my parents’ legacy. My mom, Helen, had recently become engaged to Ashland’s resident detective and Shakespeare enthusiast, the Professor. She was scaling back in order to concentrate on wedding planning and because she had found love again after many years of living with the loss of my father. Seeing her eyes light up whenever the Professor was near, brought a swell of happiness to my heart. It was also a reminder of how much work I had to do. We were in the middle of a major expansion. Thanks to a special grant funding we were taking over the basement space. Work had begun in earnest and soon the construction crew would be breaking through the main floor to add stairs to the new addition.
In addition to dozens of meetings with our architect and endless decisions about flooring and countertops, we were gearing up for the busy season, and had been tasked by my dear friend Lance, the artistic director at the festival, to create a dessert feast of Shakespearean proportions for his opening soirée. No dime was to be spared and no detail was to be missed. Lance wanted an authentic Elizabethan-spread complete with triffle, puddings, tarts, royal marchpanes, and clotted cream. I had been pouring through the weathered pages of cookbooks from the 1600s trying to figure out how to replicate each dessert.
Despite my busy schedule and Lance’s tendency toward dramatics, I was enjoying the challenge. It wasn’t every day that I had a chance to revive an ancient recipe. Revival seemed to be the theme of my life as of late from breathing new life into the basement to rediscovering how to craft dainty old-world marzipans.
However, I wasn’t expecting to have to revive my friend. That changed the night of Lance’s bash, when he stumbled upon my front door with blood on his hands and a dagger clutched to his chest. Suddenly my friend was the most likely suspect in a murder case and I wasn’t sure if I believed him.
You can read more about Jules in Another One Bites the Crust, the seventh book in the “Bakeshop” mystery series.
Torte―the beloved small-town bakeshop run by Jules Capshaw―is set to hit the stage. But who would have guessed that murder would makes a surprise appearance?
It’s the role of a lifetime for Jules. The Shakespeare Festival has returned to Ashland, Oregon, for the season and Torte has been cast as the supplier of Elizabethan-era treats for the main event. But on the eve of opening night, a brawl between Jules’s friend Lance, the artistic director, and a strapping young thespian named Anthony almost brings down the house. . .and the next morning, Anthony is dead. Jules knows that Lance loves his drama―and his just desserts―but she also knows that murder is way off-script for him. Now it’s up to Jules to cut through a bevy of backstage betrayals and catty co-stars who all have their own secrets―before the curtain drops on someone else. . .
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About the author
Ellie Alexander writes the bestselling Bakeshop Mystery series for St. Martin’s Press, set in the Shakespearean town of Ashland, Oregon and featuring a romantic, artisan pastry chef, Juliet Montague Capshaw.
Ellie is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research.
All comments are welcomed.