Clammed UpHi, I’m Julia Snowden. Back in March, I left my job in venture capital in New York to return to Busman’s Harbor, Maine to save my family’s failing clambake business.

Twice a day, the Snowden Family Clambake Company loads two hundred customers aboard our boat and takes them to a private island where we feed them clam chowder, followed by twin lobsters, steamers, an ear of corn, a potato, an onion and an egg, with blueberry grunt for dessert. The meal is cooked over rocks heated by a hardwood fire, then covered by seaweed and canvas tarps. The clambake combines a harbor tour, relaxed time on a Maine island, and a delicious meal.

My dad, who founded the Snowden Family Clambake Company, died five years ago. Since then, the clambake has been run by my brother-in-law, Sonny. At the height of the economic boom, Sonny and my mother took out an enormous loan, using the island, our boat, and my mother’s house in the harbor as collateral. Then the recession hit and tourism dwindled. By the time my sister Livvie intercepted a message from the bank, we stood to lose it all. Livvie’s panicked phone call brought me back to Busman’s Harbor.

Since March, I’ve stayed at my mom’s house and worked hard everyday, renegotiating our loan, marketing the clambake and getting the island ready for the season. When living and working with family gets to be too much, I head to Gus’s restaurant. Gus’s hasn’t changed since I was a child. Same round-topped gas pump out front, same candle-pin bowling alley inside, same plain but tasty food served in red-checkered paper boats. And same policy of “no strangers.” Gus doesn’t serve food to anyone he doesn’t know personally. I have no idea how he gets away with this.

For the last few months, my junior high crush, Chris Durand, and I have “happened” to meet for lunch at Gus’s every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Chris is the one person in my life who’s not a family member, vendor or employee and he’s the only person who knows how scared I am the business will fail. Our relationship’s not a “thing,” exactly. I’m not sure what it is.

The clambake opens to the public in just a few days. But before we open, we’ll hold a wedding on the island for one of my friends from New York. Michaela isn’t a close friend, we ran on the outer periphery of the same crowd. I’ve met her fiancé Tony a few times as we’ve planned their wedding. He seems like a nice enough guy. I have the impression he’s paying for the whole shindig.

For now, I’m hopeful. The bank’s agreed not to call our loan if we meet our revenue targets every week from now until Columbus Day. All we need is good weather, a good tourist summer and good luck. If Michaela’s wedding goes well, I it will be a great omen for the whole season. And if it doesn’t—I don’t want to think about the consequences.

Barbara is giving away one (1) copy of “Clammed Up.” Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Contest ends September 3; US entries only.

Meet the author
Barbara Ross’ novel, Clammed Up, first in her Maine Clambake Mystery series, will be published by Kensington on September 3rd. Barbara and her husband own the former Seafarer Inn in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. From her perch on the Seafarer’s wide front porch, Barbara’s had a chance to observe the quirks of life in a small resort town, along with the stunning harbor views.

Barbara is also a co-editor/co-publisher at Level Best Books, which will release its eleventh anthology Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold in November.

For more information, check out Barbara’s website, on Twitter or on Facebook.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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