“Welcome to Doucet Plantation,” Magnolia “Maggie” Crozat says as she greets the morning’s first tour group. She’s clad in a pink, antebellum-style ball gown and a banana-curled wig. Sweat trickles down her forehead, and she prays that visitors don’t notice the perspiration stains forming under her arms. Louisiana mugginess and cheap polyester do not mix.
Maggie spends her day as a tour guide sharing the history of the plantation and enduring conversations like this:
Visitor: Hey, you look like the lady in the painting.
Maggie: Yes, she was my ancestor.
Visitor: Whoa! Is it weird leading tours at plantation your family used to own?
Maggie: No, I’m glad that it’s a historical site dedicated to showing both the best and worst of plantation life.
Visitor: (skeptical) Right.
The last tour ends at 4:45, and Maggie trades her costume for jeans and a tee shirt. She leaps into the vintage 1964 Falcon convertible that she inherited from her late grandfather, Papa Doucet, and heads for Fais Dough Dough Patisserie and Bon Bon Sweets, two shops owned by her cousin and best friend, Lia Tienne. Both are located in in Pelican, Louisiana, a picturesque Cajun village whose town motto is “Yes, We Peli-CAN!” Maggie, an artist, has started a small business making souvenirs that feature her bold, modern take on local landmarks. Lia sells them in her stores and though they’ve yet to generate a profit, at least Maggie’s breaking even.
As Maggie drives to Pelican, she muses about the hundred-and-eighty degree turn her life has taken. Only months before, she co-owned a Manhattan art gallery with the man she assumed she’d marry. She never thought she’d end up back in her hometown, single and starting over. She takes comfort from her burgeoning romance with hot detective, Bo Durand, but the relationship is hampered by the fact that Bo’s cousin and boss, obnoxious Police Chief Rufus Durand, is the arch-enemy of Maggie’s family.
Maggie leaves Fais Dough Dough with a large tray of Lia’s famous Bourbon Pecan Bread Pudding. It may be 5:30, but her workday is only half-over. She spends the evening helping her parents feed and entertain guests at Crozat Plantation B&B, her father’s ancestral home-turned-hostelry; Lia’s bread pudding is served as dessert. Tonight, there’s no room at the inn. Thanks to Pelican’s summer festival, Fet Let, Crozat Plantation B&B is sold out. The guests include a mysterious stranger from Texas, a couple of hipster lovebirds, a group of middle-aged women who call themselves the Cajun Cuties, and a trio of Georgia frat boys. If Maggie’s lucky, she’ll escape to the bayou behind her family’s home after the guests disperse, and indulge her passion for art; she loves using oil paints to capture the shadows that the moon casts on Spanish moss-draped tree branches hovering over the slow-moving stream.
But this particular evening, Maggie will not be lucky. Two of the guests at Crozat Plantation B&B are a demanding eighty-something couple on their honeymoon – yes, their honeymoon. By the end of the night, both will be dead: one of natural causes, the other by murderous design. With her loved ones as suspects and the family business in peril, Maggie is forced to take on one more job: amateur sleuth.
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You can read more about Maggie (and find the recipe for Bourbon Pecan Bread Pudding) in Plantation Shudders, the first book in the NEW “Cajun Country” mystery series, published by Crooked Lane Books and released on August 11, 2015.
About Plantation Shudders
It’s the end of the summer and Prodigal Daughter Maggie Crozat has returned home to her family’s plantation-turned-bed-and-breakfast in Louisiana. The Crozats have an inn full of guests for the local food festival–elderly honeymooners, the Cajun Cuties, a mysterious stranger from Texas, a couple of hipster lovebirds, and a trio of Georgia frat boys. But when the elderly couple keels over dead within minutes of each other–one from very unnatural causes– Maggie and the others suddenly become suspects in a murder.
With the help of Bo Durand, the town’s handsome new detective, Maggie must investigate to clear her name while holding the family business together at the same time. And the deeper she digs, the more she wonders: are all of the guests really there for a vacation or do they have ulterior motives? Decades-old secrets and stunning revelations abound in Ellen Byron’s charming cozy debut, Plantation Shudders.
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GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on August 19 for the chance to win a print copy of Plantation Shudders. 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.
Meet the author
Ellen Byron is a native New Yorker who loves the rain, lives in bone-dry Los Angeles, and spends lots of time writing about Louisiana. She attributes this obsession to her college years at New Orleans’ Tulane University. Ellen’s TV credits include Wings and Just Shoot Me; her published plays include the award-winning, Graceland. She is also the recipient of a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant. She’s the proud mom of a fifteen year-old daughter and two very spoiled rescue dogs. Visit Ellen at www.ellenbyron.com.