If it weren’t for my very persistent and equally charming husband, Carlos, I would have been safe and sound in my hometown of Ashland, Oregon whipping up batches of decadent cakes and cookies in preparation for the new season of the Shakespeare festival. Instead I was packing my bags and getting ready to set sail for a week in the tropics.

My training as a pastry chef had taken place on the azure waters of the Caribbean where I had mastered the art of making a perfect macaron and expanded my palate at each port of call. However, it had been almost a year since I had left the Amour of the Seas, Carlos, and my vagabond lifestyle behind. Nerves welled in my stomach at the thought of returning to the ship. I might have chickened out and said no when Carlos called and begged to come fill in temporarily—apparently, the ship’s pastry chef had left in a huff—except that he sweetened his offer by inviting Mom and her paramour the Professor to come along. Mom’s eyes had brightened at the mention of sandy beaches and sunny skies.

So I found myself back on the ship in its massive pastry kitchen. Unlike our family bakeshop, Torte, the Amour of the Seas boasted a state-of-the-art kitchen with every tool and gadget imaginable. I would be overseeing a large staff as we cranked out elegant pineapple tarts, tiered crepes filled with layers of mascarpone and fresh strawberries, and rum-soaked Bundt cakes drizzled with dark chocolate ganache for hundreds of passengers. Running a kitchen this size was more about organization and less about baking. I had grown accustom to getting my hands messy in bread dough at Torte. Being in the industrial kitchen was a firm reminder of why I had decided to plant roots in Ashland.

However, I was so busy putting the finishing touches on the platters for the send-off party that I didn’t have time to dwell on anything other than the task in front of me. My team assembled chocolate and marshmallow skewers, citrus shortbread, and kiwi tarts. The Amour of the Seas was a boutique cruise ship that catered to foodies. Guests opted to sail with us over some of the bigger ships with more amenities because of our dedication to the craft of food. Everything had to be top-notch and my staff didn’t disappoint. I popped a piece of tangy shortbread into my mouth and swooned at the buttery flavor with bright hints of apricot and tangerine. Giving the team my seal of approval, I picked up the platter and headed for the pool deck.

The atmosphere was electric when I arrived on the top deck. Waiters circulated between yellow and navy teak lounge chairs with spicy, grilled, beef kabobs. Sunlight glistened off the brilliant blue pool. Passengers waved goodbye as the ship’s horn sounded and we pulled away from the dock. I spotted Mom and the Professor wearing matching flower leis and dancing to the beat of the steel drum band. Maybe a week at sea would be just what the doctor ordered, I thought as I squeezed through the happy crowd.

Mom wrapped me in a hug. “Juliet, this is wonderful.” She beamed with delight.

The Professor, who had abandoned his typical tweed jacket in favor of a tropical shirt with palm trees, nodded in agreement. “As the bard says in Macbeth,” he paused and held up a fruity cocktail with a paper umbrella. “I drink to the general joy o’ the whole table.”

“I’m glad you’re both enjoying yourselves,” I replied, offering them slices of the citrus shortbread.

“I think this is going to be a wonderful week and the best vacation ever,” Mom said with a grin as she took a bite of the cookie.

Unfortunately, her sentiment was short lived. When I woke early the next morning to get in a quick walk before a day of frenzy in the pastry kitchen, I strolled past the crystal blue pool where I discovered a young woman floating face-down in the salt water. Suddenly in addition to managing a busy kitchen and fending off Carlos’s attempts to convince me to make my return permanent, I found myself in the middle of murder investigation.

You can read more about Jules in A Crime of Passion Fruit, the sixth book in the “Bakeshop” mystery series.

Torte―everybody’s favorite small-town family bakeshop―is headed for the high seas, where murder is about to make a splash. . .

Jules Capshaw is trying to keep her cool as Torte gets set to make its transformation from quaint, local confectionary café to royal pastry palace. Meanwhile, Jules’s estranged husband Carlos is making a desperate plea for her to come aboard his cruise ship and dazzle everyone with her signature sweets. She may be skeptical about returning to her former nautical life with Carlos but Jules can’t resist an all-expense-paid trip, either. If only she knew that a dead body would find its way onto the itinerary.

Now, instead of enjoying tropical drinks on deck between whipping up batches of sea-salted chocolates and flambéing fresh pineapple slices in the kitchen, Jules is plunged into dangerous waters. Her investigation leaves her with more questions than answers: Why can’t anyone on board identify the young woman? And how can she help Carlos keep passengers at ease with a killer in their midst? Jules feels like she’s ready to jump ship. Can she solve this case without getting in too deep?

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About the author
Ellie Alexander writes the 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.

You can find her online on Facebook, Twitter, on Instagram and at www.elliealexander.co.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a signed copy of A Crime of Passion Fruit along with a tropical baking mix. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends July 3, 2017. Good luck everyone!

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