Tag Archives: Dorothy St. James

A day in the life with Charity Penn by Dorothy St. James

Granny Mae, dressed in a fluffy pink robe the color of cotton candy, with matching fluffy pink slippers, disappeared on the other side of the kitchen island to pull a tray from the oven. “I thought he said he’d call by now,” she said, her voice bouncing around in the metal oven.

“He did.” Whenever he was near a beach, “first thing” for Skinny McGee meant before the sunrise. After the sun came up, I could forget about getting in touch with him because his daytime hours were dedicated to surfing, or thinking about surfing, or planning his next surfing trip.

Last night he’d called when I was in the shower and left an odd message: “Penn, I need to talk with you.” He’d sounded out of breath. “I know why you won that fake contest. I know who sent the letter. And it’s really cool. No, I’m not going to tell you in a message. Don’t want to miss hearing your reaction. I can tell you this—start packing your bags. You need to come down here and see for yourself. I’ll give you a call first thing in the morning. We can talk then.”

I’d tried to call him back right after listening to the message but had been sent to voice mail.

“He hasn’t responded to any of the texts I’ve sent either.” With a frown, I settled at the kitchen island where I usually drank my morning coffee.

“I’m sure he’ll get in touch soon. Have a scone. They’re fresh from the oven.” Granny Mae dropped a rock-hard lump of cooked dough onto a ceramic plate. The loud clang made Stella—the little fluff of a Papillon—bark as if armed intruders had burst through the back door.

“I think I’ll just stick with coffee.” I loved Granny Mae to pieces, truly I did, but no matter how hard she tried, she could not cook, bake, or broil to save her life. Nor could I, for that matter. The scone recipe was the same one she’d encouraged me to try last week. At least her attempt didn’t smell as if brimstone had escaped from the depths of hell. Despite the freezing temperature outside, I’d had to open all the windows to get rid of the stench.

In many ways we were two peas in a pod, which didn’t surprise me. Even though Granny Mae wasn’t really my grandmother, I’d known her my entire life. She was working as my paternal grandmother’s personal assistant when I was abandoned as a newborn on Cristobel Penn’s doorstep. It was Granny Mae who’d convinced Cristobel to let me stay by volunteering to take responsibility for my care.

When Granny Mae completed her first PhD and left Grandmother Cristobel’s service to teach at the University of Wisconsin, she kept in touch with frequent letters, phone calls, small gifts, and surprise visits.

She acted more like a devoted family member than any of my blood relatives. So when I was offered the position of chief executive of marketing for a firm in Madison, Wisconsin, Granny Mae had immediately invited me to stay with her in her vintage cottage. It had started out as a temporary living arrangement. Three years later, I still hadn’t moved out.

“These scones will be perfect for dipping in coffee.” Granny Mae picked one up and tapped it with her finger. She shook her head. The pink curlers in her hair clanged. The noise got Stella barking again.

“Hush.” Surprisingly she stopped and looked up at me. Her huge, dark-brown ears tilted left and right. Her black eyes sparkled with mischief.

For a moment I thought she might obey. Silly me. Stella jumped up and nipped my big toe. “Son-of-a—”

I jumped off the stool and chased after her. Even though Stella’s legs were much shorter than mine, it didn’t slow her down. Not one bit. We ran around the kitchen until I felt like a complete nut.

I finally opened the back door. With a happy yip-yip, the tiny Papillon hurried outside. Sometime during the night, a sparkly white blanket of Wisconsin snow had covered the tidy backyard. Stella wouldn’t stay out long. It was too cold out there for a dog that could literally fit in my pocket. But she seemed to enjoy bouncing around the freshly snow-covered bushes.

I watched her for a moment before pushing the door closed.

“Oh, dear,” Granny Mae said. While I’d chased Stella, Granny Mae had picked up her iPad. “Oh, dear; oh, dear,” she said again and handed me the tablet.

On the screen was a newspaper headline:

Man Murdered in Vat of Chocolate.

“What is this?” I asked.

Granny Mae had three PhDs—one in biochemistry, one in astrophysics, and the third in journalism. Strange or sensational news simply wasn’t her thing.

It’s Skinny,” she whispered.

“What?” I dropped like a heavy weight into the nearest kitchen chair. A frigid cold that had nothing to do with the outside air settled deep into my bones. I read the entire article. Skinny? What did he find?


You can read more about Charity in Asking for Truffle, the first book in the NEW “Southern Chocolate Shop” mystery series.

When Charity Penn receives a letter saying she won a trip to Camellia Beach, South Carolina complete with free cooking lessons at the town’s seaside chocolate shop, The Chocolate Box, she’s immediately skeptical. She never entered any contest. Her former prep school friend offers to look into the phony prize―only to end up drowned in a vat of chocolate.

Struck with guilt, Penn heads to the southern beach town to investigate why he was killed. But as wary as she is of the locals, she finds herself lured into their eccentric vibe, letting her defenses melt away and even learning the art of crafting delicious chocolates. That is, until delight turns bittersweet as she steps straight into the midst of a deadly plot to destroy the seaside town. Now, only Penn’s quick thinking and a mysterious cask of rare chocolate can save the town she’s learning to love.

Rich and decadent, Asking for Truffle, the first in a new cozy series by Dorothy St. James, is sure to be a delectable read for fans of JoAnna Carl and Joanne Fluke.

Buy Link

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About the author
Dorothy St. James, known for the White House Gardener Mystery series, is going back to her roots and setting a mystery series in a Southern beach town much like the one she’s called home for the past 20 years. The Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries combine her love of fine chocolates, quirky Southern charm, with a dash of danger. Asking for Truffle hits bookstore shelves September 2017.

All comments are welcomed.

My Musing ~ Asking for Truffle by Dorothy St. James

Asking for Truffle by Dorothy St. James is the first book in the NEW “Southern Chocolate Shop” mystery series. Publisher: Crooked Lane Books, coming September 12, 2017

When Charity Penn receives a letter saying she won a trip to Camellia Beach, South Carolina complete with free cooking lessons at the town’s seaside chocolate shop, The Chocolate Box, she’s immediately skeptical. She never entered any contest. Her former prep school friend offers to look into the phony prize—only to end up drowned in a vat of chocolate.

Struck with guilt, Penn heads to the southern beach town to investigate why he was killed. But as wary as she is of the locals, she finds herself lured into their eccentric vibe, letting her defenses melt away and even learning the art of crafting delicious chocolates. That is, until delight turns bittersweet as she steps straight into the midst of a deadly plot to destroy the seaside town. Now, only Penn’s quick thinking and a mysterious cask of rare chocolate can save the town she’s learning to love.

Rich and decadent, Asking for Truffle, the first in a new cozy series by Dorothy St. James, is sure to be a delectable read for fans of JoAnna Carl and Joanne Fluke.

Searching for answers to her friend’s untimely demise, Penn heads to the small town of Camellia Beach (fearing a scam being played on her) and discovers that something sinister is afoot and she is caught in the middle of it all.

This was a fun book and I so enjoyed the people that I met from Penn to Mabel to Granny Mae to Harley to Bertie to Athena and even Stella. From the opening paragraph to the conclusion, this book immediately grabbed my attention and I could not put it down until all was said and done and what a ride this was. The author did a great job in setting the stage for tightly woven mystery that kept me glued to the pages as Penn did her best amid her own personal baggage to find out what happened to her friend. Everyone is a suspect and the author penned it so that every person that I met had a motive for the killing, and I like that with each clue presented, the list of suspects got shorter and shorter until only one person was standing. The murder was a brilliant set-up by the author to make this an all-encompassing journey of self-discovery that had me rooting for Penn, especially with her upbringing of being abandoned by both her parents and an uncaring grandparent. I liked that she has flaws which more than endeared her to me. Boasting a friendly cast of characters, engaging dialogue and a small-town atmosphere, this was an exciting story and with that ending, I can’t wait to read the next book in this delightfully charming debut series.

Buy Link


FTC Full Disclosure – I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Cover Reveal ~ Asking for Truffle by Dorothy St. James

I am thrilled and excited to reveal the cover for the first book in the NEW “Southern Chocolate Shop” mystery series from Crooked Lane Books, coming September 12, 2017.


Title: Asking for Truffle
Series: Southern Chocolate Shop #1
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Website: Dorothy St. James

When Charity Penn receives a letter saying she won a trip to Camellia Beach, South Carolina complete with free cooking lessons at the town’s seaside chocolate shop, The Chocolate Box, she’s immediately skeptical. She never entered any contest. Her former prep school friend offers to look into the phony prize―only to end up drowned in a vat of chocolate.

Struck with guilt, Penn heads to the southern beach town to investigate why he was killed. But as wary as she is of the locals, she finds herself lured into their eccentric vibe, letting her defenses melt away and even learning the art of crafting delicious chocolates. That is, until delight turns bittersweet as she steps straight into the midst of a deadly plot to destroy the seaside town. Now, only Penn’s quick thinking and a mysterious cask of rare chocolate can save the town she’s learning to love.

Rich and decadent, Asking for Truffle, the first in a new cozy series by Dorothy St. James, is sure to be a delectable read for fans of JoAnna Carl and Joanne Fluke.

Pre-Order Link


About the author
Dorothy St. James, known for the White House Gardener Mystery series, is going back to her roots and setting a mystery series in a Southern beach town much like the one she’s called home for the past 20 years. The Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries combine her love of fine chocolates, quirky Southern charm, with a dash of danger. Asking for Truffle hits bookstore shelves September 2017.

All comments are welcomed.

Oak and Dagger by Dorothy St. James

oak and daggerOak and Dagger by Dorothy St. James is the third book in the “White House Gardener” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, April 2013

When it comes to gardening, Cassandra “Casey” Calhoun isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. But when it comes to murder, she’s not the kind of gal to let any killer get away clean.

Despite cooler fall temperatures in Washington, D.C., tempers flare at the White House when important historical documents go missing from the curator’s office and the gardeners are blamed. As if that isn’t bad enough, Casey has started receiving death threats, the president’s pooch is digging unsightly holes all over the South Lawn, and the curator has been found dead. All evidence for the murder points to Gordon Sims, the chief gardener. His fingerprints are on the murder weapon, and witnesses saw him arguing with the curator shortly before her death.

With the help of Special Agent Jack Turner, her reluctant sidekick and new flame, Casey works to clear Gordon’s name. Along the way she finds herself in a deadly race against time to discover if there’s a link between the stolen papers, the dog’s holes in the South Lawn, and a rumored two-hundred-year-old treasure—before the killer strikes again.

It all started with a shovel that lands Casey into another case of intrigue and suspense. But this time it’s more personal and Casey will pull out all the stops to save her beloved friend. With help from some unexpected sources, the case unfolds with some new discoveries and new beginnings.

This is a very enjoyable read that I could not put down with all that was going on from a treasure hunt to relationships all woven into an endearing and nicely done drama. The author did a good job in the development of this story and I loved how each chapter flowed from one to the next, never letting me missed any important facts that was necessary to identifying the culprit. Casey is a delightful heroine surrounded by a great cast of characters from Jack, to Gordon and even to Milo. I would love to see more of her Rosebrook family in future stories. Again, an entertaining read and I look forward to more exciting adventures with the White House gardeners.

The Spy in the White House Speaks by Dorothy St. James

oak and daggerI swear that gardener, Casey Calhoun, must have some kind of sixth sense when it comes to sniffing out mysteries. I’m a master at the craft of espionage. I’ve brought down world leaders, destroyed crime lords, and no one—not even fellow spies—has ever suspected an outside force was responsible for these deeds.

I moved from country to country, from high-level position to high-level position like an avenging wraith. Always five steps ahead of my adversaries, I never worried about being discovered.

Until the day I met Casey.

Oh, she looks so innocent as she works her way through the gardens wearing that silly oversized straw hat with the floppy rim. More often than not, her clothes are stained with garden soil. She acts as if she thinks of nothing but the flowers and trees under her care, but I’d heard about how in the past she’d caught murderers.

While those stories of her past adventures were impressive, I wasn’t worried that she’d notice anything about me. I’m a professional, an expert at NOT getting caught.

So how is it that this simple gardener, who can’t even keep the President’s dog from mangling the South Lawn, is on the verge of outsmarting one of the smartest spies to have ever lived? She keeps giving me these sidelong looks and asking questions that she shouldn’t even think to be asking. About me!

She’s turning me into a nervous wreck. I’m starting to pull my hair out!

If I’m not careful, everyone will know who I am. No matter what, that can’t happen. It would ruin everything I’d worked so hard to accomplish! Plus, if I fail, I’d surely become the butt of jokes in the spy community. I can’t let that happen to ME! I didn’t work all these years to become a legend among legends in this cutthroat business to let a gardener ruin me!

What’s a self-respecting spy like myself supposed to do? Scare her? Silence her? Kill her?

OAK AND DAGGER
(Book #3 in the White House Gardener Mysteries – April 2, 2013)

A Spy in the White House Gardens?

Stolen documents, death threats, mysterious holes in the South Lawn, and now a dead body in the garden! The evidence for the murder points to Gordon Sims, beloved White House chief gardener.

White House organic gardener Casey Calhoun, with the help of Special Agent Jack Turner, works to clear Gordon’s name. Soon Casey finds herself in a deadly race against time to discover the link between the missing stolen papers, the holes in the lawn, and a rumored 200-year-old treasure—before the killer strikes again…


white house eggwhite house bookmarkDorothy is giving away an official White House Historical Association bookmark and a White House Easter Egg. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. The items will be shipped directly from the author. Contest ends April 20 and US entries only.


Don’t miss Casey’s others misadventures in the White House gardens. The first two books in the White House Gardener mystery series, Flowerbed of State and The Scarlet Pepper, are available now from Berkley Prime Crime.

Meet the Author
Mystery author and Master Gardener Dorothy St. James was born in New York but raised in South Carolina. She makes her home on an artsy island community in South Carolina with her husband, two crazy dogs, and fluffy cat. An environmental urban planner by profession and wildlife biologist by education, she gave up her day job to devote her time to writing in 2001. She writes mysteries, romantic adventure fiction, Regency romances, and short stories. You can read more about Dorothy’s books at www.DorothyStJames.com , on Twitter or on Facebook.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

The Scarlet Pepper by Dorothy St. James

The Scarlet Pepper by Dorothy St. James is the second book in the “White House Gardener” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, April 2012

As the official organic gardener for the White House, Casey Calhoun is usually up to her elbows in something or other. But when someone starts tampering with the Presidential vegetable garden, she soon finds herself in way over her head.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that red peppers are growing instead of green ones and cabbage is popping up where the First Lady’s favorite lettuce should be-a hard-nosed investigative reporter is found dead after targeting the President’s unpopular Chief of Staff.

Raking over the clues and rumors, Casey knows that someone is sabotaging both her garden and the First Lady’s reputation. But when she has one close call too many, Casey realizes that the next thing buried in the dirt might just be her.

This was a very enjoyable read. Someone is digging up the vegetable garden and leaking information, putting Casey in jeopardy. When a reporter is found dead and Casey starts receiving threatening messages, Casey will have to dig deep to find the culprit. This was a fast-paced, action-packed drama with plenty of twists and turns that kept me guessing. The author did a great job at keeping me in suspense as the story moved forward with spurts from Casey’s traumatic childhood. Gordon, Alyssa and Jack are back in this charming whodunit and I look forward to more exciting adventures with this crew.

A Day In The Life Of…Casey Calhoun by Dorothy St. James

First rule for working at the White House: expect the unexpected. Whatever I have planned to do on any given day, I arrive at working prepared to toss those plans out the window and do whatever is asked of me. Take for example the recent earthquake that shook D.C. and sent everyone scurrying for cover.

Gordon Sims, who’s weathered nearly every disaster imaginable in his years as head gardener, caught several books as they danced off their shelves and set them on his desk just as a shriek sounded from down the hallway. Memories from 9/11 run deep through these hallowed hallways. The deep rumbling and violent shaking down here in the White House’s basement triggered some well-placed fears that terrorists were attacking.

A Secret Service agent jogged down the hall to reassure everyone. “It’s an earthquake, not an attack. Just to be on the safe side, we’re asking everyone to evacuate.” Which we did in a neat and orderly fashion. I grabbed my gardening gloves and my hand trimmers on the way out. The devil won’t bother with busy hands, as my grandmother likes to tell me.

I grew up in Charleston, SC, a city with several earthquake fault lines running near its old (and sometimes rickety) buildings. Shaking and rattling isn’t that unusual. Don’t forget the great earthquake of 1886. Afterwards, many buildings in Charleston had to be pulled back together with great metal bars. Those bars can still be seen in the older buildings today.

“Casey,” Gordon whispers, “you’re supposed to be talking about the White House, not Charleston.”

“Gracious, how did I manage to stray so far away from the point? I believe I need to take some time off and visit Grandmother Faye and Rosebrook. I’m homesick.”

“You could invite your grandmother up here,” Gordon suggests. “I’d love to meet her.”

I’d love for him to meet her, too. But I’m not sure I’m ready for my genteel grandmother to meet Special Agent Jack Turner. He’s a counter assault team member of the Secret Service. He’s also deadly handsome, deadly serious, and just plain deadly.

To keep on his good side, I’d started bringing a gourmet cappuccino to give Jack on my way through the White House’s iron gates in the morning. Not that I ever know when he’s on duty. It’s frustrating, but that’s how the Secret Service operates…secretive as all get out.

This morning, like most mornings, Gordon and I stood at the base of the North Portico and watched as the capital city woke up. I sipped on Jack’s cappuccino while Gordon and I discussed the gardens.

Some days we get to spend all day working out under the sun in the gardens or out at the greenhouses with the rest of the grounds crew. Other days we’re stuck inside answering questions from the press, ordering new supplies from our approved vendors, dealing with mounds of paperwork, or stuck in meetings. There tends to be tons of meetings, but that’s government for you. Write it down, talk about it, talk about it some more, then get to work.

“Tell them about the volunteers.” Gordon nudges me with his elbow.

“They are wonderful.” Besides the Nation Park Service grounds crew who help out in the gardens, we’re blessed to have some great volunteers from both the White House and West Wing staff as well as from the general D.C. public. White House chefs have been especially keen on working in the First Lady’s brand new Kitchen Garden.

But it’s the West Wing staff who have caused me the most headaches. They mean well, but I really have to watch what they’re doing or else I’ll find that the vegetable plants have been pulled out of the ground, and the weeds left behind. Yes! It has happened. More than once.

And don’t even get me started about the time I pried a fake suicide note out of Milo’s mouth. Milo, by the way, is the President’s naughty goldendoodle rescue puppy. Gordon and I try to keep the pup out of trouble, but he seems to have a knack for finding it. Oddly enough, the Secret Service thinks I do, too.

But you’ll have to wait for April 2012 and the release of The Scarlet Pepper to hear about the note Milo found and the heap of trouble it caused for everyone…especially me.
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You can read more about Casey in Flowerbed of State, the first book in the new “White House Gardener” mystery series.

The life and times of Casey Calhoun is written by mystery author Dorothy St. James who was born in New York but raised in South Carolina. She makes her home on an artsy island community in South Carolina with her husband, two crazy dogs, and fluffy cat. Though writing has always been a passion for her, she pursued an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology and a graduate degree in Public Administration and Urban Planning. She put her educational experience to use, having worked in all branches and all levels of government including local, regional, state, and federal. She even spent time during college working for a non-profit environmental watchdog organization.

Dorothy St. James is the alter-ego of award-winning multi-published author, Dorothy McFalls. She enjoys writing in several different genres. Her works have been nominated for many awards including: Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, Reviewers International Organization Award, National Reader’s Choice Award, CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Award, and The Romance Reviews Today Perfect 10! Award. Reviewers have called her work: “amazing”, “perfect”, “filled with emotion”, and “lined with danger.”

Visit Dorothy’s website at dorothystjames.com

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Flowerbed of State by Dorothy St. James

Flowerbed of State by Dorothy St. James is the first book in the new “White House Gardener” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, May 2011

When it comes to gardening, Cassandra “Casey” Calhoun isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. But when it comes to murder, she’s not the kind of gal to let any killer get away clean.

Casey’s passion for organic gardening and eye for detail have carried her into the most important patch of land in America—the President’s Park, on which sits the most important home in America: the White House.

But while she’s readying the final touches on an innovative cultivation program for the First Lady to inspect, she’s attacked from behind by an unknown assailant who then disappears. When she comes to, she notices some damaged foliage that leads her and the Secret Service to a dead woman in a trash can.

With the biggest opportunity of her life ready to bloom, and all the President’s men plowing up her perfect plans, Casey has to dig in and root out a killer before she ends up planted herself.

What a great debut series. Casey is attacked and from that moment on is following leads she collects to find a killer. The closer Casey gets, the nervous she is making the killer who is intent on causing her and those near her harm. This cleverly-written, action-packed story is full of intrigue and suspense. I love the wonderful cast which includes Casey, Jack, Gordon, Alyssa and the ever-friendly Milo. With a great setting, engaging dialogue and a comfortable feeling, this delightful series will keep you bloom-fully entertained.

FTC Full Disclosure – The publisher sent me a copy of this book