I am so excited to welcome Wisconsin Author Christine DeSmet
to Escape With Dollycas today!!
The Cape Cod of the Midwest is this cozy’s setting
With author Christine DeSmet, the Fudge Shop Mystery Series
Ava Oosterling and her Grandpa Gil operate Oosterlings’ Live Bait, Bobbers & Belgian Fudge & Beer on a harbor in Door County, Wisconsin, known as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest.” They’re the sleuths in the Fudge Shop Mystery Series (New American Library/Obsidian books).
Their county is that real thumb of land jutting into Lake Michigan and forming the bay of Green Bay. Door County is about a three-hour drive north from Chicago.
The quaint county has 11 lighthouses, beautiful shoreline parks, and winding two-lane roads canopied by maples. The upper half of the peninsular county is a vacationer’s paradise with its spas, wineries, art, golfing, and boating and many miles of shoreline. It has only 2-lane roads, and stoplights are rare.
The lower half of the county has a different landscape—one rich in dairy farms and a history connected to the thousands of Belgian immigrants who settled there.
Ava and her family are Belgians, and Ava grew up on a farm near Brussels (real name) in Door County in the southern half of the county. Her fudge shop is in the northern touristy part in a fictional town called Fishers’ Harbor. I like to tell people she’s the first Belgian sleuth since Poirot hit the scene in 1920.
In Five-Alarm Fudge, Book 3 of the Fudge Shop Mystery series, Ava and her Grandpa Gil are again mixed up in a fun fudge felony—this time involving romance, royal relatives, and revenge.
When a visiting European prince asks Ava Oosterling to unearth a priceless, 1800s divinity fudge recipe, the request fans the flames of foul play, with murder marring Ava’s Cinderella dreams.
Prior to the story, Grandpa took it upon himself to invite the prince of Belgium to visit. Grandpa insists the prince is a shirt-tail relation but far enough removed by ancestors to qualify as marriage material for Ava.
Ava is beside herself with Grandpa. She’s in the midst of a rekindled romance with her ex, Dillon Rivers, who is refurbishing the Blue Heron Inn in order for Ava to take it over. In the meantime, Ava lives in a rundown rental cabin with an ever-present field mouse.
Grandpa has also promised the prince that Ava will find a long, lost divinity fudge recipe supposedly hidden in a local historical church by a Belgian nun during an 1871 fire.
I used a lot of the real history of Door County for the background in the new Five-Alarm Fudge.
The irony of being surrounded by miles and miles of water in this peninsular county is that on October 8, 1871 the very real Great Fire happened—taking an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 lives in this region. This event occurred the same days as the famous Chicago fire that took about 300 lives.
This novel also delves into the real history of Sister Adele Brise, who hid in a wood church southwest of Namur, Wisconsin, that fateful day when the fires swept the territory. It’s considered a miracle that the wood church was spared.
For travelers, a fun fact to know is that before she became a nun, the young Adele Brise reported that she was visited at least twice by Mary, the mother of Jesus. The site of this visitation is the only Catholic bishop-sanctioned Marian sighting in the entire United States.
Today, you can visit the church, shrine, and gravesite of Sister Adele in a little town called Champion, Wis., which is on your way to Door County. It’s a peaceful place on a country road. A quick search online will give you dozens of articles about Sister Adele and maps to the area.
Just north of there, in Namur, Wis., a little church once known as St. Mary’s of the Snows features prominently in my mystery. Grandpa Gil feels sure that the traveling, teaching nun must have hidden an early version of a divinity fudge recipe in the brick church, thus protecting the special recipe from fires.
Ava scours the local church for the recipe, but instead finds a dead body, a fire, and the start of a game of hide-and-seek with an arsonist out to do in Ava.
Many people bypass little towns like Namur in their travels, and that’s a great loss. The small-town festivals are where we often find the heart of a region’s culture and history.
Every fall on a September Sunday, Namur has a kermiss—a Belgian harvest festival. (It’s also spelled “kermis.”) The celebration features a dozen kind of pies because Belgians are known for pies. Their pie tins from the old country are 12 inches wide! None of the puny 8-inch or 9-inch stuff for a Belgian. Of course chocolate abounds at a kermiss in the form of cookies, bars, fudge and other confections. And you get some excellent Belgian beer! (In Wisconsin, everything ends with beer.)
You also want to try the Belgian booyah when traveling in Door County. Namur is having a big booyah fest on Sunday, April 26, 2015.
Booyah is a tomato-based chicken stew made outside in a big stainless steel barrel over an open fire. Like the story about making stone soup, neighbors will often bring vegetables to put in the pot. A recipe for booyah is in Book 2 of my series, Hot Fudge Frame-Up.
Other regular characters in my series include Ava’s best friend Pauline, who’s a kindergarten teacher, and Laura, who’s having twins and waiting for her husband to come home from a special mission in the Middle East. There’s also a smart gaggle of church ladies who often cause Ava no end of trouble when they volunteer at the fudge shop. And Dillon Rivers’ American water spaniel, Lucky Harbor, finds his nose in all kinds of trouble in every fudge mystery.
My series presents a warm-hearted view of a real place popular for vacations—Door County. I hope readers have a chance to look it up online to explore and then visit sometime.
About The Author
Christine DeSmet writes the Fudge Shop Mystery Series (Penguin Random House/NAL/Obsidian). She’s also an award-winning scriptwriter and teaches writing at University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies where she directs the annual June Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat. You can write to her at UW-Madison, firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Facebook or at her website, www.ChristineDeSmet.com.
I really had the best intentions to get the 2nd and 3rd book of these series read before Christine’s visit but that did happen 🙁 So today I am going to review Hot Fudge Frame Up with a promise to review Five Alarm Fudge in the very near future because I am really enjoying this series!
Hot Fudge Frame-Up:
A Fudge Shop Mystery
2nd in Series
Setting – Wisconsin
An Obsidian Mystery (June 3, 2014)
An Imprint of New American Library
Published by The Penguin Group
Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
E-Book ASIN: B00GS9XGX0
Candy shop owner Ava Oosterling mixes it up with a fudge judge with a grudge—who loses his life before he can pick a winner….
Ava is gearing up for the First Annual Arts Festival—a huge celebration that could draw national attention to her old-fashioned fudge shop in Door County, Wisconsin. She’s invited two celebrity chefs to go head-to-head with her in a fudge contest. Everyone is having a tasty time…until a judge for the festival is found dead.
To her shock, he’d been complaining around town that her Fairy Tale fudge flavors were…well, fudged. Now the sheriff is wondering if Ava fits the mold for a murder suspect. As Ava tries to square her reputation and find the real killer, she’s in for a whole batch of trouble….
Includes Delicious Recipes and Fudge-Making Tips!
Our family loves to travel to Door County for day trips or family vacations so I feel right at home visiting Oosterling’s Live Bait, Bobbers, Belgian Fudge & Beer. I love all the local references.
In this second book of the series Ava is competing with two celebrity chefs, one of them has some crazy ideas for her fudge ingredients, in a fudge contest. Local leaders have been lined up as judges. As Ava works on her new fudge flavors, the other chefs can’t be in the same room together without feet and food flying. The event is being filmed for television so Ava tries to just stay out of the line of fire. But when one of the judges is found dead, the fights become the least of her worries. Especially when the sheriff starts to treat Ava as a suspect. Lloyd, the now deceased judge, was Ava’s grandfather’s best friend and owned quite a bit of local property. Ava quickly puts together a list of other suspects, now she just needs to figure out which one has fudged up her life this time.
The author has given us quite a mystery to chew on. A lot happens within these 352 pages. The story is much more complicated than it first appears and I was totally taken aback with the way things played out. Wow, I sure didn’t expect that ending.
We learn a lot about the history of Fisher’s Harbor, and some people’s plans to change the town and take away its charm. Ava is very concerned about those plans but also how they will affect her family, especially her grandparents.
I really enjoy the way the residents come together in times of distress and also in times of celebration. In this story we not only have a festival with a prom-like dance but a funeral. People always bring food to the family after a death and most funeral luncheons are potluck. Very familiar to me after the past few weeks. The dance was for the young and old alike and there were even bets placed on who Ava’s date would be. Her date was also quite a surprise and absolutely perfect.
The book not only has a beautiful setting, an awesome mystery, and terrific characters, it is also full of humor and a bit of romance. I highly recommend this book and if you can, take a real trip to Door County to take in all it has to offer from fudge, cherries, beer, cheese…oh and lighthouses, beautiful beaches and more. It is called The Cape Cod of the Midwest for good reason!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”