Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!
I am so happy to welcome Wendy Sand Eckel to Escape With Dollycas today!
One day in Miss Haver’s fourth grade class, I decided I was going to live in the State of Mary-land when I grew up. We were studying the fifty states and their capitals and I had become en-amored with Maryland’s flag. It was the coolest flag I’d ever seen.
This is the State Flag flying on a flagpole against a blue sky. The flag has black and white checks with its symbol in the center.
At the time, I lived in New Philadelphia, Ohio, population 14,000. It was a nice enough town, with a football team that was referred to as the ‘Fighting Quakers.’ No one seemed to catch the irony. But growing up I felt as if I had been squeezed into shoes that were too small. So on that fateful day in fourth grade, I hatched a plan to bust out of there first chance I got.
I didn’t make it to Maryland until I was twenty-four. I started out in the suburbs of Washington D.C. where I learned to drive like a beltway bandit and developed a loathing for tourists. But once my children were born, it was time to find a quieter place in which to settle.
When I moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I fell in love with the unique atmos-phere and culture of the place. I loved it so much, I chose it as my setting for my Rosalie Hart mystery series. In the first of the series, Murder at Barclay Meadow, Rosalie arrives on the East-ern Shore after learning of her husband’s affairs. She settles into an old farm house bequeathed to her by a beloved aunt and that’s where her adventures begin.
The only way to get to the Eastern Shore from the west is to traverse the terrifying and sometimes paralyzing, Chesapeake Bay Bridge. At 4.3 miles long and a maximum clearance of 186 feet, driving over it is an experience that can trigger shallow breathing and light headedness in even the hardiest of drivers.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Once you touch down on the Eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay you have entered ‘the land of pleasant living.’ The terrain is pancake flat and prone to flooding due to the matrix of riv-ers and inlets carving out the shoreline.
During his tenure as Maryland’s governor, William Donald Schaefer made it his mission to build a major highway through the Eastern Shore all the way to the Atlantic. He termed it, ‘reach the beach.’ Unfortunately he was overheard referring to that region of his state as ‘the **** (rhymes with spit) house side of Maryland.’ To this day you can still find pickup trucks sporting bumper stickers expressing pride for being from such a place.
But the Eastern Shore isn’t to be passed over. It is rich with culture, history, and it’s own unique flavor of quirkiness. Acres of smart growth legislation have kept most of the towns small, the farms big, and the big box stores quarantined to strips along the highway.
I lived in Kent County, located about 20 miles north of Route 50, the highway that slices through the middle of the ‘shore’ for eight wonderful years. The county seat has a population of 4,000. It has remained that size for hundreds of years.
In Kent County it’s not unusual to find watermen in their rubber waders at the mini stop stocking up on a case or two of beer at four in the morning before they go out on the water to hunt for blue crab, giant rockfish, or bushels of oysters. One town in particular has a shoes op-tional policy. It isn’t written in law, it’s just one of those things that everyone knows.
The land is rich, the people kind and friendly, doors are never locked, and street signs are superfluous. I nestled in when I arrived and soaked it up. But the residents of Kent County are proud people and are often suspicious of newcomers like me (and Rosalie Hart!). Rightly so be-cause most don’t stay. New arrivals often try to modernize and ‘improve’ the small towns. But inevitably they slow their pace, speak with the slightest hint of a twang, and forget where they put their house keys.
I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that I found myself back in a small town. Although small enough, Kent County felt different from the home of the fighting Quakers. On the Eastern Shore the land is lush and the culture flavorful. People are tanned and weathered from life on the wa-ter, both for work and pleasure. One feels connected with the soil. Relationships tight. Families close by. Moods become tidal. Both feet are planted solidly on the ground.
Not long ago I was visiting there and happened to drive by a house I had always ad-mired. I pulled off the road when I noticed a ‘for sale’ sign swaying in a light breeze. That sign is gone now. The house is mine. Back on the shore my blood pressure is lower, my heart rate a little less frenetic. When I look out my window at the Chester River I can’t help but smile. I’m back, and these shoes fit just right.
Rosalie Hart has finally opened the café of her dreams. Decked out with ochre-tinted walls and stuffed with delicious organic fare, the Day Lily Café is everything Rosalie could have hoped for. But not five minutes into the grand opening, Doris Bird, a dear and trusted friend, cashes in on a favor–to help clear her little sister Lori of a first degree murder charge.
With the help of her best friend and head waiter Glenn, Rosalie is on the case. But it’s not going to be easy. Unlikable and provocative, murder victim Carl James Fiddler seems to have insulted nearly everyone in town, and the suspect list grows daily. And when Rosalie’s daughter Annie gets caught in the crossfire, the search for the killer becomes personal in this charming cozy perfect for fans of Diane Mott Davidson and Joanne Fluke.
A couple of months ago received an offer to review this book. I took one look at the cover and knew I had to read this story. I also knew I had to invite the author to visit here for Cozy Wednesday. I was delighted when she accepted. I had not read the first book in the series but I threw that rule of mine right out the window too, but now I plan to go back and read it. Let me tell you why.
Rosalie Hart is one of those characters you root for to succeed. She had an ex-husband that cheated on her and she divorces him and moves to her aunt’s farmhouse in Maryland. The first book covers that and from the synopsis much more.
In this installment she opens the Day Lily Café serving organic fruits, vegetables and eggs from her organic farm. Opening day has arrived and instead of worrying about her restaurant her friend, Doris Bird, rushes in and begs Rosalie for her help. Doris’ sister Lori is the prime suspect in a murder. A murder she most certainly didn’t commit, but the dead man was Lori’s husband and she did have motive, means and opportunity. So all Rosalie’s friends pitch in both at the café and the investigation especially when Rosalie’s daughter Annie ends up in danger.
There is a strong feeling of friendship between these characters woven throughout the entire story. Some are still getting to know each other, just like us readers. Sometimes Rosalie’s questions are little off putting but you know she means well. She needs to know parts of their other’s histories not only to eliminate them as suspects but also because she wants to get to know them better. There is plenty of room for growth in each and every character in future stories.
The murder takes place away from the café and Rosalie is not the one to actually find the body which is very different in this genre. I liked this change, clues and the investigation are seen from a different perspective. The author also touches on subjects not usually found in cozy mysteries giving it a more edgy feel.
The author is very descriptive in her writing from what people are wearing, to what food they are eating. She also sets the scene very well. The Day Lily Café sounds like and from the cover looks like an amazing place.
I found this to be a very enjoyable read, I really liked the ending. A great little preview of what can be coming in book #3. If you haven’t read Murder at Barclay Meadow, start there and then you will be ready to rush right into this one.
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About The Author
Wendy Sand Eckel is the author of the Rosalie Hart mystery series set on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Murder at Barclay Meadow, the first in the series, was published by Minotaur Books in July, 2015. Death at the Day Lily Café was released by Minotaur on July 26, 2016. A member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the International Association of Crime Writers, she has degrees in criminology and social work and a passion for words and their nuanced meanings. Find out more at www.wendysandeckelauthor.com.
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