There’s no problem Charlie Kingsley can’t solve with tea, but when it comes to love, she doesn’t do love potions. So when her client asks about poison instead, Charlie thought she was kidding, that is until her client’s husband turns up dead. Fans of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple Series will devour The Murder Before Christmas by Michele Pariza Wacek, a fun, twisty cozy mystery.
If you’ve got a problem, Charlie Kingsley probably has a tea that’ll help make it right.
EXCEPT when it comes to love. She does NOT do love potions.
Not even for Courtney, her pregnant new client who showed up three weeks before Christmas seeking a love potion because her husband was cheating on her.
So, Courtney asked about poison, instead.
She said she was joking That’s what happens between wives and husbands. They get angry and talk about killing each other. They don’t really mean it.
It seems to make sense … until Courtney’s husband turns up dead on Christmas Eve.
He was poisoned, of course.
And who is the number one suspect? Courtney. Of course.
But did she actually do it? Or is she being set up?
It’s up to Charlie to sort through all the twists and turns in a case that gets more complicated the deeper she digs.
Meet Charlie. Better known as “Aunt Charlie” from the award-winning Secrets of Redemption series. She’s back, making teas and solving cases in this quirky, twisty, cozy mystery series set in the 1990s in Redemption, Wisconsin.
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“So, Courtney, is it?” I asked with what I hoped was a comforting and nonthreatening smile. I set the mug holding my newest tea blend I created for the Christmas season down on the kitchen table. A blend of a variety of fresh mint and a couple other secret ingredients, I called it “Candy Cane Concoctions,” and hoped others would find it as soothing as it was refreshing. “What can I do for you?”
Courtney didn’t look at me as she reached for her tea. She was young, younger than me, and extremely pretty, despite looking like something the cat dragged in. (And believe me, I know all about what cats can drag in. Midnight, my black cat, had presented me with more than my share of gifts over the years.) Courtney’s long, wavy blonde hair was pulled back in a haphazard ponytail, and there were puffy, black circles under her china-blue eyes. She was also visibly pregnant.
“Well, Mrs. Kingsley,” she began, but I quickly interrupted her.
“It’s Miss, but please, call me Charlie.” Yes, she was younger than me, but for goodness sake, she wasn’t THAT much younger. Maybe it was time to start getting more serious about my morning makeup routine.
Her lips quirked up in a tiny smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Charlie then. I was hoping you could make me a love potion.”
I quickly dropped my gaze, busying myself by pushing the plate of frosted Christmas sugar cookies I had made earlier toward her, not wanting her to see my shock and sorrow. She was pregnant and wanted a love potion. This just couldn’t be good.
“I don’t actually do love potions,” I said. “I make custom-blended teas and tinctures.”
Her eyebrows knit together in confusion. “But people have been raving about how much you’ve helped them. Mrs. Witmore swears you cured her thyroid problems.”
I tried not to sigh. “My teas and tinctures do have health benefits, that’s true. Certain herbs and flowers can help with common ailments. In fact, for much of human civilization, there were no prescription drugs, so all they had to use were herb and flowers. But I can’t promise any cures.”
“What about Ruthie?” Courtney asked. “She claims those heart tinctures you made are the reason Bob finally noticed her.”
I gritted my teeth. Ruthie’s dad had been recovering from a heart attack, so I had made a couple of teas and tinctures for him. Ruthie, who had a crush on her coworker Bob for years, was apparently so desperate for him to notice her that one day, she decided to bring one of my tinctures to work (I’m unclear which) and slip it into his drink. And apparently, shortly after that, Bob started up a conversation with her, and eventually asked her out on a date.
It didn’t help matters that Jean, Ruthie’s mother, had claimed my tinctures had reignited her and her husband’s love life, which is probably how Ruthie got the idea to try them with Bob in the first place.
Needless to say, that was an unintended benefit.
Copyright 2021 Michele Parza Wacek
About the author:
When Michele was 3 years old, she taught herself to read because she wanted to write stories so badly. It took some time (and some detours) but she does spend much of her time writing stories now. Mystery stories to be exact, ranging from psychological thrillers to cozies, with a dash of romance and supernatural thrown into the mix. If that wasn’t enough, she also hosts a virtual book club you can check out and join (for free!) at MPWNovels.com.
Michele holds a double major in English and Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently she lives in the mountains of Prescott, Arizona with her husband Paul and southern squirrel hunter Cassie.