Yes. I'm the daughter of the infamous couple, June Heal and Oscar Park.
One teeny weeny problem, I'm a mortal. Yep. I guess I got my granny Darla's DNA.
Good news! I might not have spiritual powers but I have a mean set of baking skills. I'm delighted to be moving out of Whispering Falls, where y'all know I can't live since I'm mortal, and to Celestial Falls, another small southern town where I'm opening Heavenly Desserts. Of course The Marys wouldn't let me leave unless I took my new kitten with me.
I'm beyond excited but fluff left my dough when Orin Reguila showed up. But that's not all that put too much flour in my cookies, there just so happened to be a murder . . . when someone ate my cookie.
I've got no one to turn to! It looks like I'm going to have to enlist Orin's help with his wizard skills.
I just hope I can clear my name and save my business before The Marys make me pack up and go back to Whispering Falls.
Release date: November 12, 2021
Publisher: Tonya Kappes Books
Print pages: 200
Reader says this book is...: entertaining story (1) female sleuth (1) heartwarming (1) red herrings (1) trail of clues (1) unexpected twists (1)
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Southern Magical Bakery
“Okay, okay, enough.” My auntie Chandra Shango stood in front of the big rock with her purple turban wobbling from side to side as she tried to scream, but her tiny voice was hard to hear over the outburst from the crowd.
The outburst that occurred because of me.
“Bring this to an order! Bring this to an order!” she hollered over the other people who claimed to love me and only want the best for me.
I couldn’t help but look around at all of them, the people that I called family, even though they weren’t blood related. They were all trying to come up with a decision about my future—the key word being “my.”
Since they weren’t my blood relatives, I had a really hard time with the fact that every single little thing I’d ever done or wanted to do had to be brought up to the council—as in the spiritual council.
You see, they were spiritually related, and by that I mean spiritually gifted, as my mother, June Heal, would say. But honestly, it was a curse for them. Not me. I wasn’t a spiritualist, which was why they’d called this meeting.
My parents, June Heal and Oscar Park, were spiritualists. My mother had amazing intuition and a sixth sense about what was going on with people and used her homeopathic cure shop, A Charming Cure, as a cover. My father—he was the sheriff of our spiritual town, Whispering Falls. He was a wizard and quick with a wand.
The spiritual gift ended up skipping a generation, and I was the one to miss out on it. Since I was underage with no place to go, as in no family in the mortal world, I went to the spiritualist school and then college, where I graduated from Unhidden Hall—A Spiritualist University.
Which led us here. I’d overspent my time here, and I was almost thirty, still living in a town where the by-laws clearly stated I couldn’t work because I didn’t have the spiritual gift.
“I said order! Order! Order!” Chandra screamed as loudly as she could as she cupped her hands around her mouth. I couldn’t help but stare at her bright-blue fingernails with glittery stars on them.
If anyone was my favorite in our town, it had to be her. Auntie Chandra was a palm reader, and I loved going over to her shop, A Cleansing Spirit Spa, to get a facial, manicure, and even a nice warm pedicure. She was such a good listener, and she was also the president of the council, which meant she could technically make the call on granting my wish, but there was no way she was going to go up against the mighty June Heal, the chosen one of the spiritualist community.
And to be honest, she was the one who told me when I was six that I wasn’t like them and wouldn’t grow up to be like them, not to mention how I would one day have to move because I couldn’t make a life here.
Auntie Chandra yelled, but this time, she moved her body back and forth in front of the Gathering Rock. Yeah. It was just a big old rock at the top of the hill that they used for all of their spiritual meetings. It was weird.
“Move. Move.” I waved my hand in front of my face to smack away one of the teenagers. Not a human teenager—well, he used to be a human teenager but in the afterlife came back as a firefly like all teenage souls who died.
Ummm, yeah, that was kinda what happened when souls died. They usually took the form of animals. Young children’s souls came back as fireflies, and if you took the time to think about it, it really did make sense.
I mean, it was hard to explain to a mortal, but fireflies were up at all hours of the night, they loved to sleep in, and they ate a lot. Sounds like a teenager, right?
When I was a teenager, my best friends were the fireflies. Trust me when I say I was not going to play with Orin or be too friendly with him, because he always took it the wrong way.
Honestly, he was the worst wizard ever and barely made it through university. His poor parents.
Thoughts of him forced me to look across the crowd, where he was standing between his father, Gerald Regalia, and his mother, Petunia Shrubwood.
Thankfully—his only saving grace to his clumsy spiritual gift—he didn’t look a thing like his father, who had a large nose, wore a top hat, and had a British accent. He certainly fit the bill of a tea leaf reader and used his shop, Gathering Grove Tea Shoppe, to hide his spiritual gift.
Yep. All the shops in my hometown of Whispering Falls were covers for the owners’ spiritual gifts. And out of all the shops in Whispering Falls, Orin’s mom’s shop, Glorybee Pet Shop, was my absolute favorite.
I looked over at his mom and noticed the beak of a bird sticking out of the topknot of messy hair on her head. She was in Orin’s ear about something, which made me look at him then recall how much I had to get away from him. Moving away couldn’t come soon enough.
It was the fireflies who saved me from hours upon hours of having to deal with him. It wasn’t like everyone here was young and vibrant. In fact, we were the only children here, and now we were grown. But boy oh boy, did I hide from him.
Deep in the woods too. Not so far from the Gathering Rock. In fact, I slid my gaze to the edge of the tree line behind Orin and his parents, where I could see my great-aunt Eloise’s shadow behind the large oak.
Though she thought she was being sneaky, the light of the moon shone just right, a moonbeam beelining right to her and illuminating her bright-red hair. Our eyes caught. She gave me an ever-so-slight nod as she tugged on the edge of her cloak, which then swooped around her body, the hem settling just on the top of her shoulder. She smiled. I smiled. We both knew this was a big night for me.
She never came to the council meetings. Long history but one tradition she lived by. And her house was located deep in the woods, so when Orin tried to find me, the fireflies would buzz to tell me and we’d hide from him. Except the one time when I didn’t want to be bothered with the fireflies after I’d snuck out of my house. I’d wanted to be alone. My mom and I had had a big fight, and I’d snuck out.
Needless to say, the fireflies led him right to me, along with his parents, who took me straight back home to our cottage on the hill, just past the Gathering Rock, where my parents ended up grounding me for sneaking out. I’d been hiding out near my great-aunt Eloise’s house where it was easy for me to think and just be.
I wanted to be a mortal, just like my granny Darla, whom I never knew.
“Order! Order, order…” Chandra’s voice faded with each word as her shoulders slumped.
“We have got to make this decision about the future of our young ones.” Isadora Solstice, the one I considered the wisest spiritualist in Whispering Falls, finally spoke up. “Yes, whether or not they have our gift. In Lo’s case, she doesn’t, but what about the other children?” Her gaze moved to Orin. “Orin is a young man who would love to go to…” Her voice trailed off.
“A rock concert!” He yelled and threw his hands up, making the rock-and-roll gesture as he stuck out his tongue. “Yeah, I’d be stoked to get out of here. Lucky.” He threw the last word to me.
Rude. He was so rude. I glared at him.
“A concert.” Izzy put her hands together and lowered them in front of her. She’d been the president for many years when I was a child, but as with everything, that had changed.
“I know we need to solve Lo’s situation tonight, but we also need to think about our future. Times have changed.” Izzy had always been a voice of reason, and when Mom wouldn’t let go of the reins she had on me, I’d run to Izzy to get advice.
“I have never had children of my own, but I do believe mothers are very important. Therefore, I believe June should have the final say, as she is in fact the mother.” She pushed back her long blond hair and wiped her hands down her red A-line skirt that plunged all the way to the ground, showing the tips of her black high-heeled lace-up boots.
Suddenly, all eyes were on my mom.
She always had a big presence that surrounded her. She was also in charge of holding all the smudge ceremonies. Our home’s door and the shop door were always revolving, as the other spiritualists always seemed to come to her when there was a problem. She and my dad were good at keeping me away from hearing any of their complaints. All but one.
It was a sore subject that I, Lo Heal-Park, didn’t get any spiritual powers. Travesty.
“Well, I, um, I…” My mom hesitated and gave me the side-eye. I sucked in a deep breath because I knew they would listen to her. Finally she said, “I don’t know.”
I closed my eyes and gulped. I wasn’t sure the huge sigh that escaped me was my response toward her for not siding with me about leaving or toward my father for not bothering to step up and take my side.
The problem with my parents was that they lived mortal lives well into their twenties. They didn’t even know they were spiritualists until they moved to Whispering Falls. And then it took them a few years to actually date and get married.
They had the luxury of deciding that they wanted to make Whispering Falls their home, where I was born into it. My mom wasn’t too different from me, and deep down, I knew my mom understood exactly where I was coming from.
“I just can’t make this lifelong decision.” My mom surprised me.
“What do you mean you can’t make this lifelong decision?” My patience broke. “When did my life become your life? I am an adult. I’m very responsible. In the mortal world, I became an adult years ago. So what is stopping me from just walking down that hill and out of Whispering Falls?”
My question gained a loud collective gasp from the community. The moon even seemed to take offense, as a deep purple cloud glided across the midnight sky, covering it like a blanket.
I’d never talked to my parents that way, and I even surprised myself.
“Order! Order! Order, Lo Park!” Chandra reached up and pushed her turban back up on the top of her head. “Don’t make us have to call you out again. The longer we prolong this, the longer our decision will take. I think we need to ask her father, Oscar.”
“Why not?” I asked with a deep groan and looked at my dad.
“The only thing I want is for my daughter to be happy,” he told Chandra then said to me, “I’ve told you that from the time you starting talking about leaving Whispering Falls. Just like June and I were able to be happy to choose to move here.”
I loved my dad. He always understood me. We’d always been close. I knew that my mom and I weren’t close when I was younger. What teenage daughter wanted her mother to hover over her? Even when I was in college, she continued to have Madame Torres, her crystal ball, show her what I was doing.
“I won’t have this uproar!” Chandra really did try to bring order to the crowd after they heard my dad tell them he only wanted me to be happy.
Every time I would take my issues to my dad, he was good at helping me understand Mom’s perspective. But it was my dad who helped me scratch my itch to move to a mortal community. He ended up teaching me mortal ways, unbeknownst to my mom.
Whenever I asked her about her mortal life, she never wanted to talk about it because she always wanted me to grow up and live here while taking over A Charming Cure.
The suggestions flew so vigorously from everyone’s mouth that I’d become numb to them. I glanced over at Raven Mortimer. Her sister, Faith, stood next to her.
The sisters were so different from one another yet almost made me wish I had a sister because they were so close.
It was Raven who gave me a little taste of the mortal world. When my mom was doing whatever it was she did in her spare time, which usually led her away from home, I would run her shop, and I just wasn’t good at all the potion things.
But when I turned sixteen and got my driver’s license, I worked for Wicked Good Bakery, Raven’s bakery. She let me drive the special-order pastries to Locust Grove, the next—and did I mention mortal?—town over, where my parents grew up. That’s when I got a little taste of how mortals lived. I was not an intuitive like my mom, but I was a Baker.
“What about Raven?” I called her out. “It was you who let me be me. And not only because you gave me my first real job, where I saved all my money and continued to work through college when I was home on break.”
A faint smiled crossed Raven’s lips.
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