The Inn at Holiday Bay: Riddle in the Review
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After suffering a personal tragedy Abby Sullivan buys a huge old seaside mansion she has never even seen, packs up her life in San Francisco, and moves to Holiday Bay Maine, where she is adopted, quite against her will, by a huge Maine Coon Cat named Rufus, a drifter with her own tragic past named Georgia, and a giant dog with an inferiority complex named Ramos. What Abby thought she needed was alone time to heal. What she ended up with was, an inn she never knew she wanted, a cat she couldn't seem to convince to leave, and a new family she'd never be able to live without.
In book 22 in the series, someone is going around town vandalizing merchants who have received a negative review on the new social media site everyone is talking about. Initially it seems like a mere annoyance, but things begin to escalate, and Colt fears that the trend will lead to someone's death.
Meanwhile, Vaness Blackstone from Firehouse Books is heading out of town and leaves her spunky Aunt Lou in charge. When the bookstore becomes the most recent victim of the Holiday Bay Prankster, Lou joins Abby and Georgia in their quest to track the troublemaker down.
Release date: March 28, 2023
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Reader says this book is...: entertaining story (1)
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The Inn at Holiday Bay: Riddle in the Review
I supposed that if asked, I’d likely say that the time between Halloween and Christmas is my
favorite overall, yet there is something about that first breath of spring that brings a happy
feeling to my heart the way no other date on the calendar can.
“The trees along the front drive have new buds on them,” my best friend and inn manager,
Georgia Carter, informed me as she swept into the tiny cottage we shared with an armful of mail.
The mailbox was located at the end of the private drive leading from the highway to the
oceanfront lodging property I owned, and Georgia ran, requiring someone to either hike a quarter
mile to the road to pick up the mail or take a car out to the road, which we usually did on a
“I love it when the weather warms up and new life begins to appear. I’ll need to remind
Jeremy to fertilize the lawn once he gets it raked.”
“He’s out there working on the lawn as we speak. Mylie is helping him.” Jeremy Slater and
Mylie Sanders lived in the inn’s basement apartment with Jeremy’s niece, Annabelle Cole. They
were both employees of the inn and good friends. “When I stopped to say hi on my way back
from the mailbox, Mylie said something about heading to the nursery for the supplies they’d
need to get the garden beds ready for the spring planting.”
“Seems a bit early to be planting.”
“It is,” Georgia agreed. “But you know how it is. A few warm days and those who like to dig
around in the dirt start to get the bug. Besides, I don’t think they’re actually planning on planting
anything at this point. Just preparing the soil.”
I had to admit that the warm weather and soft breeze combined with the sweet salty air had
me dreaming of a hammock overlooking the sea rather than the pages and pages of a manuscript
I still needed to work my way through if I was going to meet my deadline. Perhaps I’d be
mindful of the distraction spring could bring and arrange to have my manuscript complete by the
end of March next year.
“I’ve been thinking about the color scheme for the patio this year,” I said as Georgia angled
her shoulders in my direction before leaning a hip against the kitchen counter. “I liked the red,
white, and blue we had a few years ago, and the yellow and purple were nice, but I’m thinking
something softer this year.”
“Softer?” she asked as she began to sort through the mail.
“Maybe blue and white. We could include different shades of blue to add depth and contrast.
Royal blue, sky blue, cornflower blue, to name a few.”
She smiled. “I like it. Blue and white will look nice. And as long as you consider deep purple
a variant of blue, there are lots of flowers that will work quite nicely. Will you continue with the
color scheme into the yard?”
“Probably not. I want the beds in the yard to really pop with color. When Jeremy and I last
spoke, we discussed colors such as red, purple, orange, and yellow for the yard.” I nodded
toward the pile of mail Georgia had begun separating into piles. “Anything interesting?”
“Ad, ad, ad.” She tossed the top three items into the recycle bin. “There are two official-
looking letters for Abagail Sullivan and one less official-looking envelope for Abby Sullivan, so
I guess all three belong to you.” She handed me my pile and then held up a single envelope. “I
was hoping this would be one piece of mail I wouldn’t receive.”
“Oh?” I asked, curious already. “What is it?”
“I suspect it’s an invitation.”
I raised a brow. “That doesn’t seem so bad. I assume the invite is for something you’d just as
She nodded. “Back when Tanner and I were dating,” Georgia referred to her ex-boyfriend,
Tanner Peyton, “one of his aunts invited both of us to a family reunion. At the time, I was
excited about meeting Tanner’s family and happily accepted. Of course, now that Tanner and I
have returned to ‘friends without benefits’ status, I realize it would be awkward to go, so I asked
Tanner to let his family know I wouldn’t be attending. The problem is that the aunt who has
taken on the responsibility of arranging the whole thing is a huge fan of Cooking with Georgia
and has already told everyone I planned to be there. I wrote to the woman and told her that things
had changed between Tanner and me and that I wouldn’t be attending after all, but she won’t
take no for an answer.”
“What did Tanner say about the whole thing?”
“He told me that he would make it clear to his aunt that he wouldn’t be bringing a plus one to
the event. He thought that would be enough to dissuade the woman, but as Nikki predicted, the
aunt is the determined sort and has sent me an invitation independent of Tanner’s.”
“So, just send the invite back with the ‘unable to attend’ box checked.”
Georgia looked doubtful.
“This woman can’t force you to attend,” I reminded her.
“I know, but I feel bad about the way things worked out. Not bad enough to attend, mind
you, but bad all the same.”
“Maybe Nikki can help you. The woman is her aunt, and I’m sure she understands why you
might not want to attend a Peyton family reunion. Maybe she’ll be willing to run interference.”
“Speaking of Nikki, do you know if Haven ever asked her about helping with the spring
cleaning?” I referred to the inn’s newest employee, Haven Hanson.
Our spring-cleaning week was an annual event at the inn. We set aside a week in April each
year to deep clean the inn and the cottages. We don’t accept reservations for that week so that we
could get in and do all the chores that were near impossible to handle when we had guests to
consider. Since there was a lot of work to be done in a relatively short amount of time, we liked
having as many willing hands available to help as possible. After taking a job at the Bistro with
Amy Hogan and Shelby Morris, Nikki no longer worked for the inn but had indicated that she’d
like to help as she always had if she could get the days off from the Bistro.
“I’m not sure if Haven’s had the chance to speak to Nikki about her days off, but we can ask
her. She ran into town to do some errands for me, but she should be back soon.”
“One would think that the prospect of spending a week washing windows, waxing floors, and
cleaning rain gutters would be daunting, but I’m actually looking forward to it.”
Georgia smiled. “Me too. I think the fact that we all work together and always make sure to
end each workday with a cookout on the patio gives the chores a party feeling.”
“I agree,” I said. “We need to figure out which night we’re going to invite friends who aren’t
necessarily helpers. I know Lonnie, Lacy, and their kids always look forward to the first cookout
of the season here at the inn. Colt will want to come, although he won’t be back from visiting his
family until Friday,” I referred to my boyfriend, Police Chief Colt Wilder. “I’m not sure if Amy
and Shelby will be able to get away from the Bistro to attend the dinner, but we’ll invite them.
And Velma and Royce always attend and bring Velma’s famous seafood salad.”
“I think the end of the week will be the best time to get everyone together, and since Colt
won’t be back until Friday, let’s plan to do it on Saturday. And I agree it’s best to tell folks now.
There tends to be a lot going on at this time of the year. I’m going to call Tanner and ask him
about his schedule after we finish here.”
I was going to suggest inviting Tanner, but I wasn’t sure how Georgia would feel about that,
so I was glad she brought it up. Once that was settled, I opened one of the three envelopes
Georgia had handed me. It was a royalty check from a book I’d published more than a decade
ago with a little-known publishing house. The story was a personal favorite of mine, but I wasn’t
sure it was worth the effort to get my rights back in order to republish it with my current
publisher, so I simply deposited my tiny checks and moved forward with whichever new story I
was working on.
The second envelope I opened was an invitation to speak and sign books at a conference in
Florida the following September. I would probably pass on the offer since I enjoyed being in
Holiday Bay in the fall, although I would give the organizer a call to get additional information
about the conference in case I changed my mind. My agent recently suggested that I speak to
Vanessa Blackstone at Firehouse Books about doing an author get-together here in Holiday Bay
in the fall. The last significant reader gathering Firehouse Books sponsored ended with a well-
loved author’s death, but odds were in our favor that another heartbreaking outcome wouldn’t
likely occur again.
I picked up the third envelope, the one addressed to Abby Sullivan and was about to open it
when I heard a car in the drive. “It sounds like Haven’s back,” I said, slipping the unopened
envelope into my back pocket. “I can hear the rattle of her old van as she makes her way over the
potholes in the drive we need to fix now that winter is over.”
“I’ll talk to Jeremy about calling the paver. He mentioned it to me a few weeks ago, but I
wanted to be sure all the plowing for this year was behind us before we went to the expense of
Georgia and I, along with my dog, Molly, Georgia’s dog, Ramos, and Haven’s dog, Baxter,
all headed out into the drive to greet Haven and help her unload the groceries and supplies she’d
picked up in town.
“Did you pick up my dry cleaning?” Georgia asked Haven after the groceries had been
“I tried, but when I went by the dry cleaner’s, there was a closed sign on the door.”
“Closed? I wonder why.” Georgia commented.
“Apparently, the place was vandalized,” Haven answered. “I spoke to Isabelle from the yarn
and crafting shop next door, and she said that when Bertie showed up for work this morning, she
found the place trashed.” She was referring to the new owner of the dry cleaner at the far end of
town, Bertie Newman. The place had changed hands several times since I’d lived in Holiday
Bay, but Bertie seemed the most likely to stay.
“Why on earth would anyone do such a thing?” I asked.
Haven shrugged. “Chances are the owner made someone mad, and they’re just getting back
at them. It happens.”
I supposed it did.
“It sounds to me like the sort of thing kids would do,” I said.
“What kids?” Haven asked. “It seems like whenever anything bad happens, everyone blames
it on ‘the kids,’ but I have to wonder who these kids everyone keeps blaming everything on are.”
“It is true that folks do tend to assume that when something bad happens in the community,
then it must be kids who are responsible even if they don’t have any specific kids in mind,”
“Yeah,” I acknowledged. “You’re both right. I guess I just jumped to a conclusion. If the
motive for the vandalism was retribution for a slight of some sort, then it’s actually more likely
that the person responsible is an adult.” I looked back toward the cottage as my lazy cat, Rufus,
strolled toward us. Rufus hated the snow and tended to be an indoor kitty in the winter, but once
the snow melted and the air temperature warmed, he actually enjoyed spending time outdoors.
“I’m so happy that you decided to join us,” I said to the fluffy orange cat as he trotted over to say
hi to Haven. All the animals loved Haven. She had a gentle confidence that I was willing to bet
the animals both respected and were drawn to.
“It’s such a beautiful afternoon,” Georgia said. “Only two of the six rooms in the inn and one
of the two-bedroom cottages are occupied. Maybe we should invite everyone to join us on the
patio for happy hour.”
“Are all the guests planning to dine with us this evening?” I asked. Historically, about half of
the guests who were checked in at any one time tended to make other plans for dinner unless a
private group occupied the inn.
“Actually, they are. The Bronsons went into Bar Harbor today, but when I spoke to Mrs.
Bronson, she indicated that she wanted to get the twins back to the room for a nap by midday so
they wouldn’t be tired or cranky during dinner. I told her I was doing a traditional pot roast,
which is actually one of her favorite meals.”
“The family with the two teenagers staying in the cottage next to mine has been there all
day,” Haven added.
“I’m not sure I understand why you’d come all the way to Holiday Bay from Charleston,
South Carolina, and rent a cottage on one of the most picturesque cliffs along the coast only to
spend your entire stay indoors working on the computer or playing video games,” Georgia
“I think the dad came to the area for a work meeting of some sort, and the kids were forced to
come along,” Haven said. “I spent some time chatting with Chad this morning, and he said that
he and Tad are just trying to kill time until they can go home.”
I was pretty sure someone had mentioned that Chad was sixteen and Tad was fourteen.
Sixteen and fourteen seemed old enough to be left alone for a few days. If the young men didn’t
want to come on their father’s business trip, I wondered why their parents hadn’t arranged for
them to stay home. I supposed they might have tried it in the past only to have the teens end up
in some sort of trouble, which would serve as a caution for the kids to be left home alone again.
“And the couple on the third floor?” I asked.
“Honeymooners who sleep in late but generally leave for the day around lunchtime,” Georgia
answered. “I spoke to the wife last evening, and she told me they planned to stay in for dinner
tonight. I’ll put a notice in the lobby letting everyone know that we’ll serve wine and appetizers
on the patio between five and six-thirty.” Georgia paused. “I think I’ll invite Tanner to join us if
he isn’t busy. He loves to have wine and appetizers on the patio. Will Colt be here?”
“He should be. He isn’t leaving to go to his parents until tomorrow morning. I’ll call him and
let him know what we’re doing.”
“I think I’ll ask Jeremy to pick up some lobster when he picks Annabelle up from school,”
Georgia said. “Lobster pinwheels sound like just the sort of thing to serve at an occasion such as
“Pinwheels sound good, but I’ll get the lobster,” I offered. “One of the letters I received
reminded me that I needed to drop some bookmarks off with Vanessa before she leaves for the
book fair tour she’s signed up for.” Vanessa Blackstone was the owner of Firehouse Books. She
was an active member of the local community as well as the book community as a whole and
often traveled to attend book events.
“When’s she leaving?” Georgia asked me as Haven waved and headed toward her cottage.
“In a few days, I think. Vanessa asked for some of my bookmarks to take with her, and I
promised to bring her a box, but I keep forgetting to drop them off. Other than the lobster, is
there anything else you want from the store?”
“Maybe ingredients for crab dip and veggies. I’ll make you a list.”
Georgia headed toward the inn to make her list, so I picked Rufus up and headed back toward
the cottage to grab my purse as well as the box of bookmarks I didn’t want to forget. I probably
shouldn’t allow myself to procrastinate, but it was a gorgeous afternoon, and I’d spent all
morning at the computer. A drive into town would go a long way toward brightening my day.
When I arrived at the bookstore, I found Cricket and Marnie Abernathy, the new owners of
the local flower shop, sitting at a tall table near a window with Vanessa.
“What’s going on?” I asked as Vanessa pointed to something on the laptop that had been set
up on the table.
Marnie handed me a single sheet of paper.
“Someone left this scathing review about their experience buying flowers from All About
Bluebells on one of those internet review websites,” Cricket said in her sweet southern drawl. All
About Bluebells was the name the sisters had given the flower shop when it changed hands.
I looked at the paper in my hands and read the text aloud. “If you’re in need of a bouquet to
round out a romantic evening, I suggest you drive to Bar Harbor. The roses at All About
Bluebells are about as prickly as the sassy southern sisters who run the place.”
“And only one star,” Marnie complained, as she tucked a lock of her long brown hair behind
one ear. “A one-star review can be the death of a small business, especially when it’s a new
business with only a handful of reviews.”
“Any idea who left the review?” I asked.
“No,” Cricket answered. “We went through our records to see which customers purchased
roses recently, but no one stood out as being the person who would be so vile. I mean, talk about
a totally classless thing to do. Our roses aren’t at all thorny. Chances are that someone has it out
Vanessa put a hand on Cricket’s arm in a show of support. “I’ve had some bad reviews
myself in the past, and it’s never fun, but more often than not, the whole thing blows over in a
few days. I’ve purchased roses from you, and they were lovely.”
“The bouquets you did up for the inn last month were a huge hit,” I added. “So colorful and
creative.” I looked at the paper in my hands. “Did you print this off the internet?”
“No,” Marnie answered. “It came in the mail. After we received it, we came over to talk to
Vanessa. We’d never heard of the website referred to in the letter we received and hoped that
she’d know how to pull it up.”
“I’m so sorry,” I said. “This really is totally unjustified. Given the fact that this individual not
only posted the review to the internet website but sent you a copy of the review in the mail seems
to indicate that they are lashing out against you personally.”
“It does feel that way,” Cricket agreed, her bright blue eyes flashing with annoyance.
“And while the review might be aimed at us personally, it will hurt our business,” Marnie
“You know,” Vanessa said. “I can see how your average would be brought down by a
negative review if you have so few, but what if we drown out that negative review with a flood
of glowing reviews. I don’t normally take the time to write reviews, but I was quite happy with
my purchase, and it occurred to me that perhaps I should take the time to write a review now.”
Marnie smiled. “Really? That would be great.”
“I’ll do one as well,” I said, pulling my cell phone out. “What is the name of the review
“Yay or Nay dot com,” Vanessa answered.
I pulled the website up and typed a glowing five-star review for All About Bluebells. I then
turned to the sisters. “Who else has recently purchased flowers and might be willing to help
“Shelby, from the Bistro, bought small centerpieces for the tables in the bar when the
bowling league rented out the space for awards,” Marnie said.
“And Tanner Peyton picked up a bouquet for a date last Tuesday,” Cricket added. “I’m not
sure who the lucky gal the flowers were intended for might have been, but the gorgeous dog
trainer with the sexy eyes and crooked grin took his time to make sure the bouquet was both
personal and unique.”
Tanner went on a date? I didn’t say anything, but I wondered if Georgia knew. I’d have to
find a delicate way to bring it up later.
“Oh, and while it isn’t a recent purchase, All About Bluebells provided the flowers for the
Kincade/Conrad wedding, and the mothers from both sides have told us on numerous occasions
how much they loved what we did with the flowers,” Marnie added.
“Okay,” I said. “I have a list. I’ll call everyone and ask if they would be willing to write a
“That would be wonderful,” Marnie said. “Thank you.”
“Yes, thank you,” Cricket seconded.
“I understand the value of an honest review to a potential customer no matter what you’re
selling, but it seems as if with the anonymity of the internet, reviews are becoming increasingly
cruel,” Vanessa said.
“And often unwarranted,” I added. “Like this one for the dry cleaner,” I said after scanning
through some of the other local reviews once I’d written and posted my positive review for All
About Bluebells. “An individual posted this review anonymously, leaving a one-star that says: ‘I
have to admire the owner of the dry cleaner, Bertie Newman’s, generosity. If you drop off an
item with a single stain, the folks who run the place will generously ensure that you leave with at
“The review has the same general tone as the one left for us,” Cricket said. “Our one-star
came from an anonymous reviewer as well.”
I frowned. “That doesn’t seem right to me. I believe that if you are going to leave a review,
whether it’s good or bad, you should be required to identify yourself.”
“I heard a story about someone who left a negative review for a small business and ended up
being sued,” Vanessa said. “Apparently, the business owner demonstrated that the review was
both malicious and untrue, and he was awarded a large chunk of cash when the judge sided with
“Remind me never to be snarky in my delivery should I find the need to leave a negative
review at some point,” Cricket said.
“I suppose you could just do the review using the name Anonymous like the snarky man or
woman who left our review did,” Marnie suggested.
Cricket tapped one of her long, polished fingernails on the table in front of her. “No, if I’m
going to take the time to ruin someone’s business or career, then chances are it’s going to be
because I’m good and teed off, so I’ll want to make sure the person who wronged me knows it’s
me doing it.”
“You sound just like my Aunt Lou,” Vanessa chuckled. “I think the two of you are going to
get along famously.”
“Aunt Lou?” I asked.
Vanessa turned in my direction. “I think I mentioned to you that I’ve been invited to attend a
tour of European book fairs with a group who regularly travels together. It seemed like a good
opportunity, but I planned to decline because I wasn’t sure how I felt about leaving the bookstore
for six weeks. But then I received a phone call from my aunt, Louise, Lou for short, and she said
that she’d come out and stay at my house and run the place if I wanted to take the group up on
“That’s fantastic.” I grinned. “I’m sure her being here will give you peace of mind.”
“It will, and I think it will be good for her too. My uncle died about a year ago, leaving Aunt
Lou alone on the desolate plot of land they’ve lived on most of their married life. I have to admit
that I worry about her living on her own, and I’ve tried to get her to consider moving to Holiday
Bay on several occasions. I truly think it would be good for her to be closer to me and to
civilization in general.”
“It does seem like moving to the area to be near you might be a good one,” I agreed. “I take it
that Lou has other plans.”
Vanessa nodded. “Aunt Lou is very independent and likes to do things her way. She’s a
feisty one who, in spite of the fact that she likely doesn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds
soaking wet, would stare down a grizzly bear and not even break a sweat. On some level, I know
she can take care of herself, but Aunt Lou just turned sixty-two on her last birthday, and I can tell
that she’s beginning to slow down a bit. I know she can take care of herself, but I still worry
“Your aunt sounds like a real character,” I said.
Vanessa pulled up a photo on her phone and showed it to me. Vanessa wasn’t exaggerating
when she said her aunt likely didn’t weigh a hundred pounds. It was hard to estimate height
based on a photo alone, but the photo was one of Vanessa standing next to Aunt Lou and the tiny
woman beside Vanessa barely reached her shoulders.
“She’s very pretty,” I said, taking in the fiery blue eyes, long white hair that reached her
waist, and petite frame.
“Aunt Lou did seem to inherit only the best genes from her parents. She rarely uses makeup
and has no use for fancy moisturizers, yet she barely has a wrinkle to show for her sixty-two
years. She might look frail but I can assure you that she has a whole lot of spunk and attitude
packed into that five-foot frame.” She paused and blew out a breath. “Still, as I said, in spite of
the fact that I know she can handle herself I do worry.”
“And you’re hoping that if she spends some time here in Holiday Bay, she’ll make friends
and decide to stay,” I said.
“Exactly. Trying to force Aunt Lou to move will never work. The only way I’ll ever get her
to consider a move is if it’s her idea from the get-go.”
“We’ll all be sure to be extra nice to her,” Marnie said.
“When do you leave?” I asked.
“In a few days. I have the book fairs in Austin and LA that I already told you about, and then
I’ll leave for the European tour right after LA. Aunt Lou will be here tomorrow. I wanted to have
a couple days to show around before I headed out on my trip, so I asked her to come early. I’m
going to attend the subcommittee meeting for the condo development Park Lambert is trying to
get pushed through in the morning and then head to Bangor to pick her up at the airport.”
“What’s going on with those condos?” I asked. I’d heard that an influential developer had
plans to build a large complex that included condos, restaurants, and upscale shopping on a bluff
overlooking the sea but had run into problems with the permit.
“The whole thing has actually turned into a huge headache,” Vanessa told me. “I’m sorry that
I let the town council persuade me to participate on the committee. It sounded easy enough in the
beginning, and I wanted to help if I could, but the whole thing has turned into a nightmare.”
“So, what’s the main issue?” Marnie asked.
Vanessa paused briefly before answering. “There are a few issues, but I’d say the main
problem is that the land the developer wants to build on is environmentally sensitive, and a lot of
folks want to see it remain undeveloped. I don’t disagree with the sentiment. It would be nice if
the land could remain as it is, but the development would bring lots of new jobs, residential
growth, and an influx of tourists. I think most folks welcome that, although there are those who
want things to remain as they are.”
“Like the group from the local business association,” I said.
“Exactly. There are a few other roadblocks, which I consider to be minor hurdles that can
likely be worked out, but I’d say the land use issue is the big one.”
“Maybe things will have worked themselves out by the time you get back from your trip,”
Vanessa smiled. “Maybe. Right now, folks from both sides of the issue are being stubborn
and unyielding. I’ve seriously considered having Aunt Lou take my place on the committee
while I’m away. She’d likely hogtie the council and lock them in a room until they worked out a
compromise. As I said, she’s a feisty one.”
I laughed. “I’m looking forward to meeting Aunt Lou.”
“I think you’re going to love her.” Vanessa looked around the table. “All of you. She’s funny
and opinionated, and as I’ve previously mentioned, she’s been blessed with a bit of snark, but
she’s the sweetest person you’d ever want to meet.”
“Sounds like Velma,” I said.
“Aunt Lou is a lot like Velma,” Vanessa agreed.
I chatted with Vanessa for a bit longer and then headed toward the grocery store for the items
Georgia had asked me to pick up. Once I finished at the grocer, I planned to stop at the fish
market to buy the crab and lobster Georgia had requested. I’d hoped to have time to pop by and
say hi to Colt while I was in town, but I’d spent more time at the bookstore than I’d planned, so I
left him a message letting him know that we were doing a happy hour thing on the patio that
evening and I hoped he could attend.
“Afternoon, Abby,” the woman at Off the Hook greeted me after I walked into the otherwise
empty building. “Georgia called in her order, so I have it ready for you.”
I smiled. “Thanks, Clara. That’s very helpful.”
“I put it on your account.” She handed me a brown paper bag with the items Georgia
requested inside. “Based on what Georgia told me, it sounds as if your guests are in for a real
I glanced into the bag. “When Georgia and I spoke earlier, she mentioned lobster pinwheels
and crab dip to serve during happy hour, but it looks as if she ordered enough seafood to serve it
“She mentioned a low country boil.”
I frowned. “I thought Georgia was making pot roast.”
The woman shrugged. “Maybe she changed her mind or plans to do the boil tomorrow. I hear
the weather is supposed to be excellent all week.”
I signed for my order. “I heard that as well. I can’t believe that it’s April already. Do you
know if the town is still planning to do the fish fry at the end of the month?” Traditionally, the
outdoor event was held on the last Saturday in April, but I haven’t heard anything about it this
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen now that Riva has left the chamber. The talk around
town is that most of the annual events will be canceled until someone can figure everything out.”
“I heard that as well.”
“It’s a shame. I understand why Riva quit, and I even understand why others followed her
lead, but I do hope that whoever is in charge of putting things back together can do so quickly.
The businesses in town who depend on these events will suffer if everything ends up being
There was no doubt this was a tricky situation that would affect the whole town if not
resolved quickly. “I understand that a special meeting open to all chamber members is scheduled
for later in the month. Maybe things will work out once everyone gets together in the same
“Maybe. I heard that Alan Fenton is trying to circle the wagons. The man is smart and
influential, so maybe he can get the whole thing back on track.”
I thanked her for my order and then headed out to my SUV. I set the bag of seafood on the
backseat next to the groceries, started the engine, and put it in drive. As I made my way out to
the inn, I thought about the conversation I’d shared with Clara. I hadn’t spent much time in town
over the winter, so I didn’t have details on everything that was going on, but apparently, Riva
Long, the woman who’d been president of the chamber of commerce for years, had been accused
of embezzlement. The owner of Desperate for Donuts, Rogan Whitehead, had brought the charge
against her. Rogan was a merchant who swore that he’d paid his chamber dues directly to her but
that she’d never given the cash to the bookkeeper for processing and deposit. Of course, Riva
insisted that this particular merchant had never paid his dues and that he was simply trying to get
out of paying his share by accusing her of forgetting to deposit the cash he’d given her.
I wasn’t sure where the truth sat with this one, but apparently, once this one instance of a
missing paper trail was brought forward, an official audit of all the books was ordered. Once the
audit had been completed, a significant discrepancy between the amount of cash that should have
been in the chamber’s bank account and the amount of cash that was actually there was
discovered. Riva had insisted that she hadn’t done anything wrong and had no idea what had
happened to the missing money. So far, no one had been able to prove that Riva had taken the
money, so criminal charges hadn’t been brought forward, but several high-level chamber
members, including the vice president, Alan Fenton, had called for her removal from office. In
the end, she decided to resign. Those board members who thought she’d been unfairly treated
had likewise resigned, and what was left was a mess that didn’t seem to have an immediate
“It looks like a lot more than just crab and lobster for dip and pinwheels,” I said to Georgia
after I handed her the bag from the fish market.
“After you left, I decided to post a notice on the bulletin board about the cocktail hour this
evening, and one of the guests told me that she had a good recipe for a low country boil. It
sounded fun, and the weather is supposed to be close to perfect tomorrow, so I decided to go
ahead and do one for dinner tomorrow evening.” She began pulling items out of the bag. “Did
you get the corn and potatoes?”
“I did. Everything other than the seafood is still in my SUV. I’ll get them. Do you have
“I don’t, but Velma called looking for Jeremy, and I happened to mention the boil tomorrow.
She told me she had the perfect sausage to use in the boil and would send it with Nikki when she
came to hang out with Haven.”
“Nikki was at Velma’s?” I asked, despite the fact it was really none of my business. Nikki
worked for Shelby at the Bistro at Holiday Bay, but I supposed she might still head over to chat
with Velma from time to time.
“I guess Nikki and Tanner met at Velma’s for a late lunch, and they all got to talking. Tanner
had left by the time I called, but Nikki was still there.”
I wanted to ask Georgia if she knew Tanner had gone out on a date since his name had been
brought up in relation to the flower shop, but I decided that this wasn’t any of my business either.
“I think a low country boil sounds delicious. I’m going to head over to the cottage and clean up a
bit. I’ll be back at five for the cocktail hour on the patio.”
“Don’t forget the letter you stuck in your back pocket.” Georgia reminded me. “You
wouldn’t want to send it through the washer and dryer like you did your keys last week.”
I had been forgetting to empty my pockets before I tossed my clothes in the washer as of late,
and my keys hadn’t been the first item I’d unintentionally washed.
Pulling the letter out, I slit it open. It was a single sheet of paper with a copy of a review that
had been posted on Yay or Nay dot com. “If scratchy sheets, thin walls, bedbug bites, and food
my dog wouldn’t eat are your particular jam, the Inn at Holiday Bay is the perfect place to spend
a truly miserable weekend this sunny spring season.”
I noticed Georgia’s usually pale complexion turned a bright red ahead of what I knew would
be a very “R-rated” retort once I’d read the note aloud.
“Food your dog wouldn’t eat?” She spat. “Who would write such a thing?”
I shrugged. “It just says Anonymous. Both the dry cleaner and the flower shop received
similar reviews from someone using the name Anonymous. All the reviews are one-star and are
both malicious and unwarranted.”
“What is it with people these days? How on earth does posting these false remarks on a
public website help anyone?”
“I don’t think it does,” I said. “I think there are just some people who enjoy being snarky. I
know you’re upset. I’m upset too, but the best thing to do at this point is to let it go and move on."
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