Off to a Bad Tart

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Autumn is back in session in Moss Hollow, Georgia, and Jillian Green can't figure out how she got roped into instructing a teen baking class through the local parks department. After all, she's only recently honed her own skills since her homecoming a few years ago. Can the student really become the teacher so quickly?

Luckily for Jillian and the rest of the Southern Sweetie Pies baking club, everyone participating in the class is full of enthusiasm; everyone, that is, except the program director, Louisa Byrne, a recent transplant to Moss Hollow who's failing to conceal her shaky nerves. Jillian wants to chalk up the newcomer's behavior to being a textbook case of freshman jitters, but she can't shake the suspicion that there's more to Louisa than meets the eye.

When Louisa skips class unexpectedly, Jillian doesn't quite believe the woman's coworker when he claims she went to visit her sister. Did Louisa really ditch town for a family emergency, or is something more sinister at play? And, if Louisa didn't disappear of her own volition, who is to blame? Was it her creepy colleague? Her felon ex-husband? A mysterious stranger also new to Moss Hollow?

The deeper Jillian digs, the more complicated the situation becomes, and she finds herself the victim of increasingly threatening incidents. To make matters worse, she and her beau, handsome Hunter Greyson, don't subscribe to the same school of thought on her investigation, and the friction puts their relationship to the test.

Will Jillian learn her lesson and leave well enough alone, or will she pursue an advanced degree of danger? If she can't make the grade, she just might graduate with horrors.

The Characters

At 39, Jillian is living the life she always dreamed. Using her creative talents, she's built a successful career as one of the top executives at a prestigious advertising agency in California, and she's engaged to an amazing man who showers her with love and the finer things in life. Life couldn't be more perfect.

But as quickly as a chocolate souffle can flop, Jillian's "perfect" fiance is arrested for embezzlement, putting a quick end to the engagement, and the advertising agency coincidentally "downsizes" Jillian after the scandal, leaving her without a job. But Jillian is a strong Southern woman who has learned how to endure from her feisty and iron-willed grandmother. She decides to leave California and make a fresh start where her life began, in the quaint town of Moss Hollow, Ga.

Under Grandma Bertie's roof at Belle Haven mansion and under her wing, Jillian prepares to take over the family business: The Chocolate Shoppe Bakery. But she doesn't expect to find murder on the menu! Will returning home to reconnect with her Southern roots ultimately prove to be a blessing or a fatal mistake?

Longtime member of the Sweetie Pies baking club and grandmother extraordinaire, Lenora has managed the bakery for decades and is considered a part of the family. Since fixing a salad is Jillian's greatest culinary accomplishment on most days, she encounters a few hurdles while learning how to create the decadent treats the bakery is known for. She's grateful for Lenora's wise counsel and encouragement!

The curious and cuddly house cat keeps a close eye on the happenings at Belle Haven mansion and lends a hand -- or paw -- in helping Jillian solve the intriguing mysteries of the small town.

Savannah is one of Jillian's oldest and best friends. She's delighted Jillian moved back to town and looks forward to reconnecting with her childhood companion. But she's also keeping a secret that may be the key to unlocking the mystery of Nadine's untimely demise.

Jillian's down-to-earth and lovable grandmother is ready to retire from the hectic demands of running The Chocolate Shoppe Bakery, but she refuses to sell to a complete stranger. Jillian is her last hope for keeping the business in the family, even if Jillian can barely boil water. Bertie is determined to help Jillian succeed in the business and to see her marry a good Southern man before the bloom falls completely off the rose.

Cornelia may be Bertie's twin, but she is different from her sister in every way, from her flair for the dramatic to her eccentric nature. She moved back to Belle Haven mansion to live with Bertie five years ago after the death of her husband. She claims to possess a joie de vivre that simply cannot be tamed. Bertie prefers to call it "flighty." Despite her theatrics, Cornelia has a generous heart and wants nothing but the best for her grandniece. She will do anything to see Jillian happy and settled in Moss Hollow ... even if it means bending a few rules.