Elliana Allbright is happy running her perfume shop, Scents & Nonsense, in the charming town of Poppyville, California. And she's even happier when she can use her inherited abilities to infuse her perfumes with an extra special something that eases woes or solves problems for her customers. But she'll need those abilities and more when murder comes to town.
Ellie and her women's business group, the Greenstockings, are helping to open a new museum about local history, and while sorting through the collection of artifacts they discover a time capsule from the days of the Gold Rush. Among the contents is a strange botanical manuscript, recognized by local history professor Eureka Sanford as extremely rare and valuable. When the professor is found dead in the museum, Ellie has no choice but to sniff out the murderer... but this one may have roots that are as old as Poppyville.
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Wallflowers get a bad rap.
For some reason, the shy girl who stands all by herself at the party, talking to no one and radiating awkward social anxiety, is called a wallflower. However, the actual plants are transfixing-rangy, branching stalks that end with clubs of delicate, four-petal blossoms in dusky shades of orange, yellow, purple, and red. Erysimum cheiri are some of the first flowers to erupt into bloom each spring, reaching into the cool air with a verve and cheerfulness not at all associated with the human version of a wallflower.
Oh, and the scent! That was what made me pause in front of Heritage House, my hand frozen on the wrought iron gate that opened into the small square yard. The Poppyville town council had funded the restoration of the Old West log cabin and moved it from its original location to the wide lawn behind the library with the intention that it would house a museum dedicated to the California gold rush. Now the spicy, sweet, verdant fragrance of the wallflowers Thea Nelson had planted around the foundation was so thick in the air that I was surprised it wasn't somehow visible.
Yet a woman ushered her two small children past my corgi, Dash, and me without even a glance at the blooms of Chelsea Jacket and tiny, double-leaved Harpur Crewe. Shaking my head, I inhaled again, nearly swooning at the intensity of the aroma. It sparked the memory of my grandmother, her calm voice echoing through time from my childhood.
See the white violets, Ellie? Breathe of them deeply. Can you smell how they're different than the modest purple blossoms? The white ones embrace challenge, want to take chances. And here-the wallflowers. So strong, though they seem so delicate. They need to be strong, though, for they represent fidelity in adversity. They only appear fragile.
My corgi brushed against my leg as he turned to look behind us. Moments later, a familiar voice reached through the scented haze of my past, and Gamma's voice faded from my mind.
"Hey, Ellie! Sorry I'm a little late. You didn't need to wait out here for me, though."
I looked over my shoulder to see my best friend Astrid Moneypenny striding toward us from the side entrance of the Poppyville Library. Almost a foot taller than my four feet ten, she'd tamed her wild, coppery tresses into a complicated updo held together with wooden combs. Her willow green eyes flashed affection, and the freckles on her nose stood out against the paleness of her early spring complexion. When we hugged, I smelled cloves and vanilla with just a soupon of wet dog. My guess was that she'd been baking cookies or washing one of her pet-sitting clients. Probably both.
"Couldn't help myself," I said. "Every time I come to the museum I have to stop and-"
"Smell the flowers," she finished, and stooped to rub Dash's velvety ears. Panting, he gave her his best doggy grin.
Standing again, she said, "I would expect nothing less, Ellie. They're delightful. But I don't think my humble nose can appreciate them quite the way yours can."
I rolled my eyes. I knew what she meant, though. It was true that I had a rather, er, well-honed sense of smell. Which was a nice way of saying it was almost freakish. But it had saved me when I'd divorced my husband after finding him in flagrante delicto with Wanda Simmons in the walk-in freezer of our restaurant, the Roux Grill. I'd always wanted to try my hand at perfumery, so, newly single, I'd sold him my half of the Roux, purchased a storefront at the end of Corona Street, and started my own business.
Scents & Nonsense was where I indulged my love of aromatherapy and created custom perfume blends for a growing list of clients. Throughout the shop, every product featured lovely, lovely, natural smells. As a bonus, the more I worked with scent, the more I was able to understand exactly what kind of fragrance combination would help any particular customer.
Of course, that didn't account for the bits of weirdness since I'd opened Scents & Nonsense, planted the elaborate garden behind the store, and moved into my tiny house at the back of the lot. There had been a mysterious plant that provided memory-enhancing essential oil, strange whispers in the garden, and a few experiences that bordered on the otherworldly.
Okay, sometimes they crossed the border.
However, I wasn't the only one of our friends with what Astrid had dubbed "superpowers." Gessie King, who owned the stables on the edge of town, had a gift with the horses that went beyond "whispering." Thea Nelson of Terra Green Nursery had a thumb so green I sometimes wondered if chlorophyll ran through her veins, and Maria Canto had a knack for knowing what you needed when you walked into the library before you knew you needed it. As for my best friend in the whole world, Astrid could diagnose most of the pets that came into the animal clinic where she worked as a veterinary technician with little more than a glance. That was part of why her personal business as a self-proclaimed petrepreneur was so successful. There wasn't anyone in Poppyville who wouldn't trust their pet's welfare to Astrid.
Opening the gate to Heritage House, I pointed at the half-open door and said, "We'd better get to work. The others have been hard at it since noon. I think Felicity and Gessie are gathering the last of the boxes from the basement of the Hotel California, and Thea and Maria are unpacking what we brought over yesterday."
"Are they finding anything suitable for display?" Astrid asked as we entered the old cabin. "Seemed like there was an awful lot of stuff that was old and falling apart."
"You've got that right," a voice said from the dimness inside.
We blinked. A few seconds later, my eyes had adjusted to the lower light, and I recognized Eureka Sanford crouched over a pile of hodgepodge metal implements. The knees of her khakis were dusty, as was the wrinkled white dress shirt tucked into them. She'd bundled up her gray-streaked hair under her signature red newsboy cap, and her dark eyes gleamed at us from beneath the short brim. I caught a whiff of fountain pen ink and mountain mahogany flowers.
Dash ran over to her, and she patted him on the head a few times, then stood. Satisfied, he continued over to the corner and flopped down for a nap. Eureka turned toward us and held out a dented disc classically used to pan for gold. It had a gaping, rusted hole in the bottom.
"We've unpacked so many of these things we could build a sculpture. Call it Pan Man or something." She shook her head, then pointed to our left. "Pretty good stuff over there, though, once we weeded out all the crap from the last century. Seems like the collection, as Felicity keeps calling it, was just a bunch of things people didn't want to throw away over the years and didn't know what else to do with." Her eyes narrowed. "But old doesn't mean valuable, you know. Or even interesting."
"Well, we sure appreciate your expertise, Eureka," Maria Canto said as she stepped from the shadows. Almost as height-challenged as me, the town's librarian wore jeans and an electric yellow sweater with a matching headband to hold back her thick black hair. She smelled slightly of orange blossoms.
"Not to mention your backing with the town council," I said.
A retired history professor from UC Berkeley, Eureka had moved to Poppyville the year before to work on her book about everyday life during the California gold rush. She'd been instrumental in getting the rural cabin fixed up and transported to Library Park. It had provided the perfect spot for the museum our women's business group, the Greenstockings, had been trying to jump-start for a few years. The previous option had been a paltry display in the basement of the Hotel California, but Eureka had felt this location would be more of a draw for the tourists that were the lifeblood of our little town's economy, and she'd convinced the council to pay for it.
She beamed. "Glad to do it! Can't let myself go to seed just because I'm not bossing around graduate students anymore."
"Where's Thea?" Astrid asked, fingering a length of somewhat yellowed lace on a table next to an embroidered crazy quilt.
"Right here," our friend said from the doorway. The scents of fresh soil and green seedlings drifted into the museum. She wore a Terra Green Nursery T-shirt and baseball cap, and her long tan legs emerged from cargo shorts. Tall and lanky, Thea generally moved with a deliberateness I found calming. Today, however, she stomped into the cabin with a frown.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"How hard is it to get good help in this town?" Thea grumbled. "I mean, jeez. That new guy I hired doesn't want to do anything except read comic books behind the register, and now he's messed up an order so badly I'm not going to make a cent on it. You have no idea how lucky you are to have Maggie working for you."
"Yeah," I agreed quietly.
Thea started to go on, then stopped. Turning pink, she said, "Oh, gosh, Ellie. I didn't mean . . . Josie was . . . oh, darn it."
I smiled. "I know what you meant. And believe me, I also know how lucky I am that Maggie can work for me at Scents and Nonsense as well as for Harris at the Roux."
Harris was my ex, and he sometimes snarked about his star bartender also tending my shop part-time. Thea's discomfort had nothing to do with Maggie, though. Josie Overland, my employee before Maggie came to work for me, had been murdered the previous June.
"Relax," I went on. "We all know it's harder to find good workers during the off-season."
Astrid and Maria nodded.
Thea's shoulders dropped. "At least that brother of mine will be coming back from Alaska in three weeks. In between his wooing you, Ellie, maybe I can get some real work out of Ritter."
Now it was my turn to blush. "I'm sure he'll have plenty of time to help out at the nursery." I tried to ignore the swoopy feeling in my stomach at the thought that I'd finally be able to see the handsome mountain man I'd only been in contact with via phone and the Internet for the last five months. See, hear . . . touch . . .
I cleared my throat.
She winked. "And plenty of time to spend with his little Ellie-boo."
My eyes widened. "No. Tell me Ritter does not call me that behind my back."
"Ever," I said.
Thea let a few beats pass, then relented. "Of course not. You think I'd put up with a brother who talked baby talk about his girlfriend? Sheesh." At least she seemed to be in a better mood than when she'd come in.
Shaking my head, I said, "Try putting a bouquet of goldenrod or black-eyed Susans on the counter by the register. Maybe it'll help give your employee a little motivation and strength of character."
She quirked an eyebrow. "Really? Well, okay. You haven't steered me wrong with your flower lore yet."
As Thea turned away to unpack another box, Astrid murmured low enough that the others couldn't hear, "I bet Tanner Spence isn't going to be too excited when Ritter comes back to his Ellie-boo."
I shot her a look. "I've been pretty darn clear that I'm not dating Spence."
"Maybe not. But you two sure spend a lot of time together."
"He's my friend!"
She quirked an eyebrow, but before she could continue, we were interrupted by footsteps and voices outside announcing that Gessie and Felicity had arrived. They came in, each holding a big box that they carried to the back of the cabin and put on the floor next to all the others we were supposed to be unpacking, instead of yakking about my love life-or current lack thereof.
Gessie wore a plaid flannel shirt and Wrangler jeans imbued with the rich, musky scent of the horses she tended, but for once her iron gray curls were uncovered. Felicity, formerly the editor of the Poppyville Picayune and now the manager of the Hotel California, had on a pair of coveralls over a black T-shirt, and her long dark hair was gathered into a single braid that snaked down her back. Dirt smudged her heart-shaped face, and I detected a hint of bergamot from the Earl Grey tea she liked so much.
"Need some help unloading?" Astrid asked.
Gessie nodded. "We finally cleared out the storeroom over at the hotel, but my truck is packed chock-full of the last of it."
"Let's start putting things outside that can go to the dump," Eureka said. "Then when we have enough to fill Gessie's truck, a couple of us can make a run."
"Need to empty the truck first," Thea said, and strode toward the door.
Astrid and I nodded to each other and followed her outside.
Late in the afternoon weÕd sorted through nearly everything and filled the back of GessieÕs pickup, and she and Thea had made the trip to the landfill.
Inside Heritage House, items that would be displayed together were gathered in rough groups. There were several samples of the equipment used for gold mining, including picks, axes, short-handled shovels, placer cradles, hip boots, and a few of the sluicing pans Eureka had complained about. An example of the convoluted-looking assaying machines sold to gullible-and hopeful-miners by entrepreneurial inventors who likely knew nothing about gold or mining sat in one corner. There were also examples of clothing and footwear. Nearby was a display of home goods and women's clothing ranging from calico bonnets and long skirts to a skimpy red dancehall dress that would have raised some eyebrows even now.
Near the door, we planned a reception desk and educational displays. Visitors could browse through old newspapers, letters, and other ephemera, though the items Eureka had deemed most important would be displayed under glass.
"Oh, no!" Gessie exclaimed from the corner.
We all turned to look at her.
She stooped and lifted what looked like a tall jug out of a box in the shadows. "I thought we were done. What the heck is this thing?"
Eureka hurried over. "It's a butter churn! Here, put it on this table."
As we crowded around to see this new treasure, she quickly ran her hands over the yellow ceramic vessel. It was chipped here and there but looked to be in good shape. Stylized flowers and birds decorated the sides of the churn, all painted in blue.
Excerpted from "Marigolds for Malice"
Copyright © 2018 Bailey Cattrell.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the best book yet and thisbisvturjing out to be a wonderful series. I am so impatiently awaiting the next one. Stephanie Clanahan
This book will leave you enchanted under the spell of Cattrell’s wonderful writing and characters. This series is just magical. I am very interested in gardening, natural wellness, and aromatherapy, so I am the target audience of this book for sure. Bailey Cattrell paints a wonderful picture of both the characters and the setting and sets up a world you can’t help but be invested in.
I have been a fan of this series, because of the theme, the plant lore, the book covers, the characters, and the writing. Book 3 was such a wonderful and quick read that I am hoping for more books in the Enchanted Garden mysteries. Combining past history and a present day activities made for a clever tale.
I adore this author! Both series are great but I can not get enough!! I need more of her stories. You'll see if you by em. I would totally recommend both. By either name she uses, it doesn't matter to me. Love her!! Rhop18
Dollycas’s Thoughts Elliana Allbright is the owner of Scents & Nonsense where she sells items made with special oils she distills from plants in her own garden. The Enchanted Garden is right next to the shop and abuts right up to her tiny house. The garden is a relaxing place with spots for people to sit and wind down from the stress in their lives. Ellie’s dog, Dash and shop cat, Nabokov have free rein of the area so they may dish out their own kind of comfort too. Ellie belongs to a women’s group, the Greenstockings. They are busy cataloging artifacts for a new local history museum. In their endeavor, they find want appears to be a time capsule for the 1800’s. The town quickly makes an event out of its opening. Inside they find some rare items and local history professor Eureka Sanford tells all that the items could be quite valuable. After most of the items are returned to the museum, Eureka is found dead and most of the items are missing. Ellie is quite interested in the items for a personal reason so she is determined to root out the killer and get the items back. Elliana Allbright is a wonderful protagonist. She has a gift passed on by her Gamma of being able to match each person with the right combination of scents for them and any problem they may be facing. Her Gamma’s journal is the guidebook and has been the key to everything she knows. A magical journal that still updates itself long after her Gamma’s passing. In this story, it again plays a critical part in solving the mystery. It is fun tagging along with Ellie as she sniffs around for answers. I love the way she and Detective Lupe Garcia work together, especially this time because the chief of police has taken the lead on the case. The mystery is not easy to solve and the killer tries to permanently stop Ellie from investigating which just riles her up even more. There are several suspects to check out. While reading along I suddenly had my “aha moment”. I read a little further and thought “no, that can’t be right”, but then after a few more pages I joyously found out I was right. The author tried hard to lead me astray but I was almost as determined as Ellie Now, I can’t finish this review without mentioning the cover. All the covers for this series have been amazing and I want to give a shout out to cover artist Adrienne Langer. She captures the beauty of Ellie’s enchanted garden perfectly. That alone should have people grabbing the book off the shelves. Then to read the story and read the descriptions the author provides of the entire garden, Ellie’s shop, and her little house provides the added imagery needed to bring the setting to life. Poppyville and Scents & Nonsense sound like somewhere I would love to visit again and again. An enchanting place, engaging characters, and a truly entertaining mystery all come together to give readers “A Perfect Escape”. Until next time . . . I can hardly wait!!