Break out your blankets and sunscreen, it's beach reading time. Right now, where I live we are sweltering in a heat bubble, as the media is calling it. Five days of intense, unseasonal, unprecedented heat does not a mere bubble make in my opinion. Be that as it may, the warm morning reminded me of the beach. Slipping your toes in the sand, smothering on sunscreen, pulling out your favorite shades and reading.
When I grab a beach book, I look for escapism. Two of my favorite escapist series are Kate Dyer Seeley's cozy mysteries. Particularly her bakeshop series, written under the name Ellie Alexander. The bakeshop series is set in Ashland, Oregon, home of the famous Shakespeare Festival. Deftly drawing on the real-life town of Ashland, Kate has woven fictional Torte Bakery in as if you could find it on a walking tour.
Our family bakeshop, Torte, sits in the center of my hometown. It's located in the downtown plaza just a few hundred feet from Lithia Park and Shakespeare's stairs, a set of cement stairs that lead from the park's expansive lawn to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's theater complex. Walking around the plaza is like stepping back in time. Storefronts are designed in Tudor style with narrow symmetrical buildings, timber framing, and ornate windows.
Torte is a family bakery. Juliet Montague Capshaw's parents owned and ran the establishment. The series begins with Juliet, affectionately called Jules, returning to Ashland after time away as a cruise ship chef, to help her mother keep the bakery running. However, just running the bake shop is not all Jules does. Every book has a crime to be solved. Jules is always in the middle of it. The story lines are fun and delicious, much like the pastries and mochas the bakery creates. Kate knows how to write food making and partaking fantastically. An added bonus in the back of each book are the kitchen tested recipes that have been brilliantly written into the book plot. There are fifteen books total in this yummy series.
Pacific Northwest Mysteries
If you have never been to the Pacific Northwest, specifically Portland, Oregon and neighboring Washington state, you should check out Kate's series set all around the Pacific Northwest. The protagonist is a young aspiring journalist Meg Reed. She is eager to be taken seriously as a journalist and landed a job at an extreme sport magazine. Sadly, she is anything but outdoorsy or even remotely sporty. From her very first assignment onward, she stumbles into mystery after mystery.
My fingernails dug into the soggy dirt as my body lurched closer to the sheer cliff face. I desperately jabbed deeper into the ground for traction. It didn't work. I kicked frantically into a boulder on my right, trying to slow my momentum. The trail was disappearing in front of me. Fast. Two more feet and I would launch over a ledge, straight down the side of the rock face.
That's when I heard the scream....
There are only five books in the Pacific Northwest Series but for a weekend read they are perfect. For me, the best part of this series is the spot-on descriptions of various outdoor events and places Meg is part of. From the cliffs of the Columbia Gorge, to frozen Mt. Hood in winter, to the lava caves made by volcanoes that dot our landscape.
So, if you are looking for delightful fun reads check out all the works of Kate Dyer Seeley/Ellie Alexander. I think you will be glad you did.