Wednesday, September 19, 2018

In Cold Chocolate by Dorothy St James | Blog Tour with Guest Post and Giveaway

The Blurb

In Dorothy St. James’s third delectable Southern Chocolate Shop mystery, a new batch of chocolate and troubles of the heart cause a string of disasters for the Chocolate Box’s new owner, Charity Penn.

The vintage seaside town of Camellia Beach, South Carolina seems like the perfect place for romance with its quiet beach and its decadent chocolate shop that serves the world’s richest dark chocolates. The Chocolate Box’s owner, Charity Penn, falls even further under the island’s moonlit spell as she joins Althea Bays and the rest of the turtle watch team to witness a new generation of baby sea turtles hatch and make their way into the wide ocean.

Before the babies arrive, gunshots ring out in the night. Cassidy Jones, the local Casanova, is found dead in the sand with his lover Jody Dalton — the same woman who has vowed to destroy the Chocolate Box — holding the gun. It’s an obvious crime of passion, or so everyone believes. But when Jody’s young son pleads with Penn to bring his mother back to him, she can’t say no. She dives headfirst into a chocolate swirl of truth and lies, and must pick through an assortment of likely (and sometimes unsavory) suspects before it’s too late for Penn and for those she loves in Dorothy St. James’s third rich installment of the Southern Chocolate Shop mysteries, In Cold Chocolate.

In Cold Chocolate by Dorothy St James
Series: Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery, #3
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Culinary Mystery
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Hardcover: 350 pages
ISBN-10: 1683317432
ISBN-13: 978-1683317432
e-Book File Size: 2050 KB
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The Guest Post

The Making of a Chocolate Murder

I was one lucky duck when two springs ago my publisher fell in love with the idea of combining two things that make me happy: mystery novels and chocolate. Actually several publishers were excited about the idea of this mystery series. And when you have more than one publisher interested in buying a proposal, it goes to what’s called an auction. It was an exciting week, having several publishers bidding on the right to publish the chocolate series. And my publisher, a new publisher, Crooked Lane Books, came in with not only the strongest bid, but my editor there had actually called and talked with me about her vision for the series before ever putting in the bid.

But let me back up a bit. While book proposals and auctions and contracts are interesting, that’s not where this book series began.

The Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series has been a long time in the making. When I was writing Flowerbed of State (the first book in the White House Gardener Mystery Series) way, way back in 2010, the idea for a mystery series set in a chocolate shop started dancing around in the back of my mind.

The White House Gardener Mystery Series was proving challenging to write. I don’t know if it’s my scientist background, but no matter what the novel I’m writing is about, I have to do extensive research. And researching about murders that take place in the White House? Let’s just say, the people I was calling for insider information weren’t really all that interested in talking with me about how to kill someone on White House grounds. (I can’t imagine why.) So I took many trips to Washington, D.C. and stalked secret service agents on patrol around the White House, visited Lafayette park located in front of the White House in the middle of the night so I could see where I could stuff a body into a trash can without anyone noticing. (It can be done.) While all this research was... fascinating, I started thinking about those lucky authors who got to write cozy mysteries about food. And all the delicious food they got to eat while calling it research. Dang, I wanted to do that!

And I luuuv chocolate and, you know, I can’t write a book without research!

I knew there were already several popular bakeshop and chocolate shop mystery novels being published, so I wanted to make sure mine was a new and different twist on the theme. So I did some research — yummy research.

Did you know that if a chocolate bar doesn’t state the percent chocolate it contains, it’s not really considered chocolate? Chocolate is a bean. The pods form on the stalk of the tropical, shade-loving evergreen tree called the cacao tree, which is Greek for “Food for the gods.” In my mind these beans are very similar to coffee beans. Once they are picked, they’re dried and fermented on the plantations where they’re grown. They’re then shipped to factories and small bean-to-bar establishments for them to be toasted, ground, and made into the chocolate we love today.

Another thing I learned in the course of my research is that there are three main varieties of chocolate beans being commercially grown, but the most flavorful variety of bean is hard to grow and even harder to find in the stores.

And then I learned that even though the cacao bean originates in South America, most of the world’s chocolate production occurs in Africa under some questionable labor practices. Claims of child labor and slave labor at the plantations have persisted for decades. Many of the plantations who have said they’ve corrected the situation still refuse to allow watchdog organizations to come in and take a look for themselves. This is one reason why we should all strive to buy fair-trade chocolates.

Chocolate, I learned, is big business with a $150 Billion annual market. Where there’s that much money to be made, there’s bound to be murder and intrigue. Here, I was starting to think, I could work with that. Ideas for plots started to take shape in my mind.

But I needed more information, so I went to Michael Hoffman, a local bean-to-bar chocolatier behind Bitte Chocolate in Charleston, South Carolina. He makes handcrafted chocolate bars and sells them in small shops in downtown Charleston. He explained the steps for crafting chocolate.

First you roast the beans. Then you remove the outside hulls. Next you grind them in a machine called a conch, which consists of two marble rollers that grind up the beans, changing their molecular composition into sometime smooth and creamy. After that, you temper the chocolate, which involves heating and cooling to making it shiny. And you pour the melted chocolate into molds. Finally, you wait for the flavors to mature. This can take 2 weeks. Chocolate lasts for about 12 months and the flavors start to fade after 6 months.

Take away from this: hoarding your chocolate isn’t a good idea.

This research gave me the basis for my new series. My fictional chocolate shop wouldn’t simply create truffles and bonbons. It would be what is called a bean-to-bar chocolate shop. And it would use the most flavorful and rarest cacao bean in the world to create a chocolate that few in the world have ever tasted.

Think of it this way, the chocolate you can buy in the stores could be compared with the perfectly round, watery tomatoes grown on large farms. The rare chocolates sold in the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery Series are like heirloom tomatoes that are bursting with so many flavors it makes your tongue happy.

So I took my special chocolate, added a cool beach location where I’d lived for twenty years, and a cute dog based on my own dog. And that was how a new series was born.

Book three in the series, IN COLD CHOCOLATE, is now available. The Chocolate Box with its amazing bean-to-bar chocolates is still a hotbed of excitement in Camellia Beach, South Carolina. Its owner, Charity Penn, is still finding herself immersed in trouble. This time it’s a mystery surrounding sea turtles and chocolate turtles and the murder of a local Casanova that chill the eccentric residents of Camellia Beach. Can Penn figure things out before it’s too late?

About Dorothy St. James A lover of puzzles and perhaps a bit too nosey about other people’s lives, Dorothy St. James is a former Folly Beach beach bum. She now lives in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina with her husband, precocious daughter, a slightly (OK, terribly) needy dog, and the friendliest cat you’d ever meet. She has degrees in Wildlife Biology and Public Administration and as an urban planner, worked for many years telling the stories of small southern towns.

Author of a dozen novels, Dorothy enjoys writing both cozy mysteries and romance. Her works have been nominated for many awards including: the Southern Independent Bookseller’s Alliance Southern Book Prize, Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, Reviewers International Organization Award, National Reader’s Choice Award, CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Award, and The Romance Reviews Today Perfect 10! Award. Reviewers have called her work: “amazing”, “perfect”, “filled with emotion”, and “lined with danger.”

    The Author

    About Dorothy St James

    Mystery author Dorothy St. James was born in New York but raised in South Carolina. She makes her home on an artsy island community in South Carolina with her husband, a neurotic dog, and fluffy cat. Though writing has always been a passion for her, she pursued an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology and a graduate degree in Public Administration and Urban Planning. She put her educational experience to use, having worked in all branches and all levels of government including local, regional, state, and federal. She even spent time during college working for a non-profit environmental watchdog organization.

    Switching from government service and community planning to fiction writing wasn't as big of a change as some might think. Her government work was all about the stories of the people and the places where they live. As an urban planner, Dorothy loved telling the stories of the people she met. And from that, her desire to tell the tales that were so alive in her heart grew until she could not ignore it any longer. In 2001, she took a leap of faith and pursued her dream of writing fiction full-time. Dorothy St. James is the alter-ego of the award-winning multi-published author, Dorothy McFalls. She enjoys writing in several different genres. 

    Known for the White House Gardener Mystery series, Dorothy St. James is going back to her roots and setting a mystery series in a Southern beach town much like the one she’s called home for the past 20 years. The Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries combine her love of fine chocolates, quirky Southern charm, with a dash of danger.

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    The Giveaway

    Follow the tour, to read other Guest Posts, plus interviews and reviews!


    September 12 – Valerie's Musings – REVIEW

    September 12 – A Holland Reads – CHARACTER GUEST POST

    September 12 – Writing Pearls - REVIEW

    September 13 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW

    September 13 – Island Confidential – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

    September 14 – The Power of Words – REVIEW

    September 14 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT

    September 15 – Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

    September 15 – Community Bookstop – SPOTLIGHT

    September 16 – Readeropolis – RECIPE

    September 16 – Mallory Heart's Cozies - REVIEW

    September 17 – A Wytch's Book Review Blog - REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW

    September 17 – Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – RECIPE

    September 18 – Laura's Interests – REVIEW

    September 18 – T's Stuff – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

    September 19 – Jane Reads - GUEST POST

    September 19 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – CHARACTER GUEST POST

    September 20 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

    September 20 – I'm All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

    September 20 – Mysteries with Character – RECIPE

    September 21 – Rosepoint Publishing - REVIEW

    September 21 – Celticlady's Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

    September 21 – MJB Reviewers – REVIEW

    September 22 – Devilishly Delicious Book Reviews – REVIEW

    September 22 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

    September 23 – StoreyBook Reviews - GUEST POST

    September 23 – Handcrafted Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

    September 24 – The Montana Bookaholic - REVIEW

    September 24 – Socrates' Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

    September 24 – Sneaky the Library Cat's Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

    September 24 – Here's How It Happened – SPOTLIGHT

    September 25 – Melina's Book Blog – REVIEW

    September 25 – View from the Birdhouse – REVIEW

    September 25 – fundinmental – SPOTLIGHT

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