If Onions Could Spring Leeks
A Country Cooking School Mystery, Book #5
By Paige Shelton
Author Website: paigeshelton.com
With summer tourists flocking to Broken Rope, locals volunteer to keep chaos to a minimum. Old West skits are running smoothly, actors are behaving, and stagecoach rides are more popular than ever, but when a spectral visitor appears by ghost train, it’s a job only Betts and Gram can handle.
Gram soon starts having nightmares about their ghostly visitor’s demise. And if a ghost and the hot summer weather weren’t making things sticky enough, one of the town’s volunteers—a man notorious for having more than his fair share of ex-wives—is murdered. When Jerome, Betts’s otherworldly friend, makes an unsettling appearance, this simmering double mystery becomes a recipe for disaster. (Goodreads)
If Onions Could Spring Leeks, the fifth installment in the Country Cooking School Mystery series, is one of my favorite reads of the summer.
Betts Winston and her grandmother run a cooking school in the tourist town Broken Rope, Missouri, where everyone relishes in the town’s Old West history and culture. The school is on hiatus, other than a night class that is attended by locals, and Betts has some free time. She volunteers to drive a motorized wagon one day a week for the tourists. To say the least, she is surprised to find her student and fellow volunteer Derek deceased among the wagons, and Betts is injured, too. Derek was an unpleasant man who had an unusual relationship with his even more unpleasant mother Lynn and five, yes five, ex-wives. Perhaps one of them could have had it in for him…or one of the other members of the cooking class?
In addition to a mutual love of cooking, Betts and Gram also share an ability to see and interact with ghosts. The ghosts are tied to Broken Rope’s history, have usually met with an untimely violent end, and need Betts and Gram’s help to right a wrong or assist with unfinished business. Betts is awakened in the wee hours by a train whistle, but there are no trains nearby. Remembering that the town’s train station was once housed in a field on her street, she goes outside to find the ghostly version in all its 1880’s glory. There she meets Grace who was to rendezvous with her love Robert, but it was not to be. Legend has it that Robert went to the station every day for years in search of Grace. When Gram starts having nightmares about Grace’s brutal death, Betts agrees to do what she can for the ill fated lovers and turns to her friend Jake, the local historian, for help.
Jake is one of only a couple of people that know about Betts’s ghostly abilities. She longs to tell her boyfriend Cliff about the ghosts but is afraid of how he will react. He can feel that something is standing between them. If only he knew that that something was Betts’s romantic feelings for her own personal cowboy ghost Jerome. Jerome always appears when Betts is in danger, and she definitely faces peril here. Something is keeping him from her, but he does manage to possess the living and other ghosts for brief moments to warn her and to sneak a kiss or two.
If Onions Could Spring Leeks combines past and present mysteries, the paranormal, food, and a touch of romance. What more could I ask for? The characters are all well developed and varied, the Old West setting is an exciting backdrop, and both mysteries were compelling. Derek’s murder investigation was full of twists and turns, and I was impressed by the culprit’s motivation and a little surprised by the guilty party’s identity. As much as I enjoyed the present whodunit, I absolutely adored Grace and Robert’s star crossed story of interracial longing and what might have been. The resolution to their mystery was definitely a surprise. Ms. Shelton does a fantastic job of weaving the two plot lines together, and I did not want the story to end. And then there is Jerome…the idea of a romance between a ghost from another century and the protagonist should not work, but it does, and I am not even bothered by the love triangle (sort of) that is developing. I cannot wait to see what further adventures Betts and crew find themselves a part.
My opinion of the series as a whole remains steadfast, and Onions proves to be a cut above others in the cozy genre. Highly recommended for fans of ghostly, historical, and foodie cozies.