Bake it Like Betty

It’s finally time for the first BettyCon, the fan convention that brings together readers of Bea Sickles’ alter ego, Betty Snickerdoodle, to celebrate her Christmas-themed Treacle Town series. Despite the fact that it’s January, the Christmas Inn and Ranch is decorated like a Christmas wonderland, with pine garlands, seasonally-decorated rooms, and events centered around the holiday books to occupy Betty’s many fans. The original Betty Bro, hired car driver Oliver, is even transporting fans from the San Francisco airport in a Betty-themed bus that plays Christmas music from speakers on the roof.

The only hitch, however, is the inn’s disagreeable neighbor, Domaine Devereaux, the vineyard and winery run by the domineering Barbara Devereaux. She feels the Christmas Inn and its convention are a “Christmas Disneyland” ruining the rustic charm of the neighborhood and tries to intimidate Bea with a series of cease & desist letters. The irrepressible gnome, however, is tickled by her neighbor’s anger and avoids answering any of the two dozen certified letters by cramming them into a desk drawer.

However, when Devereaux drives onto the property in her souped-up golf cart, Angela attempts to smooth her feathers by inviting her to the opening reception, although the woman behaves in her typical shrewish manner, especially when she finds her tasting room manager, Maeve, working as waitstaff at the reception. Even bossy Chef Ming, who has overruled safety experts to install a huge professional gas range in the baking tent, hides from the nasty woman, as he’s an ex-employee who parted on less-than-friendly terms.

After making an uncharacteristically generous offer for guests to use the utility easement that runs between the properties as a shortcut to visit the winery, Devereaux departs behind the wheel of her super cart, although Angela and Aseem find it overturned on the trail the next morning, with Barbara’s crumpled body thrown from the vehicle. Bea examines the site as research for her first murder mystery, which she and Pat are eagerly planning, when Sergeant McGregor overhears her noting damage to the cart and arrests her as the primary suspect. A few hours later, Ming is found dead in the baking tent, overcome by leaks from the gas range he demanded despite safety warnings, and Angela’s tension ratchets to unbearable levels.

After finding Barbara’s body, Aseem and Pat investigate all matters Devereaux, which are kindly described as ugly. Aseem finds a high-tech notebook in the wrecked cart that holds hidden clues to Barbara’s murder, and Pat tracks a Domaine Devereaux employee who’s all too pleased to profit from the boss’s death. With the help of Bea’s agent, Charlie, everyone is not only determined to spring Bea from jail, but flush out the guilty parties … and launch a long-delayed romance.

Irrepressible Bea Sickels is once again in her element as, attired as a high-spirited elf, she outwits the Napa police and hosts an impressive first BettyCon. It’s always sweet to share her adventures, and Bake it like Betty is a delightful confection straight from the BettyCon baking tent.

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