THE SECRET TO HAPPINESS by Suzanne Woods Fisher
SERIES: Cape Cod Creamery #2
GENRE: Inspirational Contemporary Fiction
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2023
Escape to Cape Cod–where you just might find the secret to happiness
Callie Dixon had the world by the tail . . . until it all slipped away. Fired from her dream job after making a colossal mistake, she’s escaped to her aunt’s home on Cape Cod for time to bounce back. Except it isn’t a home, it’s an ice cream shop. And time isn’t going to help, because Callie’s bounce has up and left. There’s a reason she made that mistake at work, and she’s struggling to come to terms with it.
Things go from bad to worse when Callie’s cousin Dawn drags her to a community class about the secret to happiness. Happiness is the last thing Callie wants to think about right now, but instructor Bruno Bianco–a curiously gloomy fellow–is relentless. He has a way of turning Callie’s thoughts upside down. Her feelings, too.
Bruno insists that hitting rock bottom is the very best place to be. But if that’s true, how is it supposed to help her figure out what–or who–has been missing from her life all along?
Penn State Ice Cream School
State College, Pennsylvania
Friday, January 21
Ah, the irony. Two months ago, Callie Dixon had been the executive chef at one of the largest convention hotels in Boston, a hotel so highly esteemed that the Food Safety Conference chose to hold their annual meeting there. Today, she was serving up bowls of ice cream to amateurs who had hopes to become the next Ben & Jerry. She wore a shapeless smock, a hairnet that made her look like a cafeteria lady, and her salary had dropped from six figures to minimum wage.
Even worse, she was lucky to have the job. A temporary job that would be over after Penn State’s Ice Cream School ended. From that point on, she had no idea what she would do. Her sterling reputation in the culinary world was ruined.
And it wasn’t her fault! Well, mostly it was. But not entirely.
During the summit, the hotel’s event planner had kept circling through the kitchen, clapping her hands, telling the staff to step it up because attendees complained of waiting too long for their meals. Flustered, Callie had neglected to put a sauce for tomorrow’s chicken entrée in the refrigerator. It stayed on the counter overnight, warming to room temperature, bacteria dividing and multiplying. Sauces could be tricky like that.
The next day, her sous-chef assumed it had been put on the counter, ready for him to use, and a meal contaminated with C. perfringens had been served . . . resulting in food poisoning. And the rest of the conference was ruined for over two hundred attendees.
While her boss informed her that he was sorry to have to let her go (oh, just say it. Fired!), he was sure she realized someone had to take responsibility for this. It was no small mistake. It was catastrophic. Then he added, “Callie, you do seem extremely distracted lately.”
No, she wasn’t extremely distracted lately. But yes, she did understand that someone’s head had to roll. What irked her was how pleased the event planner looked as Callie bid her goodbyes to the staff. This woman—who’d been at the hotel for ages and ages—had never been a fan of Callie’s. They’d had numerous run-ins, holding vastly different opinions about menu options. Quite simply, she did not like Callie. (That in itself was absurd! Who didn’t like Callie?! During high school, she was president of the student body, homecoming queen, and—her favorite—voted most likely to become a benevolent dictator. Each week, she played the piano at her church during Sunday services. Once a month, she fed the homeless. Everyone liked Callie! Except for the event planner.) The unfortunate sauce incident became the golden opportunity to have her fired.
And just like that, Callie’s meteoric rise in the culinary world . . . was DOA. Who would ever hire a chef responsible for poisoning the entire Food Safety Conference?
But that was how she ended up at Penn State’s Ice Cream School. When Jesse, her friend who helped run the school, heard what had happened at the conference, he insisted she come to Penn State during January. “No one’s hiring in the winter months, anyway,” Jesse had said.
True, but timing wasn’t going to be the problem in finding a new job. It was her name. It was mud. She was no better than the dirt beneath people’s feet.
So she packed up her bags and she drove to State College. Penn State’s Ice Cream Short Course had been held every January since 1892. Past participants read like a Who’s Who in the world of ice cream: Baskin-Robbins, Ben & Jerry’s, Dreyer’s, Dairy Queen, on and on. There was also a three-day Ice Cream 101 workshop held later in the month for serious ice cream lovers and small business owners.
Today was day one for that workshop. The class had been listening to the principal instructor give an overview of ice cream making and were about to taste samples made with different grades of milk.
Callie carried a tray full of ice cream cups to the table in the back and set a cup in front of a woman.
“Callie? Is that you?”
Callie stopped to see who had recognized her. A woman, middle-aged-ish, pretty features, blue eyes, her strawberry blond hair held back in a ponytail.
“Aunt Marnie?” Marnie Dixon had been married to her dad’s eldest brother, Philip, and Callie hadn’t seen her in years. She’d been unable to attend Uncle Philip’s memorial service. There simply wasn’t time. No, that wasn’t true. She’d been so absorbed in her work that she didn’t make time for it.
Marnie was peering up with a puzzled look on her face. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine!” But Callie was hardly anything close to being fine. Change the subject, she thought. Quick. “What in the world are you doing here?”
Marnie lifted the ice cream cup. “I came for this.”
The man sitting next to Marnie cleared his throat to remind Callie of people waiting for ice cream. She handed a cup to the man and kept working her way down the line, but her attention stayed on her aunt. “But . . . why?”
“Didn’t you hear our news? No? Dawn and I moved to Cape Cod and bought an ice cream shop.”
Chairs clattered as everyone spun to look at Callie. She looked around the room at the confused group. “I didn’t mean get out, like ‘go,’” she said to everyone. “I meant, like ‘you’ve got to be kidding me!’”
“Perhaps,” the instructor said, “you could save this conversation for after class.”
“Right,” Callie said. She emptied her tray of ice cream cups and bent low as she swept past her aunt. “You and me. During the break. I want to hear all about this.” Marnie grinned and gave her a thumbs-up.
Wow . . . Aunt Marnie had left Needham and bought an ice cream shop on the Cape. Gutsy! Bold! Brave! She tried to remember the last updates she’d heard about her cousin Dawn. She was rocking it as a CPA and engaged to her high school sweetheart, and . . . hmm . . . whatever happened to that wedding, anyway?
Callie went back to the kitchen to get more cups of ice cream from Jesse. He looked up from scooping when he realized she was standing right in front of him. “What’s that big smile for?”
“Because I just saw someone special!”
He grinned. “Ah, shucks. Thanks.”
“Funny.” She rolled her eyes. “My aunt is attending the workshop. My favorite aunt of all. The world’s best aunt.”
“Yeah? What makes her the world’s best?”
“Aunt Marnie’s the type who always remembered to send cards. Cards for birthdays, cards for graduations, cards for Valentine’s Day, for Easter. Sometimes cards to just say she was thinking of me. She’s just . . . wonderful.”
“What’s she doing here?”
“She and her daughter are running an ice cream shop on Cape Cod.” She turned the tray around so he could add more cups on the other side.
“I didn’t know you had a cousin.”
“Lots of them. But Dawn and I are closest in age. Close in everything. More like sisters than cousins. We adore each other.”
“Yeah? I’ve never even heard you talk about her.”
“You know, life gets”—she shrugged—“busy.”
He put the last cup on the tray. “Well, you’ve got some spare time now.”
She snorted. True. In fact, she had a surfeit of spare time. A frightening abundance of it. Callie had never done well with downtime. She avoided it.
“Maybe it’s no accident that you’re here now, and your aunt is here now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Why don’t you go visit your best-aunt and sister-cousin on Cape Cod?”
“Not happening.” She shook her head. “I’ve got my next best job to find.”
He paused. “Callie, have you ever thought that there’s a reason you got fired?”
She froze. “Uh, because the sauce that smothered the chicken should’ve spent the night in the refrigerator instead of on the counter.”
He rubbed his chin. “Well, that’s one way of looking at it. Maybe this . . . pause . . . could give you a little time for personal reflection.”
“Personal what?” Her eyebrows shot up.
“Never mind. All I’m saying is that a little breather right now could do you some good.”
She took all that in. Then she let out a long sigh.
He added the last few cups on her tray. “Everybody needs a little help sometimes.”
“Tell me about it.” Callie nodded, as if she knew exactly what Jesse meant. She certainly knew what it was like when someone needed help. She just wasn’t clear on how to ask for it.
Suzanne Woods Fisher, The Secret to Happiness
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2023. Used by permission.
Suzanne Woods Fisher is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than thirty books, including The Sweet Life, The Moonlight School, and A Season on the Wind, as well as the Three Sisters Island, Nantucket Legacy, Amish Beginnings, The Bishop’s Family, The Deacon’s Family, and The Inn at Eagle Hill series. She is also the author of several nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace and Amish Proverbs. She lives in California. Learn more at www.suzannewoodsfisher.com and follow Suzanne on Facebook and Twitter.
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